When it comes to the wide receiver position, nothing compares to the 2014 NFL Draft. Some people aren’t going to like that take, but it’s the truth. There were five wide receivers taken in the first round, and all of them have been good, if not great.
Flashing back to that draft, it all started with a surprise. The Buffalo Bills moved up to the fourth overall pick to select Sammy Watkins from Clemson. Shortly thereafter, Mike Evans was selected seventh overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Odell Beckham Jr. fell into the lap of the New York Giants at 12th overall. Brandin Cooks went 20th to the New Orleans Saints, and the Carolina Panthers selected Kelvin Benjamin at 28th. Following those five, three of whom have been traded at least once, there were several high-quality receivers selected in the second round, including Jarvis Landry, Allen Robinson, and Davante Adams. Moving forward and looking ahead to the 2019 NFL Draft, there are plenty of names to know.
Three of my top receivers this year are A.J. Brown at Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry at Arizona State, and Kelvin Harmon at North Carolina State. Those three are the consensus top three receivers for plenty of evaluators, but who falls just behind them? Here are three underrated wide receivers who could skyrocket up boards heading toward the 2019 NFL Draft!
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Being on the same team as DeMarkus Lodge and A.J. Brown won’t do him any favors, but there’s a lot to like about Metcalf. He pops off the screen with his 6’4″, 225-pound frame, and he’s also got elite speed for a player of his size.
More often than not, Metcalf is running vertically up the field. As you can see on the video above, he does a nice job with an outside release, then working back inside on the cornerback. Once he steps outside, the cornerback turns his hips toward the sidelines and is no longer evenly matched on Metcalf, so the cornerback can’t mirror him in coverage. Metcalf does a nice job working his hands to prevent the cornerback from jamming him or slowing him down as he works vertically up the field. Once he gets inside, you can see the burst and long speed to catch the ball in stride and walk his way into the end-zone.
Last season, Metcalf had 39 receptions for 646 yards and seven touchdowns. Entering his (RS) sophomore season, look for Metcalf to turn some heads, and let’s hope he’s improved the number of routes he can run in the route tree. We know he can run vertically up the field. It’s clear when he’s averaging 16.6 yards per reception and racking up three touchdowns over 58 yards or more. If he can improve his ability through the entire route tree, he’ll certainly be in the positional rankings for every draft board on the 2019 NFL Draft.
Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
If there’s any receiver that flashes the ability to be great, it’s Parris Campbell. He’s not there yet, but there’s a chance he bursts onto the scene for the 2019 NFL Draft now that Dwayne Haskins is his starting quarterback.
Last season for the Buckeyes, Campbell had 40 receptions for 584 yards and three touchdowns, which is nowhere near the elite level of college wide receivers. That doesn’t mean that Campbell doesn’t bring anything to the table, though. Starting with his ability after the catch, he could be one of the most dangerous players in the country with the ball in his hands. Whether he’s running a crossing pattern or a designed screen, there’s a chance that Campbell can take the football to the end zone.
He’s not the biggest receiver on the turf, but at 6′ and 200 pounds, there’s plenty to like about his size and versatility. He’s got the ability to return punts and kickoffs, but he’s also played all over the field on offense. From the H-back role to an ‘X’ receiver, Campbell is going to get the ball on offense, likely more than his 40 receptions of last season.
Despite the positives about his game, one of his biggest weaknesses is his catching ability. There are times that Campbell struggles with concentration drops, but if he can improve in that area, he could start seeing his name on the rise. He should continue to thrive where he’s best, which is in the short areas of the field, and don’t be surprised when you notice his fluidity running routes. He doesn’t run every route in the route tree, but with his skillset, he doesn’t need to yet. At this point his name hasn’t generated enough buzz, but we’re entering week one, and I’m sure by the time the 2019 NFL Draft rolls around, Parris Campbell will be talked about plenty.
Lewerke with a raindrop to Felton Davis. Davis can be so good pic.twitter.com/mjONJRUAoj
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 29, 2017
Felton Davis, WR, Michigan State
One of my favorite players on my favorite collegiate team is Felton Davis from Michigan State. I’ll put all my bias to the side for this one, though. Felton Davis can ball — he can flat out ball. It’s not consistent enough to put him among the top receivers, but he’s got strong hands, and his length makes him a matchup nightmare for plenty of defensive backs.
During the 2017 season, Davis had 55 receptions for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. Those nine touchdowns had him tied for 25th overall in the country on the touchdown leaderboard with 17 different players, some of whom are names we saw during the 2018 NFL Draft, like Mike Gesicki, DaeSean Hamilton and Braxton Berrios. Keep in mind that Davis only played in 11 games last season and missed the Ohio State game.
With Brian Lewerke as his quarterback, there’s no reason to believe that Davis can’t improve statistically. At 6’4 and 195 pounds, Davis has ideal length over just about every cornerback he faces. He’s got the ability to win in jump-ball situations and can pluck the ball out of midair impressively.
There might be questions regarding his long speed, and he might not win a race when going vertically up the field, but he’ll terrorize defenses along the sidelines in the short-to-mid areas of the field. Entering the 2018 NCAA Football season, there’s a good chance that Davis’s stock becomes higher than any receiver on this list, and he could emerge as the top receiver out of the Big Ten.