The 2017 WR class is rich with talent and depth, especially in the 2nd and 3rd round. It was extremely difficult to pick even the top seven pass catchers out of this class, as it is a very impressive and deep draft class at the position. I have seen a lot of opinions and mock drafts, but these rankings are based on my opinions and what I see when I watch film.
7. Isaiah Ford- Virginia Tech
Ford became the school’s all-time leader in receptions, yards and TDs in just three seasons. His junior year he had 79 catches for 1,094 yards and 7 TDs. He has good size at 6′ 1″, 194 pounds as well as good speed and hands but he needs to work on catching with his hands instead of his body sometimes. The thing I love about Ford is that he is, in my opinion, the best route runner in this class. He uses quick feet to create separation from DBs even in press coverage and then he can contort his body to make the tough catch. He could add weight to get off of physical NFL corners but his feet, ball tracking ability and all around game are no joke. He could be a late 2nd or early 3rd round pick and he could be lethal in a west coast offense that relies on timing and WR separation from DBs.
6. JuJu Smith-Schuster- USC
He is a very physical receiver who lacks great speed and quickness. He has very strong hands and is not afraid of laying his body out over the middle to make tough, contested catches. He had 70 catches for 914 yards and 10 TDs last year, but he also dealt with a back injury. He does not create great separation from CBs in tight coverage and usually has to fight for the ball with win with great hand strength. He has good size at 6′ 2″ 220 pounds and is extremely aggressive after the catch with a nasty stiff arm. I love that he can go win 50/50 balls with his size and strength but he will need to work on separation unless he wants to spend his NFL career catching passes in extremely tight, heavily contested windows. His play reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin and his toughness reminds me of Steve Smith. He can be a very good pro for a long time if he can stay healthy and work on his separation and breaks in routes. He is a 2nd or 3rd round pick.
5. Zay Jones- East Carolina
Jones is the NCAA’s all-time leader in receptions, and he put up insane numbers with 158 catches for 1,746 yards along with 8 TDs. His numbers are partly because of the high octane spread offense he played in, with lots of bubble screens and quick passes but he is talented. His stock has just sky rocketed as he had a great Senior Bowl week and had another impressive showing at the NFL Combine. He is listed as 6′ 1″ 202 pounds but on tape he plays bigger than his size indicates. He has great burst and quickness on the line of scrimmage and can create separation late out of his breaks. He is great on jump balls and wins with good hand strength. On tape he looks like he lacks great speed but his combine 40 was a 4.45 so teams will investigate and watch more film focusing on whether he plays that fast. Jones is a solid all-around receiver and he looks like a 3rd round draft pick.
4. Curtis Samuel- Ohio State
The Buckeyes offense struggled throughout the year, but Samuel was the one consistent weapon they had and they used him in a variety of ways. He played WR, lined up in the slot and backfield as a RB, and returned both kicks and punts. Samuel had 771 rushing yards on 97 as well as 74 catches for 865 receiving yards and 15 total TDs. He has great speed and ran a 4.31 40 at the combine, and also runs good routes with good shiftiness and quickness. He has been compared to Percy Harvin with his speed, quickness and playmaking ability in space, but NFL teams must be creative in getting him the ball. He will most likely play slot in the NFL but also be used as a nice change of pace back on 3rd down. Samuel is 5’10” 196 pounds so teams will question whether he can take hits over the middle and make tough catches. I really like Samuel’s versatility, and when he is in space he is dangerous but NFL teams will have to find creative ways to get him the ball. I think he will go in the 2nd round and if that team uses him correctly, he could be special.
3. Corey Davis- Western Michigan
I will admit, I did not watch a lot of Davis this year as he played at a MAC school which did not get televised much, but he certainly produced last year at Western Michigan. He had 97 catches for 1,500 yards and 19 TDs. He has good speed and ran a 4.52, however on his film he looks faster and more explosive than a 4.5 guy. I think that might be because he was not in a power 5 conference and did not play against the best competition. On film he is usually wide open with lots of space and separation. He absolutely abused CBs on curls, posts and comeback routes. He has very good size at 6’3″ 209 pounds and can uses his physical nature and body to shield defenders on slants. Davis has very good hands and can win jump balls on corners and fades. Against Wisconsin, he beat tight man coverage and showed he is not just someone who beats up on lower level DBs. He has the skill and tape to be a late 1st, early 2nd round pick.
2. John Ross- Washington
Ross saw his draft stock sky rocket at the NFL Combine when he ran a 4.22 40, breaking Chris Johnson’s record. At 5′ 11″ 188 pounds, Ross is a blur on the football field. Most smaller, quicker WRs play slot but Ross also split out wide and ran a full route tree, not just screens and go routes. In 2016, he only touched the ball 112 times but scored 23 TDs. He burned PAC-12 defenses but in the Peach Bowl was limited and shut down by the physical Alabama CBs and the press coverage they played. He must get stronger and learn to come back to the ball and make contested catches. I really like Ross, he is a better receiver and is faster than Tavon Austin when he was drafted 8th overall in 2013. I think Ross can be a Brandon Cooks-DeSean Jackson type of burner that can get also run short and intermediate routes if he adds weight and can stay healthy. I worry whether a team will reach with a top pick for him, like the Rams did with Austin and since he has not produced like people thought, he is now labeled a bust. Ross is a first round lock, but he must go to the right team that will utilize him correctly.
1. Mike Williams- Clemson
I love Mike Williams, I love his game, his tape and his story. After having a breakout year in 2014 as a sophomore, Williams nearly saw his career end after fracturing his neck on the goalpost in week one of 2015. He recovered and in 2016 proved that he is the best WR in this class with 98 receptions for 1,361 yards and 11 TDs. Williams is 6’3″ 220 pounds and has a great catch radius. He can beat great man coverage and showcased that ability with spectacular catches in the national championship against Alabama. He will be drafted to be a red zone target, win 50/50 jump balls and be excel on intermediate routes like digs and slants. He is big, physical and uses his body to shield the ball from defenders over the middle. He also has long arms to make highly contested grabs in the air and over the middle. On tape, he got beat up at times on the line of scrimmage and struggled with his release against bigger CBs. He also needs to work on his route running and creating separation with head fakes and jab steps as he cannot just rely on his big, physical frame and strong hands in the NFL. Williams is, in my opinion the best WR in this draft, and should be a top 20 pick.
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