It’s NFL Draft week. Finally.
I’ve put a wealth of content on ReceptionPerception.com about the incoming rookies over the last month. Both the sortable tables, player profiles pages and the NEW Rookie Roundup are fully populated with prospect data.
However, I wanted to offer one last look at some of these prospects in a fun, awards show-style format. So let’s give out a handful of Reception Perception superlatives to some of the wide receivers from the 2022 NFL Draft class in the final hours before they’re matched with teams.
Note: If you’re new to Reception Perception, this introduction/methodology article will help you understand some of the exclusive metrics referenced and explain my process overall.
Best at beating man coverage – Chris Olave
Chris Olave is consistently hyped up as the best route-runner in this class and it’s deserved. He’s earned the oft-assigned “smooth operator” designation. Olave’s 78% success rate vs. man coverage led this year’s class by a decent margin. He’s in the same territory of starts from 2021 like Jaylen Waddle (80.3%), Elijah Moore (79.8%) and DeVonta Smith (78.9%).
The ability to run good routes and get open can’t be undersold in its importance to building a great career. Olave has a headstart over everyone else in this class.
Honorable mention: Skyy Moore
Moore saw man coverage on 65.6% of his sampled routes and posted the second-best success rate (75%) among top prospects. He’s an underrated player who shouldn’t just be pigeonholed as a slot player due to his size.
Best at beating zone coverage – Jahan Dotson
Jahan Dotson didn’t have the highest success rate vs. zone coverage among top prospects (that was actually Skyy Moore) but I’m giving him this award anyway. Dotson’s 87.4% success rate vs. zone coverage was actually third behind Garrett Wilson but only by 0.2% and Dotson faced zone coverage at a much higher rate.
Dotson has some downfield explosion to his game against man but his best trait is his ability to find the open lane in zone coverage at every level of the field. He should dominate in the slot and enjoy a long career as an ultra-reliable receiver.
Honorable mention: Garrett Wilson
This was a close call between Wilson and Drake London but ultimately, I had to go with the player with the higher success rate and better downfield separation skills. Wilson is an uber explosive player who can rifle through multiple layers of a defense. He’s a smart player who knows when he’s in an open window or needs to work father past zone corners.
Best at beating press coverage – Chris Olave
The smoothness begins at the line of scrimmage for Chris Olave. His varied, detailed and quick release moves off the line make him a difficult receiver to jam. Some folks criticize Olave’s physicality as a player (probably due to size-based stereotypes) but he has no problem in this area when defeating press coverage. That’s more important than anything else.
While some questions exist about Olave’s ceiling or projection as anything more than a great No. 2, if he continues to thrive against press in the NFL he can develop into a high-volume pro receiver.
Honorable mention: Skyy Moore
Moore played at a lower level of competition but as mentioned in his player profile, some of his more difficult games were in his RP sample. And he still finished second in success rate vs. press coverage with a 75.7% success rate vs. press. He faced press at a high rate (30.3% of routes). I was quite impressed with how quick and decisive Moore was in tight coverage off the line.
Best contested-catch receiver – Drake London
This award has to go to Drake London. The hulking receiver is a better separator than many give him credit for – read his player profile for more – but was often thrown into contested situations. London had the second-highest contested target rate (31.4%) among the 2022 prospects but led the field by a decent gap with an 85.2% contested catch rate. He’s a physically imposing dominant presence fighting for the ball in the air. His basketball background is on full display when he’s winning the ball in tight quarters.
Even if London isn’t the fastest receiver, he will make a ton of big plays in the vertical game because of his ability to win contested catches and get open at the catch point. It’s a trump card trait. London’s college quarterbacks clearly grew to trust him completely in those high-leverage situations and his NFL teammates will in short order.
Honorable mention: Jalen Tolbert
Once you get out of the first few tiers in this draft class, Jalen Tolbert makes for a nice sleeper. He’s a solid separator but really shines with his body positioning and strong hands in tight coverage. His 81.8% contested catch rate ranked third among the charted prospects but he had a higher contested target rate than the second-place player, Chris Olave.
Best after the catch – Garrett Wilson
Several prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft class could have claimed this title but it ultimately goes to the Ohio State receiver. Garrett Wilson was “in space” on 11% of his sampled routes and broke multiple tackles on an absurd 20% of those plays. That ranks first over the last two classes combined and there were many good YAC players available in 2021, as well.
Wilson was a strong separator and could easily develop into a No. 1 receiver in the NFL if he cleans up a few areas. He will be a dangerous threat in the open field right from the jump.
Honorable mention: Treylon Burks
This should come as no surprise if you’re familiar with Treylon Burks’ profile. He was “in space” on 15.4% of his sampled routes. That makes sense considering he played just 19.5% of his snaps outside, the lowest rate among the charted prospects. Burks’ size and speed make him a chore to tackle when he can build up a head of steam. He was brought down on first contact on just 46.9% of his “in space” attempts.
Jameson Williams and Drake London were closely considered here.
Best downfield receiver – Jameson Williams
This award could go to no one else. Jameson Williams posted awesome success rates on the dig, post, nine, corner and out routes. He is a big play merchant just waiting to be unlocked. There are some holes in his game that can lead you to question whether he’ll become a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL but the wild upside in the vertical game is tempting. You can actually argue he has a great floor as a player simply because he will add tactical value as a deep threat that teams must account for and will be good for a handful of field flipping plays multiple times in a season. The league is obsessed with players who bring that kind of juice.
Quite simply, you see Jameson Williams run by every single player on SEC defense multiple times when you watch him play. He has special speed.
Honorable mention: Chris Olave
Olave is great at every level but really shines as a vertical route-runner. You need more than just speed to be a great deep threat; deceptive route-running, timing and ball-tracking skills put the finishing touches on big plays. Olave really shines in that last area.
Best underneath receiver – Drake London
Surprised? You might want to go rewatch some Drake London film.
London gets stereotyped as a big receiver who can’t separate but he has truly rare bend, fluidity and hip-sink on his routes for a guy his size. He ranked second in success rate on the slant and curl routes while leading all prospects on the flat route. London was an overall awesome separator against zone coverage with an 86.7% success rate. USC loved to get the ball in his hands as quickly as possible and his precision on underneath routes was a big factor in making those plays work.
London’s ability to thump teams on slants, curls and out routes is a big reason he draws Michael Thomas comparisons and Reception Perception backs those up. He can provide big slot potential in addition to his work on the perimeter. That inside/outside versatility is a big reason why he ranks as the top receiver in this class.
Honorable mention: Skyy Moore
Skyy Moore was the player who bested London on slants and curls. In the right offense, Moore could gobble up targets in the quick game. He just knows how to get open.
Best hands – Jahan Dotson
Giving Jahan Dotson the award for best hands was the easiest call of this exercise.
Dotson was targeted on 34.2% of his charted routes and his 1.0% drop rate was the lowest among any prospect. In addition to that he ranked fourth in contested catch rate at 81.3%. You routinely see him adjust to off-target throws and make plays on passes outside of his frame. Dotson’s ability to defeat zone coverage, as noted above, and his vicegrip hands will make him a quarterback’s best friend quite quickly in the NFL.
Honorable mention: Drake London
London’s contested catch rate (best in the class) was discussed above and he ranked second behind Dotson with a 1.2% drop rate. London’s overall reliability is another reason he would make a fin big slot receiver in the NFL.
Best X-receiver – George Pickens
Old school NFL evaluators who love a classic X-receiver will love George Pickens’ tape. Pickens lined up outside on 92.9% of his sampled snaps and was on the line of scrimmage for 82.9%, both led the prospects in this year’s class. His alignment cause Pickens to see press coverage at the highest rate (38% of routes) and he still ranked third in success rate vs. press coverage at 73.2%. You see Pickens executing NFL X-receiver duties all over his collegiate films. He has some holes in his game and his on-paper resume but if he hits, he will cleanly translate to the X-receiver spot better than any other prospect in this crop.
Honorable mention: Garrett Wilson
Garrett Wilson was on the line of scrimmage for 81.1% of his sampled snaps, trailing only Pickens and saw press coverage on 34.1% of his routes. He still maintained a strong 72% success rate. Wilson absolutely has top-flight outside the numbers upside. He reminds me of Diontae Johnson as a player who can win at X despite being smaller.
Best slot receiver – Treylon Burks
Treylong Burks lined up in the slot (68.4%) and the backfield (12.1%) more than any other prospect charted for Reception Perception by a decent amount. He maintained solid success rates on the slant, flat and curl in addition to his work in the screen game. Burks has major questions as a route-runner against man and press coverage and needs some serious development in order to thrive as an outside receiver in the NFL. However, he did post a strong 82.2% success rate vs. zone coverage so it’s not as if he’s a hopeless separator at all. His best home in the NFL is as a big slot receiver. Everyone seems to hate this comparison, for whatever reason, but I feel strongly that he projects as a JuJu Smith-Schuster type of player in the pros.
Honorable mention: Jahan Dotson
Jahan Dotson actually only lined up inside on 19.2% of his sampled snaps so this is more of a pro projection. His ability to dominate zone coverage at all levels of the field and his strong reliable hands make him an easy bet to be a good slot receiver. The way he can bail out quarterbacks reminds me of Doug Baldwin.
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