The Green Bay Packers, have no receivers under contract after this upcoming season. Yes, they will almost certainly extend Davante Adams, and yes, Allen Lazard will be an RFA, but they really do need to address the position. Everyone knows the big prospects in Ja’Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle, but even if the Packers were to somehow land any of these guys or potential slot star Kadarius Toney, they will still need to acquire depth in the later stages of the draft.
While it’s an easy thing to project stardom for the Ja’Marr Chases of the world, sorting through the various strengths and weaknesses of the middle and lower tier of prospects can be trickier. Every receiver is going to have some flaw, and those available in the 5th and beyond will likely have several. Lower prospects generally come in two flavors.
The first category is made up of players who put together dominant (or at least good) performances on the stat sheet, but who lack the athleticism typically required for NFL success. These prospects often have advanced route-running skills, outstanding practice habits/work ethic, or play in smaller conferences against less athletic defenses. BYU’s Dax Milne is a good example, as he was outstanding in his final season, but may be held back by poor measureables.
Dax Milne is a WR prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 4.59 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 1354 out of 2499 WR from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/Y5KO2jrqfe #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/atCTsCeD5o— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 7, 2021
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have guys like Illinois’ Josh Imatorbhebhe, a physically gifted player who failed to produce huge numbers after transferring from USC, especially as a senior.
Josh Imatorbhebhe is a WR prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.93 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 19 out of 2435 WR from 1987 to 2021.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 17, 2021
Spits projected, times unofficialhttps://t.co/6chIrzXcqV #RAS pic.twitter.com/w2NVtyeikw
WROPS, RAS, and WRAPS
With all of that said, occasionally some players fall through the cracks despite fantastic measurables and elite production. Identifying players who are not expected to go high in the draft despite elite athletic gifts and great college production can help to make or break your draft. In order to help identify receivers I’ve run WROPS (Wide Receiver OPS) for every college receiver, running back, or tight end with at least 30 targets.
For those unfamiliar with WROPS, it combines a receiver’s Catch Percentage and Yards per Reception into one statistic, scaled to baseball’s “OPS” stat. 1.000 is great, .900 is very good, .800 is average, and anything below is sub-par. WROPS is effective in identifying high-level producers because it properly credits all types of receivers by answering the question: “Is your catch percentage good considering the depth of the targets you actually catch?” It is a rate stat, and can also be useful to identify efficient players who may lack targets for various reasons.
If you are unfamiliar with Relative Athletic Score (RAS), it was developed by Kent Lee Platte (@Mathbomb), and aggregates all combine/pro day measurables into a single number on a 10-point scale. RAS does an outstanding job identifying the best athletes in a given class.
Combining the two gives us WRAPS, an aggregate of production and athleticism in one number. A 20+ would be outstanding. Closer to 10 would be bad.
(Note: I did something similar last year, averaging RAS and WROPS which I dubbed WROPS+, and you can read it here, however averaging the two made both numbers less useful. This method works better. Also, the name “WRAPS” just looks cooler.)
I compared the WRAPS score of every prospect that had one available (elite prospects like Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle do not have RAS scores, and so are not included) to their projected draft position using the most recent draft rankings from CBS, which makes it easy to see who potentially sticks out. If a player opted out of the 2020 season, I substituted their 2019 WROPS. You can view the full list here:
WRAPS - Underrated and Overrated
|Rank||RAS||Name||WROPS/QBOPS||WROPS/QBOPS RAnk||Adjustment||Adjs WROPS||WRAPS|
|Rank||RAS||Name||WROPS/QBOPS||WROPS/QBOPS RAnk||Adjustment||Adjs WROPS||WRAPS|
|36||9.76||Terrace Marshall Jr.||0.914||71||10||9.14||18.9|
|248||7.54||Jonathan Adams Jr.||0.859||119||10||8.59||16.13|
|97||7.14||Amon-Ra St. Brown||0.802||195||10||8.02||15.16|
|219||2.64||Austin Watkins Jr.||0.833||151||10||8.33||10.97|
The Best Bets
Nico Collins - Michigan
There are some stone-age offenses in the Big Ten, but some still recruit well. Such is Michigan, where the lack of production that comes with Jim Harbaugh can serve to hide truly great prospects, and make no mistake, Nico Collins is one of them. Collins has been mocked anywhere from the 3rd to the 5th round, and he is an absolute steal in that range.
Collins is hurt by Michigan’s despicably terrible offensive philosophy and the fact that he opted out of the 2020 season. While his raw totals in 2019 don’t look terribly impressive, on a play-by-play basis he was one of the most explosive performers in college football, finishing 21st overall in WROPS. The only flaw in Collins’ game was his Catch%, but given the state of Michigan’s offense and quarterbacks, that’s not terribly surprising. Collins was outstanding as a deep threat and in winning contested catches, but he also occasionally showed his potential on the route tree and he’s not as poor on medium and short routes as he is made out to be. With an accurate thrower, that catch percentage would soar pretty quickly.
What makes Collins all the more intriguing is his truly elite athleticism. Collins is a 6-4 monster with 4.43 straight line speed, but his 6.71 3-cone, in addition to an elite explosion grade make him a truly standout prospect.
Nico Collins is a WR prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.76 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 61 out of 2467 WR from 1987 to 2021.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 26, 2021
Splits projected, times unofficial.https://t.co/yXH3VDRb8T #RAS pic.twitter.com/Wnb81qTIy8
Collins meets the Packer thresholds (as discussed earlier today here), and will certainly be available to them throughout the draft. While he can appear a bit raw on his shorter routes, everything that is wrong with him is fixable through better coaching. Big receivers with his level of quickness are rare, and would allow Matt LaFleur to use him at every receiver position. He’s even a pretty good run blocker, which, combined with his size, makes Collins a near perfect fit for what Green Bay looks for in a receiver. He ranks 3rd overall in WRAPS behind only Chase and Kyle Pitts
Dyami Brown - North Carolina
Brown’s production is unquestioned as he finished 14th in WROPS in 2019, and upped his game to finish 5th in 2020. There is no better route-runner in this class as Brown gets in and out of his breaks seamlessly across the entire route tree. He will occasionally drop an easy throw, and he is a bit on the small size at just under 6-1 and 190 pounds, but Brown will enter the league with elite soft skills already developed.
The question with Brown was always his athletic profile, and while he’s not the best athlete in his class, his 8.38 RAS is nothing to sneeze at.
Dyami Brown is a WR prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 8.38 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 406 out of 2499 WR from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/ZqWl85adwd #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/W4QtrY6ndM— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 7, 2021
His 3-cone and explosion are very good, and he should be able to succeed outside, and in the slot. In fact, given his advanced release technique and his route running (along with occasional drops), a Davante Adams comp isn’t out of the question.
Brown’s mock draft status has risen lately, often being projected on day two of the draft, but his game and athleticism offers first-round upside. He ranks 5th in WRAPS.
Jacob Harris - UCF
Harris is extremely raw, having barely played football before joining Central Florida. While he had a cup of coffee as a high school safety, he had more experience as a soccer player than a football player before attending college. Raw prospects are nothing new, but it’s unusual for them to be as productive as Harris was, ranking 69th in WROPS as a senior. Harris has been a starter for two years working out of the slot, and you’d like to see a better Catch% from your slot receiver, but you can’t argue with his production once he had the ball in his hands, as he averaged over 18 yards per reception.
That production could still just be a fluke of a good UCF offensive system that knows how to use its personnel. What makes Harris extremely interesting is his athletic profile, which is almost unbelievably good. Harris produced the 12th best RAS of any receiver since 1987, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that he has no physical weaknesses.
Jacob Harris is a WR prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.96 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 12 out of 2488 WR from 1987 to 2021.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 1, 2021
Splits projected, times unofficial.https://t.co/oZrDeYEXP5 #RAS pic.twitter.com/csqKhPxsDq
He’s enormous at 6-5, 220 pounds, and he ran a sub 4.4 40, with elite explosion and agility scores. The only question with a prospect like Harris is whether you can harness that athletic ability and coach up the rest of his game. Even if you can’t, he should be able to contribute on special teams from day one, and he’s being mocked no higher than the 5th round at the moment.
Harris’ tools give him extremely high upside, and his production indicates he may be a quicker study than people think. He probably won’t help anyone immediately, but when you pick from the athlete pool, anything is possible. He is 4th overall in WRAPS, just behind Nico Collins.