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NFL Draft 2023: The WROPS/WRAPS Underrated Wide Receiver List

In a poor receiver class, there are bargains to be had!

NCAA Football: Louisville at Mississippi Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Every year in addition to running QBOPS for quarterback prospects in the NFL Draft, I also run WROPS and its cousin WRAPS for receivers and tight ends. If you’re not familiar with WROPS, please do consult this handy glossary I’ve put together. In short, WROPS tells us which receivers are catching a high percentage of their targets while accounting for how many yards they gain per catch. We can then add in a pinch of Kent Lee Platte’s invaluable RAS scores to give us a WRAPS, a single number on a 20(ish) point scale, which tells us who are the most productive AND athletic receivers in the draft. If you have a 20, you were both incredibly productive and incredibly athletic. If you have a 15 or lower, you likely struggled in one or both areas.

I’ve been running WROPS reports for several years and this is, without question, the strangest year for receivers I’ve ever seen. Every single receiver in this draft has at least one glaring red flag, even the consensus best players. For example, Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith Njigba missed most of the 2022 season and TCU’s Quentin Johnston ran a 4.31 3-cone at his pro day. Outside of JSN, I wouldn’t be surprised if any receiver busts, and I won’t be surprised if any late round receiver outplays his draft status. It’s just all over the map this year.

WROPS/WRAPS generally reflects the conventional wisdom quite well while providing some interesting exceptions worth a closer look. In 2019, for example, the top 10 WROPS scorers included CeeDee Lamb, Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Devonta Smith, and Rashod Bateman. Justin Jefferson put up one of the most amazing catch percentage seasons ever, and he and Brandon Aiyuk dominated WRAPS rankings.

The conventional wisdom is preserved this year, with JSN ranking 5th overall in WRAPS and Quentin Johnston coming in at 9th, but there are also far more surprises than usual near the top of my board. If you click here you can see my “WROPS 2022 Draft Sheet.” It’s sorted by WRAPS, and also lists each player’s current spot on the Consensus Board compiled by Arif Hasan. Please note that the consensus board changes occasionally, and that previous versions are recorded to the far right. By comparing those receivers who were both athletic and productive in college against their projected draft status, we can often unearth diamonds in the rough, who may possess the ceiling of a prospect with an earlier round grade. A few other notes:

  1. The name of each prospect is color-coded for size. This draft is full of smaller prospects, and those in red are undersized relative to the typical NFL receiver. Smaller prospects, even when productive in college, tend not to perform as well in the NFL.
  2. Column K contains every prospect’s 3-cone time, if they have one. The 3-cone drill has long been an important metric for the Packers specifically, and if a prospect doesn’t run a 7.05 or faster, it decreases the chances that the Packers are interested.
  3. Finally, both Cedric Tillman and JSN did not play enough this season to qualify for a WROPS score, and so I have substituted their outstanding 2021 metrics in place. Please use additional skepticism for both, for this reason
  4. Andrei Iosivas ranks very highly due to his outstanding athletic testing, but please note that Princeton plays a poor schedule, and his production metrics are hugely inflated as a result. We had a similar issue with Christian Watson last season, but he has, I think, proved doubters wrong. Iosivas’ production profile is quite a bit worse, as his QBSLG is laughably low given his competition.

The Underrated

With those caveats out of the way, let’s move on to the most underrated receivers in the draft:

Matt Landers – Arkansas

Consensus Board - 288
WROPS/RAS/WRAPS – 1.014/9.85/20.02 (1st)
2022 Stats: 74 targets, 47 receptions (64%), 901 yards, 8 touchdowns.

Landers is his own little reclamation project, and it’s worth considering the journey here as well as the destination. Landers started his career at Georgia, but immaturity as an underclassman kept him buried on the bench. He eventually transferred to Toledo, where he established himself as a legitimate deep threat, and leveraged the extra Covid year to get himself back into the SEC with Arkansas. There, he led the team in receiving yards, serving as the burner for KJ Jefferson and posting an absurd 19.2 yards per catch.

Landers is on the older side, and he’ll turn 24 before camp, but unlike most of the more mature prospects out there, he has some projection left. It’s clear that in his early days he stalled out in his development, and it’s best to think of him as more of a 3rd year than a 5th year player. Over the last two years, he’s excelled as a go-route target while steadily improving on the other parts of the route tree. He is still very much a work in progress on those mid-to-underneath routes, but if his head is truly, finally on straight, there is a ton of ceiling to be unlocked.

He’s lankier than he is big, and comps to Marquez Valdes-Scantling are completely warranted, but that’s not a bad thing considering his Consensus Board spot is currently 288. He’s an absolute burner, having posted a 4.37 40 (with outstanding splits) and at 6-4, he can immediately step in as a situational go-route specialist with excellent hands. Indeed, as good as KJ Jefferson was at quarterback, he lost at least a few touchdowns by not leading Landers quite enough.

Landers isn’t very physical and scouts across the board have called out his seeming disinterest in blocking, which will not endear him to the Packers, but this, again, comes down more to maturity. He shares RAS comps with Christian Watson and DJ Chark, and such high-end athleticism is rarely available at the end of the draft, let alone as a UDFA. He’s come this far. If he’s willing to do a little more time on a practice squad, there is a ton of ceiling left.

Antoine Green – North Carolina

Consensus Board - UDFA
WROPS/RAS/WRAPS – .992/8.65/18.57 (7th)
2022 Stats: 68 targets, 44 receptions (63%), 798 yards, 7 touchdowns.

Speaking of secondary go-route specialists, Green has spent two years as the primary deep threat across from the much more highly-touted Josh Downs. Downs has soaked up an absurd number of targets in the outstanding Carolina offense under Sam Howell and Drake Maye, but Green has been right there with him as the beneficiary of the attention he draws. Unlike Landers, Green is more than a one-year wonder, having been second to Downs in receptions each of the last two seasons and averaging a ridiculous 19 yards per reception over that time. The sample size is small per season, but 1,410 yards on 74 catches over two years is nothing to sneeze at.

Bolstering his case further, Green suffered a collarbone injury in the preseason that kept him out of the first 3 games this year. Collarbone injuries aren’t great of course, but they are superior to soft tissue injuries, and he should heal fine,. More importantly, his stat line has no fat from games against Florida A&M (NC won 56-24), Appalachian State (63-61), or Georgia State (35-28). Drake Maye threw for almost 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns in those 3 games, and it’s likely that Green’s statistical resume would look quite a bit better with those 3 under his belt. Instead he walked back in against Notre Dame and caught 3 balls for 150 yards and 2 scores.

Green isn’t the physical phenom that Landers is, but he’s still a very good athlete with outstanding hands, and good footwork along the edges. He’s adept at accelerating away from defenders with the ball in his hands, and on those rare occasions when he catches one short of the sticks, he generally manages to get there.

Green’s two-year production rivals anyone in the draft on a per-play basis, and acquiring him will cost you nothing but a spot on the practice squad. Aside from torching Notre Dame, he had exceptional games at Duke, at Wake Forest, and against Pitt. He’s severely underrated by almost everyone as they tend to fall in love with Josh Downs’ volume-based game, but Green was as responsible for the efficiency of the offense as Downs.

Jonathan Mingo – Ole Miss

Consensus Board – 128th
WROPS/RAS/WRAPS – .890/9.97/18.76 (6th)
2022 Stats: 92 targets, 51 receptions (55%), 861 yards, 5 touchdowns.

Jonathan Mingo is underrated for so very many reasons. First and foremost, for the kind of player he is, he had an atrocious 55% catch percentage, but when you watch Ole Miss it’s instantly clear why that happened. Mingo spent far too much time in 2022 running downfield routes in a vertical passing game and, given that he’s not a natural outside receiver and that quarterback Jaxon Dart is, well, kind of bad, he acquitted himself quite well.

If you view Mingo as what he actually is — a slot/gadget receiver who can provide some downfield threat in a pinch — you may have something truly special, especially in the Shanahan/LaFleur offense. Mingo is a tank, having posted an absurd RAS at 6-2, 220 pounds, with 10.375 inch hands. Mingo was able to use that frame to crank out an impressive 7.3 YAC per reception, and unlike a lot of other proto-Deebo Samuels, his size and athletic profile should allow him to remain an elite YAC generator in the right NFL offense. Despite the low catch%, his hands are outstanding, and while he sometimes has trouble generating separation downfield, he was fine in the slot route tree.

His 3-cone is just within the Packers’ preferred range, and while he could use some work on his blocking, his problem isn’t a lack of acumen so much as over-enthusiasm, as he will occasionally crush someone in the back behind the play.

The final reason he’s underrated is uniqueness. Teams frequently get burned chasing the next Deebo, but with unique players, it’s important to focus on what they can do and what they can be based on traits, not comps. Mingo is a threat to take any pass to the house, he’ll catch everything close, and he’s happy to do the dirty work underneath. He’s versatile due to that Ole Miss misuse getting him some valuable experience, and can line up across the formation in any personnel grouping. He’ll provide easy targets for a young, inexperienced quarterback, and he’ll be punishing undersized DBs for years. In the 4th round, he’s a steal.

Honorable Mention: Dontayvion Wicks – Virginia

Consensus Board – 135th
WROPS/RAS/WRAPS – .720/9.16/16.36 (23rd)
2022 Stats: 73 targets, 30 receptions (41%), 430 yards, 2 touchdowns.
2021 Stats: 95 targets, 57 receptions (60%), 1203 yards, 9 touchdowns.

Wicks is currently projected to go in the 4th round, and while I don’t think he’s hugely underrated, he’s worth discussing because he is, frankly, bizarre. First and foremost, take a look at this RAS card.

What even is this? How can your speed splits look like that? How does this add up to a 9.16 overall? I have no idea.

Second, I’ve never, ever seen a player’s performance fall off from one year to the next like Wicks. In 2021 he finished 3rd overall in WROPS behind only JSN and Jameson Williams (and Christian Watson, who came with an asterisk for level of competition). His .360/.696/1.056 was a star-level slash line, and all in all, he was about 32% better than average. Better than Garrett Wilson, better than George Pickens, better than Chris Olave, and better than Treylon Burks. In 2021, Virginia was coached by the well-regarded Bronco Mendenhall, and they averaged 34.6 points per game, ranking 21st in college football.

Mendenhall would quit suddenly in the offseason to spend time with his family, replaced by the less well-regarded Tony Elliott. The offense would absolutely tank, falling from 34.6 to 17 points per game, making them the 6th worst offense in football. There wasn’t much turnover either, with the only real loss being tight end Jelani Woods. Quarterback Brennan Armstrong saw his completion percentage tank from 65.2% to an abysmal 54.7%. Keytaon Thompson, who led the team in receptions with 78 in 2021, fell to 53 in 2022 while gaining almost a full 2 yards less per catch. Billy Kemp, who caught 74 balls in 12 games under Mendenhall, caught only 16 under Elliott.

But no one took it on the chin like Wicks, who went from being one of football’s best receivers to a 30-catch, 430-yard performance in which he caught well under 50% of his targets. While you cannot entirely discount Wicks’ decline in deciding where to draft him, given the program-wide issues we saw from Virginia, that context is extremely important.

We should view 2021 as something like Wicks’ ceiling, while viewing 2022, and everything after it, as what he looks like when everything goes wrong. It’s worth noting that despite his horrific numbers, he still finished 2nd on the team in receptions and yards while posting a respectable 14.3 yards per catch.

The other big reason I’d overlook some of Wicks’s flaws is drops. Wicks has been plagued by concentration drops, even in his great 2021 season, and while drops aren’t a good thing exactly, they’re one of the most fixable problems a wide receiver can have, with Davante Adams being the quintessential example. Given the turmoil in the program, it wasn’t the best environment to fix concentration issues, and I’d wager in a more professional scenario, he improves quite quickly.

I’m not totally sold on Wicks with the weird RAS and the weird profile, but if he reaches his full potential, he would be the most complete receiver on this list. He’s adept in running the full route tree, and disproportionately long arms give him a little extra separation that other receivers do not enjoy. His 2021 tape is legitimately good, and if he’s around in the late 4th, he’s worth a look.