Skip to main content

2017 NFL Draft: 40 king John Ross headlines intriguing WR class

Editor's note: analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter will provide overviews for each position group in the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia) over the next two weeks, continuing today with wide receivers.

This year's receiver group would be described best as average. That doesn't mean that there won't be playmakers coming out of this draft, but in terms of comparable talent with previous years' classes, teams will find the usual number of suspects awaiting their call.

I expect three wide receivers to go in Round 1, just under the average of four per year since 2007, and another eight or nine will be sprinkled throughout the top 100 (nine is the average for the top 100 over the past decade).

On Day 2 of the draft (Rounds 4-7), 18-20 pass-catchers (right around the average) that have at least one or two good traits (speed, size, hands, football IQ, return ability) but might be lacking in other areas will be selected with the hopes that they can carve out a role at the next level.

Let's explore the 2017 WR class.

Note: Click through the tabs above to see overviews for each position.

Teams with greatest need at WR

Top 5 players at the position

Note: Click on a prospect's name for a complete scouting report.

1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan: Despite being unable to work out during the draft process with an ankle injury, Davis still grades as the top player at his position. Long and lean, he uses a strong stiff arm to separate from defenders. He'll be a weapon on short, intermediate, and deep routes at the next level, making him a quarterback's best friend.

2. Mike Williams, Clemson: Williams will be a great add for NFL teams looking for an alpha dog on offense. The physicality and want-to he shows on every route makes him an easy receiver to trust, whether a quarterback is trying to get a first down or throwing a strike into the end zone. At his pro day, he showed enough speed to be effective downfield -- a necessary step to maintain his status as a potential top-10 pick.

3. John Ross, Washington: Ross' record-breaking 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine put him in another stratosphere in the category of speed, though his quickness was already evident on tape. But measuring under 5-11, 190 pounds, can he be an effective No. 1 receiver? Ross did win off the line with speed and hand usage, so I think he'll be more than OK, actually. Expect him to be selected before the midway point of the first round.

4. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford: Yes, McCaffrey was a running back at Stanford and might play that position primarily in the NFL -- he's No. 2 on my list of the draft's top RBs. But if a team wanted him to play receiver exclusively, that would be a reasonable move. His elite quickness and attention to detail in route running is not surprising given his bloodlines; his father, "Easy" Ed McCaffrey, was a reliable, intelligent NFL receiver in his day. Line Christian McCaffrey up in the slot, outside, wherever -- he'll lose his man with regularity and take off downfield for big plays.

5. Zay Jones, East Carolina: Jones has good size (6-2, 201) and sub-4.5 speed. He's the most prolific pass-catcher in FBS history, and showed off amazing hands and agility during the Senior Bowl. Jones also has football genes because his father, Robert, played linebacker in the NFL. What's not to like?

Sources Tell Us

"Man, he breaks them off with those routes. It wasn't even fair the way he did those corners in that conference. A man among boys." -- AFC North regional scout on Corey Davis

Most overrated

Chad Hansen, Cal: Hansen was a productive player for Cal in his senior year (92 catches for 1,249 yards and 11 scores) after transferring from Idaho State after his freshman year. While some have projected him as high as a top-50 pick, I think he'll end up going on the third day of the draft (Rounds 4-7) because he lacks the physicality and pure speed to be a top receiving target.

Most underrated

KD Cannon, Baylor: At 5-11, 182 pounds, Cannon is a bit slight for some scouts' taste. However, his speed and quickness will allow him to succeed much like similarly sized players (T.Y. Hilton and Emmanuel Sanders are a couple examples). During combine workouts, Cannon was pretty clearly the most explosive receiver out of his breaks and caught everything. His size will keep him out of the top 50, but I won't be surprised if he's one of the top contributors at his position as a rookie, even though he comes from Baylor's simplified offense.

Boom or bust

Curtis Samuel, Ohio State: Samuel did pretty much anything he was asked to do by Buckeyes coaches. NFL teams are trying to figure out what his best role is at the next level, however. If Samuel takes to the mental aspects of the receiver (or running back) position as his new team hopes he will, there's Pro Bowl potential here. There will be learning curve if he's asked to become a pro route runner as a receiver. There's a fine line between being a jack of all trades and not finding a position fit.

Sleeper alert

Brian Brown, Richmond: Brown has put up nearly 3,000 receiving yards for the Spiders over the past two seasons, scoring 11 times in his senior year. His speed is not elite, but he has plenty of quickness to leave corners in his wake. Brown's hands and catch radius are excellent. If he shows he can contribute on special teams early on, he'll eventually earn reps on offense -- and I won't bet against him making a difference there.

Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter _@chadreuter_.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content