The past two draft classes have been dominated by Alabama’s historic receiving group. This year it’s looking a tad bit different. Alabama has supplied a ton of explosive and playmaking athletes over the two previous classes. Last year, the receiving class lacked a lot of size, and there weren’t a lot of receivers that you could rely on catching 50/50 balls. This year, I see it differently. A lot of players are sizeable, deep threats with good route-running and solid speed. In conclusion, this class has something for everybody. It’s very balanced out, to say the least.
Best Player: Chris Olave, Ohio State
Olave is a big-play threat with solid size and great downfield speed. He consistently finds ways to move the chains on passing downs. His unique and very well-balanced skill set would be useful for any offense, as his smooth route-running and ability to challenge defenses over the top show how well-rounded he actually is. He’s fast, reliable, and possesses a great set of hands. He knows exactly where soft spots are in coverage and is undeniably a threat in jump ball situations.
Most Overrated: John Metchie III, Alabama
Metchie is talented, but most of his current hype is just carryover from the abundance of success Alabama has recently had when it comes to producing pro-level receivers. He displays good skill and has the bones of his game worked out, but I don’t see why he’s drawing comparison to that of Jerry Jeudy or Devonta Smith this early. I’m seeing him fall in the first-round range a lot in recent mock drafts, but I don’t think he’s better than other receiving talents in this class, and I don’t think he’s really proven himself to be that high quite yet.
Most Underrated: Calvin Austin III, Memphis
He might be small (5’9”, 165 lbs) but Austin has an undeniably unique skill set. He has All-American track-level speed, great route-running moves, and can stop on a dime. Most might think that his size might impair his ability to be effective in situations outside of the slot, but the majority of his eleven touchdown receptions in 2020 were in the red zone, showing his ability to make tight and contested catches in confined spaces.
Watch Out For: Zay Flowers, Boston College
Flowers has a very polished route-running tree and is reliable in short-yardage situations. He’s not a burner and doesn’t have the speed that “pops” out at me, but he has unbelievable agility. He makes great moves and consistently makes defenders look silly. He’s 100% an after-the-catch kind of receiver and a huge playmaker offensively.
Preseason Top 5:
1. Chris Olave, Ohio State – A well-balanced chain-mover with smooth footwork and a knack for challenging defenses with deep routes and contested catches.
2. Garrett Wilson, Ohio State – An athletic specimen. Understands how to use his upper body and head to deceive defenders in coverage. Very fluid, and knows how to get vertical and high-point the football.
3. Justyn Ross, Clemson – Injury is the only thing holding Ross back from being the best receiver in this class. He possesses a rare combination of big size (6’4”) and electric speed.
4. Calvin Austin III, Memphis – Small, but shifty. Has track-level speed, and can stop and go very suddenly. Tough player to defend on any part of the football field.
5. John Metchie III, Alabama – Following the footsteps of the greatest college football receiving group ever to exist is a hard task to complete. Metchie can prove me wrong, and I know he has the talent to do so.
Ainias Smith (Texas A&M), Ty Fryfogle (Indiana), Romeo Doubs (Nevada), Treylon Burks (Arkansas), George Pickens (Georgia), Zay Flowers (Boston College), Drake London (USC), Jahan Dotson (Penn State), David Bell (Purdue), Jaquarii Roberson (UCF)
It’s a mixed bag of talent. Slot receivers, burners, dual-threat receivers, big guys, red-zone threats, RAC nightmares, etc. It’s a very talented group and could outpace last year’s if some of these prospects take their game to the next level.