NFL Draft Preview

NFL Draft Pre-Combine 2023 Wide Receiver/Tight End Rankings

by Eric Froton
Updated On: March 1, 2023, 1:39 am ET

Wide Receivers

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Jordan Addison, USC

Quentin Johnston, TCU

Zay Flowers, BC

Josh Downs, UNC

Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Kayshon Boutte, LSU

Cedric Tillman, Tennessee

Marvin Mims, Oklahoma

A.T. Perry, Wake Forest

Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State

Parker Washington, Penn State

Tyler Scott, Cincinnati

Puke Nacua, BYU

Jayden Reed, Michigan State

Michael Wilson, Stanford

Rashee Rice, SMU

Nathaniel Dell, Houston

Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss

Jacob Copeland, Maryland

Charlie Jones, Purdue

Jadon Haselwood, Arkansas

Justin Shorter, Florida

Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia

Mitchell Tinsley, Penn State

Dontay Demus Jr, Maryland

Jake Bobo, UCLA

Rakim Jarrett, Maryland

Trey Palmer, Nebraska

Ronnie Bell, Michigan

Andrei Iosivas, Princeton

Antoine Green, UNC

Eligah Higgins, Stanford

Jalen Cropper, Fresno State

Tre Tucker, Cincinnati

Demario Douglas, Liberty

Joseph Ngata, Clemson

Michael Jefferson, Louisiana

Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia

Jalen Wayne, South Alabama

Niko Remigio, Fresno State

The consensus top-three wideouts of the 2023 class - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison and Quentin Johnston - have been pretty well established by now. I'd like to take a closer look at some of the candidates to be selected as WR4 in the eyes of the NFL Draft community.


Zay Flowers, Boston College

Checking in at 5'9 ¼ and 182 pounds, Flowers weighed 10 pounds more at the Shrine Bowl than his billed collegiate playing weight of 172. That's very promising news since the historical chances of success for players who weigh in the 180-185 range is much more prolific than 172. This is great news for Flowers' profile since having watched him since 2019 when he logged 27 carries for 195 yards and 7.2 YPC to go with 22 receptions for 341 yards, 15.5 YPR and four touchdowns. He split time almost 50/50 between slot and outside as BC HC Steve Addazio, who was not renowned for being a forward-thinking approach to offense, realized as soon as Flowers stepped on campus as a true freshman that he needed to be utilized as often as possible. Known for being one of the most run-heavy HCs this side of Brett Bielema, the number of WRs Addazio featured in this manner during his coaching tenure was a list of one - Zay. His role changed when new HC Jeff Hafley took over, with Zay moving outside 70% of the time for the next three years since Flowers is so dynamic that he can win on the boundary despite lack of ideal height. He strikes fear in the hearts of defenders after the catch since the BC phenom is shockingly twitchy and frequently bypasses the first open field tackler like they're a subway turnstile. Nobody in this class…Nobody…can break down tacklers with the ease that Flowers does. He's not a Rondale Moore/Kadarius Toney manufactured touch, extended-handoff type and doesn't need to be shoehorned into a slot-only role. This is reflected in his career 13.0 ADOT to go with him securing 14-of-20 (70%) Red Zone targets since 2021 (#1 RZ catch rate in P5), and six red zone touchdowns last year (#3 in P5). The only question I have about Flowers carving out a defined NFL role is the consistency of his hands, as his 11% career drop rate needs to sharpen if he wants to be trusted to lock up a three-down role. 

Every season is draft season. Dominate your football, baseball and basketball drafts with the Rotoworld Draft Guide Bundle. Get all 3 draft guides for the price of 2 and use promo code BUNDLE10 at checkout to save even more. Click here to buy now!


Josh Downs, North Carolina

Downs (5'10/175) has been the preferred weapon for a pair of NFL signal callers in Sam Howell and Drake Maye over the last two seasons. A former four-star recruit who ran 89% of his career routes from the slot, Downs is a problem to cover in the middle of the field thanks to his ability to consistently separate on the break. A sterling 81% catch rate and 21 Red Zone receptions since 2021 both led the nation, while his 15 first down receptions in Close & Late situations tied Xavier Hutchinson for most in the P5. Downs also significantly improved his contested catch rate from 31% in 2021 (4-of-13) to 75% last year (12-of-16). Though he is light at 175 pounds and can be checked at the line by physical corners, the UNC standout is a plus athlete who stands with Zay Flowers as the most explosive pound-for-pound receivers in the 2023 class. Downs is in control at all times throughout the route and can ramp down with very few steps before then accelerating rapidly out of the cut. Despite not being thickly built, he shields defenders well and extends his hands outside of his frame to make the grave and maintain possession throughout the catch. Downs has the speed to beat DBs over the top and stop-start ability to get open at will in the short-to-intermediate range. I view Downs as a lock second-round selection who could possibly sneak into R1. 


Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee 

The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, Hyatt (6'0/185) routinely took the top off of defenses this year after accruing just 502 receiving yards over his first two seasons. In 2021 his season-high in receiving yardage against P5 opponents was 41 yards with a disappointing 1.27 yards per route average, as Cedric Tillman dominated the UT passing game. Last year, despite recording 1,267 receiving yards on just 89 targets, He is clearly one of the fastest receivers in the draft, having run a reported 4.31s 40-yard dash back in high school, and proclaims to be shooting for a sub-4.29s 40-yard dash in Indy. Such a number would be positively nuclear and likely secure Hyatt's place in R1. His down range ball tracking is exceptional while Hyatt was far more dependable than in the past (14% drop rate in 2021, 7% in 2022). 14.5% of his receptions since 2021 have gone for 40+ yards, the second highest rate nationally (Marvin Mims #1 at 16.2%), while his 3.27 yards per route average ranks first in the P5. The Tennessee offense did not call for a wide and varied route tree from Hyatt, who lined up in the slot 87% of the time where he didn't have to deal with press coverage. There isn't a dazzling array of double-moves and defensive manipulation on his tape, it's mostly verts and arrow routes where his blazing speed overtakes defenders. That's not to say he can't be a more deceptive tactician, but with Hyatt breaking out after two nondescript campaigns in a high-octane offense run by one of college's offensive gurus, I think it's fair to view his transition to the NFL with appropriate skepticism. The Vols' deep threat eclipsed the 100-yard barrier just three times versus Power Five opponents despite an injured Tillman opening up targets for him. I tend to favor receivers who are twitchy and deceptive as opposed to straight up burners, but there's no denying Hyatt's field-tilting ability could be very useful in just about any NFL offense.


Kayshon Boutte, LSU

A true freshman breakout, Boutte (6'0/205) put the SEC West on notice in 2020 by reeling in 45 catches for 735 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 2.38 yards per route and logging 93% of his snaps out wide. Boutte built on his debut by catching 74% of his looks for 503 yards and an absurd nine touchdowns and a 145.3 passer rating when targeted through just six games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury that required surgery. When he returned in 2022 he was simply not the same player, as his yards per route averaged dropped from 2.33 in his first two seasons to 1.49 Y/RR this year under new HC Brian Kelly. HC Kelly tried to appease Boutte by lining him up wide on 85-of-101 snaps over the first three games. However, when the star receiver only caught 5-of-14 targets for 51 yards combined against Florida State and Mississippi State, the decision was made to move Boutte to the slot permanently. He logged just 24 reps on the outside for the remainder of the year, moving 1,000-yard sophomore sensation Malik Nabers outside while Boutte played second fiddle. He's sometimes indecisive with hand positioning at the catch point, which cost him a couple of big plays and contributed to 11% career drop rate. The LSU wideout has enough speed to maintain distance on trailing DBs off the break and after the catch while showing advanced play strength, as his 30 forced missed tackles on 130 career receptions can attest. Kayshon Boutte pre-injury and post-injury are two completely different propositions from an NFL Draft perspective. If he's able to fully recover and we get the 2021 version of Boutte, he's probably a late-first, early-second rounder. From a draft capital perspective he'll have to battle some off-field questions as well, leaving me to believe we will see Boutte taken in the late R2-early R3 range. Few receivers will have more riding on their Combine testing performance.

Download the Rotoworld App to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts, track your favorite players, as well as read articles and player cards. Get it here!

Tight Ends

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Dalton Kincaid, Utah

Luke Musgrave, Oregon State

Darnell Washington, Georgia

Sam LaPorta, Iowa

Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State

Payne Durham, Purdue

Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan

Josh Whyle, Cincinnati

Brayden Willis, Oklahoma

Davis Allen, Clemson

Leonard Taylor, Cincinnati

Will Mallory, Miami

Brenton Strange, Penn State

Marshon Ford, Louisville

Zach Kunts, ODU

Blake Whiteheart, Wake Forest

Daniel Barker, Michigan State

Ben Sims, Baylor

Cameron Latu, Alabama

Joel Wilson, Central Michigan

Jahleel Billingsley, Texas

Travis Vokolek, Nebraska


Michael Mayer (6'4/265) is in the Pat Freiermuth/Gronk mold of big tight ends who can leverage their massive frames to do damage in the receiving game. The focal point of ND's pass attack, Mayer ranked 2nd among all P5 pass catchers in Red Zone receptions while leading all tight ends in yards per route at 2.44. Mayer is a potent and established dual-threat TE who is shaping up like an early R2 pick and should contribute immediately…..A former transfer from University of San Diego, Dalton Kincaid (6'4/240) is the TE1B to Mayer's TE1A. The Utah standout led all tight ends with a 91.8 PFF receiving grade and has a slew of acrobatic catches on his resume. Kincaid ranked 5th among all P5 skill players with a 77% catch rate since 2021 and is likely destined to be a mid-late second round pick…..A true heavyweight TE, Darnell Washington can punish defenders as a sixth offensive lineman or break off a crisp Y-option route for a first-down. You simply don't see many 6'7/270 proportioned humans make difficult leaping grabs with the grace and agility that Washington displays. He even hurdled a would-be tackler in the 2022 season opener against Oregon, as “The Big 0” is going to be sought after for his two-way capabilities at the next level. His real-life relevance will always be higher than his fantasy value though, which is a byproduct of Washington's value inline. Last year Washington averaged just 2.1 receptions per game, which was the fourth least of all tight ends with at least 36 targets…Luke Musgrave tore up Boise State and Fresno State to start the 2022 campaign, reeling in 11-of-15 targets for 169 yards and a touchdown before succumbing to injury and sitting out the rest of the year. Despite the setback, Musgrave managed to recover in time to participate in the Senior Bowl where he proceeded to hit 20.58 MPH at the practice sessions. That was the 16th fastest time among all players in attendance, and the fastest tight end timed by Zebra in the last five years. I'm confident that these four tight ends will be the first four taken in the upcoming draft.

Eric Froton

Eric Froton is a College Fantasy Football, DFS, gambling and NFL Draft analyst who started his first CFF league back in the dead-ball era of 2000 where he had to collate game stats by hand. He has been with NBC Sports EDGE since 2019 when he won his conference and earned the No. 1 seed in the EDGE 50-Team CFF Expert Ultra-League. Eric also reached the championship game of the 2019 CFF Industry Expert 20-Team IDP Dynasty league. In 2020 he was named the FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year and hit at a 70% rate on his weekly college football player props column. Eric currently lives in San Diego with his wife and baby boy. You can follow Eric on Twitter @CFFroton.