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Pre-combine NFL Draft rankings: Wide receivers

Prior to the NFL Combine, we rank the best wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Ohio State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NFL Scouting Combine begins on March 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Kansas City Chiefs are expected to be paying close attention to the wide receiver position in the 2022 NFL draft, so let’s take a look at the best ones we currently see.

1. Garrett Wilson - Ohio State

Michigan State v Ohio State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Some players make it look way too easy. Wilson is one of those, dominating his college opposition effortlessly enough to earn the top spot in my current receiving rankings.

At 6 feet tall — and with a playing weight below 200 pounds — his physical profile doesn’t jump off the screen. He won’t be the fastest receiver in this class, either. But Wilson is naturally strong and quick, which helps him routinely defeat press coverage and create significant separation on downfield route breaks.

Once he has the ball, his ability to squirm out of tackles and change directions on a dime leaves defenders grasping at air. Sometimes he’s almost too quick for his own body, appearing to be out of control as he avoids tacklers — which is something he can improve upon.

On top of all that, Wilson has shown strong hands in contested-catch situations. In the NFL, I expect him to be a difference-making playmaker.

2. Drake London - Southern California

USC v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Wilson may be my preferred receiver, but he shares his top-tier spot with London.

At 6 feet 5 and 210 pounds, London’s movement ability is rare. He has open-field ball carrying ability — and shiftiness in his route running — that most players his size just don’t have.

Not only can he turn a short pass into a big gain — despite only playing eight games in 2021, he forced the sixth-most missed tackles in the FBS — he will also succeed in contested-catch situations.

He will have to recover from the ankle fracture he suffered in the second half of the 2021 season. And he needs improvement as a traditional X-receiver — where most NFL teams will want to use him — but with it, he should become an NFL star.

3. Jameson Williams - Alabama

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another year, another incredible wide receiver prospect from Alabama.

With 13 receiving touchdowns, this 6-foot-2, 190-pound wideout had the second-most in the FBS while averaging 20.6 yards per reception; seven of his touchdowns were on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield.

His long speed impresses more than his acceleration — and he has enough length that he can play through contact in his route running; he gets open downfield and turns receptions into big plays. He’s also been used in quick screens and jet sweeps.

As soon as he recovers from the ACL tear he suffered in the National Championship, he’ll be able to contribute to any NFL offense.

4. Treylon Burks - Arkansas

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Southwest Classic - Texas A&M v Arkansas Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Even though he played at 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds, Burks aligned as a slot receiver in nearly 70% of his 2021 snaps. He was primarily targeted on quick routes like bubble screens and shallow crossers. He was also used on jet sweeps.

Still, he showed flashes of what he could be as a traditional X-receiver: he caught 67% of his deep targets, including five contested catches on eight attempts.

With a little more refinement, he’d be the kind of versatile option that Chiefs head coach Andy Reid would love.

5. Chris Olave - Ohio State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 02 Ohio State at Rutgers Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If you want speed — and the ability to twist a cornerback into a pretzel en route to a deep-post touchdown — Olave will do it as well as anyone.

At 6 feet 1 and 190 pounds, he’s a traditional Z receiver with effective route-running skills that lead directly to big plays, making every opposing defense conscious of how they’re defending the deep parts of the field.

The correct utilization of his talents could be a huge bonus to an NFL offense.

6. George Pickens - Georgia

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pickens is a similar player to Olave, but has a bigger physical profile: 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds.

His talents were best displayed as a true freshman in 2019, when he put up 727 yards and eight touchdowns with an average depth of target of 15.4 yards. His instinctual ball-tracking abilities on downfield routes make him a deep threat — and he’s also tough to bring down in the open field.

7. Jahan Dotson - Penn State

Penn State v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

In 2021, only one other Power-5 wide receiver saw more targets than Dotson.

Working both in the slot and outside, Dotson earned the lion’s share of the Nittany Lions’ passing targets by constantly creating separation — and getting open on short and intermediate routes.

His 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame is noticeable when he’s trying to beat a press or play through physical coverage — but Dotson does find a way to get open.

8. John Metchie III - Alabama

LSU v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The other big name from the Crimson Tide’s receiving corps wins with speed — and the ability to gain yards after the catch.

His 6-foot, 195-pound build doesn’t make him a pushover, but his playing style fits that of a traditional Z-receiver who also possesses slot versatility.

Although he’ll need to recover from the ACL tear he suffered in the SEC Championship, he’ll still be a safe option in this class.

9. David Bell - Purdue

NCAA Football: Purdue at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

A starter from the day he walked onto campus, this 6-foot-2, 205-pound wideout has produced, totaling 21 touchdowns over two-and-a-half seasons.

Working primarily from the perimeter, he combines an advantageous physique with technical route running — and playmaking at the catch point. Given the variety of ways he was utilized at Purdue, he’d be an NFL X-receiver with the capability to run any route in the tree.

He is a draft prospect with a high floor — and possibly a high ceiling.

10. Christian Watson - North Dakota State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The FCS prospect stood out at the Senior Bowl — which wasn’t too surprising with his 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame.

It’s noticeable that Watson instinctually understands how to use his physique and length to win on sideline passes and other deep patterns — while also impressing with good speed and athleticism for his size.

In Senior Bowl practices, he also displayed effective blocking ability.

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