2023 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Superlatives

Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Wide Receiver class in the 2023 NFL Draft is one of the weakest of the last 10-15 years. The major issue with this years receiver class is the lack of a true WR1, but despite that, there are a lot of guys who specialize in something.

Therefore, I will be going over my 2023 NFL Draft, wide receiver superlatives. In this article I will list my favourite wide receiver in each of these categories.

  • Best Athlete
  • Best Route Runner
  • Best Deep Threat
  • Best Slot
  • Best After the Catch
  • Best Hands

2023 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Superlatives

Buffalo Bills
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports) /

Best Athlete: Quentin Johnston, TCU

Quentin Johnston is a rare, RARE athlete. Johnston is listed at 6″4, 215 pounds, and pairs that with some freaky physical traits. He is said to run a sub 4.4 40-yard dash, he boasts a 42-inch vertical and an 11-foot broad jump.

The one thing that really stands out about Johnston is his run after the catch ability for someone his size. Throughout his career he has averaged 7.7 yards after the catch, and has 43 broken tackles on 108 receptions.

Johnston is a true X receiver, and has everything you could want in an X. He has elite size, speed, catch radius, and after the catch ability. This past season at TCU, Johnston had 60 receptions for 1069 yards and 6 touchdowns.

The one question mark that people point to when scouting Johnston, is that if he has such elite physical traits and talent why did he not have elite production last season. The stats from last season are good, but definitely not elite and somewhat misleading. Although he had 60 receptions on the season he had 11 games out of 14 with 4 or fewer receptions.

Best Route Runner: Jordan Addison, USC

If I had to use one word to describe Jordan Addison as a player, that would be separator. Addison is an elite separator in every way possible. Addison has all the traits of an elite route runner at the NFL level. He has top-notch change of direction and agility, and when you pair that with his speed and football IQ he is almost unstoppable one on one.

In 2021, as a true sophomore at Pittsburgh, Addison put up 100 receptions for 1,593 yards and 17 scores. The season concluded with him taking the Biletnikoff Award home as well. He had somewhat of a down-year this season for USC, but still showed his elite separation and nuanced route running.

The one knock on Addison as a player is that he can get knocked around at the catch point, and has had some trouble with drops. Last season at USC, he had just a 22.2% contested catch rate, and he has a career 9.5% drop rate.

Best Deep Threat: Jalin Hyatt/Zay Flowers

Now is this a copout answer from me choosing two players? Yes, yes it absolutely is, but I truly could not decide which receiver I believed to have the better deep threat ability. Despite my very similar rating on these two receivers, they actually play in very different ways.

For example, Hyatt is 6″0, 185 pounds and practically only lines up in the slot (87.3% of snaps from there). While Flowers, is just 5″10, 172 pounds, he primarily lines up on the outside (66.6% of snaps).

Flowers is the much more versatile of the two options, and last season at Boston College, despite shaky quarterback play he finished the season with 78 receptions for 1077 yards and 12 touchdowns. What really stands out about Flowers though is his movement skills. He is an electric player in space with his combination of explosiveness and fluidity that makes him almost impossible to match-up with.

As for Hyatt, he is more of the typical deep-threat option. And by that, I mean he’s fast. Like really fast. Hyatt claims his 40-time clocks in at under 4.3 seconds, and I 100% believe him. Last season at Tennessee, Hyatt was awarded the Biletnikoff Award, which is presented annually to the most outstanding receiver in College Football. He did this by totalling 67 receptions, 1267 yards, and 15 touchdowns in just 12 games. The exclamation mark of that came against Alabama when he had 6 receptions for 207 yards, and a school-record 5 TDs, 3 of which were over 35 yards.

Best Slot: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State 

JSN is a very hard player to evaluate. This season he was marred by injuries and finished with just 5 receptions in 3 games. On the other hand, last season as a true sophomore he had 95 receptions for 1606 yards and 9 touchdowns, while playing with both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Yes that is right, he outproduced two of the best young WRs in the NFL at just 19 years old.

I am choosing to believe the sophomore year is the more accurate indicator of his ability, which is also when everyone considered him the WR1 in this draft and were sure he would be a future top 10 pick.

In 2021, JSN played 88.6% of his snaps from the slot and flashed all the traits of someone who could be dominant in that position at the next level. He is a refined route-runner who flashed elite ball skills, boasting a 90% contested catch rate, and showed YAC ability as well with 19 broken tackles on the season.

Best After The Catch/Best Hands: Josh Downs, North Carolina

Josh Downs is the definition of a dynamic, shifty slot receiver, and has been as productive as anyone else in College Football over the past two seasons. In 2021 and 2022 combined Downs had 195 receptions for 2,364 yards and 19 touchdowns.

Downs is someone who in the NFL projects as a slot receiver, after taking 89% of his snaps from the slot in college. He is however an elite athlete, and possesses truly break taking straight-line speed, and acceleration. He has been clocked running a 4.34 forty, but there is a possibility he runs sub 4.3 at the combine.

Last season alone he had 94 receptions in 11 games which ranked him second in the FBS for receptions per game at 8.55. He also had 754 yards after the catch which was 3rd in the FBS.

If that’s not enough to prove he has the best hands in this draft he also had an outstanding 78.3% catch rate this past season, and had a contested catch rate of 72.2% which is the highest among NFL Draft prospects.