The 2023 NFL Draft is almost here, and national pundits across the NFL landscape are hard at work trying to get things like rankings, projections, and, of course, mock drafts all set up and ready to go before the 3-day selection process begins.
A recent ESPN article didn’t just rank the top wide receivers in this year’s draft class, but also gave projected production and player comparisons.
Some of these comparisons are just weird, yes there’s a Limas Sweed comparison, but let’s see how they explain their comparisons and projections before getting into detail.
Playmaker Score, Football Outsiders’ metric for projecting top wide receiver prospects, shows that immediate impact can be expected from a couple of this year’s top prospects, but another top-25 prospect comes in lower than expected.
Playmaker Score analyzes the player’s peak college season along with other variables to project a player’s receiving yards per season in his first five seasons.
Below, we take a look at some of Playmaker’s top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, along with some similar prospects from previous drafts. Our similar historical prospects are based on former players who were similar in their Playmaker statistics, so you might see us compare two physically dissimilar players because they were similar statistically.
Okay, here are the Top 6 wide receivers in this year’s draft, as well as a sleeper pick...and don’t forget those crazy comps!
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State: 603 yards/season
Scouts Inc.: No. 14 overall
Similar historical prospects: Dez Bryant, Mike Evans
2. Jordan Addison, USC: 596 yards/season
Scouts Inc.: No. 29 overall
Similar historical prospects: Roy Williams, Andre Johnson
3. Josh Downs, North Carolina: 554 yards/season
Scouts Inc.: No. 56 overall
Similar historical prospects: Allen Robinson II, Eric Moulds
4. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee: 551 yards/season
Scouts Inc.: No. 42 overall
Similar historical prospects: Tyler Boyd, Torrey Smith
5. Quentin Johnston, TCU: 548 yards/season
Scouts Inc.: No. 24 overall
Similar historical prospects: Reggie Williams, Laquon Treadwell
6. Zay Flowers, Boston College: 413 yards/season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 19 overall
Similar historical prospects: Travis Taylor, Limas Sweed
Sleeper: Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, Houston: 243 yards/season
Scouts, Inc.: No. 72 overall
Similar historical prospects: DeDe Westbrook, Anthony Gonzalez
It is almost as if ESPN saw just how crazy comparing an upcoming player to Limas Sweed would be for readers, and they felt it necessary to explain themselves further. Here is a more in-depth breakdown of how they came up with the numbers, etc.
Playmaker Score projects NFL success for wide receivers based on a statistical analysis of all of the Division I wide receivers drafted in the years 1996-2018, and measures the following:
- The wide receiver’s projected draft position from Scouts, Inc.
- The wide receiver prospect’s best or “peak” season for receiving yards per team attempt (i.e. a wide receiver with 1,000 receiving yards whose team passed 400 times would score a “2.50”).
- The wide receiver prospect’s peak season for receiving touchdowns per team attempt.
- The difference between the prospect’s peak season for receiving touchdowns per team and the prospect’s most recent season for receiving touchdowns per team attempt (this factor is simply “0” for a player whose peak season was his most recent season).
- A variable that rewards players who enter the draft as underclassmen and punishes those who exhaust their college eligibility.
- The wide receiver’s rushing attempts per game during their peak season for receiving yards per team attempt.
- A factor that gives a bonus to wide receivers who played for the same college team, entered the draft for the same year, and are projected to be drafted.
Playmaker’s primary output projects the average number of regular-season receiving yards that the wide receiver will gain per year over the course of his first five NFL seasons.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers were to take a wide receiver in this year’s draft, who would you want it to be, and what round do you project it will happen? Let us know in the comment section, and be sure to rank your favorite Limas Sweed moments!!