2017 NFL Draft: Previewing the Wide Receivers

Apr 11, 2015; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Mike Williams (7) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first half of the Clemson spring game at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Nowadays, the NFL is a passing league. This makes the wide receiver position very valuable in the draft – a whopping 34 wideouts were picked this year. And out of those 34, only nine of them were picked in the first two days of the draft. That means that there were still a lot of decent players left on the board come Day 3. This will certainly be the case in the 2017 draft. There are plenty of solid players that didn’t make the top ten, and probably plenty more that I haven’t even scouted yet.

This year’s wideout group doesn’t have much in the way of star power, but it does have a lot of depth. I counted as many as nine guys that I would consider picking in the first two rounds, but only two that I’d pick in the first round. This doesn’t even include the plenty of solid mid-round selections out there. Most of these guys don’t scream “Pro-Bowl talent”, but there are a lot of players with starting potential. Let’s dive right into this wide receiver class.

Read the other positional previews:

2017 NFL Draft: Previewing the Running Backs

2017 NFL Draft: Previewing the Quarterbacks

Star-in-the-Making: Mike Williams, Jr, Clemson

The never-ending wave of wide receivers named Mike Williams continues, and this Mike Williams may be the best of them all.

Williams, at 6’4″ and 225 pounds, has the prototypical frame for an NFL wide receiver. That, combined with his great hands, makes him a scary red-zone target. He could top double-digit touchdowns multiple times in the pros. Williams is one of the most polished route runners to come into the draft in recent years. He has good speed and is good at catching in traffic.

If all goes well, Williams could possibly have an Allen Robinson-like impact on an NFL team’s roster.

Overrated: Courtland Sutton, rSo, SMU

Courtland Sutton is a talented receiver. I just happened to see a few more receivers that I like more. Some big boards have Sutton ranked as the third or fourth best wideout in this class. I just don’t see it.

Don’t get me wrong, Sutton is a very good player. He has size (6’3″, 205 pounds) and he is a good route runner. However, he doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. He has some speed, but won’t be mistaken for prime Devin Hester anytime soon. Even though he has improved this year, Sutton was almost ineffective for five games; none of which were against top-tier teams. He is still a redshirt sophomore, so don’t be surprised if he stays at SMU for another year.

Sleeper: Zay Jones, Sr, East Carolina

Zay Jones comes from a pass-happy East Carolina offense, so his stats are obviously inflated. However, the fact that he has been productive for four straight years is impressive. Jones hasn’t caught less than 60 passes and 600 yards in his entire career at ECU. Through five games this year, he has 66 catches and 695 yards. Talk about lighting up the stat sheet.

Jones is much more than a stat machine, though. He is a very crisp route runner with good body control. He has good hands, and is great at catching balls thrown in tight windows. When in open space, Jones is a very elusive wideout. He does have some question marks (lack of competition and touchdowns), but he has a lot of tools to be a solid receiver in the NFL.

Top 10 Wide Receivers

1) Mike Williams, Jr, Clemson

2) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jr, USC

3) Cooper Kupp, rSr, Eastern Washington

4) Corey Davis, Sr, Western Michigan

5) Zay Jones, Sr, East Carolina

6) Fred Ross, Sr, Mississippi State

7) Isaiah Ford, Jr, Virginia Tech

8) Courtland Sutton, rSo, SMU

9) Travis Rudolph, Jr, Florida State

10) John Ross, rJr, Washington

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