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2019 NFL Draft Class Preview - Wide Receivers (Part 1)


Welp, the new year is here and the college football season is officially over. And that means that it's time to look forward to the NFL draft. If you've been following Dynasty League Scouting throughout the college football season, then you're likely aware of the 2019 wide receiver draft class.

Some have described this WR class as lackluster without any top stars, but with plenty of depth. My opinion of the class is slightly different as I see several WRs who could develop into WR1s in the NFL.

Today, we'll take our first look at the top WR options in the NFL Draft for dynasty leagues.

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Methodology

Before we jump into the evaluations, I'll provide a reminder to my scouting process as it differs with traditional film scouts and pure analytics scouts. My primary two tools are regression trees created by Anthony Amico and Kevin Cole showing the historical success rates of WRs based on their college production. In each of these regression trees, success is considered a top-24 WR season in the player's first three seasons.

 

N'Keal Harry, WR Arizona State

Height: 6' 3''
Weight: 216 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.1

N'Keal Harry has been the linchpin of the Arizona State offense since he arrived on campus. Harry entered Arizona State as a four-star recruit out of Chandler High School in Arizona.  His high school career saw him accumulate 119 catches for 2,715 yards and 25 touchdowns and it ended with him participating in the Under Armour All-American game and taking part in the International Bowl on the U.S. U19 National Team. And in addition to being a high-level WR prospect, he averaged more than 21 points and 10 rebounds a game during his high school basketball career.

N'Keal Harry G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2016 12 58 659 11.4 5 0.21 0.32 0.27
2017 13 82 1142 13.9 8 0.34 0.38 0.36
2018 12 73 1088 14.9 9 0.36 0.46 0.41
Career 37 213 2889 13.6 22 0.30 0.39 0.35

Breaking out as a sophomore is noteworthy because he did so before the age of 21. And while his raw numbers took a step backward, his share of the overall offense improved in both yardage and touchdown. If there's any reason for concern with Harry, it's his lower than ideal yards per catch. Ideally, for future fantasy success, he'd be closer to a 16-yard average which would point to a potential field stretcher. But with his high reception total, it's fair to see him closer 14.

Using the Amico Regression tree, Harry falls in the least successful final node without a historical success. However, his X85BA is very close to the threshold of 20. Had he qualified, his success rate jumps all the way up to 66 percent. Using the Cole regression tree, Harry finishes with a 30 percent historical success rate. While the 0 percent success rate in the first tree should raise some concerns, his positive finish in the other tree helps alleviate them slightly.

Harry projects in most mock drafts as a mid-first round selection in the NFL draft. The Draft Network ranks Harry between the WR2 and WR5 in the class and their film analysis identified his best trait as his hands and his worst trait as his ability to change directions. Should he develop into the X-WR that he's projected as at the next level, Harry may have great value to a dynasty team. He's expected to be among the first three picks in rookie drafts and while that may seem expensive, his usage rates and breakout age indicate a player likely destined for success.

 

Kelvin Harmon, WR North Carolina State

Height: 6' 3''
Weight: 213 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.1

Since joining the team as a freshman, Harmon has been a big part of the Wolf Pack receiving offense and he improved each year.  As a prospect, he somewhat went under the radar with only a three-star rating.  Over his high school career, Harmon accounted for 165 receptions, 2.764 yards, and 36 touchdowns and he was named first team All-State in New Jersey. In addition to playing WR, he contributed as a safety as part of his team that built a 10-2 record and eventually made a state finals appearance.

Kelvin Harmon G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2016 10 27 462 17.1 5 0.14 0.26 0.2
2017 13 69 1017 14.7 4 0.28 0.24 0.26
2018 12 81 1186 14.6 7 0.29 0.28 0.29
Career 35 177 2665 15.1 16 0.24 0.26 0.25

Unlike Harry, Harmon never broke out during his college career and his yardage efficiency is below the field-stretching threshold. But that doesn't immediately point to an unsuccessful WR. Three straight seasons with a dominator of 0.2 or better is an accomplishment and by some outlets, it's considered a breakout year when the receiver eclipses 20 percent market share of yards. The biggest point in Harmon's favor is his age. At just 21. 1, he'll play the majority of his first pro season under the age of 22.

In the Amico regression tree, Harmon finishes in the far left final node with a historical success rate of 1.7 percent. In the Cole regression tree, he finishes with a success rate of 30 percent largely because of his age. He falls well below the 29 percent career market share of yards which has been found as one of the key metrics in prospect evaluation.

Harmon projects as a first-round NFL draft pick. The Draft Network ranks Harmon between WR3 and WR4 in their most recent run of staff rankings. Through their analysis, the found his best trait to be his strength and his worst trait as his ability to gain yards after the catch.  Assuming he's taken in the first round of the NFL draft, Harmon projects as a top-five rookie draft pick. As an asset, he's likely a strong pick anywhere after the first pick.

 

A.J. Brown, WR Ole Miss

Height: 6' 1''
Weight: 225 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.5

Entering 2018, A.J. Brown was one of the most touted prospect in the class and there were plenty of scouts hoping he'd leave Ole Miss when the NCAA opened the door with sanctions to the program. He chose to stay and put together another strong campaign without Shea Patterson under center.  Brown was a four-star prospect out for the state of Mississippi and was ranked as the fourth WR in his class. He was an Under Armour All American selection and caught four passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in the All American game. As a senior, he led his team to a 6A State Championship with 83 receptions for 1,371 yards and 13 TDs. In addition to being a successful football player, he was a star baseball player becoming the second-ever player to be selected to both the Under Armour football and baseball All-American games. He was drafted in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the San Diego Padres in 2016.

A.J. Brown G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2016 11 29 412 14.2 2 0.11 0.07 0.09
2017 11 75 1252 16.7 11 0.32 0.4 0.36
2018 12 85 1320 15.5 6 0.32 0.28 0.2977
Career 34 189 2984 15.8 19 0.25 0.25 0.25

Brown broke out as a sophomore with a 0.36 dominator rating at the age of 20. While the offense, as a whole, improved in 2018, Brown lost some of his share. Despite accumulating more yards, his market share remained the same and his lack of TD success led to him dominator rating slipping. Had Brown played with lower caliber WRs alongside him, there's a good chance he would have reached the 29 percent career market share threshold.

In the Amico regression tree, Brown finishes with a 33 percent historical success rate. In the Cole regression tree, he finishes with a 32 percent success rate. Age is the deciding factor in the Cole regression tree that elevated Brown as a prospect. For the Amico regression tree, it was his career touchdowns and 15.5 yards per reception that proved important.

A.J. Brown is a near-lock to be drafted in the first two rounds and his draft process will prove important if he's going to become a first round pick. The Draft Network ranks him between WR6 and WR9. They identified his best trait as his route running, but found his speed/burst to be his biggest weakness. Because he lacks some of the athletic upside of other WRs, there's likely going to be differing opinions about Brown's future. I'd expect Brown will have an average ADP around eighth overall in rookie drafts and could be an even bigger value if he slides to the second round of the NFL draft.

 

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR Stanford

Height: 6' 2''
Weight: 222 lbs
Final Season Age: 22.0

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside wasn't at the top of most analysts lists at the start of the 2018 season, but with back-to-back strong seasons, he's moving his way up draft boards. Playing at Dorman High School in the state of South Carolina, Arcega-Whiteside was a three-star WR prospect. In 2014, he won the South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year award and was a finalist for Mr. Football. He finished his high school career with 207 receptions for 3,779 yards and 38 touchdowns.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2015 0 0 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0.00
2016 10 24 379 15.8 5 0.18 0.33 0.26
2017 11 48 781 16.3 9 0.30 0.40 0.35
2018 12 63 1059 16.8 14 0.30 0.49 0.39
Career 33 135 2219 16.4 28 0.20 0.29 0.25

What stands out most of Arcega-Whiteside is his touchdown production. His 14 touchdowns ranks third in the nation and it's an improvement from his nine in 2017. He broke out during his junior season at the age of 21 and then improved his game in each statistical category to close out his career.  Had he seen the field at all during his freshman season, there's a chance the conversation about his NFL transition would have begun last year. As it stands, he falls short of the career market share whether or not you include his 2015 season.

Using the Amico regression tree, Arcega-Whiteside finishes with a 33 percent historical success rate. In the Cole regression tree, he finishes with just a 5.8 percent historical success rate. While he's not an old prospect, his final season being at the age of 22 pushed his historical success rate down slightly.

There's a wide range of outcomes for Arcega-Whiteside in the NFL draft. A good evaluation process could lead to him being a first-round pick, whereas a poor process could see him fall to Day 2. The Draft Network staff ranks him as high as WR2 and as well as outside of the top 10. They found his best traits to be his burst and body control while identifying his quickness on breaks. With such a wide range of outcomes, Arcega-Whiteside will have a volatile rookie ADP depending on his evaluation process. If he's drafted inside of the first two rounds, he appears to be a safe mid-first round selection in rookie drafts.

 

D.K. Metcalf, WR Ole Miss

Height: 6' 3''
Weight: 225 lbs
Final Season Age: 21.1

Despite being surrounded by A.J. Brown and Demarkus Lodge, Metcalf stood out as a physical presence on the Ole Miss team and his injury took away a big part of the team's passing attack. Metcalf was four-star prospect out of the state of Mississippi. He was a U.S. Army and MaxPreps All-America selection.

D.K. Metcalf G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2016 2 2 13 6.5 2 0.00 0.07 0.04
2017 12 39 646 16.6 7 0.16 0.25 0.21
2018 7 26 569 21.9 5 0.14 0.23 0.18
Career 21 67 1228 18.3 14 0.10 0.18 0.14

Metcalf is a difficult player to evaluate. Not only was he surrounded by two other high-caliber WRs, but he also had his best season cut short with a serious neck injury. Statistically, the big concern is his lack of a breakout season. However, his 18.3 yards per reception indicate a likelihood to develop into a field stretcher. He's expected to be one of the stars of the workout evaluations and if he can further demonstrate his ability to stretch the field, an NFL team will likely take notice.

In the Amico regression tree, Metcalf finishes with a 33 percent success rate. In the Cole regression tree, he finishes with a 2.6 historical success rate in large part because of his shortened final year. Extrapolating out his yardage to 12 games, Metcalf would have finished with a better outcome with a 50 percent success rate. Both project Metcalf as a boom-bust type of player who could find success due to big plays.

Metcalf is going to be an intriguing player to follow in the draft process. There hasn't been any indication that his injury will keep him from participating in workouts, but if it hinders his athleticism, his draft stock will take a hit. He appears to be a safe bet for a top two round selection. The Draft Network staff each rank him as the WR1. They found his best trait to be his release and his biggest weakness to be his catch point consistency. Metcalf will likely represent a battle between film analysts and analytics as his career stats don't match the high praise surrounding him. Assuming he's drafted in the first two rounds, Metcalf will be a top five rookie pick and could be in the discussion for the top overall pick.

 

Riley Ridley, WR Georgia

Height: 6' 2''
Weight: 200 lbs
Final Season Age: 22.5

Riley Ridley made his first big splash during the 2018 National Championship game when he accumulated 82 receiving yards on 6 receptions.  The younger brother of Calvin Ridley, Riley was a four-star prospect out of the state of Florida.  Ridley was the 47th ranked WR nationally and the 248th overall player. He was selected for the 2016 Under Armour All-American game and enrolled with Georgia early.

Riley Ridley G Rec Yds Avg TD MS Receiving Yards MS Receiving TDs Dominator
2016 6 12 238 19.8 2 0.09 0.13 0.11
2017 8 14 218 15.6 2 0.08 0.08 0.08
2018 14 43 559 13 9 0.18 0.27 0.22
Career 28 69 1015 14.7 13 0.12 0.18 0.15

As mentioned above, Ridley has a big game during the National Championship. The concern, however, is that his six receptions were nearly half of his season total and the 82 yards represented 37 percent of his season. Looking over his career that game is the highlight of his three seasons on campus. He never broke out and his career-best season represented just 18 percent of the team's total receiving yards for a team that ranked 70th in passing yards per game.

Using the Amico regression tree, Ridley finishes with a 1.7 percent historical success rate due to his lack of career touchdowns and no breakout season. In the Cole regression tree his finishes with a 2.6 percent historical success rate. In both trees, he suffers because of the lack of a dominant season.

I'm well-documented throughout the Dynasty League Scouting series with my dislike for Ridley as a prospect. If you follow me on twitter, it's very apparent that I disagree with scouts who rank Ridley among the top WR prospects in the class. But I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss his rising draft stock among film scouts. The Draft Network staff ranks Ridley between WR2 and WR7 in the class and he's drawn comparisons to Davante Adams, stylistically. Should that all come to the forefront during the draft evaluation process and he becomes a first-round NFL Draft selection, Ridley will be selected in the first round of most rookie drafts.

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