2023 NFL Draft Watch List: Wide Receivers

Summer scouting season is underway and continues with the wide receiver class. Here’s Hussam Patels’ 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver watchlist.

Summer scouting season is underway and continues with the wide receiver class. Here is my 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte tops Hussam Patel's 2023 NFL Draft watch list at the position.
Photo Credit: MG Miller, USA TODAY Sports

Top 5 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list

Kayshon Boutte

The top wide receiver of the 2023 class had a very productive freshman 2021 season and sadly dropped off a little bit due to injuries in 2022. Boutte is an extremely well-rounded receiver. He flashes the foot quickness and toughness to handle slot duties at the next level and lines up all over the field. Boutte is dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Speaking of, the Tigers product hands’ accepts the ball fluidly on most throws and is ready to make a play afterward. He makes catches in traffic, even going up over taller defenders with vertical and toughness.

Kayson Boutte is one of the most athletically gifted players in the 2023 class, who possess great speed, acceleration, and size, and combines these traits with decent hands and outstanding route running. 

The only reservation I have of Boutte is his medical issue. If he has a quality year in 2022, Boutte could easily become the top-rated receiver come the 2023 NFL Draft. Still, Boutte is the top prospect on the 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

Jaxson Smith-Njigba

At the age of 20, Jaxson Smith-Njigba has fine-tuned his route running and has a great understanding of how to dissect different zones and attack the leverage on defensive backs.

As a sophomore in 2021 he played in 13 games and had 95 catches for 1595 yards for an average of 16.8 yards per catch, with 9 TDs, and a QB rating when targeted of 141.8

The Buckeyes standout has the strongest hands any NFL wide receiver coach and quarterback would covet. He tracks the deep ball over either shoulder and brings in passes fluidly without breaking stride downfield

Expect 2022 to be even better than 2021, as Smith-Njigba will be gifted the number one receiving spot on the Buckeye’s offense. I have him slated as the number two prospect to watch on this 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list.

Jordan Addison

The third pass-catcher in this 2023 NFL draft wide receivers watch list is USC’s Jordan Addison. Addison had a very productive season last year winning the Biletnikoff trophy at Pittsburgh.

This off-season he transferred to USC and will play for offensive mastermind Lincoln Riley. Addison is looking to replicate his 2021 season with Caleb Williams as his quarterback.

The Trojan playmaker has amazing flexibility and can pretty much make any catch you ask him to.

The speed element of his game is evident, along with the ability to break the ankles of defenders in the open field. A slippery athlete, Addison is a headache to deal with when he has the football in his hands

Addison’s catch comfortability does not instill much confidence, as he does tend to bring passes into his frame rather than working with his hands away from his chest. The further outside of his frame he has to work, the less dependable his hands become.

He has a chance this year to become to establish himself as a top-ten pick if he continues to play at the level he displayed as a sophomore at Pittsburgh.

Parker Washington

Nittany Lions’ receiver Parker Washington had an 800 yard season sitting behind Jahan Dotson as the number two option. With a prime role coming this season, he’s looking to absolutely breakout and torch Big Ten defensive backs.

Washington saw the bulk of his snaps from the slot last year, and got a lot of free releases. I expect to see him on the outside a little more, and how he handles contact at the line of scrimmage will be crucial.

He is very good at tracking the ball in the air and, for his size, does a great job timing jumps to beat defenders for contested catches. So far in his career, he has brought in 11 out of 23 attempts on contested balls. A big reason as to why is due to his strong hands.

When Washington gets in the open field, he can take it the distance. He snags the ball well and is able to fully extend on off-target passes by extending his arms rather than with pure speed.

Marvin Mims

Marvin Mims has the versatility to line up at all three receiving positions (X, Flanker, and Slot), and is able to execute at all three levels of the field. 

A savvy, natural pass-catcher with reliable hands and very good focus. He routinely looks the ball into his hands and can maintain concentration to haul in circus catches way outside of his framework.

Despite being a smaller receiver, Mims competes well above his weight class and his competitive toughness shines as a blocker. Mims is one of the few receivers in this draft class who blocks well, which catapults him to the fifth spot in the 2023 NFL Draft wide receivers watch list.

In 2023, Mims could solidify himself as a first-round talent if Oklahoma builds on his route tree. He runs the routes in his package well, but a more diverse route tree will allow him to produce more and more quickly at the NFL level.

Honorable Mentions: 

Josh Downs-UNC, Dontay Demus-Maryland, Zay Flowers-BC, Quentin Johnson-TCU, Xavier Hutchinson-Iowa State.

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Is Kayshon Boutte set to hit the Transfer Portal?

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte seems set to hit the transfer portal

Huge news out of Baton Rouge, and not of the good variety for LSU fans. Star wide receiver, Kayshon Boutte, is considering entering the transfer portal — but that might not be the worst of it for LSU. Could a transfer to Alabama be on the way?

Why is Kayshon Boutte transferring?

With Ed O gone and a mass exodus of players leaving LSU, Boutte figured it’s his turn. Brian Kelly and his staff seem to be losing any and all veteran talent. The prime example being Eli Ricks going to Alabama. Boutte is a former Freshman All-American, and has huge upside who could easily be a WR1 on many teams in college football.

Kayshon Boutte is a guy who can catch anything that’s thrown his way. However, with sub par quarterback play, he is being been held back. A leg injury ended Boutte’s 20211 season with the Tigers, and a change of scenery now seems necessary. Where will he end up? Well, if you look at his twitter, it feels pretty obvious.

Where will Kayshon Boutte transfer to:

Now, with teammate Eli Ricks headed to Alabama, and the Tide being his number two out of high school, it seems fairly clear that Nick Saban and Alabama are early front runners for Kayshon Boutte. Pete Golding, Bama’s defensive coordinator, tweeted this on December 13th:

Which Boutte then liked. Out of high school, Golding recruited Boutte to Alabama along with Holmon Wiggins who is also still at Alabama. The Tide feel like the top contender for the top wide receiver.

If not Bama then where else:

Honestly, this is a little tricky. I don’t think there is another option, Boutte could always surprise us and choose someone out of left field, but there isn’t really another spot that makes sense. Justin Stepp, who recruited him to Arkansas is now at South Carolina, and the other two teams in his top five have different staffs all together.

I believe Kayshon Boutte is Alabama bound, but be wary of the surprise team that could always pop in and take him.

LSU Head Coach Candidates

With Ed Orgeron out after the season, who are the top candidates to take his place?

LSU head coach candidates
Associated Press

The Tigers and head coach Ed Orgeron reached a separation agreement today, in which Orgeron would finish out the rest of the 2021 season and not come back. Nearly two years after winning a National Championship, Ed is now out in Baton Rouge. The move raises a huge question: Who now coaches at arguably one of, if not the best, head coaching jobs in college football? 

Below, I list out the LSU head coach candidates separated by three tiers: 

  1. Hot Candidates – Those who have been garnering the most buzz among the fanbase, media, etc.
  2. Outside looking in – Those who either have ties or would make good candidates, but something is not letting them be in that top tier.
  3. The Others – Those who are long-shots and either are not as qualified or will be almost impossible to get.

Top “Hot” LSU Head Coach Candidates: 

  • Mel Tucker – Michigan State HC: 
Michigan State coach Mel Tucker looks on after a touchdown in the first quarter of their college football game against Western Kentucky at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, on Saturday, October 2, 2021. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)

The current Michigan State head coach is in year two in East Lansing, and has done a great job so far. Tucker cleared out a good chunk of the roster after the 2020 season and replaced them with lots of transfers. He has also done a fairly nice job as a recruiter. It seems like a hard thing to do getting him to leave Michigan State. But, he has ties to the SEC under Nick Saban and Kirby Smart as an assistant.

Getting a chance to double his salary and having a large salary pool and recruiting base would be enticing enough for any candidate to leave. Tucker should be among the top candidates for the LSU head coach position 

  • Lane Kiffin – Mississippi HC: 
ESPN.com

Good ole Lane Kiffin. Coming off of a thrilling win against the Vols last night, Kiffin has his team rolling this year, getting out to a 6-1 start. We all know about Kiffin’s personality and his ability to mesh with his players. We also know about his ability to recruit anywhere at any time. The question is: can he succeed at a “blue blood” program? His results at USC and Tennessee aren’t that promising, and that may make a school like LSU hesitate. You cannot deny his offensive mind and the excitement that would bring to Baton Rouge, though. 

  • Billy Napier – Louisiana-Lafayette HC: 
Photo Courtesy: ragincajuns.com

Currently the coach at Louisiana-Lafayette, Napier has done an outstanding job of building that program. He has ties to Saban (WR coach at Alabama from 2013-2016) and is a great offensive mind, which is something the Tigers may need. Napier also has an idea of what it is like recruiting in-state, something LSU will need more of going forward. Napier may be a bit under the radar, but would make a great candidate for the vacant LSU head coach position.

  • Luke Fickell – Cincinnati HC: 
Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Notre Dame and Ohio State are the only two jobs I think Fickell would take. However, LSU sure as hell would give him something to think about. He has led the Bearcats to two 11-win seasons and is well on his way to another one. Fickell is as loyal as anyone when it comes to staying put, but the money, assistant salary pool, recruiting opportunities, etc may be too great to pass up. 

Outside Looking In:

  • James Franklin – Penn State HC: 
Getty Images

If it weren’t for the USC rumors, I would have put Franklin in that top tier. Instead, he falls into this second group due to his large buyout and his loyalty to Penn State (so far). He’s one of the best recruiters in the nation and has a knack for hiring good assistants. 

  • Jimbo Fisher – Texas A&M HC: 
Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher, left, talks to quarterback Kellen Mond (11) during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)

Same as Franklin above in terms of a large buyout ($95 Million!!!) but isn’t necessarily tied to Texas A&M like Franklin is. Still, that buyout is insanely large and would be tough to justify paying $100+ million for any coach not named Nick Saban. 

  • Mario Cristobal – Oregon HC: 
USATSI

Cristobal is an excellent recruiter, and has done a great job at Oregon so far. I think Miami makes a ton more sense for him to go to rather than LSU, but he sure would make an impact in Baton Rouge. Cristobal also has SEC experience as an assistant under Saban. 

The “Others”:

  • Matt Campbell – Iowa State HC: 
AMES, IA – OCTOBER 10: Head coach Matt Campbell of the Iowa State Cyclones gives two thumbs up after his team scored a touchdown in the second half of the play at Jack Trice Stadium on October 10, 2020 in Ames, Iowa. The Iowa State Cyclones won 31-15 over the Texas Tech Red Raiders. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)

Campbell has done an outstanding job at Iowa State considering the lack of recruiting prowess. He can develop talent with the best of them, and always has his teams ready for big games.

However, Campbell is an extremely loyal person (turned down multiple jobs to stay in Ames) so it will be hard to see him leaving Iowa State until it happens. Still, he should at least be on the list of potential LSU head coach candidates.

  • Dave Aranda – Baylor HC: 
Oct 3, 2020; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Dave Aranda yells from the sidelines during the third quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

The former LSU DC has done a nice job in Year Two at Baylor. He is someone that may be a hard sell for the fanbase, in comparison to the other candidates involved. He can recruit well and always had good defenses, but does lack experience as the Head Guy.

Joe Brady – Carolina Panthers OC: 

Robby Anderson #11 of the Carolina Panthers talks with Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady during the Carolina Panthers Training Camp at Bank of America Stadium on August 21, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

This is an under-the-radar candidate, but the former LSU OC seems happy in the NFL and it’s known that he does not enjoy recruiting that much.

Bill O’Brien – Alabama OC: 

New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien watches the quarterbacks work during practice. The Alabama Crimson Tide opened practice for the 2021 season as they prepare to defend the 2020 National Championship Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

He did a very solid job at Penn State, considering the circumstances. This will just be an extremely hard sell for everyone involved (fanbase, players, boosters, etc) and O’Brien may be looking to go back into the NFL instead. 

Summer Scouting: Derek Stingley, CB, Louisiana State University

LSU Cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., Photo taken by Hilary Scheinuk

LSU was one of the most talented teams in college football in the 2019-20 season, and perhaps their best player, Derek Stingley, has yet to step foot in the NFL. As a full-time starter for the Tigers, Stingley recorded 15 pass deflections and six interceptions in his freshman season. Stingley was not only the best freshman in the SEC (despite getting snubbed on the SEC freshman of the year award) but was one of the best cornerbacks in college football. Unfortunately, in his sophomore season, he dealt with some injuries and some non-COVID-related illnesses. However, if Stingley can get back on the field at 100-percent, there is no question he will again be one of the best players in the nation. With that being the case, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Stingley gets drafted in the top-5 of the 2022 NFL Draft; the talent is undoubtedly there.