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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Huge Portal News: Title Contenders and Top QBs

Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams has entered the transfer portal
Photo from the athletic

The Caleb Williams transfer saga is going to change the game. This off-season looked like fun, but it just became game breaking. Holy Monday… college football, you never disappoint. Caleb Williams, a leading Heisman candidate, announced a few hours ago that he is reopening his recruitment by entering the transfer portal. He said “OU is still an option”, but another big name quarterback might have just sealed that door:

What is going on with Caleb Williams:

Welp. Lincoln Riley left and took what feels like Oklahoma’s whole recruiting class with him. Now, OU did get a great consolation prize in Brent Venables and Jeff Lebby. However, Caleb Williams wanted to make sure OU was the best spot. So, he issued this statement:

Who swooped into the OU QB spot:

It’s wild ride for this quarterback: former UCF QB Dillon Gabriel — who already hard committed to UCLA this off-season. People thought he would go to Mississippi, because of Jeff Lebby, but when Lebby left for OU that spot seemed taken. With the Caleb Williams transfer announcement, Gabriel swooped right on in.

Where is Williams going:

Three teams immediately come to mind. With smoke that Georgia wants to try something new at QB… getting Williams definitely accomplishes that. Ole Miss just seems unfair, with them adding Zach Evans. I mean, come on. Lane Kiffin would be able to run whatever play he wants whenever he wants. Lastly, and the obvious one — USC with Lincoln Riley. This would then send Jaxson Dart into the portal, causing yet another chain reaction.

My Caleb Williams Transfer Prediction:

I am going to go out on a limb and say Caleb Williams will end up at Georgia. They’re the best team and they have some deep NIL pockets. It would set Williams up for success in a huge way. OU will be just fine in the Big 12 without him, and they still have time to add another blue chip quarterback before they join the SEC.

Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft Duel: Week 6 Edition

How has the Falcons mock draft duel changed from the last installment?

Falcons mock draft

The Atlanta Falcons currently hold the eighth overall selection in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. Because we’re all looking towards the future, it bears the question: who’s next? Atlanta’s in a tough spot currently, and it starts under center. Matt Ryan isn’t getting any younger, and the succession plan is TBD. Defensively, that question is just as tough for the Atlanta Falcons future. Who can be paired with the menace that is Grady Jarrett on the interior? Or who’s the next incredible pass rusher? Heck, what about the lackluster secondary?

In the last edition of Around the Block’s Atlanta Falcons mock draft duel, Hunter and Adam received a challenge from Stevie. Which mock draft is better this time around? Find out below, then go to @falcons_atb on Twitter to vote for your favorite!

Hunter’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@hthompsonNFL)

Round 1 Pick 12: Carson Strong, QB, Nevada

  • This was not the ideal pick to start our Falcons mock draft, but most other targets I wanted were off the board. But alas, I’ll attempt to put a positive spin on this. Carson Strong is a name you might not have heard of if you don’t keep up with draft Twitter, but the 6’4″ 215 lb Nevada product is my QB1 in the class. Strong has a cannon that allows him place dimes across the field as he posted 16 TD’s to 3 INT’s at this point in the season. He’s also an incredible pre-snap QB who works through his progressions while leading the Nevada Air Raid offense. Strong would be able to come sit behind Ryan for a year while we build the rest of the roster.

Round 2 Pick 45: Josh Jobe, CB, Alabama

  • A high character corner from Alabama, Jobe has the ability to be a great corner to grow next to AJ Terrell. Jobe is a long corner who plays well in press coverage. He is a smart IQ player who does well with his technique to go toe to toe with any WR’s. He is a bit older as a 24 year old rookie, but Jobe fits what the Falcons are going to try run defensively under Pees.

Round 2 Pick 54: Isaiah Thomas, EDGE, Oklahoma

  • Isaiah Thomas has really been a freak of nature at Oklahoma this season. He is a 6’5″ 265lb EDGE who has been used in a variety of ways in Norman this year. He is explosive with his first step and an aggressive monster at the LOS. His hands are strong and his arsenal of pass rush moves is pretty solid. Grabbing a freak like Thomas here is a steal for the Falcons in the draft.

Round 3 Pick 75: Daniel Faalele, OT, Minnesota

  • Faalele is a mountain of a man at 6-feet-9, 380 pounds. He’s been sliding a bit down boards, but adding the mauler here is a nice addition for the Atlanta Falcons’ o-line. Faalele is a massive bear of a RT who will be able to come in and push Kaleb McGary for a starting spot along this offensive line.

Round 4 Pick 115: Smoke Monday, SAF, Auburn

  • The Falcons adding Smoke Monday here would be a smart move. Smoke would be able to come in and compete right off the bat with Jaylinn Hawkins and Richie Grant for starting safety reps in the Dean Pees defense. Smoke Monday is a leader on the Auburn defense who is a physical safety who is strong in the run game.

Adam’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@Damski32)

Round 1 Pick 12: Jordan Davis, iDL, Georgia

  • This gives us a unique opportunity to see what a draft outside the top 10 looks like. I started this thing off with an ass kicker and world destroyer right smack in the middle of the defense. Jordan is proving to be a complete nightmare for IOL both vs the pass and vs the run. He’s in great shape and that motor runs hot constantly. His raw strength is absolutely ridiculous and the fact that teams double and triple team him and he still gets home says a lot. Falcons look to rebuild this DL from the inside out and what a heck of a starting piece like Jordan Davis.

Round 2 Pick 45: John Metchie, WR, Alabama

  • John Metchie has been hot and cold this year and he’s really taken a backseat to Jameson Williams in that Alabama O. Which is fine for ATL. They benefit from getting this YAC WR; a big bodied X WR who can create decent separation on his own — which is what ATL really needs from its X WR. Ideally, I wanted OL, but I wasn’t going to rush the need and the Falcons DO need skill positions, too, so I was fine with taking a scheme fit WR here.

Round 2 Pick 54: Isaiah Spiller, RB, Texas A&M

  • Isaiah Spiller is going to be a pick of mine in every mock, I think. Spiller has such great vision and patience when coming through the hole and shows tons of burst and contact balance on film. Arthur Smith will definitely be looking for his bell-cow in this draft, and I think Spiller, the ever talented RB out of A&M, could be that guy. To note, Arthur loves his backs who can block on third down too; Spiller might be the best of the bunch in that area.

Round 3 Pick 76: Zion Johnson, iOL, Boston College

  • Zion Johnson from Boston College was someone who was HIGH on my radar last off-season when I knew we’d be in the market for an IOL. Luckily for ATL, he went back to school and they have a shot at him this year. Zion possesses real functional strength and is a bully in the run game, really good at getting to the second level to seal blocks, and has some nasty in the pass game. Having Mayfield be average this whole year wouldn’t stop me from adding bodies to the position. The Falcons did draft Drew Dalman after having Matt Hennessy on the roster already last year.

Round 4 Pick 115: Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech

  • Amare Barno is such an intriuging prospect and I think four months from now he may rise up the boards and could be a Day 2 pick. He has some really good power and offers some really good hand play. He’s an intriguing Day 3 option at EDGE for us that could potentially log some early snaps as a designated pass rusher. I really didn’t like how this turned out in terms of EDGE cause this was such a strong class, but I was happy to nab a guy that was high on my board!

Stephen’s Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft (@stevieraylee)

Round 1 Pick 12: Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

AJ Terrell is living up to the immense preseason hype, but he can’t do it by himself out there. Booth would be an immediate starter whose ability in man coverage would allow Pees to open up his playbook more than we’ve seen so far this season. Excellent footwork and balance keep Booth comfortable with any assignment. He can play out of control at times, but, with a little polish, Booth could make the secondary a strength for the Falcons defense.

Round 2 Pick 45: David Bell, WR, Purdue

If Bell can continue to build on his 11 catch, 240 yard game against Iowa, we probably won’t get many more opportunities to draft him this late. Bell fits the mold of a bigger, contested-catch receiver that Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith have been looking for since Julio Jones departed for Tennessee. Atlanta has Kyle Pitts and Calvin Ridley in the building for 2022, but that’s pretty much it. Even though there are other pressing issues, if the Falcons want to be competitive, they have to keep the offense running at a high level.

Round 2 Pick 54: Zion Nelson, OL, Miami

Nelson is an incredibly athletic offensive tackle that excels in pass pro against speed rushers. He moves well in space, and if he can put on (and keep on) weight, he has the potential to be an excellent run blocker in an outside zone scheme. The big question is whether he can maintain the requisite size to stick in the pros. Miami lists Nelson at 315lbs, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts his playing weight is closer to 300 lbs. That’s not big enough to make it in the NFL, but he has steadily added weight since arriving in Miami. He’d be a bit of a project, but he has the tools to be a standout tackle if he pans out.

Round 3 Pick 76: Jermaine Johnson, Edge, Florida St.

Feel free to accuse me of copying Adam’s mock from last week, but a good idea is a good idea. Johnson is lighting it up this season in Tallahassee, piling up 6.5 sacks through six games. He is built perfectly to slot in at OLB in this scheme, and has the physical tools to play whatever role Dean Pees cooks up for him. The fact that he had to transfer out of UGA only shows how talented the Bulldogs roster is. Expect Johnson to continue to rise up draft boards as we move along, but for now, he’s an immense value in the third round.

Round 4 Pick 115: Amare Barno, Edge, Virginia Tech

This draft class is far too deep at the edge to resist a double-dip. Barno isn’t a name that’s being kicked around a ton, but he led the D1 schools in TFL’s in 2020. He isn’t off to the same white-hot start that Jermaine Johnson is in 2021, but he has managed 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble so far. At 6’6, Barno has an ideal frame, though he could stand to add functional strength. Barno transitioned from off-ball LB to defensive end in 2020, making him an intriguing candidate for a scheme-diverse system like Atlanta’s. It’s a pick based on projection, but after investing in a polished rusher like Johnson, the Falcons can afford to roll the dice on a developments project.

Massive SEC Update With Some Additional Recruiting News

The two newest members of the South Eastern Conference will be The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Oklahoma. SEC Presidents and Chancellors voted 14-0 this afternoon to invite Texas and OU to join the SEC. If you’ve read my last couple articles this comes as no surprise to you. You would also know that Texas and OU will not be waiting until 2025 as the SEC stated in their invite. If you missed that go checkout my previous article.

This was Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s response to the SEC vote. Once again we are seeing Bowlsby blame this on everyone else instead of taking the blame himself. If Bowlsby wanted the Big 12 to survive he should have been actively reaching out to teams to join the conference. Two weeks ago Bowlsby had this to say about realignment, “A lot of the motivation for realignment is no longer there. Is that to say it couldn’t happen? No, it could possibly happen for other reasons, but it doesn’t appear to me that the motivation is there at this point in time”. He later added “Not to say it couldn’t happen, but it’s not one of the things that keep me up at night” in reference to realignment.

Obviously Bowlsby was naive about how programs (mainly Texas and OU) really felt the conference was run. Now he’s resorted to sending a “cease and desist” order to ESPN, claiming the media enterprise was bribing Big 12 teams to leave the conference. ESPN of course denied the allegations saying “there is nothing to cease and desist. We trust this will put the matter to rest.” Any way you look at this you can tell Bowlsby was blindsided by the move from Texas and OU. I have no doubt in my mind Bowlsby will fight until the bitter end to keep Texas and OU in the conference through 2025. No matter how hard he tries, Texas and OU will be gone way before then.

Jumping over to the recruiting side for a second I have some bad new and some good news. I’ll start with the bad news so we can end on a good note. I previously reported that I believed three-star linebacker Jeremy Patton would be committing to Texas on Saturday. That is no longer the case. It appears Patton is now a slight Michigan lean. This would be a disappointing loss for the Texas staff but definitely one they could bounce back from. Now to the good news I also previously reported that four-star edge Derrick Brown would be committing to Texas on Saturday that is still the case. Brown will be a huge get for Sark and Co. at a position of need. Patton and Brown are very good friends and have talked about playing together at the next level. I say that to say this it wouldn’t surprise me to see Patton commit to Texas on Saturday, but as of right now it looks like it’ll be Michigan.

SEC Timeline for Texas and Oklahoma

Tuesday morning Texas and OU officials sent a joint statement to the Big 12 stating…

Picture via @justinwells2424 on Twitter

This was not a surprise because of the many sources who said such statement would be released early this week. What was a surprise (kind of) was shortly after releasing the above statement Texas and OU sent a joint letter to SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey which stated…

Picture via @LateKickJosh on Twitter

It wasn’t surprising that Texas and OU requested membership into the SEC, but many believed the request would come later on in the week. Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for… The Timeline.

As you can see above the letter states “request invitations for membership to the (SEC) starting on July 1, 2025“. However, it will not take nearly that long for the 2 schools to join the SEC. I saw many replies to my previous article saying “grant of rights doesn’t expire until 2025” or “Texas nor OU have the money to buyout the grant of rights contract”. These statements can be fixed very easily.

Kirk Bohls reported the buyout as such, “Texas and OU would each owe the league $80 million for breaching their contracts with the league“. For those of you who can’t do quick math, that adds up to $160 million total that Texas and OU would have to pay to leave the Big 12 early. For common folk like me and you that sounds like a big chunk of change, but to these massive institutions that amount ($80 million a piece) is actually very doable.

Also to add to that Texas is 10 years into a 20 year $300 million contract with ESPN for LHN. Meaning ESPN still owes Texas $150 million over the next 10 years. However if Texas goes to the SEC they will have to get rid of LHN which means ESPN will owe Texas the rest of that money. Which in turn could go towards the total $160 million buyout leaving only $10 million to pay. $10 million for these institutions, in essence, is pocket change.

I’ve said all that to get to this final point. Texas and OU will be headed to the SEC in 2022. The only other scenario I see playing out is everything I said coming to fruition but Texas and OU waiting until 2023 to move over. I don’t see either team moving any later then 2023 at this moment. Again this information can change at the drop of a hat but as of this moment in time, July 27 at 6:45pm, Texas and OU will be joining the SEC in either 2022 (most likely) or 2023.