Today I wanted to look at the wide receivers, a position Pittsburgh could be looking to upgrade for the 2022 season. The graph below uses their 2021 PFF Grade and their current rank on PFF’s Big Board that updates through the draft process:
USC wide receiver Drake London lands on the top right of the graph with the second rank and currently a top 15 player on PFF’s big board. He had a plus 90 overall grade, tall receiver who excelled as a contested catcher, a plus 80 receiving grade, and near 90 grade versus man coverage before his season was cut short due to injury. PFF has Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson as the top rank on the board and in the top ten overall. He has plus 80 grades overall, receiving, and versus man coverage along with a top 15 rank in missed tackles forced.
Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams is currently the third ranked wide receiver and had plus 80 overall and receiving grades along with a below 80 grade versus man coverage, excelling with top ten ranks in yards after catch average and deep yards. Penn State wide receiver Jahan Dotson fared better with overall and receiving grades in the high 80’s, but a below 70 grade versus man coverage and is smaller statured. He did have a top 20 rank on screen catches and a low drop rate.
Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks had a mid 80 overall grade, a plus 90 receiving grade, and a low 80 grade versus man coverage along with a top ten rank in yards after catch average and top 15 rank in screen yards with most of his play coming in the slot with good size. Chris Olave is the second Ohio State wide receiver currently ranked in the top 20, providing value finding the end zone at a high rate but had a below 80 overall grade (below the mean) and receiving grade along with a low 70 grade versus man coverage.
The last player in the current top 50 is Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore. He impressively had the top ranked PFF overall grade along with a plus 90 receiving grade and near 80 grade versus man coverage. He also held the top rank in missed tackles forced, and while some may be concerned with his height, I personally think he would be a good fit for Pittsburgh and has experience across the formation.
Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson had an impressive plus 90 grade which tied for second in this group, above 90 receiving grade, and near 90 grade versus man coverage! He spent most of his time in the slot, and while he is smaller statured, ranked top ten in missed tackles forced, deep catches, screen catches and yards, and slot catches along with being top 15 in deep yards.
Continuing on the top right of the graph, Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir had 80 grades overall, receiving, and versus man coverage and spent most of his time in the slot last season but had a high drop rate. He did appear in the Senior Bowl for the National Team, but the only note I had was a poor run block. Purdue wide receiver David Bell had similar overall and receiving grades to Shakir along with a high 70 grade versus man coverage, with his experience being out wide with good size and a top five rank in missed tackles forced.
South Alabama wide receiver Jalen Tolbert had a low 80 overall grade, mid 80 receiving grade, but a low 70 grade versus man coverage with good size and a top ten rank in deep yards. He played in the Senior Bowl for the American Team, with a couple good catches, noted a good block, and nearly making a good sideline catch but was unable to get both feet in. Nevada wide receiver Romeo Doubs had a low 80 overall and receiving grade along with a mid 70 grade versus man coverage, spending most of his time out wide where he ranked in the top 30 in deep catches and has good size. He played for the National Team in the Senior Bowl, noting a variety of good routes and catches, good block on a screen play, but out physicDanaled at the line of scrimmage on an end zone fade.
Alabama wide receiver John Metchie had a high 70 overall and receiving grade along with a just above 80 grade versus man coverage. He also fared well in contested catch rate and played across the formation and had a top five rank in screen catches along with top 15 ranks in missed tackles forced and screen yards. Cincinnati wide receiver Alec Pierce had mid 70 overall and receiving grades with his best grade at plus 80 versus man coverage. He has good size and spent most of his time out wide with top 20 ranks in deep and contested catches.
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross has great height/size but had a low 70 overall, receiving, and versus man coverage grades playing across the formation with slightly more snaps from the slot along with a very low drop rate. The last player in PFF’s current top 100 with an above the mean grade is Georgia wide receiver George Pickens, who had a low 70 overall and receiving grade and a high 60 grade versus man coverage in limited action last season due to injury. He spent most of his time out wide in college along with having good size.
Now let’s look at some of the players currently outside PFF’s top 100. Coastal Carolina wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh had a near 90 overall (ranking fifth) and receiving grade and a near 80 grade against man coverage, has good size and spent most of his time out wide along with a good yards per route number but a middling drop rate. Nicholls State wide receiver Dai’Jean Dixon is lower in PFF’s big board ranks but with a plus 90 overall grade (ranking fourth) and receiving grade and a high 80 grade versus man coverage along with a top 15 rank in contested catches with good height/size and spending most of his time out wide.
Memphis wide receiver Calvin Austin is lower on PFF’s current big board, but had a mid 80 overall and receiving grade and a high 70 grade versus man coverage. He spent most of his time out wide with a very low contested catch rate and middling drop rate and is extremely small. He played in the Senior Bowl for the American Team getting good separation and making a low catch on an out route, drew a pass interference call, had a good run block, but did have a drop.
The remaining players are below the mean in grades and ranks on the graph, and I will comment on some. Ole Miss wide receiver Dontario Drummond had a high 70 overall grade, a mid 80 receiving grade, and a low 70 grade versus man coverage. He spent most of his time in the slot last season and had top ten ranks in yards after catch average and screen yards. Virginia Tech wide receiver Tre Turner had a mid 70 overall and receiving grade but a lower mid 60 grade against man coverage, playing mostly out wide with good height.
SMU wide receiver Danny Gray had a high 70 overall and receiving grade faring best with a high 80 grade against man coverage and has good height. He spent most of his time out wide along with a top 15 ranks in yards after catch average. Miami wide receiver Charleston Rambo had a high 70 overall and receiving grade with a low 80 grade against man coverage. He spent most of his time out wide and ranked top 20 in deep catches and yards. He played in the Shrine Game for the East team, displaying yards after catch ability and was a punt returner.
Rutgers wide receiver Bo Melton had mid 70 grades overall, receiving and versus man coverage and played mostly out wide with a top 30 rank in screen catches. He doesn’t have ideal height and struggled with contested catches and a below average drop rate. He did have a strong showing at the Senior Bowl for the National team where he showed this screen ability twice with good yards after catch and also had a good cut on a punt return to make a guy miss for extra yards.
Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. had mid 70 overall and receiving grades and a high 70 grade versus man coverage. He spent most of his time in the slot last season with good size there and ranked top 20 in yards after catch average and screen yards. He played in the Senior Bowl for the American Team, faring well as a receiver on short routes, a good jab to set up a deep corner route, noted a good block, and was a returner (while less successful) on the opening kickoff reverse and a second where he ran backwards.
There are some notable missing names from this early PFF board, the first being a Steeler Depot favorite, North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson. He is an ideal height/weight/speed prospect and started for the National team in the Senior Bowl. I was impressed how he won physically off the line, drew a pass interference on a deep off target throw, and agree with many on the Depot crew that he was a strong blocker in the run game and really enjoyed his pass block where he occupied two guys allowing the receiver to cut back on the touchdown!
From the Shrine Bowl, I personally enjoyed performances from Samori Toure Nebraska, Josh Johnson from Tulsa, Stanley Berryhill III from Arizona, Tyquan Thorton from Baylor, and Davontavean Martin from Oklahoma State. Toure had two touchdowns in the game and aided another with a good pass block along with a few other good plays in my notes. Johnson had two explosive catches, with one being wide open but another contested with a few other good plays as well. Berryhill III started on offense but made my notes more on special teams, was the starting kick returner and had a good punt return off the bounce along with a good punt coverage tackle. Thorton played well in multiple facets, as a receiver making several catches and a fade for a two-point conversion, a couple nice run blocks, recovered the onside kick, and only negative in my notes was he didn’t catch the near spectacular play on the sidelines.
One thing seems certain, Pittsburgh will have options in the draft to pick from with a strong group with depth and talent. With the team likely to draft one with their track record of doing so nearly every year, I can’t wait to see what this room looks like in 2022, especially considering the 2021 players that could be moving on.
While the ranks on PFF’s board with certainly change, I especially hope you enjoyed the grade data and some notes from the all-star games. Later in the process as the Steelers Depot draft team continues to compile more draft profiles, I plan and look forward to providing visuals with their Depot draft grade and projection.
What are your thoughts on this year’s wide receiver class? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!