2022 NFL Draft: 3 Wide Receiver Standouts Based on Adjusted Production
As soon as the Super Bowl ends, NFL Draft season begins.
The NFL has announced the prospects invited to participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, a list that includes 40 receiver hopefuls.
Which of them had the best 2021 campaign from a production standpoint?
We can look at yards and touchdowns, sure, but why not expected points added (EPA)? Exactly -- there's no reason not to.
So, I pulled each player's weekly EPA results from CollegeFootballData.com and adjusted them for opponents (based on some internal tweaks from numberFire's algorithm).
Here is how the 39 FBS combine-invited receivers fared (excluding Christian Watson, who played at an FCS school, North Dakota State). (Also, Isaiah Weston from Northern Iowa has just three games charted.)
|Skyy Moore||Western Michigan||66.73|
|Khalil Shakir||Boise State||63.33|
|Calvin Austin III||Memphis||52.27|
|Jalen Tolbert||South Alabama||47.44|
|Garrett Wilson||Ohio State||36.70|
|Jahan Dotson||Penn State||36.62|
|Dontario Drummond||Ole Miss||34.87|
|Kevin Austin Jr.||Notre Dame||30.59|
|Tre Turner||Virginia Tech||26.77|
|Jalen Nailor||Michigan State||25.47|
|Velus Jones Jr.||Tennessee||24.59|
|Reggie Roberson Jr.||SMU||24.01|
|John Metchie III||Alabama||22.33|
|Erik Ezukanma||Texas Tech||20.32|
|Chris Olave||Ohio State||17.88|
|Johnny Johnson III||Oregon||7.92|
|Makai Polk||Mississippi State||7.16|
|Braylon Sanders||Ole Miss||6.45|
|Michael Woods II||Oklahoma||4.26|
|Isaiah Weston||Northern Iowa||-2.42|
Some Added Context
Without any context, these numbers mean nothing, so let's dig deeper.
The top score here belongs to Skyy Moore, who played at Western Michigan and put up a final stat line of 94 catches, 1,283 yards, and 10 touchdowns. His consensus big board rank at NFL Mock Draft Database is just 121st overall and 17th among receivers. That's, then, a tail-end-of-the-fourth-round expectation.
He's just 5'10" (11th percentile in my database) but 195 pounds (34th).
Not many receivers have popped from this actual draft range since 2015's draft (Stefon Diggs, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Hunter Renfrow, Gabriel Davis being the most notable). Moore also broke out at age 20 (later than you'd like). He's still a name to watch, especially if the pre-draft process sees his draft stock rise.
Khalil Shakir from Boise State is up next. His consensus big board rank sits at 80th overall and 12th among receivers. The size (6'0", 193) won't blow anyone away, but some of the highlight-worthy plays of his sure can. Shakir also broke out at 19.6 years old (a 74th-percentile rating in my database).
Jameson Williams out of Alabama is a top-five receiver prospect for a reason -- even after he tore his ACL in the national championship game. He performed above expectation in 13 of 15 qualifying games (86.7%, easily best of any combine-invited prospect).
Williams (73.3%) trails only Drake London (78.3%) in career games with a dominant game (an EPA over expectation of at least 2.0 [roughly an 80th-percentile outcome]). No other player is above 65.0% among this class.
As for those on the lower end, does it matter? It might.
Receivers taken in the first four rounds since 2015 with below-expected, final-year EPA include Jamison Crowder, Dante Pettis, Demarcus Robinson, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jalen Reagor, Rondale Moore, Kenny Golladay, Bryan Edwards, Anthony Schwartz, and Ricardo Louis. That list includes some solid performers but no truly elite players.
And for the flipside, these are the names who have generated at least 65.0 EPA over expected: DeVonta Smith, Tyler Lockett, Amari Cooper, Dede Westbrook, Michael Thomas, Ja'Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson.