Peter King had a great nugget questioning if this is the draft year where we don’t see a single player who touches the ball go in the top 10 picks. I don’t think there’s nearly as much hype around this skill position group but there will be plenty of depth. Daniel Jeremiah expects around 7 receivers to go in the first round this year but will we see an RB sneak their way up the boards? We know Nick Caserio, Lovie Smith, and Pep Hamilton want to improve the running game. Which more than likely implies improvements to the offensive and grabbing an inline blocking tight end but it also means grabbing a running back for the short term. If Deebo Samuel proves to be too far of a reach for Houston to swing perhaps another option lies somewhere in the draft.
Positional projections RB:
Kenneth Walker III, Isaiah Spiller
Dameon Pierce, James Cook, Pierre Strong, Brian Robinson, Tyrion Davis-Price, Rachaad White, Zander Horvath, Zamir White, Zaquandre White, Ty Chandler, Keaontay Ingram, D’vonte Price, Abram Smith, Hassan Haskins, Kyren Williams, Jerome Ford, Jashaun Corbin, Tyler Allgeier, Zonovan Knight, Tyler Badie, Tyler Goodson, Snoop Conner
I wouldn’t say it’s a poor class by any means. However it certainly is not noteworthy aside from Breece Hall posting the highest athletic scores since Saquon Barkley. Kenneth Walker is coming off a red hot season but after the top two there is a significant decline. While being a very deep class thanks to the super senior COVID rule, all of the runners have equal cons that balance their pros leaving it to be more of a “pick your flavor” type of class broken up by skill sets. The undrafted free agent crop that comes out this year should also be noteworthy and statistically will bear some fruit; particularly in the pass catching back department.
Who I'm High On:
Hall, Pierce, Corbin, Ingram
Breece is far from the consensus top back however his status this cycle is cemented by his elite athletic testing and a pass catching ability that Kenneth Walker has not shown. Long speed is the only thing holding Dameon Pierce back but there is a lot to like about his game. Corbin is a day three back who I think can really make an impact using his excellent vision and contact balance. He looks good catching the ball out of the backfield, has returner experience, and holds two of the longest runs in ACC history. Guys like Isaiah Spiller or Hassan Haskins will go earlier but Keaontay Ingram is a big (+220 lbs.) back who will go around mid-day three and runs with much more finesse than his frame would suggest.
Who I'm Low On:
Nobody in particular really. For the most part a day 3 running back is known to not be perfect and it’s hard to complain about that.
Positional projections WR:
Drake London, Jameson Williams, Chris Olave, Treylon Burks, Garrett Wilson, Jahan Dotson, Christian Watson
George Pickens , Skyy Moore, Calvin Austin III, David Bell, Wandale Robinson, John Metchie III, Alec Pierce, Khalil Shakir, Jalen Tolbert, Danny Gray
Justyn Ross, Bo Melton, Kyle Phillips, Velus Jones, Romeo Doubs, Tyquan Thorton, Erik Ezukanma, Charleston Rambo, Kevin Austin, Dee Anderson, Dontay Demus Jr, Reggie Roberson Jr, Ty Fryfogle, Dontario Drummond, Emeka Emezie, Samori Toure, Jaivon Heiligh, Makai Polk, Jalen Nailor, Braylon Sanders, Josh Johnson
There is no Devonta Smith, Ja’marr Chase, top 10 level of receiver this year. However there are roughly 15 Elijah Moore/Rashod Bateman tier players that are very good, leaving the juicy part of this class in the middle of round 1 until early day three in the 4th round. We are even likely to see anywhere from 6-7 pass catchers off the board in the first round. There’s a few injuries that are bringing some players down. Notably Jameson Williams, his teammate John Metchie, George Pickens, and Justyn Ross who likely would have been a potential early round pick going off his tape with Trevor Lawrence.
Who I'm High On:
Olave, Pickens, Moore, Pierce, Shakir, Ross, Bell
To reiterate, there doesn’t appear to be a true Ja’marr Chase or Devonta Smith level of prospect this year. However Chris Olave although very small, makes playing the position look easy with how he moves. While not on Devonta Smith’s tier Olave’s smooth transitions are reminiscent of the current Eagles mature style signifying how much more refined his game is compared to others in this class. If not for a poorly timed ACL injury and maybe if he saw some increased usage in a run heavy Georgia offense, perhaps George Pickens would be further in the conversation for the top pass catcher in the class. He’s one of the few prototypical X receiver types near the top of this group with homerun speed merely months after his recovery and not to mention he is an absolute dog in the run game. Skyy Moore has an insane release game off the line of scrimmage and evokes comps to Golden Tate. Pierce appears to be a late blooming outside receiver who emphatically proved at the combine that white men can, in fact, jump but also seems to be continually developing based on his trajectory from the Notre Dame game to the Senior Bowl. Shakir has inside out versatility with spectacular highlight reel catches. David Bell is a dominant, albeit non-phenomenal, athlete in a possession receiver mold who shouldered much of Purdue’s offensive burdens since his freshman year.
Who I'm Low On:
I know this is an unpopular opinion and I’m sure I could absolutely be wrong. But when I watch Garrett Wilson I simply see a smaller receiver that is going to get bullied around in the pro game. In my eyes, he can only be used as a flanker or in the slot to minimize his exposure to press coverage. Despite having great body control and acceleration, Wilson doesn’t always win the battle of positioning for jump balls and his route running is far from the best in the class. Personally, he just doesn’t have the skill set that screams number one overall receiver to me.
Who do you prefer? What rounds do you want Houston to target skill positions?