Over the past two seasons, we have been blessed with incredibly deep wide receiver groups in the NFL Draft. In that time, 70 pass catchers have been selected, with 11 first-rounders coming from those two classes. Although next year’s class may lack that remarkable depth, there’s plenty of exceptional talent to keep an eye on throughout the summer, during the fall, and into the draft process. Which pass catchers could end up being the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft | 1-5
These are my very early rankings of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft class. The rankings are compiled from observations made while watching players in the 2021 class and early adventures into 2022 summer scouting. As such, they’ll be subject to change throughout the summer and 2021 college football season. However, it presents an early look at who should be the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft.
1) Chris Olave, Ohio State
This time last year, almost to the day, I sat down and penned an article about how Chris Olave was primed for greatness. I said then, and I still believe it now, that the Ohio State receiver could have been a first-round receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Although the disruption of the 2020 campaign curtailed his opportunity to put up crazy statistics, he still tallied 729 receiving yards at 14.6 yards per catch and 7 touchdowns.
Not satisfied, Olave opted to return to the Buckeyes for his senior campaign, where he figures to be one of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft class. He is blessed with size and route-running ability. At 6’1″, he is physically gifted, making him a red-zone threat. Additionally, he puts that to good use in contested-catch situations. Finally, his high school experience as a track star is evident in his speed and explosiveness.
One aim of his return to Ohio State was to gain some muscle weight. At 188 pounds, he is one of the lighter receivers in the class. If he adds that weight without any detriment to his overall athleticism, he may be unstoppable in 2021.
2) Treylon Burks, Arkansas
An insane blend of size, speed, and power, Treylon Burks was a four-star recruit out of Warren High School in the 2019 recruiting class. He opted to stay in-state and commit to Arkansas, where he turned in a monster performance in 2020. Burks led the Razorbacks with 51 receptions, 820 receiving yards, and secured all 7 of his career touchdowns. He’s averaged 16.2 yards per reception for his career to date.
However, numbers don’t really begin to tell the whole story of what he brings to the football field. I mentioned size in my opening statement. Standing at 6’3″ and 232 pounds, he received consideration as a linebacker at the college level. That’s how big he is. Burks utilizes his size and strength to make a formidable blocker as a wide receiver. It’s an underrated aspect of his game.
Don’t be fooled into thinking he’s just a big-bodied, physical receiver, though. He has plenty of speed to take the top off a defense, be a force from the backfield, and even contribute as a kick returner. Arkansas has used him in multiple ways during his two years with the program. That versatility only adds value to his stock. By next April, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him at the top of the wide receivers selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
3) Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
Ohio State might have lost their starting quarterback, running back, and the middle of their offensive line, but they return two of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft class.
Garrett Wilson turned in a stellar sophomore season, outperforming Olave with 16.8 yards per catch as defenses struggled to contain both of the Buckeyes pass catchers. A similar performance this season should solidify his stock, with some draft analysts already preferring the younger Wilson over Olave.
That, for me, is a little rich, although they are close in terms of talent. The five-star receiver was described as highly polished coming out of Lake Travis and demonstrated that by making plays as a true freshman.
Wilson has great hands, body control, and the speed to make yards after the catch. He is also extremely athletic, often playing bigger than his listed 6’0″ size. He has lined up both inside and outside for the Buckeyes, showcasing the versatility NFL teams covet.
4) Justyn Ross, Clemson
A four-star recruit out of Central High School in Alabama, Justyn Ross instantly impacted as a true freshman in Clemson’s offense. Despite seeing fewer targets than Hunter Renfrow, Tee Higgins, and Amari Rodgers for the national championship-winning Tigers in 2018, Ross led all receivers with 1,000 yards while also adding 9 touchdowns. He emerged as a big-play threat, averaging 21.7 yards per catch.
Ross was extremely productive as a sophomore too, securing 865 yards and 8 touchdowns as Trevor Lawrence‘s go-to target. At 6’4″ and 205 pounds, he presents quite the receiving weapon. Ross plays the game with a physical nature but demonstrates enough speed to be a threat downfield. Clemson has lined Ross up both inside and out during his career, as well as using him in motion.
Still, Ross’ place on this list of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft comes with a big asterisk next to it. He has the talent to be an early-round selection. Yet, a congenital neck injury that required surgery raises questions about his future. If he returns to form as the primary weapon for new Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei, Ross will firmly be on the NFL Draft radar.
5) Drake London, USC
At 6’5″ and 210 pounds, USC’s Drake London is one of the tallest receivers in the class. Has he got what it takes to be one of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft? You bet he has!
The former four-star recruit out of Moorpark High School, California, has quietly been a big-play threat in the Trojans’ packed wide receiver rotation. With Amon-Ra St. Brown and Tyler Vaughns departed to the NFL, opportunity is calling for London.
Saying he has quietly been a threat is probably a little disrespectful to the USC pass catcher. In two years, he has amassed 1,069 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns at 14.8 yards per catch. Quarterback Kedon Slovis consistently looked London’s way when in need of a splash play in the shortened 2020 college football season. As a result, he averaged a career-high 15.2 yards per catch and 3 touchdowns.
One of those touchdowns was a go-up-and-get-it type of grab while in double coverage that gave USC a win over Arizona State. His size makes him a threat in that respect but also from a physical standpoint. On a touchdown play against UCLA, London broke multiple tackles as he rumbled to the end zone.
The best is still yet to come. London has done this working predominantly out of the slot, but USC intends to use him outside this coming season. That move could ensure he is viewed as one of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft | 6-10
Which wide receivers round out our top 10 rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft?
6) John Metchie III, Alabama
The Alabama Crimson Tide have become a wide receiver conveyor belt to the NFL. Hot on the heels of Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith ensured Alabama with consecutive NFL Draft classes with multiple first-round picks. Although that record won’t continue next season, they could easily see one first-round receiver in John Metchie III.
When Waddle went down with an injury against Tennessee last season, Metchie emerged as the WR2 for Alabama. While Smith was setting records as the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since 1991, Metchie compiled an impressive season himself.
He amassed 916 receiving yards while adding 6 touchdowns. Additionally, he outperformed Smith with 16.7 yards per catch, establishing himself as an offensive playmaker. He’ll have the opportunity to emerge from the shadows as the true WR1 for Alabama this year.
Metchie has sneaky speed, solid hands, and impressive awareness. Moreover, he demonstrates physicality in the run game. For example, in one play against Ole Miss, he tossed a man to the ground as Waddle found the end zone. Metchie could use that physicality better as a pass catcher over the middle after several instances of dropped passes on contact occurred last season.
7) Reggie Roberson Jr., SMU
When Reggie Roberson Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury during SMU’s game against Memphis, we were denied one of the potentially great college football seasons from a receiver.
He already amassed 474 yards and 5 touchdowns at 21.5 yards per catch in just five games. During that time, Roberson had already accounted for an explosive play of 80+ yards — plus two of 70+ yards — which is more than any other player on this list of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft.
During his college career, including his first season at West Virginia, the SMU pass catcher has established himself as a big-play threat. Roberson has averaged 17.1 yards per play, totaling 2,109 yards and 18 touchdowns.
He has demonstrated game-changing speed, impressive fluidity, excellent hands, and the ability to beat press coverage with his release. His 2022 NFL Draft stock will likely hinge on his recovery from injury and how he forms a relationship with a new quarterback at SMU. Additionally, Roberson has tended to only line up on one side of the offense, so he will need to prove he isn’t just a one-trick pony in the NFL.
8) Romeo Doubs, Nevada
Romeo Doubs and his Nevada quarterback have developed one of the best relationships in college football. As a result, they’re propelling each other’s NFL Draft stock to the point where they’re both in my top 2022 NFL Draft rankings at their respective positions.
There’s no doubt that the former three-star recruit has outplayed his projection coming out of Thomas Jefferson High School. Ranked as just the 188th wide receiver in the 2018 class, Doubs finished the 2020 season as the 11th most productive receiver in the nation. Last year, he accounted for 1,002 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns at 17.3 yards per catch. For his Nevada career, he has totaled 2,213 yards and 15 touchdowns at 15.3 yards per reception.
Standing at 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Doubs can comfortably go up and get the ball against most defensive backs. He’s physical, demonstrates stout body control, and also exhibits decent speed to create separation. With another productive season in the Nevada aerial offense, he can establish himself as one of the top wide receivers in the nation and the 2022 NFL Draft.
9) Ty Fryfogle, Indiana
The Indiana Hoosiers have hardly been a hotbed of wide receiver talent. They last had a receiver selected to the NFL in 2014, and only five have been drafted since the turn of the century. Nevertheless, the excellently named Ty Fryfogle is set to break that drought if he follows up on his exceptional performances from last season.
Fryfogle demonstrated potential in 2019, putting together 604 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Last season, however, he exploded onto the national scene as Indiana emerged as one of the surprises of the college season.
A true big-play threat, Fryfrogle averaged 19.5 yards per catch as he set a career-high 721 yards in just eight games. Amongst that was a standout 218-yard game against Ohio State, where he was unstoppable.
At 6’2″ and 214 pounds, he’s a possession receiver with a background in basketball. Furthermore, the athletic pass catcher has a good turn of pace. With Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. expected to make a leap in 2021, both Indiana prospects could be hot names for the Hoosiers in the 2022 NFL Draft.
10) Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
There is no pass catcher with better production returning to play college football in 2021 than South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert. Tolbert crept over the 1,000-yard marker last year despite sharing the wide receiver room with recently drafted Kawaan Baker. Tolbert averaged 17 yards per catch as he emerged as one of the best receiving options in the nation.
At 6’3″ and 195 pounds, Tolbert has great size for the position, and he uses that to be a threat in the red zone. In addition, he possesses exceptional speed, explosiveness, and has demonstrated elusiveness in the open field. Furthermore, he’s a willing and able blocker downfield, which will only add value to his stock.
South Alabama has lost a lot of offensive talent this offseason. Therefore, expect Tolbert to be a leader both on and off the field. Despite losing pieces around him, the addition of quarterback transfer Jake Bentley could give the South Alabama pass catcher the best opportunity of his career to demonstrate that he has the talent to play on Sundays.
Honorable mention for the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft
David Bell, Purdue; Jadon Haselwood, Oklahoma; Chris Autman-Bell, Minnesota; Kyle Phillips, UCLA; Jadan Blue, Temple; Jahan Dotson, Penn State; Frank Ladson, Clemson; Emeka Emezie, North Carolina State; Zay Flowers, Boston College; Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina; George Pickens, Georgia (At the time of writing it is unclear if Pickens will play in 2021. He would ordinarily appear within the top 10 of these rankings. However, with so much uncertainty, he will stay in the honorable mentions until further notice).
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.