Top 10 WRs in the 2023 NFL Draft: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston Battling for WR1

    As the 2023 NFL Draft nears, who are the top 10 WR prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft? Did Jaxon Smith-Njigba do enough in 2021 to lock down the crown?

    The golden age of wide receiver prospects continues with the 2023 NFL Draft class. With the 2022 college football regular season far behind us and the draft approaching fast, how does the pecking order stand at WR? Who among the preseason favorites stands at WR1 — Quentin Johnston, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, or someone else entirely?

    Top 10 WRs in the 2023 NFL Draft

    10) Jayden Reed, Michigan State

    A slight dip in production after a 2021 campaign that saw Jayden Reed amass 59 catches for 1,026 yards and 10 touchdowns has drawn him under the radar on some boards. But after dominating the competition at the Reese’s Senior Bowl and running a 4.45 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, Reed is back where he belongs near the top of the WR group.

    At 5’11”, 187 pounds, Reed won’t win with his size alone, but at that size, he’s one of the best at the catch point when it comes to contorting, maintaining positioning, and converting with his hands. Ultimately, he’s an explosive vertical weapon with separation ability and value as a slippery RAC threat.

    9) Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss

    Every year, we see receiver prospects with elite raw traits go higher than expected. Jonathan Mingo is a prime candidate to follow that arc on the 2023 NFL Draft board.

    He wasn’t a target funnel in college, but Mingo’s ceiling is through the roof when you examine his combination of physical tools.

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    Standing around 6’2″, 220 pounds, with arms over 32″, Mingo is one of the most explosive WR prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. He gears up instantly, has rare contact balance in space, and also the coordination and instincts to convert beyond his frame in contested situations. On top of all this, Mingo’s a superb run blocker — another factor that will win coaches over.

    8) Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

    Speed sells during the draft process. We’ve seen this with first-round risers like Will Fuller and John Ross, and we could see it again this cycle with Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt. Hyatt has game-breaking speed — a primary trait that helped him amass 67 catches for 1,267 yards and 15 scores in a Biletnikoff-winning 2022 campaign.

    Hyatt isn’t quite as complete as some of the other prospects on this list, but the dynamic element he provides is matched by few. His 4.4 speed is assuredly the most important foundational piece of his game, and when he has a runway, his long strides can crash over unsuspecting safeties. Hyatt routinely converts on that speed with steady ball-tracking ability as well.

    7) Trey Palmer, Nebraska

    For truly talented players, it’s often only a matter of time before things click. Trey Palmer just needed the right situation, and that’s what he got in 2022.

    A former star track athlete and highly touted LSU recruit, Palmer found new success at Nebraska, accumulating 71 catches for 1,043 yards and nine touchdowns.

    A bright spot on an otherwise underwhelming Big Ten West team, Palmer delivered on his breakout hopes in 2022 — and in doing so, drastically strengthened his 2023 NFL Draft stock. Palmer is an impressively fast and fluid athlete at 6’0″, 192 pounds, offering slot-boundary versatility, route-running upside, and crisp explosiveness out of his breaks.

    6) Josh Downs, North Carolina

    Drake Maye didn’t become a fringe Heisman candidate by chance in 2022. Sure, he needed talent to get there — but he also needed some help, and he got it from Josh Downs. Downs accrued 94 catches for 1,029 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final campaign, closely mirroring his dominant production from 2021.

    As he leaves the collegiate ranks, Downs has been a top-end producer for two seasons and counting. And it’s an endorsement of his high-upside, high-floor projection to the NFL. Downs has elite explosiveness and athletic control. With his spatial awareness, he can carve through defenses, but he’s also an uncanny contested-catch threat at his size.

    5) Cedric Tillman, Tennessee

    Injuries prevented Cedric Tillman from seeing the field consistently in 2022. That said, he didn’t need a breakout year after his 1,081-yard, 12-touchdown performance in 2021. Being a late breakout, it would’ve been nice to see a repeat — but we know Tillman has the goods.

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    At around 6’3″, 215 pounds, Tillman checks the size box effusively, and with his size and length, he fits the profile of a boundary alpha. Tillman has that level of contested-catch ability, too — but then you watch him tempo his routes, manipulate blind spots, and beat man coverage. He’s a complete WR within an alpha’s mold.

    4) Zay Flowers, Boston College

    There are a few highly rated but undersized wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft, and there’s a case to make that Zay Flowers is the best of that group. The Eagles star experienced a dominant 2022 campaign, with 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns. Defenses never had an answer for Flowers, and he can cause that kind of quandary at the NFL level.

    At 5’9″, 182 pounds, Flowers is a bit undersized, and his catch radius, in particular, is lacking. Nevertheless, Flowers is incredibly explosive, agile, and dynamic, with rare balance both as a route runner and a RAC threat. As an athlete, he’s in the mold of former Pro Bowler Santana Moss. And at the catch point, his instincts defy logic at times.

    3) Jordan Addison, USC

    Jordan Addison earned a comfortable place among the top five wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft when he won the Biletnikoff Award in 2021. The only question now is where he’ll settle in. Opinions may vary across the board, but Addison still orbits the podium here.

    At 5’11”, 171 pounds, size, play strength, and a lack of over-arching physicality will be notable concerns down the stretch. Addison could also seek more control with his brand of athleticism. Yet, his high-level twitch and sink don’t come around often. Additionally, Addison has fantastic natural ability and vertical range at the catch point.

    2) Quentin Johnston, TCU

    The situation is murkier at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft WR class than we’re accustomed to seeing. That doesn’t mean there isn’t talent, however. And when it’s as murky as this, it’s always reasonable to bank on the top-end traits. That’s what Quentin Johnston has.

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    It took time for Johnston to gear up in 2022, but in his final seven games, he amassed 41 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns — showing the full extent of his developmental ceiling. He’s an uncommon athlete at 6’3″, 206 pounds, and near 34″ arms, with uncanny long-strider burst and flexibility. His projected three-level ability can change an offense.

    1) Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

    On PFN’s Final Consensus Board, Jaxon Smith-Njigba edges out Johnston for the WR1 spot. Injuries prevented Smith-Njigba from achieving a proper encore for a 2021 campaign that saw him amass 96 catches, 1,606 yards, and nine touchdowns.

    But ultimately, Smith-Njigba didn’t need an encore. He’d already shown everything he needed to show.

    One of the few knocks on Smith-Njigba is that he doesn’t have elite speed, burst, or size. But at around 6’1″, 200 pounds, he’s a savant as a separator, an acrobat in contested situations, and an elite short-area threat — both as a route runner and a RAC weapon — with absurd agility. JSN will be a quarterback’s best friend at the next level.

    Honorable Mentions

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