We always get caught up with the flashy receiver prospects in Round 1. But the truth is, just as many major contributors go off the board on Day 2 and beyond. With his scouting report, Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks could be one of those hidden gems in the 2023 NFL Draft. How does Wicks contribute to the 2023 class, and what kind of upside does he bring?
Dontayvion Wicks NFL draft profile
I like to evaluate wide receivers within the three-level threat framework — creating before, during, and after the catch process. In the 2022 NFL Draft cycle, some of my favorite prospects within the three-level threat framework were Garrett Wilson, Erik Ezukanma, and Romeo Doubs. This cycle, Wicks has quickly made his way onto the list.
Wicks has come a long way since being a three-star recruit in the 2019 class. And the 2021 season encompassed the near entirety of his production to this point. In 2019, Wicks caught three passes for 61 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman. In 2020, a major injury robbed him of his sophomore campaign before it began. 2021 was the year of redemption for Wicks, who finally delivered on the promise he’d shown in spurts.
Once again averaging over 20 yards per catch, Wicks dominated as Virginia’s primary pass catcher. He caught 57 passes for 1,203 yards, adding nine scores within that sample size. Wicks was a first-team All-ACC honoree for his play and earned third-team recognition on PFN’s All-American list heading into 2022.
Wicks’ 2021 season confirmed what has long been the suspicion. The Virginia WR is a playmaker, through and through. And 2022 is his chance to reach unforeseen heights.
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Virginia
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 6’2″, 208 pounds
Dontayvion Wicks scouting report
With size, length, twitchy athleticism, and effortless body control, Wicks fills out the three-level threat framework better than most at his position. His scouting report below has the full details.
Wicks has an extremely unique frame. At over 6’2″, 208 pounds, he has good height and great frame density. But perhaps most appealing is his elite length. With arms reported to be 33.5″ long, Wicks has an overwhelming wingspan and a dominating catch radius. And while his frame is somewhat lean for his height, it’s no doubt compact and strong.
Beyond his size profile, Wicks’ athleticism is just as appealing. The Virginia WR flashes effortless acceleration off the line. He gears up very efficiently with long strides and has enough long speed to stack DBs and extend RAC opportunities. Moreover, Wicks has the long-strider explosiveness to gain separation downfield and overtake deep coverage.
Wicks’ linear athleticism stands out and is magnified by his long-strider mold. But Wicks’ agility and twitch are even more exciting. Wicks has the high-end cylindrical twitch to suddenly cut stems and snap around on routes. He’s a loose-hipped, spry lateral athlete with great burst and freedom on his cuts. The Virginia WR is a snappy, amped-up, high-energy short-area mover who can vary his stride lengths with speed, precision, and control. With his loose hips and twitch, Wicks can pinch tight angles off stems upfield while sustaining acceleration through transitions.
Wicks also brings a compelling skill set when the ball is in the air. The Virginia WR can make sudden adjustments back toward the ball and is very smooth transferring his weight to adjust for passes. He flashes extraordinary body control, actively works against his momentum, and completes high-difficulty contortions to corral imprecise throws. Wicks is able to track the ball effectively in the deep third and throttle down suddenly when needed. He can also track the ball in stride while running up tight seams.
Even while experiencing contact and extending beyond his frame, Wicks can effectively track and corral passes with his hands downfield. Moreover, he’s shown he can guide the ball in with his hands and cup passes in stride downfield. Wicks has the hand strength to maintain control amidst contact over the middle of the field. He’s also able to lock down the ball through the catch process by sealing it against his torso.
With his brand of athleticism, Wicks naturally has extremely enticing potential as a route runner. At the line, the Virginia WR can execute brisk jab and rocker steps to gain displacement, then capitalize with acceleration. He incorporates fast feet and quick head fakes on releases and can seamlessly transition to vertical acceleration after generating displacement. He has fast, efficient feet at the line and can quickly plant and drive upfield.
Wicks has shown he can use proper execution as a route runner. But his route-running building blocks are what ultimately provide him with his high-level upside. Wicks has great natural hip sink, which he can use to compress and explode out of stems. He also brings excellent stopping ability.
The Virginia WR can suddenly chop his feet and halt momentum to break back on stems. Furthermore, he showcases excellent throttle freedom and recovery athleticism when testing DBs on the boundary. He can throttle up and down suddenly on stop-and-go’s.
With his application, Wicks has shown he can bait DBs into triggering downhill early, then snap his hips upfield, stacking quick direction changes. The Virginia WR can get DBs off-center with quick lateral shuffles, then explode upfield and attack open lanes. He manipulates and exploits DB leverage in real-time and can attack blind spots with his explosiveness. In a similar vein, he shows good awareness and feel for positioning when attacking zones underneath.
Also appealing is Wicks’ ability to splice physicality into his game. He’s able to use calculated arm swipes at the catch point to displace defenders, and he can compound separation by using his length to establish a lever in tight coverage. Going further, Wicks can use his length to pry past jams while churning his feet upfield. At times, he seems to emulate pass rushers with his work against press. He can swipe and swim over jams to get displacement, using his lateral athleticism in tandem with his hands.
After the catch, Wicks’ athleticism translates extremely well. But he’s also shown he can slip through high tackle attempts and churn his legs through indirect contact. He’ll fight for extra yardage even when wrapped by defenders, and he’s able to get his feet back under him after hauling in passes amidst contact.
Finally, Wicks brings value as a run blocker as well. The Virginia WR is an energetic run blocker with a fighter’s disposition. He blocks to the whistle, uses his wide reach to square up and envelop defenders, and uses his length to generate force. He’s generally an assignment-sound blocker, too. He can seal off front-side defenders on counters and seek work upfield when teammates get RAC opportunities.
Wicks’ areas for improvement
Wicks grades highly in just about every area at the WR position. There aren’t any sorely lacking traits, but one could argue that few of his components are quantifiably elite. Wicks flashes great explosiveness, but he doesn’t quite have elite initial explosiveness out of his stance. He sometimes needs a runway to gear up to his max speed. Furthermore, Wicks doesn’t always channel his burst effectively out of breaks and can be more consistent playing to his full explosive capacity.
Wicks certainly has enough speed and explosiveness to be a dynamic weapon, but he lacks elite breakaway speed. He can stack DBs, but he can’t consistently compound separation in that phase. He’s not a consistent field stretcher and can’t always run under long passes.
Downfield, while Wicks’ hand/eye coordination is good, it can stand to improve. The Virginia WR sometimes lets the ball roll into his torso when tracking it. Similarly, he’ll sometimes resort to body-catching in tight situations and fails to properly secure the ball with his hands. When he does get hands-on, he can at times, more tightly secure passes with full grip, as palm catches can be unstable.
Even as a separator, Wicks can seek greater efficiency. The Virginia WR sometimes has wasted motion on releases and can be more direct in eating up cushions. He sometimes plays too tall into stems and can more consistently push upfield and sink to gain separation. Wasted motion can limit the amount of cushion Wicks has to work with, as well as give DBs better positioning. Overall, Wicks has room to further expand his route tree and apply his route-running building blocks with more consistency.
Among other things, Wicks doesn’t consistently shrug off direct contact and bounce off defenders. And as a blocker, he sometimes plays himself out of position by drifting too far past attack angles.
Current draft projection for Virginia WR Dontayvion Wicks
The top of the 2023 NFL Draft WR class is largely wide open. Even the top group has yet to be settled, and over a dozen more could contend for Day 2 capital. Wicks is safely in this group. He’s a worthy early-to-mid Day 2 prospect. And depending on his athletic testing, late Round 1 could even be a distant possibility at his max projection.
Testing will be relatively important for Wicks. He shows exceptional long-strider explosiveness on tape but also has moments out of breaks and off the snap where his burst is less apparent. And while he has good speed, he doesn’t always get as much separation as you’d like to see after stacking DBs.
Nevertheless, Wicks’ combination of agility and twitch is near elite, and he also brings high-level throttle control, hip sink, and stopping ability — all vital building blocks for route runners. At the catch point, he can outreach DBs with his length and contend in contested situations with his size and play strength. He also brings superb instincts and body control, flashes the strong hands necessary to convert on opportunities, and the ability slip through tackle attempts after the catch.
Wicks’ athleticism translates extremely well in the before-the-catch and after-the-catch phases, and his unique physical profile grants him additional appeal in all areas. Not only does he have the necessary traits, but he’s physical, methodical, and very natural at the catch point. Wicks has impact starter upside, with the ability to both man the slot and play against press on the boundary.