Greetings, 49er faithful! As you well know football season is partially - with the advent of the AAF, though, the time to kill between the Super Bowl and April’s Draft became a little more palpable. Since there’s a break in NFL action this is the perfect time for us to begin taking a look at some top names at positions of need for San Francisco. Over the next couple of weeks will be bring you rankings leading up to the NFL Combine in 3 weeks.
Let’s take a moment to shed some light on wide receivers who turned heads in college and will look to continue to do so at the next level:
1. N’Keal Harry, Height: 6’4”, Weight 213 lbs
2018 stats: 73 receptions, 1,088 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns
N’Keal Harry was a productive number one receiver while at Arizona State, notching 1,000 yard receiving the past two seasons. He is a multi-threat receiver who has enough speed and agility to do damage on corners pressing him but is also able to pull down balls with his glue-like hands. When the ball is approaching in-air, Harry has an uncanny knack for adjusting his entire body in an instant.
Standing at 6’4” and 215 lbs. he has what it takes to line up on the outside in a pro offense but, as previously mentioned, also possesses enough speed and quickness to run routes in the slot. He can do it all as a playmaker and will be taken by the middle of the first round. The one knock on Harry is his lack of skill when it comes to blocking; if he can shore that up then he’s a sure-fire thing at the next level.
2. A.J. Brown, Height: 6’1”, Weight 220 lbs
2018 stats: 85 receptions, 1,320 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns
People have made comparisons to Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry – he’ll be someone who can move the chains by working the middle of the field on a consistent basis. Similar to Landry, Brown relies on his nice route running and strong hands. Brown is a big and strong receiver who can make tough catches in traffic—he tallied 85 receptions for 1,320 yards last season at Ole Miss—and he gains solid yardage after the catch.
Again, he was used mostly in the slot and is an intricate and phenomenal route runner, but isn’t a vertical threat. He should have his name called sometime in the mid-late portions of the first round but could slide into the second if he does not show out at the combine.
3. D.K. Metcalf, Height: 6’4”, Weight 230 lbs 2018 stats: 26 receptions, 569 receiving yards, 5 touchdowns
Another Running Rebel makes the list of top receivers in this year’s class. The injury-plagued Metcalf only played in 21 games in his three seasons in Oxford, and in 2018, he suffered a neck injury that forced him to miss the back half of the season. A lack of experience and his medical history will worry most teams, but Metcalf is a premiere downfield threat with excellent footwork and strong hands.
Metcalf is also a willing and skilled blocker, leveraging his long arms and frame to do the dirty work when needed. Assuming he recovers from the neck injury, Metcalf is an enticing early second-round pick.
4. Marquise Brown, Height: 5’9”, Weight 185 lbs 2018 stats: 75 receptions, 1,318 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
Here’s a trivia question for you: who was the only player to be a leading receiver for two consecutive Heisman Trophy winners? Your answer is none other than Marquise Brown who, if all goes well this offseason, could actually be the first receiver taken off the board - that according to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller.
Brown has Olympic speed which makes him the ultimate deep threat. He can stretch a play upfield in the blink of an eye and walk into the end zone. But his small and skinny frame might lead to him getting pushed around by NFL defensive backs. He’s used to manhandling weak Big 12 defenses and may face a rude awakening at the pro level. In spite of the frame, Brown has elite speed, balance and field vision. He’s a top wide receiver prospect.
5. Deebo Samuel, Height: 6’0”, Weight 210 lbs 2018 stats: 62 receptions, 882 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
Here is a player who was turning heads during Senior Bowl practices a few weeks ago. Samuel is a slick route runner who has an insane ability of gaining plenty of separation from opposing corners. Watching tape on him reminds me a lot of what we saw from Dante Pettis while he was on the field. With the way things are going for the NFL, any chance a team can get to add versatile receivers who can make plays and create openings for themselves will be sought after.
Built more like a running back, Samuel is a twitchy and balanced play-maker, which has linked him to Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore. However, it’s unlikely that Samuel posts a 39.5-inch vertical at the NFL Combine as Moore did. Consider Samuel an intriguing Day 2 or early Day 3 slot prospect.