Landing spots are key for all rookies. No matter how prodigiously talented these prospects are, they can be buried on NFL depth charts. James Washington - who was drafted by the Steelers in 2018 - had nearly 5,000 career receiving yards at Oklahoma State, but wound up on a team with Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster and failed to have a productive rookie year. No matter what these prospects did in college or what traits they have, landing spots are going to be huge. Let’s take a look at five wide receivers who will benefit greatly from landing on specific teams.
Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia
Best Fit: Baltimore Ravens
Ridley’s production was capped by an offense which ran the ball 567 times in 2018 and also utilized their running backs in the passing game, as D’Andre Swift caught the third most passes on the team. The Ravens are also a team which likes to utilize the run but are in desperate need of receiving help. Ridley has a lot of likable traits to him, and with the right landing spot, could have a productive rookie year. His route running and ability to stop on a dime will greatly help Lamar Jackson during his second year at quarterback. His long speed and ability to separate from defenders are going to be key in this offense as well. His body control to come down in bounds with a tough contested catch is one of the best in this class. He has the ability to win at any level of the defense, which in this Baltimore offense will be more the short to intermediate areas. If Ridley were to end up in Baltimore, he’ll jump from the late middle rounds of rookie drafts to the early second round.
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Best Fit: Tennessee Titans
Brown was largely talked about as the number one wide receiver of this class. There’s quite a bit to like about his game that if he landed on a team in need of a versatile route runner, he will likely jump up rookie draft boards and have a productive rookie year. Brown isn’t going to separate from his defender with explosiveness and speed, but with detailed routes and technical steps and hand usage. His lack of speed makes his lining up on the outside concerning, but him landing with the Titans would be a dream scenario. The Titans aren’t looking for an outside, big-bodied receiver; they have that in Corey Davis. What they need is a supporting receiver who can play the slot and the Z. This will benefit Brown greatly, as he was mainly the X in Ole Miss and watched his volume get funneled through that offense. Taking the top coverage away from Brown and putting him in a role more suited for his traits and you have a very productive young receiver.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Best Fit: San Francisco 49ers
The narrative around Metcalf is he’s too raw, too big to move efficiently, not a versatile route runner, and he will be a huge project. All these will be put to rest once he lands on a team who will utilize him properly. He’s an X receiver who will shine once a wide receiver-needy team drafts him and funnels their offense through him. He’s a big-bodied receiver with speed someone his size shouldn’t come close to having. His change of direction and explosiveness are going to win him any route he needs to run. Metcalf can explode out of his breaks and snap off the stem of his route and still carry his speed. The 49ers have a huge void to fill in the receiving game. With Pettis as the deep threat, Metcalf can be slotted in anywhere in this offense and will succeed. Metcalf in a Shannahan led offense will be very dangerous and a leading candidate for rookie of the year.
Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
Best Fit: Indianapolis Colts
Harmon may be the most pro-ready receiver in this class. His route running is extremely polished, but where he excels the most is his ability to catch just about any contested ball. The way he can track a ball in the air and come down with it in bounds while tight-roping the sidelines is second to no one in this class. He displayed his sideline awareness numerous times throughout his career at NC State. I can’t tell you the number of times I watched him come down with a fade in the back of the end zone and find a way to get his feet down in bounds or the number of times Ryan Finley threw to his back shoulder as he’s streaking down the sidelines and Harmon picks the ball with his fingertips as he’s falling out of bounds. If he lands with the Colts, watch out. Pair Harmon with T.Y. Hilton and give Andrew Luck another weapon to throw to and you have quite a dangerous offense.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Best Fit: Buffalo Bills
Harmon, Metcalf, and Harry you could claim as the first overall pick in rookie drafts before the NFL Combine and the NFL Draft. Where they land will be the determining factor, and if Harry lands in Buffalo, we have the dream scenario. Harry has the prototypical size of a number one receiver. He’s also arguably the best wide receiver in this class. His ability to high point the ball and then gain yards after the catch is like no one else in the draft. There doesn’t need to be a dream scenario for Harry. He’s going to succeed anywhere he lands, but if the Bills decide Harry is their guy and draft him, we are looking at a very high ceiling. Harry’s catch radius will make up for Josh Allen’s inability to make consistently accurate throws. His ability to separate from defenders should help take this Bills passing attack to the next level. Even when he isn’t able to separate, Harry can fight through contested balls and make the catch. If he lands in Buffalo, I think we are talking about a WR2 by the end of the 2019 season.