Top 10 WRs in the 2023 NFL Draft: Josh Downs, Zay Flowers Using Dynamic Ability to Rise

As we enter December, who are the top wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft? Is WR1 Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, or someone else?

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

Top 10 WRs in the 2023 NFL Draft

10. 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 this year — and in doing so, drastically strengthened his 2023 NFL Draft stock. He’s an impressively fast and fluid athlete at 6’1″, 190 pounds, offering slot-boundary versatility and crisp explosiveness out of his breaks.

9. Rome Odunze, Washington

As of this writing, it’s not a lock that Washington’s Rome Odunze will declare for the 2023 NFL Draft. There’s a chance he returns to school, but he undoubtedly has a case to leave early after a strong season with over 70 catches and 1,000 yards.

Catching passes from Michael Penix Jr., Odunze found the spotlight on a weekly basis in 2022. At 6’3″, 201 pounds, he offers great size and length, but he’s a surprisingly smooth athlete for that size. An effortless separator and crowded catch threat with spry RAC agility, Odunze brings a complete skill set.

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 campaign.

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Hyatt isn’t quite the best WR prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, but he’s safely in the Top 10 with his unique top-end traits. His speed is assuredly the most important foundational piece of his game, but he’s shown he can maximize that speed by off-setting DBs with smooth, instinctive routes. And downfield, his ball tracking is superb.

7. Zay Flowers, Boston College

There are a few highly-rated but undersized wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft, with Zay Flowers being the first to appear on this list. The Shrine Bowl commit put up a dominant 2022 campaign, with 78 catches for 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he could be a steal this coming April.

At 5’10”, 172 pounds, size with most definitely be a concern for Flowers. And for projective purposes, it’s warranted. But Flowers is incredibly explosive, agile, and dynamic, with rare balance both as a route runner and a RAC threat. And at the catch point, his instincts defy logic at times.

6. 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.

At 6’3″, 215 pounds, Tillman checks the size box effusively, and with his size and length, he fits the profile of a boundary alpha. He 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.

5. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

In all honesty, Jaxon Smith-Njigba could have simply opted out in 2022, and few would have faulted him after his dominant 2021 campaign. People did want to see how he’d fare without Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave alongside him, but Smith-Njigba has already shown enough to cement early-round appeal.

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There will be questions about his athletic ceiling, as well as his ability to win against press and work the boundary. But already, Smith-Njigba has an incredibly reliable mode of success. He’s an extremely nuanced separator with a high-level understanding of space, and his catching instincts are rivaled by few.

4. Jordan Addison, USC

Jordan Addison earned a comfortable place among the Top 5 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 6’0″, 175 pounds, size, play strength, and a lack of over-arching physicality will be notable concerns down the stretch. Addison can also seek more control with his brand of athleticism at times. But his high-level twitch and sink doesn’t come around often, and he also has fantastic natural ability and vertical range at the catch point.

3. 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 this season, mirroring his dominant production from 2021.

At this point, 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, and he can also finish plays beyond his frame.

2. Rashee Rice, SMU

We talk about Rashee Rice as one of the top senior wideouts in the 2023 NFL Draft. But maybe it’s time to start giving him more respect as one of the class’ top wideouts, period. After putting up 96 catches for 1,355 yards and 10 scores in 2022 — while dealing with a broken toe — he’s impossible to ignore.

The competitive toughness goes without saying, and Rice is a clear extroverted alpha in one-on-one situations. But from a traits standpoint, his three-level framework is also very appealing. He’s incredibly instinctive at the catch point, but he can also separate and get RAC yards with his high-energy athleticism at 6’2″, 203 pounds.

1. 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 this year, but in his final seven games, Johnston amassed 41 catches for 789 yards and five touchdowns — showing the full extent of his developmental ceiling. He’s an uncommon athlete at 6’4″, 215 pounds with uncanny long-strider burst and flexibility, and his projected three-level ability can change an offense.

Honorable Mentions

  • A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
  • Rakim Jarrett, Maryland
  • Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia
  • Jacob Cowing, Arizona
  • Jayden Reed, Michigan State
  • Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
  • Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
  • De’Corian Clark, UTSA
  • Parker Washington, Penn State
  • Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia


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