2023 NFL Draft: Searching for ‘truth’ in revealing confused WR class
Ian Cummings: Coming out of the summer evaluation process, it seemed as if everyone had a different choice in the initial WR1 of the 2023 NFL Draft tournament. Some chose Ohio State’s Jackson Smith Njigba. Others chose LSU’s Kayshon Boutte. Many were drawn to USC Pelletnikov-winning defender Jordan Addison. And a select few – myself included – were drawn to the high-end features of TCU’s Quentin Johnston.
It’s been three weeks into the 2022 college football season, and one could argue that this has not been clarified. In fact, three of the four WR1 candidates were incredibly underwhelmed from a production perspective.
Boutte has 10 receptions for 93 yards in three games. Smith-Njigba has only four goals for 36 yards after wasting time due to injury and still hasn’t proven his ability to consistently win out of the hole. And Johnston—perhaps a disappointing crime victim for the TCU—has only five catches for 44 yards in two contests.
The only product from this group is Addison. He picked up right where he left off at Pete, with 18 passes for 295 yards and five touchdowns in his first three games with the Trojans. If you had the Addison as your pre-season WR1, nothing would change that. But questions remain. His relationship with Caleb Williams is undoubtedly electric and does good things for his stock. But it appears that Addison is still underweight, and he could be a more efficient road runner.
To summarize, there is still no runaway candidate for the WR1 mantle in the 2023 NFL Draft. Not only were three of the four most popular choices in the stagnation, they were significantly disappointing. As residents, how do we respond to this development?
I think the most important thing is to be patient. There are only three weeks left until the start of the season. There is still time for all of these receptors to skip their stride. It is also important to be aware of contextual factors that may affect production. But above all else, keep your focus on the traits themselves and avoid using class ambiguity to get your feet wet in one prospect.
It’s always important to be flexible and independent in your assessments – both when a class is ambiguous, and perhaps more so when there are perceived favorites at a site. This is especially true with this year’s WR class. At the moment, there is no consensus on WR1. But we don’t need a definitive answer right now, nor do we want one. Because the moment you sell yourself for an answer and dig into it, it can be hard to reevaluate when you need to.
Perhaps after the week of farewell, Johnston is getting ready and starting to realize his potential. Perhaps Edison will continue his dominant pace and provide more and more reasons to be confident. Or perhaps a complete stranger will join the fray amid the highest receivers – perhaps someone like Rachi Rice.
But in the middle of the season, in the midst of this moment, it can be easy to rush to judgment — whether that’s good or bad. The truth is, no one knows yet how this layer will stabilize. An aversion to scanning prospects and being open to all outcomes, is a great way to stay flexible in a fluid situation.