2023 year The NFL draft will be here before we know it as we are already in week 4 college football season. Pro Football Network’s Scouting Notebook returns with a look at scouting truths, especially as you look toward the 2023 NFL Draft.
2023 NFL Draft: Finding the ‘truth’ in scouting a messy WR class
Ian Cummings: At the end of the summer evaluation process, it seemed like every other person had a different pick for their previous WR1 in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. Some chose Ohio State Jackson Smith-Njigba. Others chose LSU Kayshawn Booth. A few others were directed at defender Biletnikoff Jordan Addison at USC. And a select few — myself included — aspired to TCU’s high-end traits Quentin Johnston.
Three weeks into the 2022 college football season, it’s safe to say there’s been no clarity on the matter. In fact, three of the four aforementioned WR1 candidates have been incredibly underwhelming in terms of production.
Booth has 10 receptions for 93 yards in three games. Smith-Njigba has just four catches for 36 yards after missing time with an injury and has yet to prove he can consistently win out of the slot. And Johnston — perhaps a victim of TCU’s lackluster offense — has just five catches for 44 yards in two contests.
The only producer from this group was Addison. He picked up where he left off at Pitt with 18 catches for 295 yards and five touchdowns in the first three games with the Trojans. If you had Addison as your WR1 heading into the season, it wouldn’t have changed anything. But he still has questions. His connection with Caleb Williams is undoubtedly electric and doing good things for his stock. But Edison is still clearly underweight and could be a more effective runner.
In summary, the 2023 NFL Draft does not yet have a running back candidate for the WR1 mantle. And three of the four most popular options not only remain in place, but are also particularly unpleasant. How do we as evaluators respond to this development?
I think the most important thing is patience. We’re only three weeks into the season. There is still plenty of time for all of these receivers to find their stride. It is also important to be aware of the contextual factors that may influence production. But above all else, focus on the traits themselves and avoid using the obscurity of the class to get deep into one perspective.
It’s always important to be flexible and independent in your evaluations — both when the class is murky and perhaps even more so when there are perceived favorites at the position. This is especially true for this year’s WR class. There is no consensus WR1 right now. But we don’t need a definitive answer right now, and we don’t want one. Because the moment you hold yourself accountable and wallow in yourself, it can be hard to reassess when you need to.
Perhaps Johnston will be ready after the bye week and begin to reach his potential. Perhaps Addison continues his dominant pace and gives more and more reasons for confidence. Or maybe an outsider joins the fray among the top receivers altogether — maybe someone like Rushie Rice.
But in the middle of the season, in full swing, it can be easy to jump to judgment whether it’s good or bad. The truth is that no one knows yet how this class will settle. Being uncommitted to anointing prospects and open to any outcome is a great way to stay fluid in a fluid situation.