2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings: Quentin Johnston headlines top WR prospects

Who is the best wide receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft? While there might be no Ja’Marr Chase or Garrett Wilson nor a Marvin Harrison Jr, the 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings capture an appealing slate of pass-catchers in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Before the 2022 college football season began, Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba were viewed as the two best wide receiver prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Addison thrived catching passes from Caleb Williams, cementing his status as a future first-round pick. Unfortunately for Smith-Njigba, injuries marred his 2022 campaign.

As Addison lived up to his promise and Smith-Njigba was sidelined, players like Zay Flowers, Josh Downs and Jalin Hyatt delivered breakthrough seasons. Thanks to their work, they are now viewed as some of the best wide receiver prospects in 2023.

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Let’s dive into our 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings.

2023 NFL Draft WR rankings: Best pass-catchers on Day 2

Just Missed: Cedric Tillman, Tennessee Volunteers; Michael Wilson, Stanford Cardinal; Andrei Iosivas, Princeton Tigers; Marvin Mims, Oklahoma Sooners; A.T. Perry, Wake Forest

Statistics are courtesy of College Football Reference and Pro Football Focus. Of note, all ages for the 2023 wide receiver prospects are for Week 1 of next season.

10. Tyler Scott, Cincinnati Bearcats

Syndication: The Enquirer
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  • Tyler Scott height: 5-foot-111
  • Tyler Scott stats: 899 yards, 9 TD
  • Tyler Scott NFL Draft projection: Rd 4
  • Tyler Scott 40 time: 4.44 seconds

Speed can’t be taught and what Tyler Scott brings to the table is tough for any of his peers in the 2023 NFL Draft to match. A three-star recruit in 2020, Scott was a track star in high school and those skills made him an electrifying running back (1,337 yards, 21 touchdowns as a senior). He played sparingly until his sophomore year (520 yards, 17.3 ypc), but exploded this past season.

Get him the football with a hint of open space and it’s over. Scott combines game-breaking speed with impressive contact balance for his size and he moves around like he’s playing on a joystick. Operating from the outside, his movement is easy and it helps him create consistent separation from defensive backs. However, the unrefined route-running ability, a high drop rate and some issues versus stronger cornerbacks might limit him early in his NFL career.

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9. Rashee Rice, SMU Mustangs

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice
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  • Rashee Rice height: 6-foot-1
  • Rashee Rice stats: 96 receptions, 1,355 yards, 10 TDs
  • Rashee Rice NFL Draft projection: Rd 3
  • Rashee Rice 40 time: 4.51 seconds
  • Rashee Rice age: 23 years old

Rashee Rice, a former 247 Sports’ three-star recruit, is a quarterback’s friend. He hauled in 96 receptions this past season. When plays break down, he’s more than willing to come back toward his quarterback to help create a play. He is also dependable when the ball is in the ait, tracking it like a GPS and always finding a way to snag it.

Athletically, Rice is limited for his size. He’s not going to beat teams vertically very often and he’s not a super explosive YAC threat. However, this is a wideout who could step into the role of a No. 3 receiver in his rookie season and help move the chains.

8. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee Volunteers

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Vanderbilt
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  • Jalin Hyatt height: 6-foot
  • Jalin Hyatt stats: 1,267 yards, 15 TDs, 18.9 yards per catch
  • NFL Draft projection: Round 2
  • Jalin Hyatt 40 time: 4.4 seconds
  • Jalin Hyatt age: 21 years old

The reigning Fred Biletnikoff Award winner, Jalin Hyatt burst onto the scene with the Tennessee Volunteers in 2022. He really put his name on the map against Alabama, delivering a historic performance, with his speed proving far too much for the Crimson Tide secondary.

What you see with Hyatt is truly what you’ll get at the next level. If you’re someone running an NFL team that wants someone who stretches the field and is unguardable on fade routes, Hyatt is the guy. He ranked second in the nation in deep yards (677), is one of the fastest players in the 2023 NFL Draft and his ability helps him feast when cornerbacks play off him.

However, you also have to know his limitations. Hyatt is very raw as a route runner and NFL cornerbacks will have little trouble adjusting his routes because of his thin frame. He’s a role player to begin his NFL career, perhaps a bit like Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

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7. Kayshon Boutte, LSU Tigers

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Texas A&M
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  • Kayshon Boutte height: 6-foot
  • Kayshon Boutte stats: 538 yards, 2 TDs
  • Kayshon Boutte age: 21 years old
  • Kayshon Boutte draft projection: Rd 4
  • Kayshon Boutte 40 time: 4.5 seconds

Jaxon Smith-Njigba had the most disappointing season of the 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver prospects, but Kayshon Boutte wasn’t too far behind. After eclipsing 500 receiving yards with just nine touchdowns in six contests a year ago, Boutte netted 538 yards in 11 games last season.

This is also a former five-star recruit who ranked as the second-best player in Louisiana out of high school in 2020. Boutte’s combination of size, speed and YAC ability are enticing. NFL teams will see the raw tools of a player who could be molded into a high-end No. 2 receiver. There are just questions regarding why he never developed at LSU and why he sometimes plays the position so conservatively. If a team gets him to commit, Boutte will be a Day 2 gem.

6. Nathaniel Dell, Houston Cougars

NCAA Football: Houston at East Carolina
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  • Nathaniel Dell height: 5-foot-10
  • Nathaniel Dell stats: 109 receptions, 1,398 yards, 17 TDs
  • Nathaniel Dell NFL Draft projection: Rd 2
  • Nathaniel Dell 40 time: 4.49 seconds
  • Nathaniel Dell age: 23 years old

Few players helped their NFL Draft stock more at the Senior Bowl than Nathaniel ‘Tank’ Dell. What he lacks in prototypical size for a receiver, Tank Dell makes up for it with eye-catching speed paired with exceptional burst and agility.

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Dell feasted in the slot for Houston, ranking 12th in the nation for slot catches (72) and 10th in slot yards (72). He also proved adept at making defenders miss, generating 19 missed tackles alone this past season, per PFF.

Whereas players like Hyatt and Scott are more limited as offensive weapons, Dell provides greater versatility. He can stretch the field, work underneath, go in motion to exploit mismatches and simply make plays in space. Drawing a lot of NFL comparisons to Darnell Mooney, Dell should have a long NFL career as long as his body (165 pounds) holds up.

2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings: Round 1 targets

5. Zay Flowers, Boston College Eagles

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College
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  • Zay Flowers height: 5-foot-10
  • Zay Flowers stats: 1,077 yards, 12 TDs
  • Zay Flowers age: 23 years old
  • Zay Flowers NFL Draft projection: Top 40
  • Zay Flowers 40 time: 4.42 seconds

Boston College doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to developing NFL wide receivers. Prior to the 2023 NFL Draft, the most successful wideout from the Eagles’ program was Kelvin Martin (1987-’96). Needless to say, Zay Flowers could surpass everything his fellow alums did.

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After netting over 1,600 receiving yards combined as a sophomore and junior, Flowers put it all together as a senior. He averaged 13.8 yards per catch and scored 12 touchdowns, ending his collegiate career with his first 1,000-yard season.

Looking ahead to the NFL, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about Flowers’ future. He glides on the football field, changing direction in an instant without sacrificing his big-play ability. He can get open in the slot and slip through the first defender to turn a five-yard catch into a 30-yard play or he can get past first contact and make plays deep downfield. Size (5-foot-10, 172 pounds), strength and length are limitations for him, but every play-caller wants an athlete like this.

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4. Josh Downs, North Carolina Tar Heels

2023 NFL Draft wide receiver prospects, Josh Downs
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  • Josh Downs height: 5-foot-10
  • Josh Downs stats: 1,029 yards, 11 TDs
  • Josh Downs age: 22 years old
  • Josh Downs NFL Draft projection: Top 40
  • Josh Downs 40 time: 4.48 seconds

North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye is going to miss Josh Downs a lot in 2023. Maye’s loss will be to the benefit of an NFL team. The 5-foot-10 wideout brings some of the best hands in the 2023 NFL Draft and his footwork looks like it came straight out of a manual.

Downs is a YAC monster, using his footwork and separation ability to create an immediate target for the quarterback seconds after the snap. Once he creates that little cushion and the football is in his hands, you see the elusiveness that made him an effective kick returner.

Looking ahead at his NFL career, Downs’ size limits him to stick as a slot receiver. However, the route-running, explosiveness in the open field and soft hands mean he could become the No. 2 receiving option in an offense for teams without an elite quarterback.

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3. Jordan Addison, USC Trojans

NCAA Football: Southern California at UCLA
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  • Jordan Addison height: 6-foot
  • Jordan Addison stats: 875 yards, 8 TDs
  • Jordan Addison age: 21 years old
  • Jordan Addison draft projection: Top 20
  • Jordan Addison 40 time: 4.49 seconds

After winning the Biletnikoff Award in 2021, Jordan Addison took his talents to USC to partner up with Caleb Williams. While he was limited to 11 games, the first-team All-Pac 12 selection proved once again why he was one of the best wide receivers in college football.

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What you see with Addison is what you’ll get in the NFL and that’s more than enough for coaches. he is arguably the best route runner in the 2023 NFL Draft, knowing how to both position his body to create a favorable window and the right movement plus acceleration needed to create separation from defensive backs.

Addison’s route tree will be diverse as a rookie, eliminating a massive part of the learning curve for first-year NFL receivers. In addition, Addison’s hands are reliable and that will help him earn the quarterback’s trust even faster. He doesn’t provide elite speed nor will his play strength allow him to become a bonafide star, but he could earn a few Pro Bowl selections in his career.

Unfortunately, Addison didn’t help himself at the scouting combine. He posted a mediocre 40 time for someone of his size with 20 and 10-yard splits that underwhelmed. Already lacking great size and playing with below-average play strength, the knocks on Addison’s physical profile are significant. It keeps him below Smith-Njigba in our rankings moving forward.

2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State Buckeyes

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  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba height: 6-foot
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba stats (2021): 1,606 receiving yards, 9 TDs, 16.6 ypc
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba projection: Round 1
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba 40 time: 4.6 seconds
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba age: 21 years old

Jaxon Smith-Njigba looked like the next All-Pro receiver in the 2022 Rose Bowl. He eviscerated Utah, exploding for 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Not only that, he ended that season with five consecutive 100-yard games, totaling 958 yards over that stretch.

Viewed as the No. 1 receiver in early 2023 NFL Draft WR rankings, injuries ruined his junior season. He appeared in three games, but only managed 43 receiving yards before sitting out the College Football Playoff to prepare for the pre-draft process.

Considering Ohio State used Smith-Njigba almost exclusively out of the slot in 2021, that will likely be the role he lands in the NFL. While that might limit his fit with some offenses not valuing the slot, whoever drafts him will be fortunate.

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Smith-Njigba plays the game like a 10-year NFL veteran, knowing how to manipulate the cornerback he is lined up against. Drops weren’t a problem for him in college, he makes a surprising number of contested catches for someone of his stature and he can break arm tackles. Put him in the right scheme and his numbers will reflect that of a No. 1 receiver.

Coming out of the NFL Combine, Smith-Njigba solidified himself as the No. 2 player in our 2023 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings. While he didn’t run the 40-yard dash, Smith-Njigba’s 3.93-second time in the shuttle and 6.57-second 3-cone time are elite. He is incredibly explosive in short areas, he flashed great hands in combine drills and looked crisp as a route runner. He might be a slot receiver, but Smith-Njigba is a top-20 talent in the 2023 NFL Draft.

1. Quentin Johnston, TCU Horned Frogs

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan
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  • Quentin Johnston height: 6-foot-4
  • Quentin Johnston stats: 60 receptions, 1,069 yards, 6 TDs
  • Quentin Johnston projection: Top 15
  • Quentin Johnston 40 time: 4.3 seconds
  • Quentin Johnston age: 22 years old

No player in the entire 2023 NFL Draft class is more fun to watch with the football in their hands than Quentin Johnston. The breakthrough season at TCU showcased how dangerous he is for college defenses and NFL defensive backs aren’t going to find it any easier upon his arrival.

There is a long list of stats that highlight what Johnston does. He ranked 24th in the nation in yards per reception vs man coverage (15.5) with the third-highest yards after catch per reception (10.3) vs man coverage. He also forced 45 missed tackles in three seasons, including 18 last year.

Of course, Johnston also checks off the height-weight-speed boxes with absurd athleticism for his size. It’s also because of that frame and arm length that he can make some tough snags thank to his massive catch radius.

However, there are two concerns that really prevent Johnston from being viewed as an elite receiver prospect. First, drops were a big issue for him last season (11.8% drop rate) and there have been no real signs of improvement in three seasons.

Second, he was wildly inconsistent with four 100-yard games and seven contests under 70 receiving yards. NFL teams certainly took notice of how easily the Georgia Bulldogs blanketed him (3 yards) in the national championship, too. With all that said, Quentin Johnston is the best wide receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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