USATSI_12383987_168381090_lowres

Players running around an empty field in spandex is an imperfect evaluation. But I don’t trust my eyes and quite frankly, I don’t trust the eyes of NFL scouts. “Pick the right players” is not a real draft strategy because prospect evaluation in a large sample repeatedly has been proven nearly impossible. A real draft strategy is to accumulate as many assets as possible to give you more chances to hit home runs.

At the very least, evaluating players through the athletic testing at the NFL Combine gives us a uniform, objective set of data. While there always will be outliers, there are certain thresholds elite NFL wide receivers need to reach. I examined the Combine results for each wide receiver who has finished in the top 10 of fantasy points per game over the past five seasons. There have been 28 of them. The important threshold data:

  • 27 of 28 (96 percent) were at least 5-foot-10
  • 22 of 28 (79 percent) were at least 190 pounds
  • 26 of 28 (93 percent) ran a 4.60 or faster 40-yard dash
  • 20 of 25 (80 percent) had a vertical jump of at least 35 inches
  • 19 of 23 (83 percent) had a broad jump of at least 120 inches
  • 20 of 21 (95 percent) ran a 4.35 20-yard shuttle or better
  • 16 of 20 (80 percent) ran a 7.0 3-cone or better

Getting too high on a player outside of these thresholds can be disastrous. For example, Laquon Treadwell went 23rd overall in 2016 despite a 4.64 40, 33-inch vertical and 117-inch broad jump. In 2017, the Chargers surprisingly took Mike Williams seventh even though his testing was sub-par. John Ross went ninth despite weighing in at 188 pounds.

Naysayers will point to players who have finished in the top 10 of fantasy scoring despite falling below thresholds. Antonio Brown weighed in at 186 pounds. Jarvis Landry ran a 4.77. DeAndre Hopkins’ broad jump was only 115 inches. Of course there will be outliers, but the point remains that failing to meet the above thresholds is going against probability of success. With that in mind, below is a look at 10 of the projected top wideouts in this year’s class.

  • NOTE: Marquise Brown of Oklahoma did not participate in the Combine due to a Lisfranc injury. But we already know he didn’t meet two of the minimum thresholds as he measured 5-foot-9 and just 166 pounds. In fact, 27 of the 28 fantasy elites have been at least 5-foot-10 and zero have been less than 183 pounds. There have been only two wide receivers under 170 pounds in NFL history to post a 1,000-yard season, via Alex Johnson.
  • I’d also note this is the most uniquely gifted wide receiver class since I’ve been looking at minimum thresholds. It’s overloaded with freaks.

Miles Boykin, Notre Dame

Thresholds met: 7-of-7

It’s difficult to even wrap our minds around Boykin’s measureables. He put on one of the greatest Combine performances ever, testing in the 99th percentile almost across the board despite measuring 6’4/220. Boykin’s 99.9th percentile SPARQ score beats Allen Robinson’s previous WR record (since 2014) of 99.7th. Of course, it’s a bit concerning Boykin’s obscene athleticism didn’t translate very well to on-field production. He caught just 18 total passes as a sophomore and junior before breaking out a bit with 59-872-8 as a senior. Perhaps quarterback play and scheme had something to do with it. Whoever gets Boykin immediately will have one of the best athletes in the entire league at their disposal.


Parris Campbell, Ohio State

Thresholds met: 6-of-6 (didn’t run a 3-cone)

In a different wide receiver class, Campbell’s athleticism would have jumped off the page. He easily met all the minimum thresholds and finished with a 99.8th percentile SPARQ score — barely behind class-leader Miles Boykin and just ahead of D.K. Metcalf. For reference, the 99.8th percentile score is even better than D.J. Moore’s in 2018 and Tyreek Hill’s in 2016. Campbell also caught 90 balls in 14 games for Ohio State as a senior, but his average depth of target was a brutally low 4.5 yards as he only ran underneath routes. If teams fear Campbell is only a short-area threat, his draft stock could fall. That would make him a steal on Day 2 or Day 3 because he has the athleticism to eventually do anything asked.


Hakeem Butler, Iowa State

Thresholds met: 5-of-5 (didn’t run a 3-cone or shuttle)

Butler is the biggest wideout in this class, measuring at 6’5/227. Despite that oversized frame, he ran an impressive 4.48 and showed just good enough explosion in the vertical (36 inches) and broad (128 inches). Butler was dominant for his team at the college level, racking up 25.3 percent of Iowa State’s receptions, 42.0 percent of its yards and 45.0 percent of its receiving touchdowns en route to a 60-1318-9 line. Drawing comparisons to Plaxico Burress and Brandon Marshall, Butler projects as an immediate red-zone threat at worst.


N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

Thresholds met: 5-of-5 (didn’t run a 3-cone or shuttle)

Harry tested similarly to Butler but comes in three inches shorter. However, age is working majorly in Harry’s favor as he went off for 82-1142-8 as a 20-year-old true sophomore and then backed that up at age 21 with 73-1088-9. Butler didn’t show much in college until he was a 22-year-old redshirt junior. Regardless, Harry is yet another absurd athlete in this wideout class full of freaks. He profiles mainly as an outside receiver but did play a bit of slot in college.


AJ Brown, Ole Miss

Thresholds met: 5-of-5 (didn’t run 3-cone or shuttle)

The teammate of D.K. Metcalf certainly was more productive. Brown leaves Ole Miss as its all-time leading receiver after going 75-1252-11 as a true sophomore and 85-1320-6 as a junior last season. But Brown isn’t the same athlete Metcalf is. Despite measuring three inches shorter, Brown ran a 4.49 (vs. 4.33) and had a concerning weak broad jump of just 120 inches. That barely qualified for the minimum threshold. Film-watching scouts continue to compare Brown to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who only ran a 4.54 and also had a broad jump of 120 inches.


Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

Thresholds met: 6-of-7

Samuel squeaked past the minimum thresholds by recording a 122-inch broad jump and 4.14-second 20-yard shuttle. But he failed to meet the mark in the 3-cone drill, where he went 7.03 seconds. It certainly is not a death blow, and Samuel remains a really strong athlete — in most other classes he’d be among the top. But he gets pushed down in this class, particularly since he projects mostly into the slot and has an injury history.


Terry McLaurin, Ohio State

Thresholds met: 6-of-7

McLaurin only caught 35 balls as a senior for the Buckeyes but turned them into an outrageous 11 touchdowns. He also had six scores on just 29 catches as a junior. Those kind of touchdown rates are obviously unsustainable, but the 4.35 at 6’2/208 he blazed shows big-play ability. McLaurin’s SPARQ score of 134.9 came in higher than Deebo Samuel (132.3), Hakeem Butler (132.0) and N’Keal Harry (130.0).


DK Metcalf, Ole Miss

Thresholds met: 5-of-7

On first glance, Metcalf is an otherworldly athlete. His Muscles from Brussels pic went viral, and then he went to the Combine and ran an absurd 4.33 at 6’3/228. But upon closer examination, Metcalf did not meet all the minimum thresholds because he lacks lateral agility. His 4.50 20-yard shuttle and 7.38 3-cone were not just below average — they were downright poor. Metcalf ended up with a 4th-percentile mark in PlayerProfiler’s agility score. Out of the 21 elite fantasy wideouts who did the 20-yard shuttle, only DeAndre Hopkins ran worse than 4.35. The floor of a straight-line, vertical-only wideout is a concern for teams considering Metcalf in the top half of the first round.


Andy Isabella, UMass

Thresholds met: 5-of-7

Isabella measured in at just 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds. As noted at the top, it’s absurdly rare for an elite fantasy wide receiver in the past five years to have that frame. The only wideout shorter than 5-foot-10 to become elite is Tyreek Hill, and the only ones under 190 pounds to do it were Hill, Antonio Brown, Doug Baldwin, Brandin Cooks, Emmanuel Sanders and T.Y. Hilton. Still, it’s worth noting Isabella blazed a 4.31 and tore through the 3-cone at 6.95. An inability to play outside on every down will cap his draft ceiling, but Isabella will find a fit as someone’s slot man.


Riley Ridley, Georgia

Thresholds met: 5-of-7

Ridley’s slender 6’3/199 frame mustered a slowish 4.58 in the 40, which barely slid inside the minimum threshold. He also missed the vertical by a ton (30.5 inches) and the second-worst 3-cone time (7.22) of the players in this article. Ridley is a classic “tape vs. analytics” prospect, as the former will point to route-running and toughness. But as a 26.9th percentile SPARQ athlete, the odds are stacked against Ridley.


Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.