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2024 Senior Bowl Preview: Wide Receivers

It’s officially Reese’s Senior Bowl week, which, as its website describes, “is the ultimate bridge between college and pro football” featuring “a mixture of college standouts and potential prospects that project best to the NFL with a particular interest in those that are rated above the 5th round.” The college all-star game will hold practices from Tuesday to Thursday, with the actual game taking place on Saturday. This is the first time in the event’s history that underclassmen will participate.

The Patriots have had a strong connection to the Senior Bowl, with Keion White, Marte Mapu, Jake Andrews, Chad Ryland, and Bryce Baringer all being alumni who were eventually selected by New England last spring. Top draft picks Kyle Dugger, Mac Jones, and Cole Strange were also participants leading up to their respective drafts. Last season, now-defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington served as defensive coordinator for the American team. This season, wide receivers coach Troy Brown will be the American team’s offensive coordinator, affording the Patriots another up-close look at prospects.

The Patriots are rebuilding after a 4-13 season, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. New head coach Jerod Mayo’s vision for the team is still unknown, and he has yet to hire an offensive coordinator or solidify his staff. But with Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh and Director of Scouting Eliot Wolf assisting in personnel matters, it’s likely the Senior Bowl will remain a strong pipeline for New England.

Leading up to the game, I’ll be previewing each player scheduled to participate this week at the Patriots’ top positions of need. With New England’s roster currently low on playmaking pass-catchers, today’s segment will focus on the wide receiver position.

NOTABLE ALUMNI:

  • Rashee Rice, Chiefs
  • Tank Dell, Texans
  • Puka Nacua, Rams
  • Christian Watson, Packers
  • DeVonta Smith, Eagles
  • Nico Collins, Texans
  • Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers
  • Deebo Samuel, 49ers
  • Jakobi Meyers, Raiders
  • Cooper Kupp, RamsA

PROSPECTS

Ainias Smith, Texas A&M – Height: 5’10”, Weight: 195 lbs

Background

  • Born: May 31, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Graduate Student
  • 3-star recruit in Texas A&M’s 2019 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • First-Team All-SEC (2023)
  • Team Captain (2021)

Scout’s Take

“Ainias Smith is an electric playmaker who could thrive within an offense that prioritizes space and designated touches.” – The Draft Network

Brenden Rice, USC – Height: 6’3”, Weight: 205 lbs

Background

  • Born: March 18, 2002 (21)
  • Class: Senior
  • 3-star recruit in Colorado’s 2019 class, per 247Sports
    • Rose to 4-star recruit as a transfer
  • Transferred from Colorado to USC in 2022

Accolades

  • Second-Team All-Pac-12 (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Overall, Rice is an NFL-ready receiver with an all-around skill set. I have questions about his ceiling and wonder if he has enough juice to be a dynamic weapon at the next level, but I think he can step in on day one to be a solid No. 3 receiver who can develop into a top-end No. 2 option.” – Brentley Weissman, The Draft Network

Devontez Walker, North Carolina – Height: 6’2.5″, Weight: 200 lbs

Background

  • Born: June 19, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Redshirt Junior
  • 3-star recruit in North Carolina Central’s 2020 class, per 247Sports
    • Rose to 4-star recruit as a transfer
  • Transferred from North Carolina Central to Kent State in 2021
  • Transferred from Kent State to North Carolina in 2023

Accolades

  • First-Team All-MAC (2022)
  • Third-Team All-ACC (2023)

Scout’s Take

“The scope of Walker’s skill set is a bit narrow right now, but he is an elite deep threat with a solid frame. Speed will always play in the NFL. Walker can be a dangerous field-stretching Z right away with the hopes he can develop into something a little more well-rounded.” – Derrik Klassen, Bleacher Report 

Jacob Cowing, Arizona – Height: 5’11”, Weight: 175 lbs

Background

  • Born: February 4, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Junior
  • 2-star recruit in UTEP’s 2019 class, per 247Sports
    • Rose to 4-star recruit as a transfer
  • Transferred from UTEP to Arizona in 2022

Accolades

  • First-Team All-Conference USA (2021)
  • Second-Team All-Conference USA (2020)
  • Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP (2023)
  • All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Cowing projects as a quick-twitch slot receiver tasked with winning quickly and efficiently. He can play sparingly on the outside effectively. His combination of route-running, quickness, and open-field speed makes him an ideal isolation target. He can be a good WR3 for an NFL offense. His game has some similarities to Detroit Lions WR Amon-Ra St. Brown.” – Damian Parson, The Draft Network 

Jamari Thrash, Louisville – Height: 6’1″, Weight: 185 lbs

Background

  • Born: December 19, 2000 (age 23)
  • Class: Redshirt Senior
  • 3-star recruit in Georgia State’s 2019 class, per 247Sports
    • Rose to 4-star recruit as a transfer
  • Transferred from Georgia State to Louisville in 2023

Accolades

  • First-Team All-Sun Belt (2022)
  • Second-Team All-ACC (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Thrash is a backup Z/slot in the NFL. His sharp route running and fairly reliable hands will give him a floor that coaches appreciate. With that said, Thrash may not ever have the pop in his game to blossom into a true impact player.” – Derrik Klassen, Blecher Report

Javon Baker, UCF – Height: 6’1″, Weight: 205 lbs

Background

  • Class: Senior
  • 4-star recruit in UCF’s 2022 class, per 247Sports
  • Transferred from Alabama to UCF in 2022

Accolades

  • First-Team All-Big 12 (2023)
  • Second-Team All-AAC (2022)

Scout’s Take

“Javon Baker’s combination of high-level route-running, ability to make difficult catches, and natural instincts for the position make him an early contributor for an NFL team.” – Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

Jha’Quan Jackson, Tulane – Height: 5’11”, Weight: 185 lbs

Background

  • Class: Senior
  • 3-star recruit in Tulane’s 2019 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • Paul Horning Award Watch List (2023, 2022)
  • Second-Team All-AAC returner (2022)

Scout’s Take

“Overall, Jackson is a versatile player who should immediately offer an NFL team impact play from the slot position while also being a high-level player as a returner on special teams.” – Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

Johnny Wilson, Florida State – Height: 6’7″, Weight: 237 lbs

Background

  • Born: April 3, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Redshirt Junior
  • 4-star recruit in Arizona State’s 2020 class, per 247Sports
    • Dropped to 3-star recruit as a transfer
  • Transferred from Arizona State to Florida State in 2022

Accolades

  • Second-Team All-ACC (2022)
  • Third-Team All-ACC (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Wilson is a standard X receiver with one-of-a-kind size. His combination of length, relative mobility, and advanced route-running ability could make him an immediate contributor. Wilson would fit best in an offense that emphasizes true dropback concepts and allows him to work the 8-to-20-yard range outside the numbers.” – Derrik Klassen, Bleacher Report

Jordan Whittington, Texas – Height: 6’1″, Weight: 205 lbs

Background

  • Born: February 19, 2000 (23)
  • Class: Senior
  • 4-star recruit in Texas’ 2019 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • All-Big 12 Honorable Mention (2023, 2022)

Scout’s Take

“Jordan Whittington’s football intelligence along with positional versatility will help create an opportunity for him to be a contributing player to an NFL team.” – Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

Ladd McConkey, Georgia – Height: 6’0″, Weight: 185 lbs

Background

  • Born: November 11, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Redshirt Senior
  • 3-star recruit in Georgia’s 2020 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • Wuerffel Trophy (2023)
  • 2x CFP National Champion (2022, 2021)
  • Second-Team All-SEC (2022)
  • SEC All-Freshman Team (2021)

Scout’s Take

“McConkey can be a good slot/Z type in the NFL. He can play both inside and out, he is a highly effective route-runner, and his hands are reliable enough. With that said, McConkey’s lack of size and strength will likely limit him to being a complementary piece rather than a core part of his future offense.” – Derrik Klassen, Bleacher Report

Luke McCaffrey, Rice – Height: 6’2″, Weight: 195 lbs

Background

  • Born: April 2, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Redshirt Junior
  • 3-star recruit in Nebraska’s 2019 class, per 247Sports
  • Transferred from Nebraska to Rice in 2021

Accolades

  • First-Team All-AAC (2023)
  • Team Captain (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Luke McCaffrey has a clear path to being a productive slot receiver early in his career. He also has upside as an outside receiver as he continues to craft his route-running.” – Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

Malachi Corley, Western Kentucky – Height: 5’11”, 210 lbs

Background

  • Born: March 21, 2002 (21)
  • Class: Redshirt Junior
  • 2-star recruit in Western Kentucky’s 2020 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • 2x First-Team All-CUSA (2023, 2022)
  • Biletnikoff Award Watch List (2022)

Scout’s Take

“Corley has a role as an underneath outlet in the NFL. His bulky frame, reliable hands and hard-nosed yards-after-the-catch ability give him clear use cases, even if limited. However, Corley may struggle to find an every-down role in the NFL.” – Derrik Klassen, Bleacher Report

Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Georgia – Height: 6’1″, Weight: 195 lbs

Background

  • Born: January 8, 2002 (22)
  • Class: Senior
  • 4-star recruit in Georgia’s 2020 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • 2x CFP National Champion (2022, 2021)

Scout’s Take

“MRJ is an alpha wideout that looks to dominate smaller corners. He plays bigger than his listed height with excellent body control and strong hands to play above the rim. The problem is that MRJ lacks the technique and high-end athleticism to separate in multiple ways. He’s a jump ball only, clean release kind of player. MRJ has a chance to make highlight-level plays at the Senior Bowl, potentially stealing the show with an acrobatic catch over some of the corners in Mobile, helping him stand out in a crowded WR class.” – Rob Gregson, A to Z Sports

Ricky Pearsall, Florida – Height: 6’1″, Weight: 190 lbs

Background

  • Born: September 9, 2000 (23)
  • Class: Senior
  • 3-star recruit in Arizona State’s 2018 class, per 247Sports
  • Transferred from Arizona State to Florida in 2022

Accolades

  • SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll (2023, 2022)
  • PAC-12 All-Conference Honorable Mention (2021)

Scout’s Take

“Overall, Pearsall is a prospect who can be a reliable receiving option in the NFL. While his speed may not be elite level, he has shown that his usage as a versatile receiver option can still be effective at a high level, allowing him to dominate in the middle of the field.” – Keith Sanchez, The Draft Network

Roman Wilson, Michigan – Height: 6’0″, Weight: 192 lbs

Background

  • Born: June 19, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Senior
  • 4-star recruit in Michigan’s 2020 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • CFP National Champion (2023)
  • Second-Team All-Big Ten (2023)
  • Reese’s Senior Bowl Midseason All-American (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Wilson projects as a slot receiver who can thrive in the short and intermediate areas of the field. He has the potential to become a chain mover for an offense. With tight alignment and his speed, Wilson can make defenses respect his ability to generate big plays in the passing games.” – Damian Parson, The Draft Network

Ryan Flournoy, Southeast Missouri State – Height: 6’2″, Weight: 197 lbs

Background

  • Born: Born October 27, 1999 (24)
  • Class: Senior
  • Transferred from Iowa Western Community College in 2022

Accolades

  • First-Team All-Ohio Valley Conference (2022)
  • Team Captain (2022)

Scout’s Take

“The double transfer from Central Missouri and Iowa Western CC was named to Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” over the summer. He’s undoubtedly one of the top “traits” wideout prospects at the FCS level in this draft cycle. There is late draftable love for Flournoy in NFL scouting circles.” – Jim Nagy, The 33rd Team

Xavier Legette, South Carolina – Height: 6’3″, Weight: 227 lbs

Background

  • Born: January 29, 2001 (22)
  • Class: Senior
  • 4-star recruit in South Carolina’s 2019 class, per 247Sports

Accolades

  • Second-Team All-SEC (2023)

Scout’s Take

“Legette is an intriguing prospect with size, adequate speed, and ball skills. The concern is that Legette is not a dynamic mover, and he is still a work in progress when it comes to the finer parts of the position. Legette would be best in a play-action heavy system that enables his vertical ability and ball skills.” – Derrik Klassen, Bleacher Report

Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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