Ahead of the Curve – Wide Receivers
My Ahead of the Curve series is back after a short break. This time I’ll be looking at 3 devy wide receivers I believe are worth targeting earlier than consensus in start-up drafts.
Mario Williams, USC
The number 4 wide receiver in the 2021 recruitment class, Mario Williams was a target for many of the top schools. Although a small receiver at 5ft 11”, he had good physical tools. He decided to head to Oklahoma to join up with HC Lincoln Riley in a high-powered offence. However, it was an up and down season for the Sooners, with QB Spencer Rattler struggling early. However, that’s when Williams saw a higher production in receptions. 20 of his 35 receptions came in the first 5 games when Rattler was under centre. Williams did have his only 100 yard game of the season with true freshman Caleb Williams at quarterback. Williams finished his true freshman season with 35 receptions for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns. It reads well under the circumstances of a crowded offence and turbulent times.
On the Move
Williams followed his departed coach to the west coast for a new chapter at USC. He was joined by a familiar face, with Caleb Williams also linking up with his previous coach. As a result, I expect to see positive chemistry on the field. And that was on display in the spring game a couple of weeks back. Williams caught two touchdown passes from his QB during the game. Williams is the lead candidate to see the most targets in 2022. However, there is talk of 2021 Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison transferring in from Pitt. Williams has the capabilities to play on the inside and outside, as does Addison. Therefore, it would be unclear what percentage of snaps Williams would see on the outside. However, Williams is still a top prospect at the next level.
In start-up drafts, Williams is going off the board late round 3. He is my WR #10 in my devy rankings, which is higher than consensus. In some leagues, I’ll be looking at the late 2nd round, above guys like Josh Downs and Parker Washington. I believe Williams will have a breakout season and people will be scrambling to acquire him.
Luther Burden, Missouri
True Freshman Luther Burden has already shot up most people’s draft boards. Having already been the number 1 ranked wide receiver in this year’s recruitment class. On top of that, he had an excellent spring game with Missouri. Although, I still think players are drafting him too low in devy start-ups. In his senior high school season, Burden had 71 passes for 1,174 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. Also, don’t let the college he has committed to put you off. Burden had offers from most of the top schools. However, he decided to stay home in his native Missouri and close to his family.
Sky’s the Limit
A two-sport athlete in football and basketball and you can see why on film. Burden is 6ft with really good size. Although he hits the average height for an NFL receiver, he has long arms. This shows up well in contested catches, as he is able to pluck the ball from above defenders. Luther Burden can do a lot of things and do them well. Just get the ball into his hands however you can and watch him work.
When drafting in devy start-ups, players are reluctant to take players with 3 years of eligibility too early. However, if you think the prospect is much better than somebody who is entering the draft earlier, take them. If players are willing to let true freshman slide, then it can play into your hands. Burden is arguably the number 1 receiver amongst players from the 2022 recruitment class. However, he is going mid to late 4 th round in start-ups. I’ve already taken Burden in the early 3 rd round as I think his ceiling is very high.
Rome Odunze, Washington
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Rome Odunze is a guy who i’ll be banging the drum for till he gets drafted. Odunze is 6ft 3”with a strong build, but he can move. He has high end speed and is a smooth route runner. However, since coming out of the 2020 class, it’s been a struggle at times. Firstly, his freshman season was stop-start due to covid. Secondly, his sophomore season was hit by bad offensive play calling and quarterback play. However, in 9 games Odunze managed to haul in 41 catches for 415 yards and 4 touchdowns. When the ball was in his hands, he made plays.
New Look Huskies
As mentioned, the play calling was bad on offence last season for Washington. Previous head coach Jimmy Lake was given the chop and in came Fresno State HC Kalen DeBoer. DeBoer is an offensive-minded coach, which will be a big plus for Odunze and the receiving core. At Fresno State, he played with a spread offence with a high volume of pass plays. The Bulldogs offence had 4,247 receiving yards from 342 passes on offence. Compare this to the 243 receptions and 2,700 yards from the Huskies. Another positive for the Washington receivers is WR coach JaMarcus Shephard heading over from Purdue. Highly sought-after, Shepherd worked with NFL players Rondale Moore and David Bell. However, it could take time for the offence to click under the new regime. When it does, I think we will see the best of Odunze and some other talented Washington recievers.
Right now you are looking at Odunze going anywhere from the 8th to the 10th round in deep devy start-ups. Looking at what’s gone before, it’s a fair draft position. However, as mentioned above I think Odunze’s stock could easily sky rocket by the end of the 2022 season. I see running backs like Lew Nicholls III and Rallek Brown go ahead of him in round 7. I’d be comfortable taking Odunze over these guys.
To read Jord’s Ahead of the Curve article on Running Backs, click here