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Triple Take: Wide receivers

The "Triple Take" team breaks down of the wide receiverS. In this installment of this draft prospect preview by position, the Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Dale Lolley and Mike Prisuta give their takes on the top prospects at the wide receiver position. If you want to hear the audio version of "The Triple Take" click here.

The opinions of these Steelers Radio Network personalities do not reflect the views of the Steelers organization.

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Dale's Take …

Wide receiver has become a premium draft position in the NFL over the past few seasons, with prices skyrocketing for players at the position. That has left many teams – including the Steelers – constantly re-stocking their rosters at the position as opposed to paying premium prices.

This year's class isn't quite as good as some of the previous ones, with no dominant player available. But there are a bunch of good players available.

#5 - Zay Flowers, Boston College (5-9, 182 lbs.) - Flowers' size might limit him to the slot, but he's explosive and makes the spectacular look ordinary. Like many slots, he'll have a concentration drop here and there, but when most of your catches happen in the middle of the middle of the field, that will happen. He scored 26 touchdowns in three college seasons, so he has a nose for the end zone.

#4 - Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee (6-0, 176 lbs.) - Hyatt was a big play waiting to happen last season for the Volunteers, averaging 18.9 yards per catch. He ran a 4.4-second 40 at the Combine, hitting 40 inches in his vertical jump with an 11-3 in the broad jump. He's just an explosive player. He'll have to add some weight to get off press coverage in the NFL, but his speed will help there, as well. He can get past corners in a heartbeat.

#3 - Quentin Johnston, TCU (6-3, 208 lbs.) - The best big receiver in this draft, Johnston also had a 40.5-inch vertical at the Combine, though he didn't run. Johnston averaged 17.8 yards per catch on his 60 receptions in 2022, scoring six times. Still needs some refinement in winning contested balls. For someone with his catch radius, that should be better. But he's a height-weight prospect with plenty of traits.

#2 - Jordan Addison, USC (5-11, 173 lbs.) - A premium route runner, Addison isn't a burner, but doesn't need to be. He wins by being where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there. That said, his 4.49-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine was better than expected. Won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver at Pitt in 2021 with Kenny Pickett before transferring to USC. He wasn't quite as productive in 2022, but his skill set will be attractive to NFL teams.

#1 - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (6-1, 196 lbs.) - Injuries killed his production in 2022, but he had 95 receptions on 112 targets in 2021, a ridiculous 84.8 percent catch rate. Worked mostly out of the slot at Ohio State, but has the size to play outside. Smith-Njigba's change of direction is off the charts, as his 6.57-second three-cone drill at the Combine – the top score there – would suggest. Smith-Njigba is just silky smooth. He's better than both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, his former Ohio State teammates who were both top-11 picks last season.

Mike's Take …

There's less of a buzz, it seems, about the wide receiver class. But don't be surprised if that changes on draft day.

Last year six of the first 18 picks wound up being wide receivers. In 2021, it was three of the Top 10. In 2020, six of the Top 25 picks were wide receivers.

There may not be a true headliner this time around, but there are options, seven rounds worth of them in the estimation of NFL Network analyst Charles Davis. And in a passing league, you have to have someone who can catch the ball.

#5 - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (6-1, 196 lbs.) - He appeared in just three games and only caught five passes for 43 yards in 2022 due to a nagging hamstring injury, but it could be argued he'd already done enough. The previous season Smith-Njigba finished third among FBS pass catchers with 1,606 receiving yards, and that was on a team with future Top 11-selections Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Those guys didn't play in the Rose Bowl against Utah on Jan. 1, 2022 and Smith-Njigba responded by catching 15 balls for 347 yards and three TDs.

#4 - Zay Flowers, Boston College (5-9, 182 lbs.) - BC went 3-9 and was held to 23 or fewer points nine times, including six occasions when the Eagles couldn't manage more than 15. Flowers was the focal point for every defense every Saturday and he still surpassed 1,000 yards receiving (1,077) and caught 12 touchdown passes (BC scored 27 offensive TDs all season). He gets it done inside, outside, in traffic and when he has to make a contested catch.

#3 - Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee (6-0, 176 lbs.) - Hyatt was among the fastest receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine (sixth with an official 4.40 in the 40-yard dash). He had established himself as among the most determined before arriving in Indianapolis. Hyatt had a combined 41 receptions for 502 yards and four scores during his first two seasons with the Volunteers, then exploded and posted a 67-1,267-18.9-15 season in 2022. He'll keep working until it works, and it worked out to the tune of the Biletnikoff Award in his final season with Tennessee.

#2 - Quentin Johnston, TCU (6-3, 208 lbs.) - He might be something of a one-trick pony, but it's a pretty good trick. His averages in three seasons with the Horned Frogs were 22.1-, 19.2- and 17.8-yards per catch (an even 19.0 on 115 career receptions). The route tree might have been somewhat limited and Johnston didn't always catch the ball. But when he did he found the end zone 12 times over his final two seasons. It's the size and the big-play potential that will resonate.

#1 - Jordan Addison, USC (5-11, 173 lbs.) - Like Smith-Njigba, Addison had a better season in 2021 than he did in 2022. The former was a 100-catch, 1,593-yard, seven-receiving TDs, Biletnikoff Award-winning season. He's not the biggest or fastest but he knows how to get open and catch. According to NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, Addison also takes "unbelievable notes" and is maniacal in preparation. "Mentally, that's where he thinks he has an edge," Jeremiah assessed, "mentally tough."

Matt's Take …

Unlike in recent years, this wide receiver class won't blow you away. There isn't a prospect of Ja'Marr Chase's caliber at the top and while several wide outs surely will go in the first round, how many truly deserve first round grades?

Also, the depth of this class-something that has routinely been very strong-is just average. But this is a position very much in need right now in the NFL and we will see plenty of wide recievers drafted, even in the early rounds.

#5 - Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee (6-0, 176 lbs.) - While he "Only" ran a 4.40/40 in Indianapolis, Hyatt can fly. Speed is his game, and he threatens a defense downfield like few others. His presence backs defenders off the line of scrimmage, opening room for other pass catchers as well as for the run game. He is very slender and isn't overly physical. Tennessee ran somewhat of a quirky offense with Hyatt usually running deep routes out of the slot or getting the ball quickly off the line of scrimmage. His ability to beat man coverage will be critical at the next level, but if you need a burner, Hyatt is the guy.

#4 - Zay Flowers, Boston College (5-9, 182 lbs.) - Everyone in the stadium knew that the ball was going to Flowers time and time again, but very few defenses could slow him down. His quickness is exceptional, and Flowers plays the game at a different speed that most receivers. As is the case with many wide receivers in this class, size is an issue for Flowers, but he is aggressive at the catch point and shows very good ball skills. He can attack all levels of the field from either the perimeter or aligned in the slot.

#3 - Jordan Addison, USC (5-11, 173 lbs.) - Addison is small and slender. For his size, Addison's testing numbers at the Combine were rather pedestrian. And his production at USC was lesser than it was at Pitt, where he won the Biletnikoff Award in 2021 as the best wide receiver in the nation. But Addison is both smooth and explosive and is a very good route runner in the short, intermediate, and deep portions of the field. He has very natural hands and doesn't look slow on tape. Addison is very good coming out of his breaks and lines up on the outside or in the slot with equal effectiveness.

#2 - Quentin Johnston, TCU (6-3, 208 lbs.) - Johnston isn't an instant accelerator and drops have been a big issue for him. That being said, there are very few big powerful wide receivers in this class and Johnston's size and physicality give him the nod over just about everyone else on this list. His long speed is excellent, and he runs away from defenders when hit in stride. This is a player that has racked up a lot of explosive plays on deep balls as well as after the catch. If he can clean up his drops, Johnston could be a number one receiver in the NFL.

#1 - Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (6-1, 196 lbs.) - Smith-Njigba posted ridiculous short shuttle and three cone times at the Combine, showing off rare change of direction ability. And those abilities very much translate to the field. Smith-Njigba is a truly elite route runner that loses no speed in and out of his breaks with an exceptional ability of selling his routes and getting coverage players off balance. The two concerns with him are that he played very little last year because of a lingering hamstring injury and that Smith-Njigba probably will not run a great 40-yard dash. Does it really matter? Probably not, Smith-Njigba could consistently catch 100 passes a year in the league.

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