2019 NFL Draft: Which Wide Receiver Will Be Selected First?

2019 NFL Draft: Which Wide Receiver Will Be Selected First? article feature image

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

  • The 2019 NFL Draft begins on April 25 and will be held in Nashville, TN.
  • Matthew Freedman breaks down the wideout class and analyzes which receiver is likely to be drafted first.

Each day, I publish 1-2 pieces on props I like. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.

The 2019 NFL draft class has a relatively deep group of wide receivers, although there’s some debate on #DraftTwitter as to who should be the first player selected at the position.

The draft is less than two weeks, and for the first time ever it will be held in Nashville, TN.

Here’s the schedule for the seven rounds.

  • Thursday, April 25: Round 1
  • Friday, April 26: Rounds 2-3
  • Saturday, April 27: Rounds 4-7

In this piece, I look at which wide receiver is likeliest to be the first selected in the 2019 NFL draft.

2019 NFL Draft: First Wide Receiver to Be Selected

  • D.K. Metcalf: -167
  • Marquise Brown: +450
  • Hakeem Butler: +500
  • A.J. Brown: +600
  • N’Keal Harry: +1100
  • Kelvin Harmon: +1300
  • Parris Campbell: +3000
  • Riley Ridley: +3300
  • Deebo Samuel: +4000
  • Terry McLaurin: +4000
  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: +5000
  • Andy Isabella: +5000
  • Miles Boykin: +6600

Of the 13 players listed, at least half can be immediately eliminated out of hand.

Seven Wide Receivers Who Won’t Be Selected First

Boykin feels like a smaller A.J. Brown. Isabella will likely provide great value on Day 2, but no one is talking about him as if he’s a Round 1 guy. Arcega-Whiteside is a less athletic version of Metcalf.

McLaurin will likely go off the board after Campbell, his Ohio State teammate. Samuel has too many injury concerns. Ridley was too unimpressive as a producer.

And Harmon is the least assuming of the big-bodied receivers at the top of the draft.

That leaves six wide receivers remaining.

Eliminating Parris Campbell, N’Keal Harry & Hakeem Butler

Campbell has elite speed, but most teams will likely prefer Marquise Brown, who looked like the fastest player in college football last year. Let’s eliminate Campbell.

Harry and A.J. Brown are similar in size, athleticism and production, but Harry played at Arizona State, while Brown dominated in the SEC at Mississippi. I think most teams will prefer A.J, so let’s eliminate Harry.

And let’s eliminate Butler. He’s similar to Metcalf: He’s big and fast, and he didn’t really flash until his final season. Butler, though, played at Iowa State, while Metcalf (like A.J.) played at Mississippi. If a team likes Butler, it probably likes Metcalf even more.

Final Three Wide Receivers to Be Selected First

We’re left with Metcalf and the two Browns. As it happens, I’ve surveyed the most recent mock drafts of 17 reputable analysts, and in every mock the first wide receiver selected is one of these guys. We’re probably focusing on the correct final three.

Given that Metcalf and A.J. Brown were teammates at Mississippi and are both big-bodied wide receivers, they form a natural comparative pair. Metcalf was more explosive at the combine, but Brown was easily the more productive and versatile player in college.

Still, the NFL seems to prioritize athleticism above all else in its prospects, and Metcalf was perhaps productive enough in the six full games he played in 2018 before suffering a season-ending injury.

Only one of the 17 mock drafters has Brown going off the board before his college teammate.

Of the two players, Brown probably has the better chance of finding NFL success, but Metcalf seems likelier to be selected first in the draft.

2019 NFL Draft: D.K. Metcalf vs. Marquise Brown to Be Selected First

We’re left with Metcalf  and Marquise Brown. In some ways, these two players are polar opposites.

Metcalf has very little college production (1,228 yards and 14 touchdowns for his three-year career), but he’s big (6-foot-3, 228 pounds) and in possession of laser-verified elite speed (4.33-second 40 time).

Brown had three consecutive seasons of good production (1,056.7 scrimmage yards and 9.7 all-purpose touchdowns per year), but he’s small as can be (5-foot-9, 166 pounds), and although he’s assumed to have great speed he’s yet to run the 40-yard dash because of a Lisfranc injury.

Given that Metcalf was on pace for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns when his 2018 season ended, let’s assume that the NFL will give him credit for the production he actually didn’t get.

And let’s also assume that scouts will give Brown the benefit of the doubt in projecting that his speed on tape would have translated to the stop watch.

So what kind of player has the league tended to value more in the past: The big guy with elite speed and sufficient production? Or the small guy with elite speed and sufficient production?

Here’s an anecdote: In 2006, the Saints hired head coach Sean Payton and signed quarterback Drew Brees, who together pushed the league toward a more pass-focused format. In the offseason immediately following, the NFL faced a question like the one it faces now: Big wide receiver with speed, or small wide receiver with speed?

Calvin Johnson was drafted at No. 2. Ted Ginn Jr. went off the board at No. 9.

Historically, the NFL has valued size and speed above just speed.

Of the 17 mock drafters, 15 have Metcalf as the No. 1 wide receiver drafted, and 16 have him going before Brown.

Is it possible that Metcalf’s mock dominance is partially the result of an echo chamber? Probably.

But at -167, he has a 62.5% implied probability of being the first receiver drafted. I think his true odds are probably closer to 75%.

I like Marquise and think he provides a little value at +450, but ultimately I think the bigger receiver should be more of a favorite than he currently is.

The Pick: Metcalf (-167)

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Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.

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