From left, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and Marquise Brown

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NFL Draft Preview: Ole Miss' Metcalf, Brown Are Cream Of WR Crop

Matt Citak
April 09, 2019 - 3:45 pm
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The NFL draft kicks off less than three weeks from now down in Nashville, Tennessee. Leading up to the start of the first round, I will be breaking down the top prospects at each position, and whether or not the Giants or Jets may have interest.

After taking on the quarterbacks and running backs, we’re now up to the wide receivers.

While the Giants and Jets both made big moves at the wide receiver position this offseason, they were met with very different receptions.

The Giants made an incredibly controversial trade last month, sending star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns in a deal that left many fans frustrated. General manager Dave Gettleman didn’t wait long to fill the void left by Beckham, signing veteran Golden Tate to a four-year deal. Tate joins Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer and Corey Coleman in a Giants receiving corps that could use another big-bodied target.

Related: Giants vs. Jets To Open Preseason Schedule

The Jets, on the other hand, went out and signed Jamison Crowder to a three-year deal. Crowder will man the slot, giving quarterback Sam Darnold a reliable, sure-handed receiver he can lean on. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson will both be back and starting on the outside, while Josh Bellamy and Charone Peake round out Gang Green’s receiver group.

If the Giants and Jets decide to target a receiver in this year's draft, they will have a nice crop of guys to choose from.

D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss

It’s crazy to think that a wide receiver with only 67 receptions in 21 games over three years will likely get drafted in the first round, but such is the case with Metcalf. The receiver out of Ole Miss dropped jaws at the combine, ripping off a 40-yard dash in only 4.33 seconds. That time is impressive on its own, but when you consider the fact that Metcalf measures in at 6 feet 3 inches and 228 pounds, it is simply unbelievable.

To put it into perspective, Metcalf has All-Pro receiver Julio Jones beat in height, weight, vertical jump and 40 time. The 21-year-old is built like a middle linebacker, and his combination of elite size and speed more than make up for his limited collegiate production. Metcalf could easily be a top-10 pick, and will more than likely come off the board sooner rather than later in the first round.

Metcalf would make OBJ’s departure easier to tolerate for Giants fans, but with so many other holes on the roster, taking a wide receiver in the first round would not be the wisest move

A.J. Brown, Ole Miss

After a strong performance at the combine, Brown is now in competition with his Ole Miss teammate to be the first receiver taken in the draft. Brown was clocked running a 4.49 40-yard dash, helping to put some teams’ concerns about his speed to rest. At 6 feet, 226 pounds, Brown will enter the NFL as one of the bigger slot receivers.

Unlike Metcalf, Brown has plenty of production on his résumé. He caught 85 passes in 12 games last season, totaling 1,320 yards and six touchdowns, making it two consecutive seasons with at least 75 receptions and 1,250 yards. Brown is possibly the best route runner in this draft and shouldn’t make it out of the first round.

Brown had a visit with the Giants, which indicates some level of interest in the strong slot receiver. But with Tate and Shepard already on the roster, adding a third slot receiver would raise a few eyebrows across the league, regardless of Brown’s talent.

Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

“Hollywood” Brown underwent surgery for a Lisfranc injury in February, which forced him to miss out on the combine. It’s a shame since he was widely seen as a top-20 pick prior to the surgery. Even so, Brown won’t have to wait too long to hear his name called, as the speedy receiver offers game-breaking potential on just about every snap.

Brown caught 75 passes for the Sooners in 2018, finishing with 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. At 5 feet 9 inches and 166 pounds, Brown’s thin frame is undoubtedly a liability when a defender is draped all over him. However, his ability to take the top off opposing defenses, along with his strong run-after-catch skills, makes him one of the top receivers in the draft.

The Giants don’t have a legitimate deep threat, but adding Brown would give Big Blue three receivers 5-foot-10 or shorter. And with the Jets already having Robby Anderson, it’s unlikely “Hollywood” Brown ends up in New York.

Parris Campbell, Ohio State

While A.J. Brown might be the No. 1 slot receiver in this year’s draft, Campbell comes in at a very close second. At 6 feet and 205 pounds, Campbell offers elite size to go with his amazing speed. The former Buckeye ran an incredible 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine to go with his 40-inch vertical jump. It should come as no surprise that Campbell was considered one of the combine’s strongest performers.

Campbell looked amazing throughout his senior season, accumulating 90 receptions, 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns over 14 games. Campbell served as Dwayne Haskins’ security blanket at Ohio State and produced big play after big play for the Rose Bowl champions. The explosive athlete can also contribute on special teams, which should make him last no longer than the early second round.

Again, neither the Giants nor Jets need a slot receiver, but Campbell is such an excellent athlete that I could see Gettleman and Pat Shurmur finding a spot for him in Big Blue’s offense. He could be in discussion for the Giants at No. 37 overall if he’s still available.

N’Keal Harry, Arizona State

Harry is a talented, big-bodied receiver. The Arizona State WR measures in at 6 feet 2 inches and 228 pounds, offering quarterbacks a big target in the red zone. He is known to have strong hands and plays with a fearless demeanor, but there is no denying that he lacks the speed to worry corners downfield.

Harry was highly productive in his final two collegiate seasons, finishing both with at least 73 receptions, 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns. He may not have any explosive traits, but his ability to out-body defenders and win 50-50 balls will translate well at the next level.

The Giants may consider him at No. 37, but if they pass on him and end up acquiring another pick before No. 95, I could see Gettleman targeting Harry then. He’s the big receiver Big Blue has been missing for years, and his abilities as a run blocker will strongly appeal to Gettleman and Co.

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina

While Samuel definitely has aspects of his game he must work on if he wants to succeed in the NFL, no one can question his competitive nature. The 5-foot-11, 214-pound receiver out of South Carolina does not lack toughness, and it seems pretty clear that he gives 110% on each and every play.

Samuel caught 62 passes for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, all of which were season records for the senior. He is quick and has great hands, which help him on contested passes. With four career kick return touchdowns on his résumé as well, Samuel offers good value on Day 2.

Considering his ability to line up nearly anywhere on the field, Samuel could be a weapon that Shurmur would love to deploy all over the Giants' offense. Similarly, if the Jets end up trading back from No. 3 and stockpile additional draft picks, I would not be surprised to see Gase take Samuel somewhere on Day 2.

Hakeem Butler, Iowa State

While some draft pundits project Butler as a possible first-round pick, I just cannot see it. The redshirt junior out of Iowa State is by far the biggest receiver on this list, measuring in at 6 feet 5 inches and 227 pounds. Of course, his size and length can create massive matchup problems for opposing secondaries. However, his game is far from polished.

Butler put together an impressive campaign at Iowa State last season, reeling in 60 passes for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns. However, if he wants to stick around in the NFL, he has to work on his hands. Butler dropped a lot of passes at Iowa State, something that won’t be tolerated at the next level. Regardless, his size will land him somewhere in the middle to late part of Day 2.

Butler reminds some of Plaxico Burress, who is the last big, productive receiver the Giants had. I believe his physical traits will appeal to Gettleman and Shurmur, who could target Butler if they acquire additional Day 2 picks. I could also definitely see Butler being in play for the Jets if he lasts until their third-round pick.

Kelvin Harmon, N.C. State

Teams were concerned about Harmon’s speed at the combine, and the 22-year-old did nothing to quell those fears in Indianapolis. Harmon ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, which highlighted his struggles to accelerate around crowding defenders at N.C. State. But while he may not be the quickest receiver, Harmon does know how to play to his strengths. He is incredibly physical and uses his 6-foot-2, 221-pound frame to bully defenders on contested throws.

Harmon has strong hands, which help him pluck throws out of the air with relative ease. He is reliant on his size and power too often, though, which is why he is likely to hear his name called no earlier than Round 3 despite his back-to-back, 1,000-yard seasons.

Harmon would provide a physical spark to both the Giants' and Jets’ offenses, but unless he suffers a big fall on Day 2 of the draft, it’s hard to see him ending up in New York.

Terry McLaurin, Ohio State

McLaurin may not wow you with elite size, but his performance at the combine certainly helped boost his draft stock. The Ohio State wide receiver ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and had a 37½-inch vertical jump, which combined with his strong performance at the Senior Bowl should be enough for him to fly off the board towards the end of Day 2, possibly the beginning of Day 3.

McLaurin caught only 35 passes in 2018, but totaled 701 yards and 11 touchdowns. He showed a tendency to be able to find open space when his quarterback was scrambling, a vital trait in today’s NFL. Adding to his draft résumé is his talent as a gunner on special teams, which is where he is likely to see a lot of playing time when he first enters the league.

While not the most pressing need, both the Jets and Giants could use more talent at wide receiver. McLaurin, who is likely to go somewhere from Round 3 to Round 5, could be just the man both local teams target.

J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford

Arcega-Whiteside isn’t going to blow by defenders, but the 6-foot-2 receiver knows how to use his physicality and big frame to his advantage. The wide receiver out of Stanford uses his body control and ball skills to win 50-50 balls and seems to shift into a whole new gear when he gets near the end zone.

Arcega-Whiteside put up strong numbers during his senior season, recording 63 receptions for 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns. He sometimes struggles at freeing himself in press coverage, but his competitiveness tends to make up for that.

The Stanford wideout will likely be taken at some point on Day 3, when I believe he could end up being one of the draft’s bigger value picks. I think he will be in play for both the Giants and Jets.

Matt Citak is a web producer for WFAN. Check him out on Twitter at @MatthewCitak.