Perhaps the strongest group of freshmen are the wide receivers. The top four are all really strong prospects, and any one of the five or six below them could also gain value and be early draft picks.
Johntay Cook II, Texas
The top receiver in my devy ranks is the freshman headed to Texas, and he’s got massive upside. Cook comes to Texas with immense pedigree, high school production, and a skill set ready to contribute immediately.
Cook has a refined game already and is incredibly proficient in his movement and ability to get open. He is a smart route runner, with quickness and footwork to be deceptive in the routes, and then Cook also tracks the ball well and has the speed to get behind a defensive back in a hurry. He can get physical and is incredibly close to a complete prospect.
The route to early targets may be a bit muddled as Texas has a loaded room, but Cook is already standing out. He’s coming in with highly regarded quarterback Arch Manning. Cook’s path to being the WR1 is clearly defined, and he’s a lock to be an early draft pick in 2026.
Zachariah Branch, USC
Hold on, wait a minute; Branch isn’t far behind Cook as a prospect and, in fact, was the highest-rated receiver in the freshman class. Branch has some serious wheels, clocking a 10.33 100m dash in high school (faster than Jaylen Waddle), and is already seeing some special teams work for the Trojans.
Branch is more than a speedster, though. He is adept at creating separation and uses moves to create separation within his routes. He’s got phenomenal body control and wins on contested catches easily. Branch is a playmaker but has mainly operated out of the slot.
Southern Cal also has a crowded room, players with knowledge of the system, and rapport with Caleb Williams. But Branch is the most talented receiver and could see targets early. He needs to be one of the first two receivers drafted in your devy freshman or supplemental drafts.
Carnell Tate, Ohio State
As a wide receiver headed to WRU, we must notice their super freshmen Tate and Inniss. Let’s start with Tate, who’s made a splash in the spring and could have worked his way into playing time already.
Tate has relied on superior athleticism thus far, but it lays the groundwork for massive potential. He has a good burst off the line, and his high school tape with IMG shows glimpses of advanced technique and route-running ability. But frankly, Tate didn’t need to do much to win. He’s got strong hands and attacks the ball at the catch point.
And we couldn’t ask for a better place to develop, as Ohio State and Brian Hartline are the gold standard. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka are the lead dogs this season, both could be gone after 2023, and the top spot will be up for grabs.
Brandon Inniss, Ohio State
Tate isn’t going just to be given that spot, as Inniss hasn’t been able to join the team yet and may be the more talented of the freshman duo. Inniss has played with Tate, Makai Lemon, and Hykeem Williams on the 7v7 South Florida Express team and stood out. He is my WR3 and a sliver below Cook and Branch.
Inniss is a polished route runner who manipulates defenders with subtle movements and fakes. He’s incredible after the catch, too, with twitchy footwork and the ability to make defenders look silly in space. Inniss has phenomenal hands and catches away from his body. He doesn’t have elite speed or acceleration, but Inniss isn’t a slouch and can still break big plays and sneak up on DBs.
If he was at spring camp, I think Inniss would have come out as the receiver talked about seeing snaps this fall. He still may get them, but Tate’s already worked with the team and has a slight advantage. Inniss is a more complete prospect, and I love his spot. All four of these receivers need to be considered in your first round of devy freshman/supplemental drafts.
Jurrion Dickey, Oregon
Now on to my second tier of players that I am targeting in the second round of those same drafts, and Dickey is my first player to target. He’s not likely to see the field much this season, but when the depth chart clears a little – Dickey should be the man in Eugene, Oregon.
At 6’3”, Dickey is a receiver who works the sidelines well, and his ability to jump with a massive wingspan makes him natural at high-pointing. He shows great body control when doing so, and when it comes to after the catch, Dickey can break free and cover a lot of ground quickly. He doesn’t have elite movement skills, but he’s not rigid. He’s shown the ability to win in press coverage as well.
Oregon has Troy Franklin entrenched in the role best fit for Dickey, yet the freshman should still see the field some. Bigger receivers seem to be on the way out in the NFL, but Dickey is athletic enough not to fall into the pratfalls that typically befell large receivers.
Shelton Sampson Jr., LSU
Another taller receiver in a similar vein, Sampson excels at ball skills and making catches with incredible leaping ability. He’s got more speed than Dickey, though, being clocked at 21.0 MPH by Campus2Canton.com’s recruiting staff. Sampson is much more dangerous after the catch due to that speed. He’s got a limited route tree and possesses less movement skills than Dickey, which may limit his upside.
LSU has a good track record of producing NFL receivers, although the new regime is less proven. Despite a crowded WR room in Death Valley, Sampson could see targets early, too. Sampson gives the team an element they have been missing.
Cordale Russell, TCU
A big wideout clocked at 22.3 MPH, Russell is one of the more interesting receivers in the second tier. He’s nasty in contested catch situations and has incredibly strong hands. But he’s also raw – relying on athletic ability to create separation in high school, and has little technique in route running.
Russell could see the field very early, and he had already been with the team all spring, working with Quentin Johnston. He’s got one of the clearest paths to targets, but his lack of technique may hinder him from a massive breakout until his second or third season.
Nathan Leacock, Tennessee
Similar to Russell, Leacock is a bigger receiver with low 4.4 40-yard speed and excels at high-pointing with strong hands. He’s also raw, with limited reps versus press coverage and being jammed at the line of scrimmage. Leacock ran a simple route tree, but with the Vols, that may not be a huge issue.
He should be able to be used as Josh Heupel used Jalin Hyatt, the X receiver who can stretch the field and isn’t asked to run many different routes. Leacock may see some play in his freshman season, as that role is currently open in the offense. He should be productive and end up drafted on the second day in 2026.
Jaden Greathouse, Notre Dame
None of these guys have more of a shot to be productive as a freshman than Greathouse, and his skill set is one new QB Sam Hartman has favored. Greathouse is a possession receiver with refinement in his game, showcasing the ability to manipulate defenders and run clean routes. He’s not afraid to get physical, but his overall play speed is a bit slower than most in this article.
There’s still a role for a 6’3” and 220-pound receiver in the NFL, but his play speed could definitely hinder his upside. I’d take a flyer in my devy freshman/supplemental drafts early in the third round and hope he can slim down a bit and gain some speed.
Hykeem Williams, Florida State
It seems the last five guys I’ve talked about are exactly 6’3”, and Williams is another one, a five-star receiver headed to Tallahassee. He’s got impressive high school film with some phenomenal highlight grabs. The basketball player in him shows as he excels at tracking the ball and boxing out defenders. Williams can get separation at the line with a quick juke and varies his speed within routes to create space. He doesn’t have a route tree at all and isn’t a twitchy athlete.
The Seminoles have a bevy of receivers with a similar skill set, and Williams may not see much time on the field until year two. He’s garnered comps to Julio Jones – so yes, definitely target Williams in your devy freshman and supplemental drafts.
Noah Rogers, Ohio State
Any receiver headed to Ohio State is worth a shot, but the path to targets for Rogers is crowded. He’s the least talented of the three Buckeyes in this article, yet there is a lot to love here. Rogers is smart, athletic, and has all the intangibles to be a refined receiver. His skill set is similar to Chris Olave, credit to Matt Bruening for that comp, and he could have a similar path to the NFL.
Malachi Coleman, Nebraska
In deeper devy drafts, Coleman is worth a shot – he’s got incredible athletic ability, but his high school film wasn’t super impressive. He lands in a great situation to develop and could see targets early as he develops. Coleman has the upside to be a top 6-7 receiver in the class.
DeAndre Moore Jr., Texas
Moore is a bit thicker prospect with extensive work at running back, and he could see a role like Deebo Samuel. He’s great with the ball in his hands and excels working in space. Moore has long speed but isn’t particularly sudden and has had a slightly troublesome career thus far. He went to three high schools and committed to multiple teams before settling with Texas. I love the talent, and he has a shot to make some noise, but I am avoiding Moore for the time being.
Other Names to Watch
Keyon Brown, Oklahoma
Jalen Hale, Alabama
Vandrevious Jacobs, Florida State
Taeshaun Lyons, Washington
Eugene Wilson III, Florida
Jaren Hamilton, Alabama
Jalen Brown, LSU
Shamar Porter, Kentucky
Andy Jean, Florida
Jaelen Smith, Michigan State
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