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March 04, 2022

Wide receivers blazed impressive 40 times at the NFL Combine, so let's get to know them

On the first night of athletic testing at the 2022 NFL Combine, a large number of wide receivers blazed some impressive 40 times. In fact, nine receivers ran sub-4.4 40's. Because some of them are lesser-known names, let's get to know them, and how they'd fit in with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tyquan Thornton, Baylor (6'2, 181, 4.28): Thornton caught 62 passes for 948 yards and 10 TDs in 2021. When he initially ran his 40, it appeared as though he had broken the fastest time ever recorded at the NFL Combine, with a 4.21.

He was later deemed to have run a 4.28. Still, he's fast! If the Eagles are still looking for a player who can take the top off the defense like Jalen Reagor was supposed to do, Thornton would make some sense. He also has decent height, at 6'2, and he's not just a one-trick pony who only runs deep routes.

Velus Jones, Tennessee (6'0, 204, 4.31): Jones played in college for six years, initially with USC, and then Tennessee. He'll turn 25 in May, which makes him less than a year younger than Derek Barnett. In those six college seasons, Jones only had 120 catches, 1,434 yards, and 11 TDs. More than half of that production came in 2021, when he had 62 catches for 807 yards and 7 TDs. He mostly played in the slot, and has added value as a returner. His stock seemingly climbed after a good showing at the Senior Bowl, and will continue to rise with his 4.31 40. The Eagles need a slot receiver, and if they don't find one in free agency or early in the draft, Jones would make sense on Day 3.

Calvin Austin, Memphis (5'8, 170, 4.32): Memphis has a recent history of putting explosive offensive playmakers into the NFL, from Tony Pollard, to Antonio Gibson, to Kenny Gainwell. Austin is a waterbug type, who has put up big numbers the last two seasons. In 2020, he had 63 catches for 1,053 yards and 11 TDs. In 2021, he had 74 catches for 1,149 yards and 8 TDs. He has also been a weapon as a returner for Memphis, with punt return TDs in each of the last two seasons. As we mentioned in our Senior Bowl practice notes, Austin got separation at will in Mobile. 

Alec Pierce, Cincinnati (6'3, 211, 4.33): Pierce averaged 17.5 yards per catch over his career at Cincinnati. In 2021, he had 52 catches for 884 yards and 8 TDs. He makes contested catches, and is now probably a lock for Day 2 with his combination of size and speed.

Danny Gray, SMU (6'0, 186, 4.33): Gray was a JUCO transfer who played two years at SMU. He had decent production in 2021, catching 49 passes for 803 yards (16.4 YPC) and 9 TDs. He is probably a developmental prospect who needs work as a route runner and catching the ball.

Bo Melton, Rutgers (5'11, 189, 4.34): Melton didn't put up great numbers playing in a crappy Rurgers offense, but he had a productive week at the Senior Bowl, and the 4.34 is eye-opening. In addition to possessing good speed, Melton breaks a lot of tackles for a player his size. Reminds me a little of a poor man's Brandin Cooks.

Christian Watson, North Dakota State (6'4, 208, 4.36): Watson consistently got open and caught the football at the Senior Bowl, and now he has a sub-4.4 40 to go along with his impressive size. Like Pierce above, because of his size-speed combo, Watson is a lock for Day 2.

Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (6'0, 183, 4.38): A week ago, Wilson was singled out by Daniel Jeremiah as being a good fit for the Eagles' offense, on the premise that he's a complete receiver who can win with speed or as a physical "play-above-the-rim" guy.

Chris Olave, Ohio State (6'0, 187, 4.39): When Olave initially ran his 40, he was clocked at 4.26. Had that stood, he'd be a top 10 pick. It was later adjusted to 4.39, which is obviously still good, but not otherworldly. Olave reminds me in some ways of DeVonta Smth, in that he has a slight build, he is an excellent route runner, and he makes difficult catches look easy. He does not possess Smith's contested catch traits, though is more of a deep threat than Smith, as he has good speed (duh) and ball-tracking ability. He won't remind anyone of Deebo Samuel or A.J. Brown in the run after catch department. He'll be a first-round pick.

Skyy Moore, Western Michigan (5'10, 195, 4.41): Moore had a very productive 2021 season, catching 95 passes for 1,292 yards and 10 TDs. Slot receiver prospect who could rise into Day 2 consideration.

Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa (6'3, 214, 4.42): Weston is a player I know very litttle about, but he obviously has intriguing size-speed measurables, and while he only had 37 catches in 2021, he averaged 23.9(!) yards per catch.

Jahan Dotson, Penn State (5'11, 178, 4.43): The Eagles could use an outside receiver with some size, and Dotson doesn't fit the bill at 5'11, 178, but he has speed, he runs good routes, and he has outstanding hands. Dotson isn't a candidate for one of the Eagles' three first-round picks, but he'll likely be gone by the time they pick again in the second round.

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