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The Around the NFL podcast runs the entire route tree poorly.


Welcome to another edition of Around the NFL. My name is Dan Hans. It's got heroes here. Greg Rosenthal, Mark Sesler. Very special edition of ATN. It is the one with the wide receiver in friend style. Boys, we're going to dive deep today on what is a very rich and promising wide receiver class. I will say this, Greggy, quarterback is always going to have the most juice, naturally, because they are the most important player. They can change the fortune and direction of a franchise immediately. The most recent example, of course, being C. J. Stroud in Houston. However, to me, it is wide receiver that gets my juice flowing in the sense of you want to fix your offense. You can do it overnight because these guys are now entering the league, and so many of them are instant number two, fringe number one guys. Some guys, the special ones are immediate superstars. So when you hear about this class in particular, it feels like we're going to get a couple of those this year and maybe more.


That's a great point, Dan. Receiver is on a rookie contract before a CD lay him until he's going to get paid whatever he's going to get paid this offseason is such a ridiculous value. And I think the contracts top right receiver are getting there, reflecting that after quarterback, if you had to pick one position that you think is the most valuable, It's either left tackle, receiver, or edge, but it might be number one, true number one receiver, and there's only so many of those. And that's a bit of a flip compared to what teams thought about 10, 15 years ago.


I also like I wonder if what we're experiencing with this draft class, and it certainly stands out wide or zero-wise from others, but they're getting better and better. And it's like, is this, at some point, the new norm? Because I think the one Starting to watch these guys, so many of them, usually it's like, Oh, he's really good at this, but he's got to work on this with NFL coaches to get up to stuff. So many of them look completely prepared to start right away. And we aren't that far away from a time when you could draft a wideout outside of the top one, two, or three. And they're ghosts until season two or even three sometimes. But these guys look ready to roll immediately, a big chunk of them.


They're out there doing those seven-on-sevens, and the quarterback camps and all that stuff, and they're practicing it on air. And it's why I take exception to the money drop. I can run an out route. It's Walker's favorite thing in the world. They go over to the middle school. They got a nice football field, which has some open... We're practicing quite a bit. We're I'm throwing routes, and I break off that route. I can get off press coverage.


Greg, what if you have a 6 to 200 and something pound cornerback jamming you at the line? How's your out route looking then?


I'm just going to duck under them. I do this little move. I slip under.


You're undersized. You're 45 years old. Let's know our limitations, bud. You can't play on the outside. You'd get manhandled.


The route tree is complete, though.


The idea of, again, you've I've been down on Hunter Renfro in the past. That's your ceiling, bud. You have to operate in that realm. I don't want to be the bear of bad news. I'm an inline tight-end blocker. I know. And maybe hit me in the red zone in a littleI'm in this direction, but at least I know who I am.


I see myself as a five, six, AJ Green.


To say that Hunter Renfro is Greg's ceiling, it's like the ceiling three stories up on a building from where Greg is or any.


I'm just trying to rein him in somewhat to reality.


Just saying I've been putting in some work lately.


Are you running these routes against your son again?


We spent way too much time. We got that football. You know that football where it's got the routes on the football?Yeah, I love that ball.So if I need to check, what's a five route? Let's do it. No, there's no defenders there.


Okay. And by the way, coming up just a little bit, Matt Harmon, he of the Reception Perception Fame. And we'll talk to Matt about what that means and which players are really jumping out to him. But before we get to Matt, yeah, I mean, every team can use a number one, right? Even the teams that have a number one. What's better than one number one? Two number ones. Second most important position, a backup quarterback. And the third most important, the third is the I'm back. I'm back. I'm calling it back. Charlie Casterly, where are you, buddy? Greg, who's a team or teams that really jump out to you that are going to be all over this wide receiver class when you look at what they currently have in house?


There were so many when we did this exercise. I wrote down no less than 14. It's crazy. As many good receivers have come in, so many need it. But Baltimore is one that I think is high profile that hasn't gotten a lot of attention. Zee flowers is not a one. Rashaad Bateman is not a two. Aguilar would probably be best as a four. So they're not going to find a one, most likely in this class. But man, they're counting a lot on Rashaad Bateman right now, and maybe they'll pick up a veteran at some point. But that is a high-profile team. And just staying in that division, too, you You look at Cincinnati, the most Cincinnati move in the world is just replacing Tyler Boyd one for one in this draft with a slot receiver. I could see that happening. And then Pittsburgh, they have one receiver. It's George Pickens, who hasn't exactly been the most reliable player in the world. And their two and three is, I don't even know who quit. They really don't have a two or a three. It's Quez Watkins, it's Calvin Austin, it's Van Jefferson. So that division, all those teams need receiver.


The Browns are the only team that looked pretty solid.


Yeah, cycling back to Baltimore, I trust the Ravens in so many ways in terms of roster building. But they've proven time and time again that they can't find a number one wide receiver if their franchise's life depended on it. Not that Zee flowers is a bad pick. No, he was a good pick. I think you're right that he has the ceiling to be even a Pro Bowl player, but he's maybe not the number one. You mentioned Rashaad Bateman. He was also a first-round pick. Is there a third first-round pick? Who's the other name you threw out there? Nelson Aguilar?


Not there anymore.


Aguilar settled in as a nice role player. He was with Philly, but he was another high for a high round pick. Odell Beckham, they brought in last year thinking he would fill a role, and that didn't really work out either. Would the Ravens go back to the well once again with the one blind spot when it comes to really identifying top-tier talent? I think you have to.


You've got You brought in Todd Monken, and they'd correctly addressed wide out a year ago. But then Odell Beckham's gone, and you're back where you started from. And this is the draft class to do it. I think there's a couple of teams, it's a little more overt, but I see coaches getting canned if they don't figure out what they're doing at wide out in some situations. The Arizona Cardinals, they've got a fringed number two type of guy and nobody else. And it's like they're in a weird place because everyone points to them as the team that's going to trade with the Vikings to get Minnesota up to number four to take their quarterback. But then it's like, okay, you pass on Marvin Harrison Jr. When the most important player in your franchise history in the modern day age was Larry Fitzgerald. You can go get that player, a version of that player again. It's like, I think Cardinal's fans, they're really split, and they're divided on like, wait, do we acquire picks and get lesser players, or do we get this guy who can change the franchise for 15 years, 12 years?


I'm It's worth you. I'll just talk that like, Oh, the bears, should they take Roma Dunzi at night? He's like, He's not getting there because there's too many teams in front that will be taking receiver, and the Cardinals are one of them. If the bears do have a chance to take them, they should because they need a receiver. Receiver. They've got DJ Moore, they've got Keenan Allen, who's a 32-year-old on a one-year contract and nothing else.


And I look at the AFC East, and the Dolphins are all set. They're loaded. They have maybe the best one, two punch in the league with Tyreek Hill and Waddle. But the Bills, their struggles to have a real wide receiver room were well-documented before they traded Stefan Diggs. So you would think they will be all over one of these prospects we're going to talk about with Matt Harmon in a bit. The The Patriots are a team that is screaming out for some juice. And who is it? Now, they're going to most likely target a quarterback at the top of the class, but they could use wide receiver help. And you imagine they're going to go hard at this group. Then the Jets who have Garrett Wilson, who is a budding superstar entering his third year, who could be a monster if Aaron Rodgers stays on the field. Mike Williams was, I thought, a nice move to bring him in, but you can't assume Mike Williams is going to stay healthy coming off an ACL all his issues. The Jets sitting where they are in the draft, I'm of the thought, if Joe Alt is there, who's as flawless as an offensive lineman prospect as you'll see, if he is off the board by the time the Jets pick at what?


8, I believe. I'm going and grabbing one of the... 10, is it? Sorry. I'm grabbing one of these wide receivers because one of these big guys will be there because of all the teams that are picking a quarterback at the top of the top 10. So that's a team that jumps out to me. You want to get as somebody who has obviously been struggling a little bit as a Jets fan after last year's harrowing season. If you pair Garrett Wilson with one of these gifted young players and then everything else they have, Brees Hall and Mike Williams is a three. I mean, you can really start to get excited. So we'll see if they go that route.


Yeah, the Colts are a team at 15 that I think are a nice spot. Brian Thomas Jr. To them is one of my favorite matches. But because of what you just said and because of going through the top 10 and thinking like, well, which team doesn't need a receiver here? I think he'll go higher than people expect, and we'll get to him a little more later. But the Titans, they could still use a receiver. I know everyone just thinks it's tackle, tackle, tackle. They could absolutely use a receiver on that team still. The Falcons could absolutely use a ride receiver. Even teams later in the draft, not that they're going to trade up for these top guys, but the 49ers have to think about the future replacing either Devo or Ayuk. The Lions, they love Ammon Ross, St. Brown, but he's an inside guy. Outside, it's like your Hope and Jamison Williams works out. It's Josh Reynolds. They need receivers. The Panthers are still short on weapons. They're just like so many teams to me. That's why I just think there's going to be, what, 12 receivers maybe go in the first two rounds? It's going to be a lot.


But you can't get this far and not mention the Chargers. I mean, this offseason has been a disaster on that front. I think it's one of those times where what the draft provides couldn't match more perfectly with the way football operates right now. You don't have to. It's not 1986. You don't have one wide receiver and a number two and a bunch of tight ends and fullbacks. You need four or five of these dudes.


Not to mention we're coming off a somewhat meh year from wide receiver in '23. Those teams that have been looking for wide receiver helped that weren't able to get it in most cases last year. So now it goes down that road. And I thought you were going to go in a different direction, Mark, in the AFC West. We cannot end this part of the conversation without mentioning the defending champion chiefs who pick in 32, who made a move and got Hollywood Brown, a move I wasn't in love with personally. And it seems so obvious to me that there's another move coming. My question is, do they sit where they are or do they really go aggressively up the board and try to get one of these big boys? Because that would be the talk of draft night if they do.


Get aggressive.


All right. Anybody else want to throw out another team?


You could just do that whole division because the Broncos, like the Bronco's sneaky, need everything, but they have Courtland, Sutton, and then just a lot of question marks. Tim Patrick, Mims. I mean, it's not the worst receiver group of the world, but again, there's so few of these teams that you couldn't see a second-round picket receiver helping.


I waited so long for it not to be a conversation anymore, but now that it's here and gone, I miss it. But you know, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Judy, they could be dynamic. Going to miss that conversation.


Are you?


You can still talk about him in Cleveland. Jerry, Judy, he's the long-term future as a Cleveland fan.


Are we cool with the Browns, Mark, with the Mark Cooper getting up there?


No, I'm not because I think what they've done is interesting. Judy and Elijah more represent players that haven't had breakout success on any level. They've been frustrating. You can see it a little potential, but other teams gave up on them. And Amari Cooper is getting up there in age. I thought he had a great year last year, but that team has to feel as all in with their financial situation, everything else as anyone out there. But they don't have a lot of draft picks, but I would absolutely want them to get a wide receiver.


You know who really helps them in that realm as a playmaker? That David Njoku. He's quite a player, Mark.


He's a good player. I've come around on that.


All right. With that said, let's take a quick break. And When we come back, we will have Matt Harmon to break down some of the young wide receiving talent about to flood into the league. All those teams we just talked about, many of them, well, all of them, we're going to be jockeying for these guys, and we'll find out in a couple of weeks who gets them. We'll be right back.


To the end zone.




Touchdown, Harrison again.


Rising to the occasion is Norman Harrison Jr. Bowers heading to the end zone.


Man, is he devastating after the count? That's Brock Bowers. There's the shot to a Tuesday. And it's caught on Tuesday. Malik Nabors. My, oh, my. Malik Nabors is just lighting it up this morning. The catch made by Brian Thomas. He's got another countdown. Just straight speed from Brian Thomas. How pretty was that?


Welcome back. Yes, it's the one with the wide receiver's episode. And we just talked about What teams are going to be aggressive on draft weekend? Targeting wide receiver, the teams that make sense. But now let's talk about the wide receiver themselves that are entering the league, and it's a potentially historic wide receiver class. We You think wide receiver, boys, and you think the NFL, and you think about route trees, and you think about the receptions, but you think about the perception, don't you, as well? Matt Harmon, welcome back to around the NFL.


Oh, man, Dan, thank you for that intro. I got to think about stealing that for the start of our own podcast. That is pretty good. So I'll have my lawyers talk to your lawyers, and maybe we'll come to an agreement on buying that IP there.


No problem working a little bit blue to make a point. Matt, of course, a former colleague of ours at NFL Media was a fantasy guy, and as he was a fantasy guy, he created the mythology Reception Perception, which has its own website, which you could check out. Matt is all over that and also, of course, does writing and analysis for Yahoo. Matt, welcome back to the show. It's always good to see a friend. Yes, even though you said it before we came on, I'm now going to steal that little bit of pre-show banter. You've moved away from the swoosh hair style. Then I saw you when we lived together in El Segundo before you moved back east. You said, I'm a hack guy now, and that surprised me, quite frankly, as a fellow follicle guy, disappointed me. Now you got Travis, Kelsey, fade. It looks like you're not a hat guy after all.


I would say I'm like a fifty-fifty. When the weather is nice and you're doing a lot of sweating, it's nice to have the hat. That's good. That's a nice call. Look, Dan, see, you're a gifted hair guy or follicle guy in your words, and you're wearing the hat right now. It's good to be able to do both. Versatility as you get older is important.


It's not an incredible upset that we've spent the first 40% of this interview talking about Dan's hair.


Also, we're too old to do the Travis, Kelsey. At least I'm speaking for myself. I'm much too old, but you pull it off. You look like you could be the unathletic third brother of the Kelsey.


I think I'll take minor offense to the unathletic part because I do like to say that I work out. I'm a gym guy as well. But at the same time-You're the two Hall of Famers, Matt. Well, listen, if I hit my peak a little earlier, I think I could have gotten there. No, but in all seriousness, I just want to say for the record, I don't want to call it the Travis Kelsi. You guys can call it the Travis Kelsey, but officially, it's not the Travis Kelsey. Just to get that on the record.


What is it? Because my haircut is the modified gentleman's contour, famously. What is yours called?


It's just a fade. Just a regular old fade. Okay.


But enough honking. Let's focus up. Hair is great, but these wide receivers, my own, Harmon. Can you give people that maybe are not familiar with the reception-perception model, like how you came to study the game this way, wide receiver's and playmakers this way, and what it tells you, and then we'll get into some of the players in this draft class, which obviously have to be very exciting for what you do.


Yeah, wide receiver business is booming right now, that's for sure. But what Reception Perception is, is the methodology that I created around 2013, 2014. 2014 was the first year that I tracked league-wide data with reception perception or close to league-wide data. I'm not charting every single player in the league, and certainly not every single college prospect, that's for sure. But what I do is I go in over eight-game sample for NFL or college prospects when the film is available and chart every single route they run, where they line up, really try to give you a view of what a wide receiver is doing in isolation, because all those years ago, my thought was, you're lucky if you're a receiver, you get 8-10 targets a game, but you're running 30 plus routes a game. You're playing 60 plus snaps a game if you're a true number one guy. And we all know that wide receiver production is so inherently dependent on quarterback, it's dependent on pass protection, it's dependent on the environment that they're in. And we know this more now, even maybe more than we did 10, 11 years ago, that a wide receiver is not a wide receiver.


These guys are so different, even if they all have W-R next to their names. So perception, perception through that charting data that I'm the only one doing the charting. James Co, my business partner, would I'd love to maybe take some of that work off my hands. He'd love to add some more people to the team, but to me, you got to pride the charting away from my cold, dead hands, man. That's why I love to do this, is actually the grunt work of it. But through that charting data, it tries to give you a real picture of who a wide receiver is in isolation away from their production for a variety of different reasons. Try to categorize these guys, try to understand them within their roles. And obviously, for fantasy fans, you want to try to spot a breakout before it's coming.


I was going to ask you real quick, have you, the same way PFF started their own way to track, mythologize, play, have you had NFL teams or scouts of that ilk reach out to you about what you do?


Every now and again, if there are any NFL folks wanting to pay me a bag that listen to this show, I'd gladly do. You guys know this as big media bros, consulting work. That's where it's at. Hire me as your consultant. I'd love to do it. I don't know if that would require me taking information off the site to my loyal subscribers. But really, I'm a man of the people, Mark. I'm out there for the folks that can afford a $30 subscription to learn about wide receivers. Hey, if it works out, it works out.


Whenever I meet somebody and they tell me they're a consultant, they're almost always very wealthy. So that's something I want to get into one day. All right, so with that in mind, let's get into it. And we built up the ATN heroes here, some superlatives, and we're going to tee you up, and you Can you tell us which one of these prospects? Because we're hearing, what, three out of the top eight picks maybe to start the draft. Could be wide receiver. It's maybe even better than that. We'll see. But it's not just the big three. There's a lot of talent in this draft. So let's start here. The 2024 Reception Perception Man Crush Award winner is.


I'll just start off with Roma Dunzé there, because to me, I don't watch college football on Saturdays. I'm a happily married man, and I already ruin three days of the week with NFL well work. It would be hard to justify to Mrs. Harmon like, Hey, I'm going to ruin one more day of the week by watching a bunch of college football. It's something that doesn't really have anything to do with my job. So I'm not super familiar with these players before watching them for the draft. Other than, obviously, I knew Marvin Harrison Jr. 'S name and knew the hype around that particular player. So coming into this process, I didn't really know anything about these guys. But the first time I put on the film of Roma Dunzé, I mean, whatever superlatives you have for this exercise, boys, I could probably say Rome's name for most of them because I think he is just so good everything. I think he's an extremely clean prospect. He lines up on the line of scrimage as a true X receiver, which is not something we could say about last year's draft class. Last year's draft class, it was a lot of guys like Jackson Smith and Jigba, Zee flowers, even Jordan Addison, these guys that were going to play off the ball and be more of the complementary players.


All three of the top receivers in this draft class are not of that elk, although Malik Nabors doesn't really line up as that true ex. But specifically, Rome, he's just out there doing NFL things, running NFL routes. I love The way he gets off the line of scrimage against press coverage, I think he's a great separator. Really underrated as a separator because he has all these contested targets on his resume. But a lot of that is the fact he's running downfield routes. He has a quarterback who's willing to trust him in those tight areas. To me, he just looks like I did prospect comparisons, like aggressive and cautious comps for a Yahoo video series this year. My cautious comp for him was Allen Robinson, like another guy that just... You can line him up at X back in his prime, and you could win there. It's short intermediate, but also be a contested catch threat. My aggressive comp for him was Devante Adams, another guy that wins at all three levels, great route runner, nice separator, pretty like a solid tackle breaker after the catch, and obviously someone you could throw to in contested situations.


Hey, you funnel 30% of your offense to this guy, and you never think twice about it. I do think at his peak, Rome could be that guy.


Here's a comp from Daniel Jeremiah. He sees Larry Fitzgerald as a comp coming out of college, which is obviously high praise, too. That's a Hall of Famer. Mark.


Yeah, I was just going to say, watching him, the contested catches stand out. I feel like he had defenders in his Beehive, and he'd come down with the ball. But also, a lot of it is with these college guys. You've got these quarterbacks paired with Michael Penix Jr. I felt like they had 10,000 catches or a combination that were 40 yards downfield where it just was like, he could do no wrong. And I'm with you. I came away just in love with this guy. So I love what you said.


Yeah, there's so many... You mentioned the extra receiver, even the ones further on, and we'll get to them. It seems like compared to the last couple of classes, there's six, seven guys that you could see as number ones. The thing I was worried about going into it, and you can tell me how the reception perception worked out for Roma Dunes. It was whenever the first thing you hear is contested catch guy, that's been almost been a red flag for players in the last handful of years. Jake London is a bit of an exception. I think he's made his style of play work in the NFL, and he's gotten better. But you're seeing Adunze maybe a little more subtle with his route running, a little more versatile than maybe just positioning him. And he's turned into wide receiver three. We'll see if the NFL agrees with that or not. But he's landed as a three, even though at the beginning of the process, guys like Jeremiah maybe had him as high or higher than Harrison or neighbors. It doesn't feel like a lot of people believe he's going to go ahead of them. You seem to think he's a little more versatile, though, and you would put him ahead of him, would you?


I had a long internal debate with myself. My war room up here, me and the two dogs, we had a long internal debate of who was the wide receiver one in this class, which to me, I think I was close to making it Rome. I eventually maybe just broke a few ties in favor of Marvin Harrison, but Rome is the second guy to me, and Malik Nabors is the third guy. Now, my mission statement with this draft class, these top three guys in particular, these guys are all so close. They're all great prospects. To me, they're all tier one prospects on my stacked board for the last four classes. So you like this guy or this guy? That's fine with me. You want to take this trait over that trait? Also fine with me. It's reminiscent. You brought up Drake London. To me, this is reminiscent a little bit to that draft class, where you could put Drake number one, you could have put Garrett Wilson number one, you could have put Chris Alabe number one, and I would have been fine with that. Ultimately, I went with that year, the route running Kraft guy, which was Chris Alavi, and then Drake London, then Garrett Wilson to me.


I think I'd probably flip that up now that they're in the NFL. But I see this group is very similar to that. It depends what type player and what number one receiver you value in terms of a traits perspective. But yeah, on the separation part of it, it was a very similar exercise with Drake London, where you actually had to watch him on film and see the routes develop. No, this is a guy that is getting open early in the routes and maybe gets thrown into some of these contested situations. Terry McLaurin is always high in the NFL in terms of percentage of contested targets, but I don't find any issues with his separation. I think he's just played with some erratic quarterback play. And Michael Pendex is a good quarterback, but he is a little bit of an erratic pastor down the field as well.


All right, I'll throw it out. And look, Rome could have been the answer to this, but now you're going to have to pick someone else. All right, the wide receiver in this class that would have been number one would have been the number one receiver in last year's class.


You could go with any of the top three guys. I think you could honestly make an argument that even Brian Thomas and JSN have similar grades in terms of last year's draft class. But I'll say Malik Nabors as the obvious guy here. Another one that to me is my wide receiver three, but easily with a bullet would have had a tear break between him and any of the players last year. Nabors is very fun. He's an easy player to love because I think it takes three of the way is to see, oh, this guy's different from an explosiveness standpoint. Like I mentioned, that 22 class, I'll bring it up here again, that he's the Garrett Wilson of that draft class to me, where he's a little bit of like a wild horse route runner. He's not the most refined player, but he's so explosive with the ball in his hands. And if he just continues to develop, you have a lot of confidence, just like I think Garrett Wilson has developed into a true number one at the NFL level. I think neighbors could do that, too.


One thing noticing watching him is I love seeing the body language of the poor individual that's forced to try to cover him because it's the way that you watch a sprinter at the end of a race where he's bending his upper body forward to try to hit the tape first. And these cornerbacks are losing control of their bodies. And he's catching passes nine or 10 yards ahead of them. And I just think he's the guy that could break someone's spirit by the end of the first quarter in the NFL.


He seems so reliable but so flashy at the same time. I mean, maybe it is the LSU thing, and I'm just a simpleton, but he really did remind me of Odell, or a little bigger Steve Smith type, where he's just got such a natural feel as a runner, and he has great hands. So I hear you that maybe it's a little rough around the edges, running routes or something, but he just It becomes very easy to project in any of these systems that he doesn't need to even get any better to just immediately just put a thousand yards plus up there.


The only thing with him that's different from these top two receivers is he does play out of the slot the most, which, I mean, who cares? It's not that big of a deal, but 50.3% of his sampled snaps in reception perception came from the slot. He was more of a split between on the ball or off the ball, but that's totally fine. You can funnel your offense through that player. But it's similar to DJ Moore coming out of the NFL draft, but a 2X version of that type of player, where he was rough around the edges from a route running perspective, but he was explosive, and you could see that he was going to develop that in the league. That's why I'm not... I I'm not docking him out of my first tier of prospects because he's just the least refined of these three players. He's also not even 21 yet. I don't think he turns 21 until after he's drafted. So he's a guy that you do feel pretty good about that growth. But like you said, Greg, his explosiveness and his ability to break tackles, which in my opinion, is easily the best in this class, and I think it's actually the best of the last three classes, his ability to make plays in the open field, that gives you a floor for any...


If you're a team like the Giants, which I know it's weird with the Giants because They... A lot of things are weird with the Giants, but they have a lot of these slot guys, right? Guys who have played mostly inside, and Neighbors is a mostly inside guy at LSU. But it feels like they need someone to just say to Danny Dimes or maybe If you drew lock at some point, like this is your first read, he's going to run a crossing route or a dig route, something like that, and you just get the ball to him and worry about the rest later, it feels like a good way to start to build a foundation on your offense.


That's the Jets offense with Garret Wilson in the last two years, basically. Yes.


Yeah, correct. Which is why I see those two guys similarly.


All right, here's one for you. I'm not Marvin Harrison Jr, Malik Nabors, or Roma Dunzé, but I have the best chance to put up number one type numbers as a rookie.


If we're just talking numbers, depending on where he's drafted, I think it's got to be Brian Thomas, who's the consensus wide receiver for, he's my wide receiver for in this draft class. I don't know if he has... He definitely has the ceiling of a number one, but I think he probably projects best as a high-end number two. He only runs three routes. I mean, in his reception perception sample, 67 % of his routes were a slant, a curl, or a go route, and that's it.


It doesn't mean he can't learn it. Haven't we learned that with wide receivers in these weird systems that they can learn it when they get there?


I was just going to say, but at the same time, his success rate on a wide variety of other routes is really high. I think he does show the skills to expand that route tree. But it gives you... If you look back at D. K. Metcalf's rookie season, 67 % of the routes that he ran as a rookie was a slant, a curl, or a go route. I think That's the development plan for Brian Thomas. But if he lands with the right offense, I think about the Colts at 15 make a lot of sense. You have a guy in Michael Pitman that you're going to throw the ball to a ton in the short to intermediate area, and then you have Brian Thomas just ripping you on the routes that you wanted Alec pierce to win on. That makes a lot of sense to me. Just from a pure numbers perspective, I think he could put up number one numbers and then maybe eventually grow into that player.


He's the guy I was hoping you would say for the last one because I don't have many draft takes. I'm personally a student who's just studying for the test at the very last minute and then is overconfident going into it. But my one overconfident take is you can't take Brian Thomas Jr. Too high. If I didn't know anything about it, I'm just basic, but I didn't know anything about where these guys were, and you just watch Brian Thomas's six games, you're like, Wait, why is he not a top five pick? Why is he not? Because his stop and start and his ability to move so smoothly at that size is just insane. It's just as insane. I see his ceiling in a perfect world where it all went well is just as high as those other guys. I get it. He used to be a basketball player. He ran a limited amount of routes. Some of these deep threats from the SEC, like Jamo, haven't totally worked out. But a guy that huge that can run like that, that can stop like that. He looked like Nico Collins, to me, looks now. Nico Collins is great now.


I was like, If he looks that good now and he's this age and his testing is off the charts, he could be Nico Collins plus plus, which is a top 10 receiver. I wouldn't be shocked if the Falcons or one of those teams takes him in the top 10 just because of the way he looks. If Adunze goes early, I don't see why he wouldn't go ahead of some of these defensive players or tackles, too. But maybe I'm stupid.


You're not stupid, Greg, but I think the good thing with Brian Thomas is... That's a drop. The good thing with Brian Thomas is you also saw him get better throughout the year, right? I think a lot of analytic models will ding him because he only has this one big year of production. But that production, number one, was earned. Number two, you saw him on film get better. The September routes are not as good as the December routes. The later games, he's getting better and better. He's already making that development, that projection that you want him to make. And I just love the idea of him across from a competent number one So that Atlanta spot makes a lot of sense, too, where you're getting the most out of him. And then, Drake London's your Michael Pitman from the example that I gave earlier.


All right. So along those similar lines to Mark's question. So we've now hit on the Mount Rushmore here, if you will, of prospects at this position. Let's talk superlative for sleeper stud. So who's flying under the radar here a bit as a 2024? I'm not saying superstar or number one wide receiver, but a guy that steps in and is an immediate difference maker, like a Nico Collins, and then he develops and turns into a star. Who is the difference maker that people aren't talking about?


I really like Ricky Pearsall. He's my favorite guy that's in a few tiers down. Fun player. I think he's a really good route runner. To me, he seems like a guy that's just going to be a quarterback's best friend very early on because he's really good on slant routes and flat routes and these just routes around the line of scrimage. But he's got legit juice down the field. He's a guy that you see on film play all three positions. So you see him a little bit I think his most likely home in the NFL is going to be as a flanker slot, like a guy that moves between those two positions. Someone that I think has that floor that you're talking about early on, Dan, where he just gets open against manzone coverage. It's a little more average around press, but again, there are ways to hide that. You get him working around the line of scrimage. He's a quarterback's best friend. He's always at the right landmarks. He's always at the right place in terms of where you want him from a route running perspective. But I do see the upside for him to develop into a 120 type of target player in year two, year three.


I think that there's a chance that he goes higher than people think just because he checks a lot of athletic measurements as well that you really want to see. So he's been a guy that outside of the first couple tiers of this class that I've really gravitated to from, I don't know, a sleeper perspective, because more people are talking about him now than they were at the beginning of the process, but definitely a player I like.


It's the draft process. Everyone talks about everyone at some point. I'm almost disappointed, though, that he was your answer because he's really one of only two options for my next category story, which is just white guy that Mark is going to fall in love with. There's really only two guys, probably towards the top of the draft, unless I double date.


Yeah, but Greg, it's the other guy, so you set the table well.


Oh, okay. Well, it's up to Matt, though, to guess.


There's no way the guy isn't Lad McConkey.


I mean, there's just no way. It's got to be. But the best part about Lad McConkey is that- Somewhere, Zack Zenner just got a shiver, and he's like, Someone is thinking of me. Wasn't Zack? Zack Zenner was in the news for something recently.


In 2006, during the preseason, maybe.


No, I swear to God, I saw something about he went back to school or started a business or something. Oh, good. I'll deep dive that for you, I can send you the article after the show. But yeah, Lad McConkey, the great part about him is that he's not just your typical lunch pale, gritty white slot receiver. The guy legitimately wins on deep routes. Actually, in terms of reception perception, And the game sampled here, he was more of an outside receiver. You saw him play a lot more. Now, he does struggle against press coverage. He does struggle in like, contested situations. But again, those are things you can get around from a deployment perspective. You can move him inside. You can also move him off the ball. So many of these receivers now, I think, are going to have their worlds opened up by how much motion is going on in the NFL right now, especially these full speed motions that a lot of smart coaching staffs are using. So McConkey could be a guy there, but I think he runs the best out routes in the class, just pure selling vertical routes, and then I break to the outside.


That's Lad McConkey to me. His success rate on out routes is among the best in the class. It's among the best of the last few years. So when I was trying to think of a comp for him and go beyond the gritty white slot receiver comp, because I don't really think that's how he plays. I went into the RP database and looked like, who has some of the best out routes since 2014? And Tyler Locket popped up as a comparison player. And I think that's the the bucket that Lad fits into. If he can play inside, he can also play outside, and he's more a speed-based slot receiver when you do line him up there.


I've got one for you. If you, Matt Harmon, had to write a Shakespearean sonnet to... Not one of the stars that we've talked about, but a girl-next-door type of wide receiver, that's a weird way to put it. But just A little under the radar, who would you pen this on it to of your affections?


Pearsall would have been an option, but I'm intimidated by the leg tattoo. So I'll go with Malik Washington, who actually went to school in Charlottesville, near where I live now in Virginia Beach. Guys, just a fun player. I don't know what the ceiling is for a smaller receiver like this that really only has one year of major production. But he's got fantastic hands. He breaks a ton of tackles. He plays bigger than his size. So if I was writing that sonnet to a player, I definitely think I'd pick Malik Washington as the deeper sleeper here.


It shows how hard this class is crazy because it feels like six receivers could go in the first round or something, but it almost feels like there's nine or 10 guys who could be... There's five or six guys who could be that fifth or sixth, and there's not really a consensus who it's going to be. And then that means there could be 10 to 13 through two rounds. Malik Washington is not a name I've even heard as probably in the first three rounds. There's 15 to 17 guys. And it really seems like there's a lot of disagreement where there could be 10 to 12 guys that could go anywhere from pick 25 to pick 75, which is just crazy in terms of what flavor. If you're running a team, which guy who's athletic do you not really trust? Like an awesome athlete that maybe is in that bucket of like, he could go pretty high, but that you're not really feeling?


I haven't really had that... Well, I don't really have any true full field athlete. I do think that the Xavier-worthy 421, the speed part of it, if that pushes him up in the first round, that's going to make me just a little bit nervous. I think he's much better at doing real wide receiver things than some of these other smaller speed-based receivers, but he's just not good at contested situations. He's a guy that's going to have to be used in one of these specialized roles where he's full speed motion at the snap. That's definitely great. Teams want viable target earners in that position now. So I can see the vision there depending on the coaching staff, but there are just a lot of other receivers that I prefer in terms of that can give you high volume type of season. So he's one that if he went in the first round, I'd be a little nervous. If you went in the second round, I'm like, all right, I see where your vision is there.


To that point, I'm totally with you. A player like that with that skill set and that flash, where he ends up is so important. And what coaching staff and what the surrounding talent is. You have to have a scheme that knows how to use a player like that. You hit on a question Greggy I had, I was asking who to you might be more Laquan Treadwell well than Justin Jefferson. So is there a guy out there other than 421 that jumps out to you as someone that you think is like, oh, if I were running a team, I'm staying away? Or are you just like this class enough where there aren't a lot of red flags out there?


There's not a lot of red flags in terms of the early guys because I know some people don't like AD Mitchell, the other receiver from Texas. I actually like him better than Xavier worthy, just because I think you see him do real NFL X receiver things. And he's definitely a volatile prospect, but I can understand chasing the upside there. The guy that I've been back and forth on where my feeling on him changes depending on the game that I chart is Xavier Laguette, who some people do have as a late first-round pick. To me, that's definitely pretty rich, despite the fact that he's got great tackle-breaking ability, and he He has an ability to get open on certain routes. At that size, it's very impressive to see him working out there. But at the same time, I do think he is a developmental player that might take a few years. And even that type of average separator is typically... It matters even more where he ends up because you've got to find the right quarterback to see that vision if he's going to be an outside player, which I do think is going to be the case.


I look at another guy, Keion Coleman, who's not a Separator, but if you look at his reception perception profile, and I won't bore you guys with the very hardcore percentile stats with this.


Get dirty. Get dirty with the numbers.


That's a drop. I was going to say there's another drop. But over the last few draft classes I've charted, there's a handful of players that have been below the 35th percentile in success rate versus man, zone, and press coverage, or at least two of the three. Almost all of them have been total flameouts except five guys, and they've all become big slot receivers. Rashe Rice was an outside receiver who didn't really get open. He moved inside in the NFL, found career success in year one. Amon Ross-St. Brown, he was good against zone coverage, but wasn't really great against man and press coverage. As an outside receiver at USC, moves in the slot, has a great has a great career, obviously. Juju Smith-Huster, another one, struggled, beaten man press coverage outside as a collegiate player, was a big slot receiver in his good years with the Pittsburgh Sealers. I see that vision with Keion Coleman, where he's a guy that is below that 35th percentile mark in and press coverage. But it's a pretty solid zone beater, and he's pretty good on these routes, like dig routes and slant routes. And so the right team takes him that has a coaching stat, like the Chiefs, they take Rashe Rice.


I talked to Rashe Rice at the Super Bowl, asked him, When did the vision of you becoming this receiver, a big slot receiver, when did that materialize? And he said it was right after he was drafted. And like Brett Veach talked about in the post-draft pressure, they saw him as a juju replacement for them, which was weird to me because he was mostly a pure outside receiver in college. So the right team takes Kean Coleman and has that vision for him. I can see that working out with Laguette because he's a ball winner and he theoretically is more of a straight line athlete, in my opinion. I think he has to be an outside receiver. And in that case, it's going to take the right team to really maximize that skill set.


He looks like the freakiest maybe of any of these players. It's a little worrisome that you're a fifth-year senior that, for various reasons, didn't have production before you were 23 playing against some 19-year-olds. But if you just look at this man running down the field, he looks like D. K. Metcalf or A. J. Brown. So some team is going to fall in love with that at some point and just try to make it work.


And don't forget, Greg, that Tommy Callahan, son of Big Tom Callahan, after a rough start on the road with his colleague, ended up making Callahan's break pads hugely successful in Tommy Boy. Just because he was an eighth-year senior, as I recall, and Tommy did just fine in the end.


That was a trench in point, Dan.Thank you.That's nicely done. Thank you.


Last thing before we let you go, Matt, because I know you're busy. Wither, Brock Bowers.


I don't chart tight ends, man.


No, I love it. I love it. I love the man that draws a line in the sand. What about after last year?


Last year was a great year for the tight ends.


The man has a code. Respect the code. Respect the methodology.


It is a serious code because the Kyle Pitz bros have been banging on my door for years now about, Where's our Kyle Pitz reception perception chart? And I have two reasons why I only stick to the wide receiver position. One is the statistical reason that I've been doing reception perception now on these wide receivers for 10 plus years. I've been working on this for a long time. I have a very understanding of what the data Very good understanding of what the data shows us. You score this against man coverage. I understand where your position should be. I should understand what thresholds are, all that type of stuff. To start a whole new database with tight ends, we're starting from square one. The second reason is, can If I can work blue on this show, I got enough on my plate. I got enough wide receivers on my plate. You mentioned it, Greg, there's going to be guys that come off the board in the third round that I'm not going to have a route chart for, and it's going to make me nervous. It's going to make me feel weird.


Harmon, let's be fair, though. We began this conversation with you saying, James Co, your partner with Reception Perception, who, by the way, is one of the great showmen and hosts, but he wants a bite at the apple, and he wants to start studying. He wants to start charting. Give him tight ends. Throw him that bone. Let's expand the property.


I would love to. James, this is your call. Step up to the plate, buddy. Contribute to the charting here. I mean, listen, this is what we did with Derek Klasson, who does great work on quarterbacks. I was like, Hey, Derek, is a free agent, not working for football outsiders anymore. Let's get him to chart quarterbacks for receptionperception. Com. And that's what he does now. So aspiring tight-end whisperer out there. This is your call. Come chart tight ends for reception perception, and that's how we'll get it done.


Yeah, I just don't. I don't think tight-end perception is going to work well on certain corners of the internet, but that's okay. You couch inside of your success.


Or it'll work great.


I was going to say-It'll work great, but it may not.


That's a little backdoor entry to get into the data. Nailed it. Matt Harmon @mattharman_byb on Twitter. Sorry, Mark X. Also, check him out on Yahoo, and of course, receptionperception. Com, which has everything in the wide receiver realm. And if we're lucky, tight ends very soon. Matt, you're the best, buddy.


Appreciate you, boys, for having me. Yeah, this is awesome. And can't wait to see where these guys actually get drafted, and then we can have a real conversation about how they're going to play. Oh, I can't wait.


Thank God. Miss you, Matt. Get me a draft.Thank.


You.bye, Matt.I miss you guys, too.


See you.


All right, let's take a break. And when we come back, we'll put a button on this one. All right, we'll Welcome back. I got to get me myself a mythology. I mean, if we had more time-You do have a mythology.


I think you're talking about a methodology. You've created quite a mythology.


Oh, mythology.


Yeah. Methodology is, I think, what you want. Methodology?


Methodology. Methodology. Mythology.


That's what you got.


You've got that down. I think the methodology part of it, I'm just letting you know. I think you've got a lot going on, too, just like Matt was saying. It would probably take about 100 plus hours a week to create some rival site to this. You starting it back in 2013 would have been a wise move. Are you ready to take that on now?


Well, it's just like, how does one come up with a methodology? How does that originate within one's own brain? That, to me, is something that I aspire to have an idea come into my mind that makes me think, not only is this an interesting idea, this might be a methodology.


I mean, this is not the way you use the word methodology. You have done that, Dan. This is that podcast. The way you created eight different episodes of the shows and heighten certain characteristics from other people. That is your methodology. That's very nice. That's the correct usage.


But that's not what I'm thinking of. I want something like Matt has where people come off like, Whoa, that guy is smart. That guy has his own methodology. People are listening to ATN and be like, Whoa, Dan really nailed his methodology this week.


But part of your mythology is this state-mandated math test that you flagged hardcore. Did you say mythology? Part of your mythology, though, is the fact that you're notoriously ill at math, that you don't have any skills at math, so you can't market. You'd have to reverse market that.


That's true. Okay, let's talk about Zack Zenner real quick. Undrafted rookie out of South Dakota State, Mark. The preseason rushing leader in 2016 when he rushed for a buck 83 on 35 totes, 5.2 yards per carry. It didn't really translate He is late, and Zack is obviously long gone from the league, but he is active on social media. I just came across this late in our conversation with Maddie. Here it is, Zack Zenner, 31. Follow him. When someone tells me, I don't have time, I think they don't have a strategy. I had 25 minutes to eat lunch and shower and no prepped food, parentheses, yesterday. Put two salmon filets in the air fryer, showered, then ate it with some veggies and supplements. Still made my 2:00 PM. Part two. Was it my best meal? No. But I got my protein in, and the nutrients came from unprocessed wholefood sources. The key was that I had a plan in case I didn't have time to prepare my typical lunch. Strategies and plans are crucial for any goal, especially healthy and wellness. There you go. Zack is on the path to... He's got his own methodology around health, fitness, and wellness.


He's on that path in life.


I think if If you look back on it, from a certain angle, I properly scouted him.


Which angle would that be exactly?


We're 10 years later, and he couldn't be more successful. He's writing long mantras about air fryers and showering, and he's got He got almost 4,000 views on that first tweet.


I'm sure he's a blast at parties. He was in the news recently, as Matt said, that he's taking his MCAT, and he actually has a nutrition company, and he wants to be an agent. He's got a lot of things going on, and now we've got some white receivers to fill his place. I was surprised he went Pearsall there, too, by the way, because Pearsall was a guy that didn't get me going watching him, because those It's a cliché to say that the white guys fit better in the slot, and they tested out of the gym.


There's got to be a better way to put that.


Well, but it's true.


What do you mean?


Well, go on. That's a big That's a cliché that you put the white guys in the slot. There's not many white outside receiver for a long time. And these guys have crazy athletic scores. But Pearsall really is a slot guy, and that limits, I think, where we would go. And McConkey, he mentioned, was not beating outside press coverage. Was not the type of receiver that you would normally see go on. But he snaps, he moves well, and some teams are going to phone.


Don't you think McConkey is pretty fun to watch? I didn't spend hours in it yet. Great after the catch.I could see him working out for teams.Is.


He connected to the former Giants great?Who.


Had the circus catch in '21?He's not. That's what got me. That's what put me in the doorway because I was like, Is he related to Phil McConkey? And no, there's no relation.


Really? How about that catch in '21? According to the Internet, I guess if you dug deep into the family tree, I'm sure there is, but it's not like his son or something. Big funk, can you dig deep into the McConkey family tree and see if the former New York Giants wide receiver, teammate of Sean Landena, I believe, Mark, who had a circus catch in Bowl 21 against the Denver Broncos, if he is related in any way to the highly lauded draft prospect, Lad McConkey. Lad, L-A-D-D, McConkey. Thank you. Anything else, boys?


It was fun. It's such a crazy draft that there's guys like Troy Franklin. He's got an outside chance to get drafted in the first round. We didn't even mention Harrison or whatever. It's almost hard to figure out which one is which guy here. Texas, for instance, has two. We mentioned that could both go in the first round in worthy and AD Mitchell. There's just guy upon guy upon guy. That's good because as we talked about, there's a million teams that have needs at the position.


You're right. It feels almost strange not to dig in on Marvin Harrison Jr. In this episode, the one with the wide receiver. But I will say this, he is number two on Daniel Jeremiah's top 50 2024 NFL prospects that he just put out. And I don't agree with the decision, but I don't have full control of things. We will have Jeremiah on the show next week, and let's dig in on Harrison when he is with us. One last thought, because we have so many potentially high-end wide receiver, or certainly, at the very least, sought-after wide receiver. And a reminder that not everything works. And of course, Matt Harmon going to be tracking this on RP, Reception Perception, and a lot of these guys are going to pop, but sometimes it just doesn't translate. I thought about with this many wide receiver, this position, if you probably really do the dive, it's probably not that out of the ordinary. It certainly happens with the quarterback position for obvious reasons. But teams can go on runs in the first round. Two years come to mind. 2023, last year, four straight wide receiver. Seattle took JSN at 20.


The chargers took Quentin Johnson at 21. Baltimore took Zé flowers at 22, and then Jordan Addison went to the Vikings at 23. And then I had mentioned Laquan Treadwell, who did not work out for Minnesota. He was part of another run in 2016 when Houston took Will Fuller at 21, Washington took Josh Doxon at 22, and then Treadwell at 23. None of those guys really made it. Well, Fuller almost did, but then disappeared. Strange. I wonder if we're going to get that, if we're going to get this We are another one where we get a run of three or even four guys in a row.


I think we will, but I think that's what we're going to get. I know it looks like the best class we've ever had during our show, clearly, but 40% of them aren't going to be on the same team for years from now.


Receiver is different, though. Receiver has hit well. You look at that AJ Brown class, and granted, those guys, it was crazy because they went in the second, and McLaren was in the third. They were all over the place. To me, it's hit higher level than other positions. And the difference this year is I'm pretty confident Brian Thomas would have gotten drafted over all those receiver last year, and he's four here. I think he'll go top 12, top 15. So it is a better class than I think we've seen in the last few. Then there'll be some boomer bust guys after that.


Well, and a rookie wide receiver contract is very valuable, too. But I'm just saying, I'm telling you, let's talk in four years and see where we are. They're not all going to be starters and number one dudes.


All right, Mark, we get it.I mean, life is tough.I.


Don't know because I'm even like...Life is tough.I was looking at...


But we don't have to dwell on it.


Because I was looking at the draft class from just three years ago, and I find it relatively It's going to be depressing.


Which one?


Just in general, what's happened to tons of players that we were squawking about. I get it. I'm not trying to go down that path, but it's like-Oh, Mark.


You cynical son of a bitch. What?


I'm with you, though, I think it's like-I'm with you.


I said it first, but we don't need to hammer it home. That many of these guys will not play.


I'm tapping it. I'm just touching it. All right.


How about 2022? It'd be the closest comp, but this one would probably be viewed as better. Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Olavy. I mean, those are all hits.


How about that? I'm not talking about the first five guy. We're talking about there's 16, 20 people. The comps for the bottom 10 are... A lot of them are just normal wide receiver. So whatever. We'll see. We talk in half a decade. I will be right.


Yes, we will circle back in exactly half a decade. Finally, one bit of update here. Big Funk, who never shies away from any challenge, including incredible Photoshop work on the 2024 San Diego Greybeard's Media Guide. He has an update, according to Randy. This is a direct quote. There is no reported relation between '80s McConkey and '2020's McConkey.


Well, that was what Mark said. That was my report in it.


Right, but we threw it to Randy. If it makes it feel more official, Randy is officially going on record that there is no relation.


Well, I appreciate Randy, but it doesn't feel any more official to me because I went and researched it this week myself. But that's fine.


If this isn't good enough for you, Randy says, We'll take this, Mr. Sinek. The McConkey name originates from Irish Delriata. Delriata. Delriata. It's Galic, I guess. So while not direct, there may be something somewhere down the line.


Well, sure. We're all related somewhere down the line if you go far enough back.


You know what? I think that's a great way to end the episode, Greg, that we all bleed red, and we might not all look the same, but we are one, even if we are not the Till Monday. He the call.