The wide receiver group at the NFL Combine put on a show Thursday night. It was the fastest group of wide receivers the NFL has seen since 2003, and that’s probably because they don’t have the records for pre-2003.
The Atlanta Falcons are in dire need of at least one wide receiver in this draft. Calvin Ridley is as good as gone. Russell Gage is a pending free agent. That leaves a grand total of one catch, rookie Frank Darby, on the roster if the Falcons were to report to training camp tomorrow.
But the performance from the receivers on Thursday underscored how foolish it would be to take a wide receiver with their No. 8 overall pick. There is talent and speed to burn through this draft, and the Falcons need to take advantage of what is an unusually deep class on defense, especially on the defensive line.
Here is a look at the 40 times posted from the receivers on Thursday. Keep in mind that NFL Draft guru Todd McShay has twice mocked receivers to Atlanta at No. 8, Jameson Williams of Ohio State and Drake London at USC… and they didn’t even participate on Thursday. THAT’S how deep this receiver class is.
40-Yard Dash, Wide Receivers, 2022 NFL Combine
Tyquan Thornton, Baylor, 4.28
Velus Jones, Tennessee, 4.31
Calvin Austin III, Memphis, 4.32
Danny Gray, SMU, 4.33
Bo Melton, Rutgers, 4.34
Christian Watson, North Dakota State, 4.36
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State, 4.38
Chris Olave, Ohio State, 4.39
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati, 4.41
Skyy Moore, Western Michigan, 4.41
Isaiah Weston, Northern Iowa, 4.42
Jahan Dotson, Penn State, 4.43
Khalil Shakir, Boise State, 4.43
Kevin Austin Jr., Notre Dame, 4.43
Wan’Dale Robinson, Kentucky, 4.44
George Pickens, Georgia, 4.47
Braylon Sanders, Ole Miss, 4.48
Jalen Tolbert, USA, 4.49
Jalen Nailor, Michigan State, 4.50
Tré Turner, Virginia Tech, 4.51
Ty Fryfogle, Indiana. 4.53
Treylon Burks, Arkansas, 4.55
Mike Woods, Oklahoma, 4.55
Charleston Rambo, Miami, 4.57
Kyle Philips, UCLA, 4.58
Makai Polk, Mississippi State, 4.59
Johnny Johnson III, Oregon, 4.60
Dai’Jean Dixon, Nicholls State, 4.62
David Bell, Purdue, 4.65
Dontario Drummond, Ole Miss, 4.65
Devon Williams, Oregon, 4.65
Slade Bolden, Alabama, 4.66
The Falcons have picks No. 8, 43, 58, and 74 in the first-three rounds. We had previously advocated for Christian Watson after the first round, but his performance on Thursday may have vaulted higher than the 43 pick.
Watson checked in at 6’4 and 208 pounds and clocked a 4.36 forty. Arguably more impressive than his speed at that size was his 11′ 4″ standing broad jump. He looked excellent playing receiver at the Senior Bowl, and he’s looked even better so far at the NFL Combine.
A player like George Pickens of the Georgia Bulldogs will be available after the first round. He made himself some money on Thursday with a 4.47 forty at 6’3 and 195 pounds with a 10’5″ broad jump. Pickens looks to be fully recovered from a knee injury and is a player that highlights the depth of this class.
The Falcons need receivers, no doubt. But in this draft, the Falcons need to be patient. There will be plenty of receivers available on Day 2 and beyond.