The Jacksonville Jaguars spent the offseason revamping the wide receivers room. The team gave a large contract to Christian Kirk and signed Zay Jones in free agency, while also re-signing Laquon Treadwell and letting DJ Chark Jr. walk in free agency (who eventually signed with the Detroit Lions).
Additionally, the Jaguars return veteran wide receivers Marvin Jones Jr., Laviska Shenault Jr., Jamal Agnew and others. However, with a plethora of picks in the 2022 NFL Draft — 12 to be exact (for now) — the Jaguars will likely be looking to add at least one more receiver to the mix in a truly deep class.
The Jaguars could add a rookie wide receiver as early as Day Two (second and third rounds). Of course, with the No. 1 overall pick in hand, the Jaguars will not be targeting a pass-catcher in the first round, unless perhaps Jacksonville trades back.
There could certainly be a run of wide receivers going in the latter half of the first round, which could change the Jaguars’ plans at the position a bit, but let’s take a look at a potential target Jacksonville could be looking at in each of the seven rounds of the draft.
Round 1 (No. 1 overall): Garrett Wilson, Ohio State (if Jaguars trade back)
OK, the jaguars are not selecting a wide receiver with the No. 1 overall pick. Unless the Jaguars trade back somewhat significantly, there is no way that Jacksonville selects a wide receiver in the first round at all — and even that scenario doesn’t seem plausible.
But for the sake of this exercise, we need to include a first-round wide receiver, and Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson tops many lists from scouts and analyst as the best receiver in the 2022 class. Many NFL teams will also have him at the top of their boards as well. He is widely expected to go in the top-12 picks.
Wilson, listed at 6-foot and 183 pounds, recorded 70 receptions for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns in 11 games during the 2021 campaign. During his career at Ohio State overall, Wilson amassed 143 receptions for 2,213 yards (15.5 yards per catch) and 24 total touchdowns (one rushing). He was a multiple time All-Big Ten team selection (first-team in 2020 and second-team in 2021).
Wilson shined at the NFL Combine with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, a 36-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-3-inch broad jump and a 4.36-second 20-yard shuffle.
The odds of Wilson winding up on Jacksonville are incredibly thin, but if the Jaguars trade out of the No. 1 overall pick, but remain in the top-10, it is possible the Jaguars could target him. By all accounts, though, the Jaguars are expected to remain in the first slot.
Round 2 (No. 33 overall): George Pickens, Georgia
With the departure of Chark, who is listed at 6-feet-4-inches tall, the Jaguars now lack height at the wide receiver position, with no receiver on the current roster taller than 6-foot-2. While he is a little on the lighter side at 195 pounds, Pickens stands at 6-feet-3-inches tall and would have a height and length (32-and-three-eighth-inch long arms) advantage over many NFL defensive backs.
Pickens did suffer an ACL tear in the spring of 2021, but battled his way back onto the field during Georgia’s national championship run, eventually playing in four games, including the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship games.
Pickens was tied for the lead in receptions for Georgia during the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020 with 36 and led the Bulldogs with six touchdown catches that season. He also led the Bulldogs in receptions (49), receiving yards (727) and receiving touchdowns in 2019.
During the 2022 NFL Combine, Pickens ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and recorded a 10-foot-5-inch broad jump. With his combination of speed, height and explosiveness, Pickens could be a strong weapon for Trevor Lawrence and Jacksonville’s offense.
Round 3 (No. 65 and No. 70 overall): David Bell, Purdue
Bell is a little bit different than most of the other players named in this article in that he is not a supreme athlete and does not have great speed. What he does possess, however, is versatility, as he can play inside in the slot or outside on the perimeter. He is also a savvy route-runner and could be more of a technician who is able to use other traits beside speed and explosiveness to get open all over the field.
That said, Bell’s NFL Combine performance was less than stellar. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound receiver clocked in with just a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot-10-inch broad jump.
Despite the poor testing number, Bell’s college production shouldn’t be ignored. Bell recorded 93 receptions for 1,286 yards (13.8 yards per catch) and six touchdowns on his way to being named the Big Ten’s Richter–Howard Receiver of the Year in 2021. Overall in his career at Purdue, Bell caught 232 passes for 2,946 yards (12.7 yards per catch) and 21 receiving touchdowns. He was an All-Big Ten first-teamer in both 2020 and 2021.
He should still more than likely be a Day Two or early Day Three pick, and he could provide good value for the Jaguars in the third or fourth round.
Round 4 (No. 106 overall): Justyn Ross, Clemson
Ross, a big-bodied wide receiver at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, is one of the more intriguing options in the 2022 NFL Draft. He exploded onto the scene as freshman at Clemson in 2018, where he of course played with current Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, recording 46 catches, nine touchdowns and a team-leading 1,000 yards. His 21.7-yard average per catch that season set a single-season school record for Clemson.
Ross followed up his breakout 2018 season with another impressive season in 2019. He led the the Tigers with 66 receptions and was second on the team in receiving yards (865) and touchdowns (eight) on his way to honorable mention All-ACC honors.
Ross seemed to be staking his claim as one of the more promising wide receiver prospects, but then injuries derailed his progression. He missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing surgery for a congenital fusion in his spine. He battled back and returned to the field for the 2021 season, playing in 10 games before another injury, this time a stress fracture in his foot, sidelined him for the final three games of the season. He still led the Tigers in receptions (46), yards (514) and receiving touchdowns (tied with three) despite the injuries and shaky quarterback play.
Ross had a disappointing pro day, running just a 4.64-second 40-yard dash, recording just a 31.5-inch vertical jump and coming up short of the 10-foot mark in the broad jump. However, Ross just wanted to show scouts and coaches that he was healthy.
It is quite possible Ross is off the board by pick No. 106, but due to the poor testing numbers and durability concerns, Ross has slid down draft boards. However, he may have first-round pick potential and could up end being a steal on Day Two or Day Three of the draft, if he can stay healthy in the pros.
Round 5 (No. 157 overall): Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
Thornton ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.28 seconds) out of more then 30 wide receivers at the 2022 NFL Combine. He also showed off his explosives traits with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-10-inch broad jump. He also has a strong background as a sprinter on the track. Those athletic traits make Thornton an appealing add in the middle rounds as a potential deep threat.
The thing scouts and analysts seem to knock on Thornton is his thin frame and small hands (measuring in at eight-and-a-quarter-inch). He has good height at 6-foot-2, but only weighs 181 pounds and there are question marks about his ability to beat press coverage or get a lot of contested catches in the NFL.
Still, Thornton’s athleticism, speed and toughness are hard to overlook. He had a productive senior year at Baylor, leading the Bears in catches (62), receiving yards (948), yards per catch (15.3) and touchdowns (10). Thornton earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2021.
Round 6 (No. 180, No. 188, No. 197 and No. 198 overall): Jalen Nailor, Michigan State
Nailor, nicknamed “Speedy,” could be an intriguing Day Three target. If Nailor remains on this board this late, Jacksonville could use one of its four picks in the sixth round on him.
Jacksonville seems to have at least some interest in Nailor, as the team sent wide receivers coach Chris Jackson to Michigan State’s pro day to get an in-person look at Nailor and put him through wide receiver drills.
I have gotten an up-close look at Nailor over the past few years, covering him and the Michigan State Spartans for The Only Colors. He could give the Jaguars a vertical threat on the outside, as his 18.8 yards per catch ranked second in the Big Ten Conference in 2021. Although his 40-yard dash time wasn’t quite as fast as he would have hoped for, with an official 4.50-second time at the NFL Combine, his playing speed during games and ability to stretch a defense remain valuable traits. He also showed off his explosiveness at the combine.
Michigan State WR Jalen Nailor testing really well early.
38.0″ in the vert, 10’8″ in the broad. Both totals top 5 among all WRs so far.
— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) March 3, 2022
Nailor has had trouble staying healthy, as he missed games due to injury in 2018, 2019 and 2021. However, during his time in East Lansing, Nailor has visibly improved as a route-runner and his hands have gotten stronger, as he drastically lowered his dropped passes rate from 2020 (seven drops in five games in 2020 compared to four in nine games in 2021).
Round 7 (No. 222 and No. 235 overall): Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina
Heiligh is flying under the radar a bit after not getting the invite to the NFL Combine, but had a productive career at Coastal Carolina and could be worth taking a flyer on in the late rounds.
In 49 career games for the Chanticleers, Heiligh recorded 191 receptions for 2,825 yards (14.8 yards per catch) and 22 touchdowns. He was named All-Sun Belt first-team in both 2020 and 2021, and was an honorable mention All-Sun Belt selection in 2019. Of course, playing against competition in the Sun Belt compared to the NFL are two totally different things, but he is lauded for his route-running, ability to win at the line of scrimmage and is versatility to play inside or outside. He could also provide value on special teams.
Heiligh, listed by Coastal Carolina at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, did not put up particularly impressing testing numbers at his pro day. He ran just a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, 7.19-second three-cone and 4.46-second 20-yard shuttle drill. But in a deep wide receiver class, Heiligh could be a potential “diamond in the rough.”