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Manny's Senior Bowl Watch List: Wide Receiver Edition

The Senior Bowl (February 3, 2024 @1PM EST) is just around the corner, and with many fans already looking into April's draft, this Senior Bowl should provide plenty of content. The Reese's Senior Bowl is an annual classic all-star exhibition game for draft-eligible upperclassmen to showcase their skills in front of fans and NFL scouts and executives.

Before we get into the article, check out Fanatics. has all of the best NCAA fan gear!

This is the first year where both Juniors and Seniors are eligible to participate, so there will be an overwhelming amount of talent with NFL scouts set to take notes.

Last week, I mentioned a few of my favorite CB prospects in the Senior Bowl. In this article, I'll point out a few of my favorite Senior Bowl receivers to watch for in this stacked WR class and what I want to see from them in Mobile.

Ainias Smith, Texas A&M

5'10" 200 pounds

Ainias Smith is one of my favorite prospects in the Senior Bowl because not only is his tape a fun watch, but his profile has shown improvement in all aspects of his game. For example, he only had one drop on 78 targets this past season. That was a drastic improvement of seven drops on 77 targets in 2021. He only had one drop in 2022 too, but he only played three full games and had 24 targets. But he did have a six-catch, 164 yards, and two touchdown performances to open up that season which was electric (even if it was against Sam Houston State).

To continue on my point about his drastic improvement, he had 15 yards per catch this past season, which is up from his 10.8 yards per catch in 2021. His 79.3 receiving grade is also up from his last full season in 2021, in which he had a 70.9 receiving grade that season.

The fact that his yards per route run also went from 1.52 in 2021 to 2.27 in 2023 also shows that he has grown and developed into a receiver that can play on Sundays.

He's almost like a running back with his amazing contact balance after the catch and his knack for shedding tacklers. He played a lot at RB in 2020. He forced 20 missed tackles on 53 catches last season which way up from the seven he forced in 2021. That also led to his yards after catch per reception jumping to 6.7 up from 3.4.

What I want to see in the Senior Bowl: I mostly just want to see him showcase his ability to make plays after the catch. Once evaluators see that, the intrigue with Ainias increases. I also want him to continue and display his improvements in being effective down the field and as a reliable pass catcher. Ainias has the potential to be a name that everyone will want on their team.

Reminds me of: Percy Harvin

Roman Wilson, Michigan

6'0" 192 pounds

Roman Wilson may be a boring prospect to some because he isn't flashy or has a freakish athletic profile, but there's not much to hate about Wilson's game at all. He actually has one of the most complete profiles in this article. He graded extremely high with PFF with an 84.5 receiving grade. Even though he had 68.7% of his snaps (206 snaps) in the slot, he averaged 2.68 yards per route run.

He also had an average depth of target of 13.9 in 2023, and it has consistently been 13.5+ since 2020. (13.5 in 2022, 14.3 in 2021, 15.9 in 2020). An offense can utilize Wilson anywhere on the field. He's also extremely reliable. He only had one drop, and it is not an outlier because he's never had more than two drops in a season. He also has a 144.2 NFL passer rating when he is targeted, so I'm not sure how much more reliable you can get than that.

What I want to see in the Senior Bowl: There's not much evaluators need to see from Wilson, but if he has a great week and shows his reliability with whatever QBs throw his away, look for his stock to rise.

Reminds me of: Amon-Ra St. Brown

Jamari Thrash, Louisville

6'1" 185 pounds

Like Ainias, Thrash is a beast in the short-to-intermediate area. He has constantly shown his grasp of the concept of getting open and every detail of his route plays a part. The head fakes, the sudden breaks at the top of the route, the subtle drifts and maneuvers around defenders to buy himself more time and separation from the defender.

Not only is he a short-field monster, but he can stretch the field as well. He is an every-down WR who can lineup in the slot and outside. In fact, he had 340 snaps outside compared to his 41 snaps in the slot. He also averaged 13.6 yards per catch, which is down from his wild 18.1 yards per catch the season before. He averaged 2.37 yards per route run, which puts him in the top 25% of this incoming class.

What I want to see in the Senior Bowl: I should have changed the name to "what I DON'T want to see" because the only flaw that could be found in Trash's profile that could impact him is the drops. He had eight drops on 97 targets. That is an 11.3% drop rate, which puts him in the bottom 25% of the incoming WR class. He only had four drops last season on 94 targets, so it could be an outlier. If Thrash has a clean Senior Bowl week, you can bet your last dollar that a team will make sure they have Thrash on their roster.

Reminds me of: Jayden Reed

Xavier Legette, South Carolina

6'3" 227 pounds

Xavier Legette has been one of my favorite prospects for some time now, so trust me when I say that the Senior Bowl is going to be a show. For every football fan that has ever come across Legette's tape, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Legette measures in at 6'3 227 pounds, but he looks even bigger than that (pause). His frame makes him a matchup nightmare to almost anyone who matches up against him one-on-one. That's what led to him having an 85.8 grade versus man coverage this past season. In 2023, he also averaged 17.7 yards per catch and 3.15 yards per route run.

Not only is he a "You Got Mossed!" candidate every week, but he has the break-away speed that is made up of a blend of his long strides and his unreal agility for his size. He averages 6.4 yards after the catch per each reception and forced nine missed tackles. Those don't even count the defenders who couldn't even get close enough to think about tackling him.

What I want to see in the Senior Bowl: Legette has shown his ability to lineup both in the slot and outside, which I think is an underrated part of his profile. Being 6'3" and 227 pounds and not being limited to the boundaries can maximize his utilization and simultaneously elevate the offense. I want to see him showcase that in Mobile as well as his his steady hands! He had only two drops last season on 97 targets (2.7% drop rate), one of the best in the class.

Reminds me of: DK Metcalf

WR Brenden Rice USC

6'3" 210 pounds

Brenden Rice is another receiver that I feel is getting drowned out by this stacked incoming WR class. The fact that he was being overshadowed by his QB doesn't help either.

Nonetheless, Rice had an amazing season. in which he finished with a 79.4 receiving grade. He averaged 2.75 yards per route run and 17.6 yards per catch. This showcases his ability to help the offense move the ball down the field and makes the most of his touches and targets. He also averaged a solid 15.1 average depth of target.

He's not just a deep threat and he's not just a 6'3" big target. He can get open. He posted a 76.2 grade against man coverage. He also had 12 TDs in 2023 with only two drops on 70 targets. Reliable. He also runs the scramble drill well and keeps moving to make himself available for the QB, which we saw a lot with Caleb. He is a tad lean for being 6'3", but his physicality is underrated. We see this in his ability after the catch with nine missed tackles forced.

What I want to see in the Senior Bowl: An area that evaluators will look at is his ability to consistently make contested catches. He only converted 25% of his contested catch opportunities, which is a mark that evaluators can say shows a lack of aggression for his size. I want Rice to show them he is every bit of 6'3". (pause?)

Reminds me of: Nico Collins

Thanks for reading my Senior Bowl Watchlist: Wide Receiver edition! Stay tuned for the next position group. Follow me on X (@CommanderSZN), and I'll follow you back!

(all grades according to PFF)


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