Which wide receiver prospects in the 2022 NFL draft have the strongest hands?
On Thursday, I broke down the New York Jets’ need for sure-handed wide receivers and identified the top five free agents who would fit that bill.
To identify those five wide receivers, I created a stat called “Catches Added” using data from Pro Football Focus. Its purpose is to reveal a receiver’s combined ability to do two things: avoid drops and make contested catches.
I explained how the stat works in Thursday’s article, but in case you missed it, we’ll go over it again. We will use Braxton Berrios – the Jets’ leader in Catches Added – to showcase the process behind the stat.
Berrios had one drop and 46 receptions in 2021. That’s one drop out of 47 catch opportunities, giving him a drop rate of 2.1%. The NFL average drop rate for wide receivers in 2021 was 6.6%. Since 6.6% of 47 is 3.1, that means the league average wide receiver would be expected to have 3.1 drops on Berrios’ volume of chances. Berrios only had one drop, so he had 2.1 fewer drops compared to the expectation.
Berrios caught five of his six contested targets (based on PFF’s tracking), an outstanding rate of 83.3%. The NFL average contested-catch rate for wide receivers in 2021 was 46.8%, so if the league average wide receiver caught 46.8% of Berrios’ six contested targets, he’d have made 2.8 contested receptions. Berrios had five contested catches, giving him 2.2 more contested catches compared to the expectation.
Blend together Berrios’ plus-2.1 in the drop category and his plus-2.2 in the contested-catch category, and you get a total of 4.3 Catches Added. That number placed Berrios at 12th-best among all wide receivers in the NFL.
Which wide receiver prospects in the NFL draft would provide the Jets with the sure-handedness that they need at the position?
Here are the top 10 wideouts in the 2022 draft class when it comes to Catches Added (calculated using 2021 FBS averages) in the 2021 college football season.
10. Justyn Ross, Clemson
- Catches Added: +3.5 (58th out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
Justyn Ross is currently projected as a late third-round pick. His ranking in Catches Added mostly comes from his low drop rate. Ross caught 46 passes and dropped only one for a 2.1% drop rate, which is well below the 2021 FBS wide receiver average of 8.0%. That gave Ross a total of 2.8 fewer drops versus the expectation.
Ross was solid in the contested catch category, catching six of his 12 contested targets (50.0%). That is above the 2021 FBS wide receiver average of 43.8%.
9. Chris Olave, Ohio St.
- Catches Added: +3.6 (51st out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
A likely first-round pick, Chris Olave shined with his contested-catch ability. Olave snagged 10 of his 16 contested targets, a 62.5% rate.
Olave was slightly better than average when it came to drops, botching five passes against 65 receptions for a 7.1% drop rate.
8. Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
- Catches Added: +4.3 (36th out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
Tyquan Thornton is projected to be selected on the third day of the draft. He showed a blend of contested-catch ability and drop minimization in 2021, catching 10 of 18 contested targets (55.6%) and dropping three passes against 62 receptions (4.6%).
7. Charleston Rambo, Miami (FL)
- Catches Added: +4.6 (32nd out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
A late Day 3 prospect, Charleston Rambo caught 12 of his 23 contested targets (52.2%) and had only four drops against 79 receptions (4.8%).
6. Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest
- Catches Added: +5.1 (24th out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
Jaquarii Roberson is another sleeper Day 3 prospect who ranked highly on this list. Roberson caught 14 of his 27 contested targets (51.9%) and had a mere three drops against 71 receptions (4.1%).
5. Romeo Doubs, Nevada
- Catches Added: +5.1 (23rd out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
Romeo Doubs is a mid-round prospect who could go early on Day 3 or sneak into the third round. He snatched nine of 15 contested targets (60.0%) and dropped four balls versus 80 receptions (4.8%).
4. Jahan Dotson, Penn St.
- Catches Added: +5.2 (22nd out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
A possible first-round pick, Jahan Dotson’s elite ranking in this stat stems entirely from his consistency in the drop department. Dotson caught 91 passes while dropping only two, giving him a drop rate of 2.2%. His total of 5.4 fewer drops versus the expectation ranked second-best among all FBS wide receivers.
Dotson was actually below-average in the contested-catch area, grabbing five of 12 contested targets (41.7%).
3. Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
- Catches Added: +6.1 (14th out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
A possible late-Day 2 or early-Day 3 pick, Skyy Moore impressed with his consistency by dropping only four passes against 94 receptions for a 4.1% drop rate. He also caught eight of his 13 contested targets (61.5%).
2. Drake London, Southern California
- Catches Added: +6.4 (13th out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
Drake London has a good chance to be drafted in the first round.
London’s ranking here is entirely a product of his contested-catch ability. He grabbed a whopping 19 of his 28 contested targets (67.9%). His total of 19 contested catches led all FBS wide receivers, as did his total of 6.7 contested catches above expectation.
In the drop department, London was actually a tad below average. He caught 88 passes and dropped eight, giving him an 8.3% drop rate.
1. Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
- Catches Added: +11.3 (1st out of 443 qualified FBS wide receivers)
Western Kentucky’s Jerreth Sterns led not only the 2022 draft class in Catches Added, but the entire nation as well.
Sterns wasn’t just No. 1 – he was No. 1 by a landslide. The second-ranked wide receiver (San Diego St.’s Jesse Matthews) had plus-8.6 Catches Added, a 2.7 margin behind Sterns’ first-ranked mark of 11.3. That is about the same distance between Matthews and the 15th-ranked player.
It’s Sterns’ unbelievable consistency in the drop department that lands him up here. Sterns caught an FBS-high 150 passes and somehow dropped only three balls, giving him a drop rate of 2.0% on a massive volume of opportunities.
In turn, Sterns had an otherworldly total of 9.0 fewer drops versus the expectation, tops in the country and 4.2 ahead of the second-ranked player (Dotson). That margin of 4.2 is about the same distance between Dotson and the 141st-ranked wide receiver.
Sterns also did nicely in the contested-catch facet with 11 grabs on 20 contested targets (55.0%).
Most outlets consider Sterns a mid-to-late Day 3 prospect. Perhaps he will prove to be a diamond in the rough for the squad that drafts him.
Here are the Catches Added totals for some highly-ranked prospects who did not make the top 10 (ranks out of 443 qualifiers).
- John Metchie III (Alabama): +3.4 (59th)
- David Bell (Purdue): +2.4 (105th)
- Garrett Wilson (Ohio St.): +2.4 (108th)
- Treylon Burks (Arkansas): +1.5 (148th)
- Jameson Williams (Alabama): +0.3 (218th)
Interesting stat. Obviously several names on this list are not being talked about very much. perhaps you could go back and look at the leaders the past two draft classes and see how they panned out as pros?
I love London, and Dotson. I’d love them to take the plunge and get both of them. I also think Burks is a very interesting prospect, he has some drops which I’m sure is why is landed outside your group. I haven’t decided on Garrett Wilson. Is the the next Ja’Marr Chase or Devin Smith? I know we do this and use former players at a school as comparison and it’s not fair but it happens. Long way to go before draft day, but I’m on my soap box…playmakers….playmakers….playmakers. Get that offense loaded. I can wait for the D.