INDIANAPOLIS -- Fueled by the proliferation of passing at all levels of football, these are boom times at wide receiver, with each draft class delivering instant-impact playmakers at the marquee position. Two seasons ago, Justin Jefferson set a rookie record with 1,400 receiving yards. This past year, Ja'Marr Chase broke Jefferson's record with 1,455 yards, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in the process.
So, what's the word on the 2022 draft crop at the position? The general consensus is that this WR prospect pool lacks the top-end star power of last year's Chase/Jaylen Waddle/DeVonta Smith-led group. That said, NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah has three receivers as top-15 overall prospects in this draft class: Ohio State's Garrett Wilson (No. 6), USC's Drake London (No. 13) and Arkansas' Treylon Burks (No. 14). That last name feels particularly intriguing in this moment, with a growing number of NFL teams blurring the line between the receiver and running back positions.
Listed by Arkansas at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Burks routinely draws comparisons to Tennessee Titans star A.J. Brown for his stout frame and RAC ability. But the prospect himself has a different NFL comp in mind.
"I've watched a lot of Deebo Samuel," Burks said at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. "The way that he plays running back, plays inside, plays outside, multi player, person, athlete. So I try to mimic my game after him."
A starter during all three of his seasons at Arkansas, Burks played an extremely varied role for the Razorbacks, lining up all over the formation. This past season, Pro Football Focus charted him taking snaps in the slot (529), out wide (132), inline (19) and in the backfield (36). He even logged a play as a wildcat quarterback. Basically, Arkansas did everything possible to simply get the ball in Burks' hands, and for good reason: In addition to leading the team in receiving for the third straight season (66 catches for 1,104 yards and 11 touchdowns), he also averaged a robust 8 yards per carry on 14 totes (totaling 112 yards and another score). Burks believes this versatility is his trump card in a receiver class lacking any kind of consensus prospect hierarchy.
"My physicality, the way that I'm able to be used at multiple positions," Burks said. "I can play outside receiver, inside receiver, running back -- it doesn't matter. That just sets me apart from everyone else."
The Deebo prototype is all the rage right now, with the San Francisco 49ers wideout earning first-team All-Pro honors this past season by catching 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns while also carrying the ball 59 times for 365 yards and eight more scores. Along with Cordarrelle Patterson, Samuel made RB/WR the hybrid du jour in 2021. Consequently, it's a hot topic at the combine, with everyone looking for the next dual-threat gamechanger. According to Samuel's old coach, though, that could be a fool's errand.
"You don't look at it like, 'I need the next Deebo.' Deebo wasn't found by looking for Deebo," said Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, who unlocked Samuel's full ability last season as the 49ers' offensive coordinator. "You look for good football players who are committed, passionate and maybe that challenges you as a coach to say, 'Hey, what other way can we utilize this skill set.' "
Having just set an Arkansas record with six 100-yard games in 2021 -- including a transcendent 8/179/2 performance against Alabama -- Burks certainly qualifies as a good football player. And he'll have a chance to show off his athletic abilities during field work at Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday (4 p.m. ET on NFL Network). On Wednesday, though, he hinted at what might be his rarest physical trait: gargantuan hands. The receiver revealed that he has to wear custom-made 4XL gloves.