The 2023 wide receiver class is under the microscope. I happen to think this year’s crop of rookie receivers is a good one, but it is light on outside receivers with star potential. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, and Josh Downs are all primary slot receivers. Zay Flowers can ball from there too. Quentin Johnston and Jalin Hyatt are primary outside receivers rated near the top of this wide receiver class. Is that it? They make up my top six at receiver, but four of them you’d want operating mostly out of the slot. A.T. Perry of Wake Forest, however, is not a slot receiver.
He fits the bill of a traditional big-bodied ‘x’ receiver. Though he is not expected to go in the first round, his draft range is from the end of Day 2 to the beginning of Day 3. Let’s dive into why!
I want to start by noting that Wake Forest’s offense was weird. It worked, but it’s still strange. The Demon Deacons went 31-18 in Perry’s four seasons there. Wake Forest holds the ball super long on RPOs. This is way longer than just about any other team in the country. Here’s a good example below:
A.T. Perry bully ball pic.twitter.com/7wWsmtDMCg
— Shervon Fakhimi (@ShervonFakhimi) January 30, 2023
With the caveat that this weird offense helped open up passing lanes, that doesn’t diminish the fact that A.T. Perry was heavily involved in Wake Forest’s pass attack and was extremely productive in the process. Perry’s 27.3-percent College Target Share ranks in the 82nd-percentile of receivers in PlayerProfiler.com’s database. His 15.9 college yards per reception sit at the 66th-percentile.
Though Perry’s 30.3-percent College Dominator Rating ranks only in the 55th-percentile, we have to caveat that with the fact that he didn’t play much as a freshman or a sophomore and he’s played with plenty of talented receivers. Jaquarii Roberson has bounced around NFL rosters already and teammate Donavon Greene should also get drafted.
That didn’t stop Perry from leveling up the past two seasons. From 2021-2022, Perry put up 2,389 yards and 26 touchdowns on 152 receptions and 264 targets. He was a beast against single coverage too. According to PFF, no receiver gained more yards against single coverage than Perry did since 2021.
A.T. Perry: The X-Man
A.T. Perry did almost all of his work on the outside. His route tree, however, wasn’t the most expansive but worked with his skillset. A large portion of his routes consisted of him breaking outside against the cushion his defenders gave him like this:
Wake’s offense is kinda weird & asks A.T. Perry to run this route a lot, but he’s good at it & pretty fluid running it for a guy 6-5 205lbs pic.twitter.com/4gYztAxIPv
— Shervon Fakhimi (@ShervonFakhimi) January 30, 2023
Or, Wake Forest would ask him to break inside and use his big 6-3, 195-pound frame to move the chains.
Perry is at his best when working downfield. That’s where he can truly unleash his 4.47 speed and where his 72nd-percentile Speed Score truly pops. Take this play for an example. Perry is not the type of player to shake and elude defenders. But his speed matched with his size is dangerous enough to make defenders think twice about pressing him.
A.T. Perry has some wheels for a guy who is 6-5 20lbs pic.twitter.com/foRrofwSOV
— Shervon Fakhimi (@ShervonFakhimi) December 26, 2022
If you lay off Perry, he’ll papercut you down the field with those out routes we discussed earlier. Milk that enough and he’s got enough wiggle to hit defenders with a double move and burn them deep. Perry’s size also shows up in the red zone. He could stand to get bigger and play with more physicality, however. A few times he’d get overpowered, either at the line of scrimmage or going for contested balls.
But 6-5 is 6-5 no matter how you slice it. And sometimes, especially in the red zone, you just toss it to a spot where only the 6-5 guy can get it. Wake Forest didn’t use Perry like this as often as you’d think, but with how precise NFL quarterbacks are, I’d imagine he’ll get plenty of shots to Moss defenders in the red zone.
There aren’t as many traditional big-bodied X receivers leading teams’ receiver rooms in today’s NFL, but there still is a place for them. Teams can pair one of them with a prolific slot receiver and suddenly they can force NFL teams to pick their poison as to whether they want them to slowly papercut you down the field or get it done in one fell swoop. The Chargers and Buccaneers are a great example of this.
While A.T. Perry is not Mike Evans or Mike Williams, perhaps he could be Allen Lazard? Lazard is not a dynamic route runner by any means either, but he is a great contested catch receiver with enough juice to get downfield and create some separation. He is bigger and a much better blocker than Perry, but those two’s games are similar. Lazard would be a great outcome for Perry too. Who wouldn’t take a five-year career and a brand-new four-year $44 million contract that includes $22 million guaranteed?
I don’t think Perry has ‘star’ written all over him the way other receivers in this class do. But I do see him being a great complement next to a star receiver with the skillset to earn the valuable type of fantasy targets: end zone and deep targets. On the right team, there’s definitely a path to fantasy success. Keep an eye on where Perry lands during the NFL Draft. With the right draft capital and landing spot, he can make for an intriguing mid-round rookie pick.