Wide receiver: When evaluating the wide receiver position, most prospects are split up into one of three main classifications; big/physical receivers with good ball skills (Z), speedy outside receivers who can burn a defense deep (X), and shifty inside receivers with sure hands that can escape tacklers and move the chains (F).
While some receivers could fit into two positions, and a very select few could play any spot on the field, teams use these classifications to find the perfect pieces for their receiving corps.
Prototype (Z) players: Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson
Prototype (X) players: Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson
Prototype (F) players: Victor Cruz, Wes Welker
Though the top receivers in this group don't have 'can't miss superstar' written all over them, ala Larry Fitzgerald in 2004, this is possibly the deepest group of receivers that the draft has seen in almost a decade. And though this year won't see seven first round picks like Fitzgerald's class in '04, there is a ton of talent to be had in the second and third round as well.
The cream of the crop
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, 6'1", 207 lbs
Blackmon is the best receiving prospect in this class. Though not the tallest or fastest prospect in this class, Blackmon has great on field awareness and plays the physical game needed in a Z receiver. Blackmon has huge hands and can grab any ball within his reach, and has the ability to break tackles and get open for big plays.
Draft projection: #6 overall to the St. Louis Rams
Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, 6'2", 220 lbs
Floyd is just a bit lower on the pecking order than Blackmon despite having very similar games. Floyd is a physical receiver that plays bigger than he actually is. His lack of elite top end speed limits his ability to beat defenders deep, but he has tremendous body control and can beat almost anyone in jump-ball situations. Multiple alcohol related run-ins with the law made his draft stock a little shaky, but Floyd is slowly moving up draft boards and could sneak into the top 10.
Draft projection: #18 overall to the San Diego Chargers
The speedy little guy
Kendall Wright, Baylor, 5'10", 196 lbs
Wright is a prototype X/F receiver. Though a little on the small side, he has blazing on field speed. There was a small concern about his slow 40 time (4.6+ seconds) at the combine, but Wright responded running in the 4.4 range at his pro-day. Wright has the ability to avoid tacklers and break open big plays, but needs to improve his route running as he mostly capitalized on deep routes that optimized his speed at Baylor.
Draft projection: #22 overall to the Cleveland Browns
The athletic projects
Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech, 6'4", 215 lbs
Hill is the biggest project in this draft outside of Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler. Hill's measurables were off the chart at the NFL scouting combine which instantly turned him from a borderline 3rd round pick into a possible 1st rounder. Hill played in a triple option offense at Georgia Tech, which helped him become the best blocking WR prospect in this class. Unfortunately, his limited time spent running routes in that offense means that he is very raw and will need a few years to develop and refine his route running. A situation where he isn't expected to produce immediately would be ideal.
Draft projection: #30 overall to the San Fransisco 49ers
Brian Quick, Appalachian State. 6'3", 220 lbs
Much like Hill, Quick is a physical specimen that needs time to develop route running and technique to be an effective NFL receiver. Quick has tremendous leaping ability and has impressive coordination. Needs to improve run blocking and explosiveness off the line. Marginal competition playing against small schools means it could take some time for quick to develop.
Draft projection: 2nd round
Rueben Randle, LSU, 6'3", 210 lbs
Randle could have been considered in the same class as Blackmon and Floyd if he had played in a more balanced offense, but run heavy LSU hindered his development as a receiver. Randle is big, fast, and athletic enough to eventually be a #1 receiver if he can polish his skills. Some concern has been voiced over his lack of production in two games against Alabama, but I believe that was more a factor of below average quarterback play against the nation's best defense.
Draft projection: late 1st – early 2nd round
Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, 6'3", 216 lbs
Jeffery was once considered to be the top prospect in this group, but enough red flags have been raised to knock him into the 3rd round. Jeffery is at his best on jump balls when he can take advantage of his size, but his poor route running and speed make it difficult at times for him to separate from decent cover corners. Some maturity issues have also hurt his stock.
Draft projection: late 2nd – early 3rd round
If he were only a bit taller
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, 5'10", 192 lbs
Like the title says, Broyles could be a 1st/2nd round pick if he had a few more inches on his frame. Broyles has elite field awareness and can find a soft spot in a zone, can catch any ball he gets his hands on, and has the sideline awareness to get his feet down inbounds. He reminds me a little bit of Wes Welker, nothing extremely flashy, but he's reliable in the slot. Suffered a torn left ACL that cut short his senior season and could keep him out of action until the beginning of the season.
Draft projection: 3rd – 4th round
Other notable WR's: In order of projected draft position
2nd – early 3rd round
A.J. Jenkins, Illinois, 6'0", 190 lbs
Joe Adams, Arkansas, 5'10", 179 lbs
3rd – 4th round
Nick Toon, Wisconsin, 6'2", 215 lbs
Keshawn Martin, Michigan State, 5'11", 188 lbs
Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers, 6'1", 211 lbs
T.Y. Hilton, Florida International, 5'9", 183 lbs
Photo Credit: Doug James/Icon SMI
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