NFL Combine Preview: Wide Receivers

When Marvin Harrison went down with a knee injury this season, the Colts learned they need depth at the wide receiver position. See where Chris Steuber has this year's draft class at the position ranked in this exclusive feature.

1. *Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma, 6-4, 215

Kelly is an explosive receiver who’s a big-play threat. He has great size, good speed and the ability to be a go-to-guy in an offense. He’s dangerous in the open field and has tremendous yards-after-the-catch potential. Scouts will be most interested in Kelly’s speed. If he times well in Indianapolis, look for Kelly to be the first receiver off the board in April.

2. *James Hardy, Indiana, 6-6, 220

A former basketball star and a physical enigma, Hardy has been one of the more consistent receivers in the country the last three years. His size has scouts drooling and his potential is unlimited. He has a chance to be a premier receiver at the next level, but has to play more physically. He’s still developing his game as a receiver and his route running, speed and hands will be critiqued harshly at the Combine.

California WR DeSean Jackson prepares for action against Arizona.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

3. *DeSean Jackson, California, 6-0, 172

Jackson is a true speedster who has game-breaking ability, but is still defining his game as a receiver. The ascension of Ted Ginn, Jr. during last year’s draft will mostly likely impact Jackson’s draft status, and some team may overdraft him because of his ability as a return man. But Jackson will have to show his ability as a receiver in Indianapolis and demonstrate that he can catch the ball cleanly without using his body. His size and durability are also concerns for NFL personnel.

4. *Mario Manningham, Michigan, 6-0, 187

A true deep threat who has a knack for the acrobatic, Manningham is a vertical weapon NFL teams will be interested in utilizing next season. After two suspect seasons at Michigan, Manningham showed that he’s a complete receiver who can change a game on one play. His speed is tremendous and will help him rise in the draft — but his size is a concern. He will also have to display consistent hands in drills. Scouts in attendance will be watching closely.

5. Limas Sweed, Texas, 6-5, 220

Sweed enters the Combine with a red flag placed next to his name. He missed a majority of his senior season at Texas after he tore ligaments in his left wrist. He underwent surgery, rehabbed and was invited to the Senior Bowl. Sweed practiced the first day in Mobile, but reinjured his left wrist on day two of practice. He didn’t practice the rest of the week and didn’t participate in the game. There are questions about Sweed’s game on the field that include his speed and hands. But with the injury reoccurring, it makes it hard for teams to get a feel for him as a player.

6. Early Doucet, LSU, 6-0, 213

Doucet was another player who got hurt in Mobile and wasn’t able to participate in a full week of practice or the game. Doucet suffered a hamstring injury on the same day Sweed suffered his injury. He was impressive during the first day of workouts and displayed good speed, hands and awareness. It will be interesting to see if Doucet’s hamstring is healed enough for him to run the forty. If not, his true speed will be questioned.

7. Lavelle Hawkins, California, 5-11, 175

The most impressive receiver at the Senior Bowl, Hawkins will look to rise higher with a solid performance at the Combine. He has great speed and toughness and flashes sure hands. He showed that he is a complete receiver, and with an amazing time in the forty he could catapult his draft stock into the late first round — almost reminiscent of LSU’s Craig Davis, who was selected 30th overall by the Chargers in 2007.

8. *Devin Thomas, Michigan State, 6-2, 215

After one season as a starter at Michigan State, Thomas caught 79 passes for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns and decided it was time to take his game to the next level. Thomas is a physical receiver who has strong, sure hands. His vertical speed will be the biggest question mark, but with a solid time, he will rise in the draft.

9. Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State, 6-3, 220

When you look at Bowman, his size leaves you speechless. He’s such a physical specimen that it is hard to imagine that he doesn’t dominate each and every weekend. But in Mobile, Bowman didn’t catch the ball with confidence and allowed it to get in on him. He has strong hands and has to show scouts more consistency snatching the ball out of the air. He’s a tremendous blocker — and that’s a bonus. But at his size, speed will play a major factor.

10. Donnie Avery, Houston, 5-10, 184

Avery is the fastest receiver in the country, but he had an up-and-down showing in Mobile. He played well at the beginning of the week, but it appeared he got tired towards the end and made silly mistakes. He’s not a big receiver, and that will be a concern. But his versatility, combined with his speed and ability to be a return man, will definitely help his draft stock.

11. Andre Caldwell, Florida, 6-0, 203

Caldwell really impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl. He showed a solid burst, great hands and smooth route running. He’s an excellent intermediate route runner who can break tackles and obtain positive yards after the catch. Caldwell also has experience as a return man, and his timed speed will either make or break his draft positioning.

12. Harry Douglas, Louisville, 5-11, 173

Maybe the most underrated, but the most productive receiver in the class is Douglas. He’s a fast receiver who possesses good hands, but he has to run better routes. He tends to round off his routes, which allows a defender to sneak up and make a play on the ball. Scouts will be interested to see how Douglas fares in drills, because it’s almost certain that he runs a stellar time in the forty.

13. *Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt, 6-1, 202

In just three seasons with Vanderbilt, Bennett decided to forego his senior season and leave Vanderbilt as the SEC’s career reception leader with 236. Bennett is a polished receiver who runs good routes and has sure hands. He’s not a burner and has questionable vertical speed. But he’s solid and will have to continue to show his ability to catch the ball at the Combine.

14. D.J. Hall, Alabama, 6-2, 198

A very productive collegiate player, Hall got an invitation to the Senior Bowl and struggled to standout. He has good size and showed vertical speed at Alabama, but didn’t get good separation in Mobile. He has good hands, but his speed will have to improve in order to elevate his draft stock.

15. Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech, 5-10, 181

Royal is an exceptional individual with great character and possesses a lot of skills that translate well to the next level. He’s small in stature, but his versatility is desired. At the Senior Bowl, Royal showed excellent quickness and the ability to be a big play threat on offense. His ability as a return specialist will raise his stock, but he will have to show scouts more consistency catching the ball.

Kansas State WR Jordy Nelson runs for a touchdown against Colorado.
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

16. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State, 6-3, 217

A former defensive back, Nelson has developed into a solid receiver with a lot of potential. He finished his senior season at Kansas State posting an incredible 122 receptions for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns. His performance at the Senior Bowl gave scouts a glimpse at what he could do on the field and he conducted himself well in interviews. The Combine will be Nelson’s biggest test as his time in the forty will either elevate his draft positioning or keep the status quo.

17. Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina, 6-2, 192

The wildcard receiver of the draft is Simpson. He has the biggest hands of any receiver in the draft and catches everything thrown his way. He played extremely well at the East-West Shrine game and flashed tremendous potential. It’s hard to imagine a receiver from Coastal Carolina being drafted in the top-three rounds, but Simpson, with a solid performance in Indianapolis, can achieve that feat.

18. Dorien Bryant, Purdue, 5-10, 174

Bryant had a Senior Bowl week to forget. He didn’t run crisp routes and didn’t show the explosion he possessed at Purdue. He also struggled during special team practice and didn’t display sure hands. He’s a quick player who should run well at the Combine, but his stock will be predicated on his ability to be a return specialist.

19. Keenan Burton, Kentucky, 6-1, 204

Burton has been a big-play threat for Kentucky over the last two seasons and looks to show his stuff in Indianapolis. He recently had his knee scoped and is close to being 100-percent. He should be ready to participate in all drills and it will be his first opportunity to meet with NFL personnel.

20. Kevin Robinson, Utah State, 6-0, 185

A relative unknown to many prior to the East-West Shrine game, Robinson is a fast riser on draft boards after a tremendous performance. He’s a solidly built receiver who possesses great ability as a return specialist. Robinson scored a touchdown on a reception and on a punt. He’s not considered to be a burner, but he has excellent game speed. Scouts will want to see Robinson up close and how he fares on a fast track in Indianapolis.

21. Will Franklin, Missouri, 6-1, 205

22. *Davone Bess, Hawaii, 5-10, 195

23. *Adrian Arrington, Michigan, 6-3, 195

24. Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State, 5-9, 179

25. Paul Hubbard, Wisconsin, 6-3, 219

26. *Ryan Grice-Mullen, Hawaii, 5-11, 185

27. Steve Johnson, Kentucky, 6-2, 204

28. Marcus Monk, Arkansas, 6-6, 220

29. Marcus Henry, Kansas, 6-4, 210

30. *Darius Reynaud, West Virginia, 5-10, 200

31. *Mario Urrutia, Louisville, 6-6, 220

32. Josh Morgan, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 216

33. Jason Rivers, Hawaii, 6-1, 190

34. De’Cody Fagg, Florida State, 6-2, 210

35. Billy Pittman, Texas, 6-0, 200

36. Darnell Jenkins, Miami, 5-10, 190

37. Marcus Smith, New Mexico, 6-1, 210

38. Mark Bradford, Stanford, 6-2, 215

39. Kenneth Moore, Wake Forest, 6-0, 204

40. Pierre Garcon, Mount Union, 6-1, 205

41. Danny Amendola, Texas Tech, 5-11, 177

42. Justin Harper, Virginia Tech, 6-4, 195

43. Jaymar Johnson, Jackson State, 6-1, 180

44. Maurice Purify, Nebraska, 6-3, 220

45. Mikey Henderson, Georgia, 5-10, 156

46. *Taj Smith, Syracuse, 6-1, 188

47. Shaheer McBride, Delaware State, 6-3, 200

48. Todd Blythe, Iowa State, 6-5, 214

49. Brian Paysinger, Oregon, 6-2, 208

50. Travis Brown, New Mexico, 6-3, 189

51. Evan Moore, Stanford, 6-7, 236

52. Arman Shields, Richmond, 6-2, 185

53. Lorne Sam, UTEP, 6-3, 215

54. Brandon Breazell, UCLA, 6-0, 162

55. Joe West, UTEP, 6-2, 210


*Denotes underclassmen

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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