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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
23. *Adrian Arrington, Michigan, 6-3, 195
24. Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State, 5-9, 179
26. *Ryan Grice-Mullen, Hawaii, 5-11, 185
27. Steve Johnson, Kentucky, 6-2, 204
29. Marcus Henry, Kansas, 6-4, 210
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
40. Pierre Garcon, Mount Union, 6-1, 205
42. Justin Harper, Virginia Tech, 6-4, 195
43. Jaymar Johnson, Jackson State, 6-1, 180
47. Shaheer McBride, Delaware State, 6-3, 200
50. Travis Brown, New Mexico, 6-3, 189
51. Evan Moore, Stanford, 6-7, 236
52. Arman Shields, Richmond, 6-2, 185
55. Joe West, UTEP, 6-2, 210
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.