Draft outlook: Wide receivers

Though not as good as originally advertised, the wide out class next April offers impact at the top, reliability in the middle frames with a few solid late round developmental choices. Combine workouts and for some, the result of medical exams, will dictate much for the pass catchers. Here's a look at the Top 10:

1 – Charles Rodgers, Michigan State

There are not too many more ways a first year player can impact a team the way Charles Rogers did last season at Michigan State. Setting all sorts of single season pass catching records in East Lansing during the 2001 campaign, Rogers has continued his record-breaking ways through his second season, though this time conference marks are falling. Do these records translate to potential at the next level?

The Good:   Game impacting skill position player that quickly changes the tempo of a contest with either a deep reception down the flanks, the important catch in traffic or a long return on punts.  Big, fast and athletic. Good top end speed; quickly accelerates immediately getting to top speed and runs away from defenders down the sidelines.  Times and anticipates the deep passes nicely, adjusts to the errant throw and makes the difficult reception in contorted positions running full tilt.  Focused, looks the pass in and extends to make the difficult catch, plucking the ball out of the air with his hands.  Doubled teamed by opponents but fights to make the reception and usually comes away with the ball, working hard running after the catch.  Fluid, gets down to scoop up the low throws and for the most part, consistent hands.  Adequate quickness into and out of his breaks, working throughout the play to sell his patterns. Effectively blocks down field for the running game.  

The Bad:  Lacks the soft or strong hands, a bit choppy with his footwork running routes and not always on the same page as his quarterback.  Needs to smooth his game out but then again, has not had a lot of experience on the college field.  

The Skinny:   An unstoppable force we fully expect to enter the draft and be one of the first three players selected next April.

Projection: First round

 2 – Andre Johnson, Miami

 The Miami Hurricanes have offered a tremendous amount of talent to the NFL at a variety of positions, but were you to point to a single area where the program has impact more than any other, receiver could justifiably be tops in the book. And now UM is about to install another great one into the draft.

 The Good:   Great physical specimen that combines all the athletic skills necessary to be an impact receiver at the next level. Strong enough to get off  jams at the line of scrimmage, extends in a crowd for the ball and comes away with the reception in traffic, snaring the pass out of the air even when defenders are draped all over him.  Adjusts nicely to the errant throw making the reception in contorted positions and plays with great balance.  Extends his hands away from his body offering the quarterback a  nice target and catches the pass away from his frame.  Reliable and consistent hand catcher. Runs well laterally, takes it down the flanks, timing and anticipating his deep receptions well.  Works his way back to the quarterback or ball to help out if the play breaks  down.  Blocks for the running game. 

The Bad:  Loses focus, concentration and takes his eye off the ball or peaks down the field before he's actually caught the pass.  Only an adequate route runner.  Lacks the second gear and takes a while before he's up to full speed.  

The Skinny:   When healthy, a forceful pass catcher that can steal the momentum of a game.  Needs to work on the finer points of the position but should be productive right out of the gate once he's drafted. The next in a long line of great Hurricane wide outs.

Projection: First round

 3- Taylor Jacobs, Florida

 Even though he was never a consistent starter until this season, Taylor Jacobs always found a way to impact the game and the Gators; likewise he's also found a way to get lost in the wash. This very under-appreciated pass catcher is a senior that will fall through the cracks next April and turn out to be a diamond in the rough for some NFL team.

 The Good:   Natural pass catcher with a great feel for the position, possessing terrific overall awareness and instincts on the football field, in every aspect of the game.  Tremendous body control; fantastic adjustment to the oncoming pass, makes the reception in contorted position and redirects nicely to the ball in mid-air or when running full speed.  Stays low exiting his breaks, comes back to the ball and extends his hands, catching the pass away from his frame.  Uses his body to shield away opponents, stays focused and always looks the ball into his hands.  Gets up in a crowd for the difficult catch or extends and lays out to make the tough grab.  Instinctive, finds the open spot on the field and always trying to make himself an available target for the quarterback. Works hard both on and off the field.   

The Bad:  Not quick releasing off the line of scrimmage, lets the pass get inside him unnecessarily and does not show strong hands.  Champion sprinter but does not consistently transfer that speed onto the football field. 

The Skinny:   Considering he was stuck on the two-deep chart until this year and does not have a whole lot of experience on the field, he's made great strides in a short period and continues to progress at rapid rate.  May slide into the early part of round two but a prospect capable of earning his wage the minute he steps on the field at the next level and a receiver with a good amount of upside potential.

Projection: First round

 4 – Bryant Johnson, Penn State

 Prone to making highlight-reel receptions during the course of a game, Bryant Johnson is having a sensational senior season in what has been an unexpected campaign for the Penn State Nittany Lions. The results put up this year in Happy Valley by Johnson will certainly carry him into next April's draft.

 The Good:  Nice sized, athletic receiver having a breakout senior campaign.  Relatively aware wide out that works  back to the quarterback and makes himself an available target.  Decent route runner that stays low exiting his breaks, immediately positioning himself to make the catch, then out-muscling opponents for the reception or laying out and extending for the difficult grab. Catches the pass in stride and makes the tough receptions over defenders.  

The Bad:  Lacks the deep speed or second gear.  Takes his eye off the ball and prone to the occasional drop.  

The Skinny:  The Penn State "go to" receiver last season now taking his game to another level in 2002.  Much less prone to dropping the pass and coupling reliability with his natural physical skills.  As a result a first day pick is in the offing, possibly earlier if he runs well at the combine.

Projection: Second round

 5 – Brandon Lloyd, Illinois

 Hopes were high for Brandon Lloyd after a promising freshman campaign but a broken leg kept him on the sidelines in 2000. Not to worry as this game breaking wide out that constantly comes up with the important catch rebounded with a terrific campaign in 2001 and now has scouts keeping a close eye on him.

 The Good:   Big play wide out that possesses a lot of natural skills.  Good feel for the game, on the same page as his quarterback and displays great body control.  Extends to make the difficult catch in contorted positions, uses his body to shield away opponents and shows a willingness to go up in a crowd for the ball.  Quick in and out of his breaks, looks the ball into his hands and catches the pass away from his body.  Nice speed and consistently making plays deep into the defensive secondary.  

The Bad:  Not strong and held up at the line by jams.  Though he gets down the flanks, does not own the second gear or the deep acceleration.  

The Skinny:   Growing into a complete wide out and a good prospect for the future.

Projection: Second round

 6 – Sam Aiken, North Carolina

 Projection: Second round

 7 – Talman Gardner, Florida State

 There's never been a void of talented pass catchers coming out of Tallahassee as Florida State is usually loaded at the position. Unfortunately many never reach the heights they did as Seminoles nor the expectations placed on them by NFL scouts. Can Talman Gardner break that trend?

 The Good:  King sized receiver with great size/speed numbers.  Quick releasing off the snap of the ball, easily defeats jams at the line of scrimmage and extends nicely for the catch.  Adjusts well to the pass, reaches back to grab the errant throw or scoops up the low pass.  Catches the ball in stride, deceptively fast and displays good focus throughout the play.   

The Bad:  Less than adequate route running skills, lacks the strong hands and does a bit of unnecessary body catching.  Does not always make the difficult catch or snare the ball out of the air when he has the opportunity.  

The Skinny:  A bit of an enigma; looks the part but does not always play to it and leaves you thinking he could do more.  Can be dangerous if he takes his game to the next level but should he not will be considered a borderline underachiever.

Projection: Third round

 8 – Tyrone Calico

 Projection: Third round

 9 – Doug Gabriel, Central Florida

 Highly coveted as a senior in high school, Doug Gabriel originally signed on with the University of Miami but life took him in another direction. He eventually found his way back to the state of Florida and now, as a senior for Central Florida University, is making loud noises as he meets the expectations many had for him.

 The Good:  Athletic receiver with good size/speed numbers and a player starting to take his game to the next level.  Big, strong yet fast and a deep threat that stretches the defense, beating opponents down the field.  Generally catches the ball well and adding the element of being able to make the difficult catch in a crowd.  

The Bad:  Needs to improve his route running skills and overall focus as occasionally he'll drop the easy pass.   

The Skinny:  Turning it up as a senior and caught more passes during the initial four games of 2002 then he did all of last season.  The arrow is pointing up and as a result, he is moving up draft boards. Combine workouts are critical.

The Skinny:  Needs to improve the details of his game but a terrific prospect overshadowed by other skill players on the CU roster.  Still, a player with definite  potential for the next level.

Projection: Third round

10 – Anquan Bolden, Florida State

 Projection: Third round


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