The Underclassmen: The Receivers

With the Scouting Combine a month away, and the Senior Bowl just around the corner, it's time for Seahawks.NET to provide all the analysis possible about this year's draft class! We continue with Draft Editor Scott Eklund's multi-part series about those underclassmen who have declared for the draft. In Part 2, Scott profiles the receivers.

California WR DeSean JacksonJackson’s speed and electrifying returns are what really set him apart from every other receiver and return man in the country heading into the 2007 season. He’s an amazing punt and kick returner who has exceptional vision and instincts and he’s pretty tough, able to go across the middle without fear. Jackson’s size will be the biggest obstacle he has to overcome when he gets into the NFL because he’s not very strong and he doesn’t run precise routes. If he can master the skill of route-running and reading defenses, then Jackson could be an electrifying player in a couple of years. Jackson projects as a late first round, early second round selection at this point.

NFL Comparison – Miami WR Ted Ginn

Purdue WR Selwyn Lymon Lymon is a solid receiver, but he’s gotten himself in trouble the past couple years and was dismissed from the Boilermakers following his second DUI since he arrived in South Lafayette. When right mentally, Lymon is a talented receiver, but very raw. He shows good hands, gets in and out of his cuts quickly and he’s a good athlete with a big body. His strength is his biggest asset, but with the off-field issues and the fact he is still learning the wide receiver position, there’s a good chance he won’t be selected during the draft and he’ll have to make his way onto a roster as a free agent.

NFL Comparison – Baltimore WR Devard Darling

Louisville WR Mario Urrutia You have to love a player with Urrutia’s size and athleticism, but he probably made a huge mistake coming out this year. Urrutia burst onto the scene as a true freshman in 2005, starting only five games, but still managing to post 37 receptions for 797 yards and a team-leading seven scores. He was also named second team All-Big East for his efforts. In 2006, Urrutia put himself in elite company when posted huge numbers – 56 receptions for 973 yards and six touchdowns. This past year, his season was marred with a turf toe problem and he was clearly not the same receiver scouts got used to the season before. Urrutia’s size (6-6, 220) and athleticism make him an intriguing prospect, but he’s far from polished and he doesn’t have great speed so whichever team he ends up with will need to be patient as he develops. At this point, Urrutia looks like a late-round or free agent prospect.

NFL Comparison – Carolina WR Dwayne Jarrett

Michigan WR Adrian Arrington - In a way it was a big surprise to see Arrington take off early. He isn’t very fast and he had a so-so junior year, but with the arrival of Rich Rodriguez to Ann Arbor and the fact that a spread-option offense won’t lead to Arrington putting up big numbers, he decided his best chance of getting drafted high was to leave now. Arrington needs to run better routes and use his size better. When you’re 6-3, 190 and a good athlete, more is expected of you when the ball is in the air, but Arrington didn’t seem to be as physically imposing as you’d think he would be. He’s still a solid receiver and he’ll make someone happy as a second or third round selection.

NFL Comparison – Carolina WR Drew Carter

Michigan State WR Devin ThomasWhereas some players don’t maximize their draft potential, Thomas got out after one of the best seasons in recent memory for a Spartan wideout. Thomas has good size (6-2, 215), exceptional strength and good hands. He still needs work on his routes and on reading defenses, but there’s no denying he’s got the tools to be a very good number two wideout on an NFL team. Thomas posted 79 receptions for 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns while also wracking up over 1,200 yards in returns. Thomas would be an ideal third-receiver and return man as a rookie with the chance of moving into a starting role within a year or two of getting to the pros. Look for Thomas to go somewhere in the second round, but if he falls just a bit, he would be a steal in the third round.

NFL Comparison – New York Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery

Vanderbilt WR Earl BennettStatistically, Bennett is one of the most prolific receivers ever to come out of the SEC. He caught at least 75 passes three straight seasons and posted 2,852 receiving yards along with 20 touchdowns. Bennett isn’t explosive, but he gets the job done using his excellent quickness and outstanding route-running skills to beat both man and zone coverage. He’s also got good strength and he can get off the line well. His only struggle comes from the fact he lacks a top gear to pull away from defenders. Bennett would be a solid selection anywhere after the start of the second round.

NFL Comparison – San Francisco WR Darrell Jackson

Hawaii WR Davone BessIs Bess a system receiver? At this point, it’s really tough to tell, but like his former quarterback, Colt Brennan, Bess will have to answer those questions in the weeks and months to come. Bess is at his best against zone coverage because he can read defenses well and he has a knack for finding the soft-spots in zones. He’s also got great hands and he’s excellent with the ball tucked away. Bess has very average speed and he’s not very big or strong so he’ll battle against those limitations at the next level. Late first day selection, but could be a value-pick if he is still around on day two of the draft.

NFL Comparison – Buffalo WR Josh Reed

Hawaii WR Ryan Grice-Mullen Like his teammate Bess, Grice-Mullen will be seen as a system player, but he’s a solid receiver who has excellent hands and is also a good route-runner. Mullen’s size and lack of elite speed will hurt his draft status, also like Bess, but he’s got the ability to eventually be a solid slot or third receiver in the right NFL system. He’s a definite second day selection that could surprise some with his abilities once he gets to training camp.

NFL Comparison – Baltimore WR Derrick Mason

Indiana WR James HardyWith his size (6-6, 220) and athleticism, Hardy will be tough to stop at the next level. He was unstoppable the past two years at Indiana and in 2007 he was named the Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year by several publications. Hardy runs well for a man his size and he’s got excellent strength and hands. He’s had some off-field issues, but those seem to be behind him and there’s no denying his abilities as a receiver in any system. Late first or early second round selection depending on which team wants to take a flier on a great player with a questionable past.

NFL Comparison – San Diego WR Vincent Jackson

Oklahoma WR Malcolm KellyAnyone who has read or listened to my player previews over the past year-and-a-half knows that I have a huge man-crush on Kelly. He’s an amazing receiver who has the athleticism and fire to be one of the best in the league eventually. He’s super-strong, able to out-muscle defenders for the ball, and he’s got great hands. He’s not a burner, but he’s got deceptive speed and he already runs great routes. A little polish and you could be looking at a real steal late in the first round where Kelly is currently being projected.

NFL Comparison – Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald

Michigan WR Mario ManninghamHeading into the 2007 season, Manningham was widely thought of as one of the top wideouts in America. All he did was go out and put up impressive numbers hauling in 72 receptions for 1,174 yards and 12 touchdowns including a 97-yarder. Manningham’s speed and excellent hands will make him an ideal second receiver in an NFL system and he’s stronger than his 6-0, 185-pound frame indicates he might be. He has lapses in concentration at times and he needs to run better routes, but with his athleticism and knowledge of the game, he could be a player that makes a team very happy after a year or two of seasoning. He’s projected to go somewhere late in the first or in the early second round.

NFL Comparison – Chicago WR Bernard Berrian

West Virginia WR Darius Reynaud Some were surprised Reynaud decided to leave a season early from Morgantown, but with a daughter and family to provide for and with head coach Rich Rodriguez leaving to be the head coach of Michigan it shouldn’t have been that surprising. At this point, Reynaud is a great athlete who still is very raw and not polished as a receiver. He’s great with the ball in his hands and he could be a solid punt and kick returner as a rookie as he perfects his route-running and his ability to read defenses. Teams need to be patient with him, but Reynaud could eventually end up being a solid playmaker that a team can pick up late in the draft.

NFL Comparison – Pittsburgh WR Santonio Holmes

Syracuse WR Taj Smith Smith could have benefited from another year in college, but with his age (24) he felt it was time to get on with his football career and take a chance on the NFL. Smith is a great natural athlete with great open-field skills once he gets the ball in his hands, but he’s not polished as a receiver and he isn’t very strong, able to be re-directed by defensive backs as he gets into his route. Smith will need to hope that he can stick as a punt or kick returner while he tries to earn time as a receiver. At this point, Smith looks like a late-round selection or a free agent.

NFL Comparison – Detroit WR Shaun McDonald

Florida State QB Xavier Lee Came to Florida State as one of the most-heralded high school quarterbacks in the Sunshine State’s history. That’s saying a lot. However, his time on campus was mired with an academic suspension and erratic play. He shared time with Drew Weatherford and played well at times, but at others he was painfully mistake-prone. Lee has outstanding size and athleticism, but he’s so raw as a signal-caller that it would be a surprise to see a team take a flier on him as a quarterback. Now, if you’re talking about as an athlete that could play running back or wideout, that might be a different story. Lee reminds me a lot of a former quarterback from the Seminoles that has turned out to be a great receiver in the NFL – Anquan Boldin. Probably a late-round selection at this point, but might be better off going unselected and choosing the team and system he will play in.

NFL Comparison – Arizona WR Anquan Boldin

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