2006 Draft Preview: Wide Receiver

The past two drafts saw a tremendous number of receivers taken in the first frame.  Five wideouts were selected during April's initial frame, including a trio who were chosen in the top ten.  The year before was even better as seven receivers were drafted in the initial round, including five who came off the board during the first 15 selections.  Next April's class pales in comparison.

As we begin the scouting process, there is no clear-cut No. 1 receiver that stands above the rest of the crowd.  And though several prospects can stake claim as the top player at this position, it is quite possible no wideout will be selected in the top half of round one next April if things do not dramatically change.

Arizona State's Derek Hagan is arguably the top receiver prospect.  A consistent pass catcher, he employs terrific technique with football smarts.  Hagan always comes through in the clutch with the important grab during the critical moments.  At the same time, he makes ordinary receptions with regularity.   Doing the little things well, Hagan's downfield blocking also stands out.  He is by no means a speedster that stretches the defense, and at 6-1, 195 pounds, Hagan possesses just ordinary size for the next level.

Also battling for the top receiver spot will be Todd Watkins.  Similarly sized to Hagan, the BYU product has been very productive and presents himself as a game-breaking receiver with a nose for the end zone.  Averaging 20 yards per catch on 52 receptions, Watkins found the end zone six times last season.  He also averaged 95 yards receiving per game for an anemic Cougar offense.  Watkins is the player offensive coaches game plan around while opponents must account for him on every down.  Postseason workouts at the combine will dictate how early in round one Watkins is selected next April.

If there is one prospect who could make a major leap up draft boards it would easily be Martin Nance of Miami-Ohio.  A physically gifted prospect with terrific size/speed numbers (6-4/212/4.40), Nance is an outstanding receiver with the production to match.  Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target in 2003, Nance set school records of 90 receptions and 1,498 receiving yards while falling just shy of the touchdown mark with 11.  High on the list of available juniors entering the '04 season, Nance saw his season cut short after tearing an ACL in his left knee during the season's fifth game.  He has all the tools to be a big-time NFL wideout, yet must prove his knee is back at full strength.  At his best, Nance stands atop this list.

Jason Avant of Michigan is another good-sized receiver, minus the speed.  Avant consistently comes away with the difficult catch in a crowd or the important reception on third down.  At face value he looks like a proto-typical "possession wideout" for the next level, and Avant has plenty to offer.

The best combination of receiver and return specialist comes in the form of Skyler Green from LSU.  A shifty and explosive skill player, Green is a threat anytime the ball is in his hands.  Possessing marginal size/speed numbers, Green looks best as a third receiver at the next level who will earn his wage on special teams.

Other seniors who presently carry a first-day grade are Mike Hass of Oregon State, Colorado State's David Anderson and Jovon Bouknight of Wyoming.

Recently, underclassmen receivers have made a major impact during the draft's early selections.  And while they will improve the landscape next April, it does not look as though any eligible underclassman will broach the beginning part of round one. 

Ohio State junior Santonio Holmes is a big-play receiver with the extra gear to beat defenses deep.  Consistently improving his game, Holmes will be a top-32 selection if he enters next April's draft.  Steve Smith of USC is quite similar in that he breaks games open with big receptions down the field.  Miami Hurricane wide-out Ryan Moore is a king-sized possession receiver who offers the quarterback an imposing target on third down or in the red zone.  Both Moore and Smith are underclassmen with top-60 potential.

Top 30 Receiver Prospects

 
 Name School
Derek Hagan Arizona State
Todd Watkins BYU
Martin Nance Miami-Oh
Santonio Holmes* Ohio State
Ryan Moore* Miami-Fl
Jason Avant Michigan
Steve Smith* USC
Steve Breaston* Michigan
Mike Jefferson* Arizona
Skyler Green LSU
David Anderson Colorado State
C.J. Fayton Tennessee
Matt Trannon Michigan State
Clinton Solomon Iowa
Travis Wilson Oklahoma
Jejuan Rankins Oklahoma
Mike Espy Mississippi
Steve Sanders Bowling Green
Kyle Ingraham* Purdue
Brandon Williams Wisconsin
Jared Ellerson Minnesota
D'Juan Woods* Oklahoma State
Jonathan Orr Wisconsin
Jarwarski Pollock North Carolina
Lionel Joseph Southern
Biren Ealy Arizona
Mark Simmons Kansas
Ed Hinkel Iowa
Marques Colston Hofstra

*denotes underclassmen


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