Grading the pro potential: Receivers

Tall or short, there's something for every team looking toward a loaded group of wide receivers. NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas breaks down this deep class and provides some whispers from the league rumor mill. The question for the Vikings probably isn't if they select a receiver, but when, because of this deep class.

NFL teams looking for additional depth at the wide receiver will not only have an abundance of talent to choose from, but also have quality to go with this position's depth.

Teams looking for big targets who have the ability to create mismatches vs. the smaller cornerbacks have begun burning the phone wires trying to get in position to take Texas A&M's Mike Evans, with the Giants seeming like the most interested team in making a Monty Hall-like deal, just not as extravagant as the deal Atlanta made years ago to take Julio Jones.

There are whispers that if they fail to jockey into position to take Evans that New York likely will look to stockpile some extra picks, trade out of Round 1 and hope they can find Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews still available when they select in the second round. Allen Robinson is another big wideout that has secured a second -round spot, but he might have to wait for Mississippi's Donte Moncrief and Indiana's Cody Latimer to hear their names called, as Moncrief has regained some of his preseason draft notice and Latimer has become the fastest riser at this position entering into the last week-plus before the draft.

It is a given that Sammy Watkins is the first receiver that will be taken in the draft. Many "draft experts" have him targeted to become a St. Louis Ram with the second overall pick, but with the signing of Kenny Britt and the late-season development by the West Virginia tandem of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the only way that Watkins ends up being selected with the second choice is if the Rams happen to trade the pick, as their offensive line and secondary appear to be areas that they have to address first.


Word has it that Cleveland will pounce on Watkins if he is available with the fourth choice. If the Browns go another route with that pick, Tampa Bay — the Giants' serious competition for Mike Evans — will gladly have Watkins join their fold with the seventh choice. Detroit has also made a lot of noise that they want Watkins, but a ridiculous offer of inconsistent defensive tackle Nick Fairley and the Lions' 10th pick to move up on draft day obviously will not get the deal done.

Actually, losing out on Watkins for some teams could see those looking for a game-changer to give serious consideration to Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. The speedy receiver might actually have more value to teams like Pittsburgh, the Jets, Philadelphia and Kansas City than even Watkins, as he's a dangerous threat running the ball out of the backfield, has solid return skills and has production numbers that few receivers in this draft can boast of.

The four teams mentioned lining up for Cooks will have an alternative to consider, as Odell Beckham might not have Cooks' performance figures, but he's a shade bigger and has done like Cooks – prove to be a viable return man and a player with very good numbers executing the reverse. Dri Archer of Kent State might fit those teams' needs later in the draft (Round 3), but he's all over draft boards, with some teams concerned about his route-running ability and others feeling he is more valuable as a change-of-pace ball-carrier who should see a bulk of his action in the return game.

For teams entering this draft with a "size counts" approach, Moncrief, Latimer, Robinson and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State are likely to be taken in the second round. Some have considered Benjamin a possible late first-round receiver (Philadelphia), but if you watch film on him, he is probably the worst route runner of any of the first- or second-day type receivers, has a high amount of dropped passes and has dealt with weight issues throughout his career. I honestly think this player will bring more value to a team if they stop "starving" the big-boned wideout and convert him into a pass-catching tight end in the Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham mold.

Watkins' teammate, Martavis Bryant is moving up on draft boards, thanks to crisp route-running skills, but teams really need to check on his off-field stuff before investing big bucks in this Tiger. Devin Street of Pittsburgh is a nice-sized flanker who had injury issues wipe out the end of his college career, but he has the ability to come in and contribute immediately.

The same can not be said for Rutgers' Brandon Coleman, who has Benjamin-like size, but someone needs to check that kid's pulse or see if he might have joined the military, as he certainly "tanked it" this season, resulting in a sharp drop from his preseason perch as a potential late first-round pick. Knowing Bill Belichick and the Patriots' affection for Scarlet Knights over the years, it would not be at all surprising to see him munching on Boston beans and rooting for the Bruins next year.

Big targets that could be found on the draft's third day are Jeff Janis of Saginaw Valley, Kevin Norwood of Alabama, Cody Hoffman of Brigham Young, Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington of Missouri, LSU's Jarvis Landry (doing one of the bigger falls on draft boards at this position) and banished ex-Vanderbilt split end Chris Boyd. They all appear to be part of the likely 40-plus receivers that should be selected during the three-day draft process.

Smaller receivers have not been given the attention the "big boys" have this year, but that does not mean the talent is lacking. Cooks and Beckham are never going to be considered "skyscrapers," but have crisp route-running skills and incredible explosion after the catch. Marqise Lee of Southern California is regarded by many as a top-flight receiver, but I still question if it was all the nagging injuries or a player caught up in his press clippings that led to his mediocre 2013 season. I swear, he looked so uninspired at times, and the joke is, if $50 was left in the middle of the field and no one was around, Lee would still not go after it.

Besides Archer being a candidate for the slot receiver role, South Carolina's Bruce Ellington and Colorado's Paul Richardson are considered worthy of coming in and starting at that spot as rookies. Robert Herron of Wyoming has blazing speed but has a lot of route-running technique refinement for a position coach to work with him on. Michael Campanaro of Wake Forest could be gone in the fifth or sixth round, but I simply do not see him as a Wes Welker-type, as one "draft expert" called him. Now, if they said those Welker comments about Oregon's Josh Huff, it would be understandable, as he's a load to bring down after the catch.

Other smaller receivers who will have to wait until the draft's third day are Albert Wilson of Georgia State, Chandler Jones of San Jose State and John Brown of Pittsburg State. Return skills will likely earn Michigan's Jeremy Gallon and Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders a chance to make the rosters coming out of training camp. Injuries to Tevin Reese of Baylor and Kain Colter of Northwestern could see both signing on with a team as free agents. Colter is also going to have to deal with a permanent shift to receiver, where he bounced between that position and quarterback during his Wildcats career.


CREAM OF THE CROP: Mike Evans (Texas A&M) and Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

BEST OF THE REST: Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) and Odell Beckham (Louisiana State)

MOST UNDERRATED: Dri Archer (Kent State) and Devin Street (Pittsburgh)

MOST OVERRATED: Marqise Lee (Southern California) and Jarvis Landry (Louisiana State)

SUPER SLEEPERS: Cody Latimer (Indiana) and Bennie Fowler (Michigan State)

#WATKINS, Sammy 6:01211 4.4316 3410'06" 4.346.95 8.21
#EVANS, Mike 6:05231 4.5312 3709'11" 4.267.08 8.21
MATTHEWS, Jordan 6:03212 4.4621 35 1/210'00" 4.186.95 7.92
#COOKS, Brandin 5:10189 4.3316 3610'00" 3.816.76 7.81
#BECKHAM JR., Odell 5:11198 4.437 38 1/210'02" 3.946.69 7.51
#LEE, Marqise 6:00192 4.5210 3810'07" 4.016.69 7.11
#ADAMS, Davante 6:01212 4.5614 39 1/210'03" 4.306.82 7.02
#ROBINSON, Allen 6:03220 4.6010 3910'07" 4.007.00 6.92
#MONCRIEF, Donte 6:02221 4.4013 39 1/211'00" 4.307.02 6.83
#LATIMER, Cody 6:03215 4.4423 3910'00" 4.337.02 6.63
#BENJAMIN, Kelvin 6:05240 4.6113 32 1/209'11" 4.397.33 6.52
RICHARDSON, Paul 6:00175 4.408 3810'04" 4.236.98 6.32
ARCHER, Dri (RET) 5:08173 4.2620 3810'02" 4.066.86 6.24
#BRYANT, Martavis 6:04211 4.4216 3910'04" 4.157.18 6.13
#ELLINGTON, Bruce 5:09197 4.4515 39 1/210'00" 3.956.69 6.04
ABBREDERIS, Jared 6:01195 4.504 30 1/209'09" 4.086.80 6.04
HERRON, Robert 5:09193 4.4818 35 1/210'05" 4.276.84 5.94
STREET, Devin 6:03198 4.5010 3710'04" 4.016.72 5.95
HUFF, Josh 5:11206 4.4714 3709'10" 4.126.96 5.84
DAVIS, Mike 6:00197 4.5210 34 1/209'08" 4.096.84 5.84
#LANDRY, Jarvis 6:00205 4.5812 28 1/209'02" 4.317.07 5.62
#COLEMAN, Brandon 6:06225 4.5621 32 1/209'06" 4.517.33 5.54
NORWOOD, Kevin 6:02198 4.488 3310'01" 4.326.68 5.44
JONES, T.J. 6:00188 4.4816 3309'11" 4.276.82 5.35
CAMPANARO, Michael 5:09192 4.4620 3910'02" 4.016.77 5.36
JANIS, Jeff 6:03219 4.4220 37 1/210'03" 3.986.64 5.26
EVANS, Shaquelle 6:01213 4.5113 34 1/210'02" 4.217.07 5.25
SAUNDERS, Jalen 5:09165 4.448 3410'02" 4.347.29 5.15
GRANT, Ryan 6:00199 4.648 35 1/209'11" 4.116.68 5.15
BROWN, John 5:10179 4.348 36 1/209'11" 4.126.91 5.17
FOWLER, Bennie 6:01217 4.5218 3610'06" 4.187.06 5.07
WILSON, Albert 5:09202 4.4310 37 1/210'03" 4.217.00 5.0PFA
JONES, Chandler 5:09183 4.3413 33 1/209"09" 4.376.78 5.07-FA
#FRANKLIN, Austin 5:11189 4.567 3610'04" 4.337.07 4.97
HOFFMAN, Cody 6:04223 4.6513 27 1/209'00" 4.26.89 4.96
WASHINGTON, L'Damian 6:04195 4.468 3209'07" 4.357.19 4.97
HAZEL, Matt 6:01198 4.5015 36 1/209'10" 4.27.08 4.87
BURTON, Trey (FB/TE) 6:02224 4.6219 3309'05" 4.317.01 4.87-FA
ENUNWA, Quincy 6:02225 4.4519 3410'0" 4.357.14 4.87-FA
%REESE, Tevin 5:11163 4.466 4111"00" 4.186.63 4.77
LUCAS, Marcus 6:04218 4.6020 3610'04" 4.257.07 4.7PFA
GALLON, Jeremy 5:08185 4.4915 39 1/210'10" 4.267.07 4.77-FA
FOSTER, Donte 6:01188 4.4714 4210'10" 4.36.79 4.6CMP
%COLTER, Kain 5:11198 4.5418 33 1/209"04" 4.27.15 4.67
#STEWART, Josh 5:10178 4.6911 3509'09" 4.337.10 4.67-FA
#SNEAD, Willie 5:11195 4.6211 33 1/209'05" 4.397.19 4.67-FA

Immediate starter...Should have a major impact to the success of the franchise, barring injury...Possesses superior critical factors...Plays with consistency and without abnormal extra effort...Rare talent.
7.6-8.0Star Quality Eventual starter...Should make a significant contribution in his first year...Possesses above average critical factors...Has the talent and skills to start...Will contribute to upgrading the team...Can play without abnormal effort, but has some inconsistency in his play that will improve with refinement and development...Has no real weakness.
7.0-7.5Impact Player Possesses at least average to above average critical factors in all areas...Will contribute immediately, whether as a starter or a valuable reserve...Will move into the starting lineup with seasoning...Above average player who needs to refine certain areas.
6.5-6.9Eventual Starter Could move into the starting lineup within three years...Has average critical factors in all areas...Needs further development, but has the ability to contribute.
6.0-6.4Potential Starter Could force himself into the starting lineup with improved perform- ances...Will make a team...Has average critical factors in most areas, but at least one with less than average quality that he will have a hard time overcoming...Probable draft choice.
5.5-5.9Roster Player Has the ability to serve as a key reserve and possible future starter... Possesses average critical factors, but more than several areas are less than average...Plays with normal extra effort.
5.0-5.4Project Has the skills to play pro ball with proper tutoring...May make a team based on need...Possesses no real strong critical factors and is probably below average in several areas that the player will have a hard time overcoming...Possible draft choice, but only if that team is caught short on talent available at that position.
4.6-4.9Develop- mental Could make a team with an impressive showing in training camp... Not strong in most critical factors...Deficient in more than one area that he will not be able to overcome...At least average in the factor of competitiveness...May not make a team due to his limitations.
4.1-4.5Camp Player Has redeeming qualities that could allow him to play in the pros with improved performances...Deficient in more than one critical factor... Might make a team, but will always be the player that squad will look to replace.
3.5-4.0Reject Might make a team, but has glaring deficiencies in several critical factors...Below average competitor whose athletic skills will allow him to enter training camp, but has a difficult time in trying to make a team.

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