Positional draft analysis: Wide receivers

The 2015 class is loaded at wide receiver, with a variety of skills throughout. The Vikings no longer have to draft a receiver early, but they have myriad options throughout the draft. We review the strengths, weaknesses and production of the top dozen.

VIKINGS WIDE RECEIVERS – Mike Wallace, Cordarrelle Patterson, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright, Adam Thielen, Kain Colter, Donte Foster.

VIKINGS POSITION NEED – The Vikings got a big-play deep threat receiver in Wallace, but it came with a price – the team had to release Greg Jennings to make the money work. There is still a need at the position, but it isn’t a requirement. It may be tempting if someone like Amari Cooper is available with the 11th pick of the draft, but the Vikings have both talent and depth at the position, so it may not be a front-burner issue.

POSITION ANALYSIS – Wide receiver has been historically a position that judgment needs to be reserved on because, more times than not, it takes two or three seasons for a wide receiver to blossom at the NFL level. However, coming off a year in which several wide receivers made an immediate impact for the teams that drafted them last year, that perception may be changing. The Class of 2015 is deep with talented players and it starts at the top. There could be three players taken in the top dozen picks – Cooper, Kevin White and DeVante Parker – and by the time the first round ends, five or six wide receivers could be off the board. Given the level of need in the pass-happy era of the NFL, just about every team will likely grab someone from the Class of 2015, whether early or late in the draft.

THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Amari Cooper, Alabama, 6-1, 211 – Third-year junior…Started 29 of 39 career games, finishing with 228 catches for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns…Had a monster 2014 season, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 TDs, becoming the only player in college history to have more than 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 14 or more touchdowns in a season…Is able to beat press coverage easily…Has tremendous burst and gets to top speed very quickly…Has great hands and high-points balls consistently…Is capable of taking a short slant the distance…Needs to work on his route running because he freelances too much…Is average size for NFL wide receivers…Makes some critical drops…Did not lift at the Combine with a right shoulder injury but ran a 4.42 40 with a 33-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump.
PROJECTION: The most NFL-ready wide receiver in the Class of 2015, he could go as high as No. 4 to Oakland, but there will be teams jumping to trade into a spot if he’s on the board at No. 10.

Kevin White, West Virginia, 6-2¾, 215 – Fourth-year senior…Spent two years at Lackawanna College in Pennsylvania…In 23 games at WVU, he started 22 of them, finishing with 144 catches for 1,954 yards and 15 touchdowns…Blew up in 2014 with 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns…An impressive combination of size, strength and speed…An outstanding leaper with good timing…Has almost immediate acceleration and eats up chunks of yards…Plucks the ball with ease and isn’t afraid to go over the middle to make a catch…Very raw in NFL terms with limited playing time against elite competition…Drops too many catchable passes…Needs some work on his blocking and doesn’t always give good or consistent effort…Blew up at the Combine, running a 4.35 40 with 23 reps of 225 pounds, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 10-3 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Wowed the scouts at the Combine and, when the draft begins, he could be the first wide receiver to come off the board – perhaps as early as No. 4 to Oakland.

DeVante Parker, Louisville, 6-2¾, 209 – Fourth-year senior…Started just 25 of 42 career games, finishing his college career with 156 catches for 2,775 yards (an 18.8-yard average) and 33 touchdowns…A college teammate of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater…Missed the first seven games of the season after foot surgery…He has good size, long arms and a body capable of adding muscle without sacrificing speed…A long strider who eats up a cushion and blows by defenders…Catches most of his passes short, but always capable of breaking off big plays, as shown by averaging almost 19 yards a catch during his college career…Is lean and will likely need to add bulk at the next level…Doesn’t have great footwork off the line and often gets jammed…Has a bit of an injury history which will have some teams worried…Ran a 4.45 40 at the Combine with 17 reps, a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 10-5 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He has been compared to A.J. Green, but he wasn’t overly productive in college and his injury history will have some teams putting red flags next to his name. But his talent is hard to argue and he should go in the second 10 picks of the draft.

THE NEXT LEVEL
Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma, 6-5¼, 237 – Third-year junior…Played two seasons at Missouri before transferring to Oklahoma and sitting out of the 2013 season…In his two years at Mizzou, he caught 87 passes for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns…Was kicked off the Missouri squad in 2013 after three off-field incidents…Gigantic receiver with long arms that can create mismatches, especially in the red zone…Has excellent immediate acceleration and gets downfield in an instant…Has excellent adjustment skills on downfield passes…Didn’t run a full route tree at Missouri and will need some teaching to reach his full potential…Always seems to be in and out of trouble with the law and authority…Can be lazy in his route running…Ran a 4.49 40 at the Combine with 13 reps of 225 pounds, a 33½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump.
PROJECTION: The most controversial receiver in the draft, he has a rare blend of size, speed and strength, but some teams will not have him ranked as a first-rounder despite his skill. Somebody will bite in the first round, but it may take longer than his ability would dictate it should.

Jaelen Strong, Arizona State, 6-2½, 217 – Fourth-year junior…Started 24 of 25 career games, catching 157 passes for 2,287 yards and 17 touchdowns…Played one year at Pierce (Calif.) College before redshirting at ASU in 2012…First-team All-Pac 12 in 2014…A physical receiver who routinely beats jams at the line…Has long arms and excellent leaping ability…Adjusts well to poorly thrown passes…Doesn’t have elite top-end sustained speed…Doesn’t have the burst or hard cutting ability to consistently gain separation…Undisciplined in his route running and needs refinement…Didn’t lift at the Combine with a strained right AC joint, but ran a 4.44 40 with a 42-inch vertical jump and a 10-3 broad jump.
PROJECTION: Strong has a lot of positive qualities, but none that jump off the page at you. In a weaker draft class, he’d probably be a first-round pick and still might be, but more likely he’ll be taken at the very end of Day 1 or early on Day 2.

Sammie Coates, Auburn, 6-1½, 212 – Fourth-year junior…Started 20 of 37 career games, catching 82 passes for 1,757 yards (a whopping 21.4-yard average) and 13 TDs…Has blazing speed and the strength to beat the press…Requires safety help over the top…An explosive leaper who consistently high-points the ball…Very limited production for all of his skill…Drops far too many passes…Didn’t run a full route tree and was more of a complementary receiver in college…Wowed at the Combine, running a 4.43 40 with 23 reps of 225 pounds, a 41-inch vertical jump and a 10-11 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A one-trick pony in college, but it’s an impressive trick. He has excellent deep speed and teams are willing to take chances on players with his type of freakish ability. It likely won’t be until Day 2, but he could develop into a dominant receiver in the right system.

Breshad Perriman, Central Florida, 6-2, 212 – Third-year junior…A two-year starter who caught 89 passes for 1,855 yards (a 20.9-yard average) and 13 touchdowns in that span…The son of former Lions wide receiver Brett Perriman…Has excellent size and speed – he reportedly ran a 4.25 40 at his pro day…Has a long stride to eat up downfield yards in a hurry…Gains a lot of yards after the catch…Doesn’t have ideal technique and is a work in progress…Disappears for long stretches at a time…Played his best against sub-par cornerbacks, which he won’t see often in the NFL…Didn’t run or jump at the Combine with a right hamstring injury and chose not to lift.
PROJECTION: A big receiver with an NFL pedigree, he is going to need a lot of polishing, but has the ability to be a solid wide receiver at the next level, but likely not a go-to guy.

THE BEST OF THE REST
Phillip Dorsett, Miami, 5-9¾, 185 – Fourth-year senior…Started 30 of 44 career games, finishing with 121 catches for 2,132 yards and 17 touchdowns…Missed five games his junior year with a torn MCL…Has explosive speed and can get behind defenses like few others…Fights for balls in traffic and typically wins the battle…Gains a lot of yards after the catch and is slippery in the open field…Is undersized, which could lend itself to durability concerns…Didn’t have good or consistent production in his college career…Doesn’t have a variety of moves as a route runner…Ran an electrifying 4.33 40 at the Combine with 13 reps, a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-1 broad jump.
PROJECTION: An undersized receiver who has big-play ability but limited route running and production, he will likely go late in Day 2 but will have the chance to be a playmaker of the highest order if a team harnesses his talent.

Devin Funchess, Michigan, 6-4¼, 232 – Third-year junior…Started 25 of 37 career games, catching 126 passes for 1,715 yards and 15 TDs…A Freshman All-America in 2012 and was named Tight End of the Year in 2013…A huge frame and with a massive catch radius…Moves with great fluidity for a big man and plays with the shiftiness of a much smaller receiver…Strong route runner…Only played wide receiver one year and some teams may look at him as a hybrid-type receiver…Has iffy hands and will drop catchable passes…Inconsistent in several aspects of his game…Ran a disappointing 4.70 40 at the Combine with 17 reps of 225 pounds, a 38½-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: He looks the part and is smooth in his route running, but he’s very slow for a wide receiver and may be a man without a true position, which should drop him deep into Day 2 before his name gets called.

Devin Smith, Ohio State, 6-0½, 196 – Fourth-year senior…Two-year starter who caught 77 passes for 1,591 yards and 20 touchdowns in that span…Averaged a whopping 28.2 yards per reception in 2014…Has great vertical speed and hits top speed quickly…Gains a lot of yards after the catch…At his best crossing the field and loses defenders with ease…Isn’t a consistent player both in terms of route running and focus when the ball arrives…Didn’t run a full route tree at Ohio State…Has straight-line speed but loses a step in transition…Ran a 4.42 40 at the Combine with just 10 reps, a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A tricky prospect because he reminds you of players like Torrey Smith, who are blessed with great speed but viewed as one-trick ponies in the NFL. He could be a bust candidate, but you can’t teach speed and he has it in a big way.

Nelson Agholor, USC, 6-0¼, 198 – Third-year junior…Two-year starter who caught 160 passes for 2,231 yards and 18 touchdowns in that span…All-Pac 12 in 2014 when he caught 104 passes…Well-versed in a pro-style offense…An excellent route runner who makes sharp cuts to get open and leave defenders behind…Has excellent acceleration and a second gear…Is thin and will have difficulty adding muscle or bulk…Tends to avoid contact and can get alligator arms in traffic…Doesn’t have elite speed and doesn’t get a ton of yards after the catch when defenders get their hands on him…Did not jump after suffering a hand injury at the Combine, but ran a 4.42 40 and did 12 reps of 225 pounds.
PROJECTION: A player who blossomed in 2014, USC has a history of developing pro-ready wide receivers. He has a ton of upside and could be something special sooner than later.

Rashad Greene, Florida State, 5-11½, 182 – Fourth-year senior…A three-year starter who caught 232 passes for 3,234 yards and 22 touchdowns in that span…Has excellent natural speed and appears effortless running at top speed…His production increased every season at FSU as he became more well-rounded as a receiver…Has very good hands and rarely drops passes in traffic…Very thin and doesn’t have the ideal body type to add bulk strength…Has trouble separating from physical corners who jam him at the line…Doesn’t win nearly enough contested battles for the ball…Didn’t lift at the Combine with a wrist injury but ran a 4.53 40 with a 36½-inch vertical jump and a 10-2 broad jump.
PROJECTION: A playmaker who can change the course of a game, his size limitations will likely limit him to being a part-time receiver inside the hash marks, which will drop him well into Day 2 at the earliest.

OTHERS TO WATCH
Chris Conley, Georgia, 6-2, 213
Jamison Crowder, Duke, 5-8½, 185
Devante Davis, UNLV, 6-3, 220
Stefon Diggs, Maryland, 6-0, 195
Antwan Goodley, Baylor, 5-10¼, 209
Justin Hardy, East Carolina, 5-10¼, 192
Josh Harper, Fresno State, 6-1, 191
Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas, 6-3¾, 214
Tony Lippett, Michigan State, 6-2½, 192
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State, 5-10, 182
Tre McBride, William & Mary, 6-0¼, 210
Ty Montgomery, Stanford, 6-0, 221

SCOUT.COM DRAFT RANKINGS

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