POSITION ANALYSIS: The wide receiver position is typically one that doesn't deliver immediate returns. Randy Moss was the exception rather than the rule. Even last year when a pair of wide receivers — Chicago's David Terrell and Seattle's Koren Robinson — were taken early in the first round, neither produced what they were expected to right out of the gate.
The rule of thumb with wide receivers is to expect to get what he can deliver by the third season in the NFL. Few positions need as much upgrading from the college level to pro level than wide receivers. With big, strong corners who can jam young receivers, they need to learn how to refine their techniques as much as any position other than quarterback.
So, while several wide receivers from this year's talent crop will go early — as many as 15 in the first three rounds, don't expect to see many of them setting the world on fire to start the season.
THE TOP OF THE HEAP
Donte Stallworth, Tennessee, 6-1, 194 — Fourth-year junior who applied for the draft, changed his mind, but was denied a chance to return to the Vols by the NCAA...Had surgery in his redshirt freshman year on his right foot...In two years as a starter, caught 76 passes for 1,340 yards and 12 touchdowns — 10 of those TDs coming last year...Exceptional athlete who can outjump defenders, control his body in mid-air and has strength to beat a jam at the line of scrimmage...Has a second gear to blow past defenders...Rarely brought down easily...Can be used as a kick and punt returner...Ran a 4.3 40-yard dash in team workouts, jumping him up on the scouts' boards...Seen as a go-to receiver for any team that drafts him...Two years of college football is a down side...Has been dogged for dropping easy passes. PROJECTION: There are other players who have received more attention — like Ashley Lelie and Jabar Gaffney, but, when it comes to the point where the first WR goes off the board, it will be Stallworth and he will have every chance to be a producer in his first season.
Ashley Lelie, Hawaii, 6-3, 187 — No receiver has moved up the draft charts more in the offseason than Lelie...Played college ball under June Jones, an offensive innovator in the NFL that is highly respected around the league...Fourth-year junior...Three-year starter who was Second Team All-WAC as a sophomore and First Team All-WAC and All-American as a junior...In three years with the Rainbows, caught 193 passes for 3,341 yards and 32 touchdowns...Receptions, yardage and touchdowns went up every year, highlighted by a huge 83-1,713-19 season last year...Uses height to his advantage and can make Cris Carter-like catches that most WRs wouldn't...Excellent leaper who outjumps defenders...Great speed makes him a threat to get behind defenses on every pass play...His main downsides are that he is typically viewed as only a home run receiver who runs long routes, instead of a complete receiver who goes over the middle and on slant routes, as well as the disrespect WAC players get because of the lack of quality corners in the conference...The last Hawaii WR taken in the first two rounds was 16 years ago (Walter Murray, Washington) and we all know what he did. PROJECTION: Lelie has jumped up the draft boards enough that several experts have him rated as the top WR in the draft. He'll go in the first round, but might be best suited for a team playing in a warm climate or, better yet, a dome team like New Orleans or Atlanta — both looking for a speed receiver in the first round.
Jabar Gaffney, Florida, 6-1, 192 — Son of former NFL WR Derrick Gaffney (NY Jets), who schooled his son on how to be a pro receiver...Third-year sophomore who was thrown off the Gators team after he was accused of stealing money and a watch from the locker room of a high school all-star game...Came back to Florida on his own dime and became a two-year starter, catching 138 passes for 2,375 yards and 27 touchdowns...Freshman All-American in 2000 and a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, given to the best WR in the country, in 2001...Has been compared favorably to Jacksonville All-Pro Jimmy Smith...A great athlete who can pull in just about every pass thrown his way...Very quick off the line and gets separation going into and out of his cuts...Has a second gear to blow by defenders and has the leaping ability to catch jump balls...Doesn't have blazing flat-out speed...Not a great receiver in traffic over the middle...Gets knocked for having small hands, which can result in drops and fumbles...Not a solid blocker. PROJECTION: Steve Spurrier has turned out a number of first-round wide receivers like Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard and Travis Taylor who haven't lived up to their hype. Gaffney will join them as first-rounders, but may last longer than expected because of the recent track record of the other guys.
Josh Reed, LSU, 5-10, 205 — Drafted to Louisiana State as running back, but converted to wide receiver...Fourth-year junior...Only became a full-time starter last year, catching 94 passes...In two years as a full-time receiver, caught 159 passes for 2,867 yards and 17 TDs...Won the Biletnikoff Award in 2001...Finished his college career on a high note, catching 14 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns vs. Illinois in the Sugar Bowl...Stat nuts love this guy, since he led the nation in yards receiving, YAC (yards after the catch) and yards after breaking a tackle...Has been compared to New England playmaker Troy Brown...Excellent route runner whose cuts are crisp and tend to lose defenders...Has the strength of a running back, but the speed of a wideout...His speed isn't in the class of the other top wide receivers...Doesn't have ideal size, but makes the most out of his ability. PROJECTION: Has a couple of drawbacks not ideal for NFL receivers — height and straight-line speed — but is so productive, he gets past those detriments. Will go in the first round, perhaps to Green Bay, and will be a solid NFL player.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Reche Caldwell, Florida, 6-0, 196 — Fourth-year junior who, like Gafney, is following Spurrier into the NFL early...Two-year starter who caught 112 passes for 1,819 yards and 16 touchdowns...Improved every year with the Gators...Plays faster than his 40 times would indicate...Has great hands and can catch the ball from every angle...Nice combination of size, speed and strength, but not exceptional at any of them...Plays like a NFL receiver already the way he runs routes. PROJECTION: He may slip into the first round, but some may downgrade him since he's never been a go-to guy (played opposite Gaffney at Florida) and doesn't have the great straight-line speed coaches want. However, he could turn into a great NFL player in the Keenan McCardell/Cris Carter mode.
Andre Davis, Virginia Tech, 6-2, 195 — Fifth-year senior...Excellent sprinter who won the Atlantic 10 title in the 100 and 200 meters...Missed a lot of time with injuries to hip, ankle and foot...As a sophomore averaged more than 27 yards a catch, hauling in 35 passes for 962 yards and nine TDs...With a team that went downhill as well as battling injuries, he caught just 63 passes for 941 yards and nine touchdowns the last two seasons, but still managed to be a first team All-Big East last year...A very smart player, he's working on a postgraduate degree and was an Academic All-American...Good height, excellent speed and leaping ability make him a highly-touted prospect...Excellent return man...Has been compared in good ways to the Rams' Torry Holt...Injuries remain his biggest question mark…Seems to catch balls with his body instead of his hands. PROJECTION: Without the injuries, he would be a first-rounder. Even so, he'll go in the second round and be viewed as a home run threat whenever he takes off downfield.
Javon Walker, Florida State, 6-2, 210 — A multi-sport athlete who was drafted by the Florida Marlins coming out of high school...Played two years at FSU after two seasons at community college...In his two years with the Seminoles, he caught 65 passes for 1,255 yards and 10 touchdowns...Missed a lot of time in 2000 with an ankle injury and broken collarbone...Great size-speed ratio makes him a dangerous threat both deep and over the middle...Exceptionally big hands and long arms allow him to get to passes most receivers wouldn't...Not a great blocker. PROJECTION: Used ability to become FSU's go-to receiver and has the ability to be a late-first round pick, but more likely will land in the second round.
Marquise Walker, Michigan, 6-3, 210 — High school All-American who is a fourth-year senior...Became a starter the middle of his junior year...In his only season as a full-time starter, was First Team All-Big 10, catching 81 passes for 1,043 yards and 11 touchdowns...Excellent size and has toughness to go over the middle and take his shots...Strong hands that help him in jump ball situations much like Cris Carter...Difficult to jam at the line...Good blocker...Doesn't have great straight-line speed...Drops too many passes. PROJECTION: A guy many see as a Cris Carter type possession receiver, he won't be a dazzler like Lelie, Stallworth or Gaffney, but may end up being just as effective or more effective as the years go on. He should drop in the middle to late second round.
Antonio Bryant, Pittsburgh, 6-1, 188 — Third-year junior whose stock dropped like Enron after having a horrible 40-yard dash time at the Combine...Comes out of an NFL-style offense with the Panthers under former NFL QB coach Walt Harris...Won Freshman All-American and Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore...Had a down junior year that hobbled him with an Achilles injury...In three years, he caught 161 passes for 2,802 yards and 26 touchdowns...Long arms and great jumping ability make him dangerous in jump ball/alley-oop situations...Playmaker who has deceptive playing speed...Has some personal issues, such as being suspended twice for using a school credit card and for fighting, as well as being arrested for using a stolen credit card to buy a plane ticket (charges were later dropped)...Another player who is seen in the Cris Carter/Keyshawn Johnson mold of big possession receiver. PROJECTION: His personal baggage and slow 40 time dropped him from a sure first-round pick into the second round and, with his personal history, some teams may avoid him all together, allowing him to slide further than he should.
Antwaan Randle El, Indiana, 5-9, 187 — Fifth-year senior who was a full-time quarterback until this season...Took on more of a Kordell Stewart-type role last year leading Indiana to one of its best seasons in years...High school teammate of San Francisco WR Tai Streets...Four-time All-Big 10 first- or second-team selection...An incredible runner for a QB, in 1998 he threw for 1,745 yards and six TDs while running 227 times for 873 yards and 10 TDs. In 1999, he had 2,277 yards passing and 17 TDs, along with 224 carries for 788 yards and 13 TDs. In 2000, his passing yardage slipped to 1,783 yards and 10 TDs, but his rushing numbers jumped to 218 carries for 1,270 yards and 13 touchdowns. As a senior, his passing numbers were 1,664 yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing 180 times for 969 yards and eight TDs...A great athlete who also played basketball and baseball, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1997...Can be used as a third-down running back, wide receiver, option quarterback, return man or even cornerback if needed...Very quick feet that make defenders miss...Durable for small player...An in-between player who is seen as too small for QB or RB and not enough straight-line speed to be a wide receiver...Doesn't have the power to make noise in traffic. PROJECTION: This guy is special. He's the all-time rushing leader for a QB (3,895 yards) and the only Division I player to ever rush and pass for more than 40 touchdowns. However, his physical limitations will likely drop him to end of the second round or perhaps more likely into the third round.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Cliff Russell, Utah, 6-0, 184
Ron Johnson, Minnesota, 6-3, 220
Tim Carter, Auburn, 6-0, 191
Deion Branch, Louisville, 5-9, 189
Kalil Hill, Iowa, 6-1, 200
Kelly Campbell, Georgia Tech, 5-10, 172
Freddie Milons, Alabama, 5-10, 192
Darrell Hill, Northern Illinois, 6-2, 198
Herb Haygood, Michigan State, 5-11, 186
Brian Poli-Dixon, UCLA, 6-5, 213
VU Draft Profiles: WR
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