Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins (2) makes a leaping catch over Florida State Seminoles defensive back Tyler Hunter (1). Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Early Player Rankings for the NFL Draft: Top Five Wide Receiver Prospects

 

Over the past two weeks I have been providing my early player rankings for each position in the 2014 NFL Draft. This is a brief look at my top five players at each position at this point in the draft evaluation process.

With the NFL Scouting Combine only a few days away, the draft landscape could change rather rapidly depending on how well these players do in drills and workouts, but for now, this should at least give you an idea of who some of the top players are at each position.

Over the weekend, I highlighted my top outside linebacker prospects, and today I would like to take a look at a very deep receiver class.

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson

2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M

3. Marqise Lee, USC

4. Allen Robinson, Penn State

5. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

There are so many options at receiver this year that it’s going to be difficult to cover them all, so I’ll just try to highlight a few of the players I think will stand out at the next level.

Watkins is the unquestioned top receiver in the draft. He could go as high as number two overall to the St. Louis Rams, and in the very least, I don’t seem him making it out of the top 10.

Watkins is the most dynamic offensive player in this class. He’s got tremendous speed, size, and athletic ability. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and he’s a true playmaker at the receiver position. There hasn’t been a receiver talent like him since Calvin Johnson, in my opinion.

Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans (13) catches a pass for a touchdown against Sam Houston State Bearkats defensive back Dax Swanson (7). Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Evans and Robinson are both receivers with good size and strength for the position. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Evans is a big target downfield and is excellent at making catches in coverage. He does lack top-end speed, which could hurt him in the NFL.

Robinson isn’t quite as big as Evans at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, but he’s a better athlete. He’s also a more fluid route runner and has better hands. Robinson is a late first-round or early second-round prospect that could move ahead of Evans and Lee with a good 40 time at the combine.

Lee and Beckham are smaller receivers that are dynamic playmakers in space. They also have experience returning kicks and are just all-around great athletes.

Both players are around the six-foot, 195-pound mark, but they make up for the lack of size with excellent acceleration in and out of their breaks. They also have the speed to create separation from defensive backs downfield.

LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) . Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Beckham is a bit more reliable as a pass catcher than Lee, and I’ll admit, is a player I need to learn more about in the coming months. I have a hunch he’s a player that will move up my rankings once I watch more film on him.

Lee on the other hand, struggled with dropped passes at USC, but also seems to have better straight-line speed and elusiveness in the open field.

However, the problem with evaluating the receivers at this point is their speed isn’t on record yet, so after the combine we should really see who possesses top-end speed and who doesn’t. A receiver’s 40 time could push them into the top-five discussion or cause them to drop down draft boards.

After the combine, the draft landscape at the receiver position should change. Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks is perhaps the top slot receiver in this draft class, and he could break into the top five with impressive combine numbers. Wake Forest’s Michael Campanaro is another excellent slot receiver whose draft stock could rise after the combine.

Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (1). Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin is another big receiver (6-5, 235) that could be taken as early as the first round, but I’m not completely sold on Benjamin yet. His game just isn’t as polished as the other receivers in the draft, and although he has tremendous size, he hasn’t shown the consistency or elite athleticism to be considered in the first round, in my opinion.

Day two of the draft could be dominated by the receiver position. Guys like LSU’s Jarvis Landry, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews, and Texas’s Mike Davis are all reliable pass catchers that could be impact players at the next level and found in the second or third round.

Ole Miss’s Donte Moncrief, Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman, and Pitt’s Devin Street are receivers with size, athleticism, and soft hands that could be sleeper picks in the third or fourth round.

Then you have players like Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis, Oregon’s Josh Huff, and UCLA’s Shaq Evans who are all over boards and could really be taken anywhere in the draft.

Look for these players and plenty more at the position to impress with their workouts as the NFL Combine gets under way in Indianapolis Feb. 22-25. At the receiver position, it seems we’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Check back here at Lombardiave.com for the next position’s top five draft prospects. Also, look for a more in-depth position-by-position breakdown later in the spring as we get closer to the NFL Draft in May.

Previous Position Rankings:

Top 5 Outside Linebackers

Top 5 Offensive Linemen

Top 5 Inside Linebackers

Top 5 Tight Ends

Top Five Safeties

Top Five Cornerbacks

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Tags: Allen Robinson Green Bay Packers Marqise Lee Mike Evans NFL Draft Odell Beckham Sammy Watkins

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