NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Wide Receiver Prospects

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Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins (2). Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

 

TIER ONE

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson: 6-1, 211 (4.43)

Watkins is a rare, elite receiving talent. He may be the most talented prospect at the position since Calvin Johnson in 2007.

Watkins is dangerous with the ball in his hands. In Clemson’s offense, he was frequently utilized in screens and bubble routes in the flats.

Watkins has the wheels and second gear to take a screen pass to the house. This elite second gear also allows him to create separation downfield and makes him the most dangerous vertical threat in this draft class.

Watkins will make an immediate impact in the NFL as a number one receiver. He’s a guy every opposing defense will have to account for, and his elite playmaking ability make him a sure-fire top-ten pick in the draft.

(Draft Projection: Top-10)

 

Texas A&M Aggies wide receiver Mike Evans (13) catches a pass between Duke Blue Devils cornerback Ross Cockrell (6). John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M: 6-5, 231 (4.53)

The first thing that jumps out about Evan’s game is his tremendous size for the position. Evans towers over defensive backs, and he knows how to use this to his advantage as he high-points the ball in coverage.

Despite his size, Evans has excellent hands. He’s a big target in the middle of the field that can bail out quarterbacks under pressure. He’s also a dangerous weapon in the redzone, and will win the majority of jump balls thrown to him.

Evans does lack elite burst or quickness, which might make it difficult for him to create separation at the next level. However, Evans is so good at using his body position, size, and long arms, he’s still very difficult to cover.

Evans presents mismatch problems for defenses, and his rare ability as a pass-catcher will have him go in the top fifteen picks in the draft.

(Draft Projection: Top-15)

 

LSU Tigers wide receiver Odell Beckham (3). Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

3. Oddell Beckham Jr., LSU: 5-11, 198 (4.43)

Beckham may lack elite size at the position, but his athleticism and quick feet allow him to gain separation and make things happen with the ball in his hands.

Beckham’s game is polished. He has soft hands, can make the tough catches in traffic, and can run the entire route tree. He’s explosive in the slot or lined up wide, and he can even be effective as a return specialist.

Beckham does lack bulk, which can hurt him at times bringing down contested passes, and he doesn’t offer much as a run blocker.

Overall, Beckham is an explosive, exciting player who will be a dangerous offensive weapon in the NFL.

(Draft Projection: Round 1)

 

Southern California Trojans receiver Marqise Lee (9). Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

4. Marqise Lee, USC: 6-0, 192 (4.52)

Lee is a balanced receiver who lacks the elite size or burst the top three prospects at the position possess.

Lee was dominant as a sophomore at USC, recording a whopping 118 receptions for 1721 yards and 14 TDs. Unfortunately for Lee, his production took a significant dip his junior season (57 receptions, 791 yards, 4 TDs) after dealing with a knee injury.

Lee is a fluid route runner, natural pass-catcher, and has the shiftiness to gain yards after the catch. Lee also does a good job using his body position to make the catch away from defenders.

Watching him on film, he reminds me a lot of former Packer, Greg Jennings.

Lee also has some experience as a returner, which helps his draft stock. Lee is a very good receiver who can start immediately in the NFL, but he may not be the playmaker other players at the position turn out to be.

(Draft Projection: Round 1)

 

Oregon State Beavers wide receiver Brandin Cooks (7). Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

5. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: 5-10, 190 (4.33)

Cooks is a dynamic player who offers an offense big-time playmaking ability. He’s incredibly quick and shifty  and is by far the top slot receiver in this draft class.

There might not be a more dangerous player in the open field than Cooks in this draft. He can make things happen with the ball in his hands, and is so quick off the line scrimmage, it enables him to gain separation rather easily.

Cooks is one of the more exciting players in this draft. He has tremendous hands and elite speed to stretch the field. Cooks would be ranked near the top of this class if he just had better size.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2)

 

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

6. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State: 6-5, 240 (4.61)

Benjamin is a big imposing receiver who can dominate smaller defensive backs in coverage. He creates mismatch problems and that makes him an intriguing prospect going into the NFL.

Benjamin possesses rare size and potential for the position, but his game still needs a lot of work.

He’s not a great athlete or route runner. He doesn’t possess the top-end speed or quickness to easily gain separation at the next level, which could be a problem especially when he faces NFL DBs who he can’t just out-muscle.

Character and work ethic concerns have also been raised with Benjamin, which makes him a risky first-round selection, in my opinion.

Benjamin will drafted high because of his potential, and not because of the player he is currently.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2)

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