Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 NFL Draft Prospectus: Wide Receivers

2014 NFL Draft Prospectus

Wide Receivers


Finally, we find a group of some depth in this 2014 class. The WR position is stacked with talent for every need, and enough to go around for miles. Of course, there is issue with some players in this group being rated a bit higher than they should be. Overall, this is an impressive group, as witnessed by activities at the combine, mixed with some very nice game film highlights.

If you are in need as an NFL franchise for WR help, this is your year, and everyone can hit the jackpot with the right guy from this class that can mix into your system. This is the first unit that I am really excited about in 2014.


Top 5

Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Mike Evans, Texas A&M

Marqise Lee, USC

Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State


Most Overrated

Marqise Lee, USC

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State


Most Underrated

Paul Richardson, Colorado

Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin

Josh Huff, Oregon

Devin Street, Pittsburgh


Best Small School Prospects

Erik Lora, Eastern Illinois

Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State


Sammy Watkins, Clemson

6-1, 205

4.47 40 Time

Projected Pick: 1-5

Watkins was a three year player at Clemson, and goes down as one of the best, if not the best, receiver to ever come out of Death Valley. In 2011, Watkins caught 82 passes for 1219 yards and 12 TDs, while averaging 93.8 yards per game, and 14.9 yards per reception. Watkins missed three games in 2012, but still managed a line of 57-708-3, averaging 70.8 yards per game and 12.4 yards per grab. Watkins had by far his best effort in 2013, when he set a line of 101-1464-12, averaging 112.6 per game and 14.5 per touch. Watkins also has 52 career rushes for 339 yards and one score.

Pros: Watkins is an elite athlete and football player, and may be one of the very best players available in this draft, and would be anyone’s bargain even as a number one overall selection. Watkins is singularly a guy who can change an entire game with his ability and elite speed. He constantly beats double teams to the football, and leaps like a pogo stick for up in the air tosses. Watkins regularly escapes jam attempts up front, and is more than physical enough to work in traffic and make plays.

Cons: Watkins was used a bunch in the screen game early in his career, and only really started being dynamic on the outside in 2013. Personally, I believe that he will only continue to grow as an outside threat, but it’s something to look for. He may still be learning some route running due to Clemson’s college heavy wide open playground offense. Watkins missed three games in 2012 due to drug charges, so his character has to be checked out, and he may need a mentor to make sure that he walks the straight and narrow now that he’ll likely have millions of bucks to play with.

Final Grade: A

Final Assessment: Good God, if it weren’t for the drug/character issue from 2012, he would have gotten an A+, because he is the most elite skill set player in this draft. If Watkins can stay clean and healthy, he is going to have a huge career, and will be making major plays for at least the next decade. Watkins is as good as they get.


Mike Evans, Texas A&M

6-5, 225

4.58 40 Time

Projected Pick: 5-10

Evans was a three year player at A&M, but he redshirted one of those seasons (2011). One of the best receivers ever out of A&M, Evans put up a line of 82-1105-5 in 2012, while averaging 85 yards per game and 13.5 yards per catch. He followed that up with a rock solid 69-1394-12 in 2013, averaging 107.2 per game and an amazing 20.2 per catch.

Pros: Some may say that Johnny Manziel made Mike Evans, but I see it the other way around. Evans is a beast as far as overall size is considered at WR, and he may remind some of Michael Irvin in his hay day for overall size and ball aggressiveness. With his size, he just muscles through most DBs, and takes the ball away from most on pass plays, even when double teamed. Evans uses his size to not only go over most DBs, but he uses his frame to block out defenders while catching passes. Outstanding technique on long passes, and excellent body control when tracking balls.

Cons: If there is a single knock against Evans, it’s his lack of elite speed. When you are as big as Evans, you usually lose something in the speed game. Evans, however, makes up for it with his physical game. The offense he played in at A&M wasn’t exactly traditional, so you have to wonder how he feels and looks in a more basic offense. Evans also lacks experience, having only played two full seasons in college (26 games). Due to lacking experience, he may still just be coming into his own.

Final Grade: A

Final Assessment: Evans is a lock for the top ten on day one of the draft, and if not for Watkins, would be the first receiver taken. Early analysis has Evans going to the Bucs, especially after they dumped Mike Williams off to the Bills. Evans is a huge, physical number one receiver who, despite lacking grade speed, could be a game changer with the physical way in which he plays. He will likely prove that he doesn’t need Manziel to make him look good on Sundays. It’s almost impossible to pass on a guy like Evans with his great physical tools and size.


Marqise Lee, USC

6-1, 190

4.52 40 Time

Projected Pick: 15-20

Lee was a three year player at USC, and left after his junior season. In 2011, Lee put up a line of 73-1143-11, and averaged 95.3 yards per game, while averaging a solid 15.7 yards per grab. In 2012, Lee followed up with 118-1731-14 in 13 games, averaging 132.4 yards per game and 14.6 per catch. Lee fell back a bit in 2013, lining up 57-791-4. He averaged just 71.9 yards per game and 13.9 per catch, both career lows at USC, as were his overall catches and yardage. His TDs fell off in 2013 by a whopping ten.

Pros: Lee runs solid routes, and uses short burst quickness and fluidity to escape being jammed up front. He is a machine in the bubble screen game, and has solid athleticism in the open field. Solid route runner who can get open quickly. He is a decent blocker downfield on run downs. Decent hands, and can get to the ball in traffic.

Cons: Despite his apparent skills, he really had a crappy final year at USC. Granted, the QB situation was largely unstable enough, but elite WRs make their QBs better, and Lee obviously had zero effect on the QBs in place at USC in 2013. I felt at times that Lee just didn’t care very much last season, and didn’t really show much drive most of the time, especially when he played one of the worst games of his career against a horrid Hawaii team in the 2013 opener. Basically, I question his motivation, and his personal motor. He doesn’t especially run great routes, and tries to do too much on some plays, and will kind of do whatever he wants to. He believes in his athleticism a bit too much, and it has bitten him and his QBs at times. If his 2013 season were his grand finale, then I feel like he lost himself a few million bucks. Lee has just an OK build, and while he has run a sub 4.5 40, he doesn’t always run that speed. More fluid and short burst quick than overall fast.

Final Grade: C

Final Assessment: Since it looked like he took most of 2013 off, maybe Lee will be fresh and energized for his rookie season, and we will see more of the guy we saw in 2011 and 2012. Basically, I question his motivation, and I may look elsewhere for help in what is really a deep position in 2014. Let him be someone else’s gamble to play their money on.


Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU

5-11, 195

4.49 40 Time

Projected Pick: 20-25

Beckham was another early entry guy, having played three seasons at LSU. In 2011, Beckham put up a line of 41-475-2, averaging 33.9 per game and 11.6 per catch. In 2012, Beckham started showing some improvement, putting up 43-713-2, averaging 54.8 and 16.6. In 2013, Beckham, like his QB Zach Mettenberger, finally arrived, and put up 59-1152-8, averaging 88.6 per game and a career best 19.5 per catch.

Pros: Beckham is a multi-use receiver, who doubles up as a kick returner. In 2013, Beckham became a legitimate threat, and was a guy that LSU had to get the ball to regularly. Strong speed player with a bit of power, and despite a smaller frame, he’s not afraid to get physical and will block downfield. He will likely light it up on returns on both kick offs and punts.

Cons: The first knock on Beckham is his size, which is not elite at under 6-0, and under 200 lbs. Beckham has some elite skills, which is why I called him one of my most underrated receivers, but he really didn’t come on strong until 2013, and was largely background art in his first two seasons at LSU. He is not a finished product yet, and still has some work to do to be all he can be. The physical tools are there, but he needs refinement.

Final Grade: B

Beckham shows some strong potential, and may be worth the risk of grabbing him towards the end of the first round. He can really provide on returns while he develops more as a receiver, and may grow into something of a solid threat in the slot, much like Julian Edelman has done for New England. Beckham is an intriguing prospect who could really blow up on Sundays in a good way. In my opinion, he would have been better off staying for his senior year.


Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

5-10, 185

4.49 40 Time

Projected Pick: 25-30

Cooks is yet another early entry guy who played three seasons at Oregon State. In 2011, Cooks, a backup at the time, put up 31-391-3 in 12 games, and averaged 32.6 yards per game and 12.6 per catch. Cooks took over as a starter in 2012, and lined up 67-1151-5, while averaging 88.5 and 17.2 Cooks continued on his path to dominance in 2013, posting 128-1730-16, while averaging 133.1 and 13.5, and was named our All-Bilo Wide Receiver of the Year.

Pros: Cooks showed solid progression in his three years at OSU, and improved by bounds every single season. He is a strong worker, and really took time to develop his game. Cooks has elite athleticism, and carried the ball on rushing attempts 61 times in three seasons. Cooks get’s out of the gate quickly, and avoids jams. He was used both inside and outside at OSU, giving him solid versatility all over the field, and can be used in many different ways. Solid open field speed gives Cooks the ability to go after the deep ball, but also allows him short burst ability in traffic. Despite not having great size, he has solid agility and power in traffic as well. Cooks has a solid football IQ, and understands the game like a pro.

Cons: Cooks is small. That’s not a huge problem when used creatively, but he is not a guy who you line up wide on every down and let rip. He can get knocked around a bit, and bigger, more physical DBs will get after him on the next level unless teams are creative with him. Because of this issue, Cooks also is basically of no value blocking downfield on running downs.

Final Grade: B

Final Assessment: Cooks is a dynamic athlete who can really change the tempo of a football game with his top grade athleticism. A natural pass catcher, he will be a weapon out of the slot, and can occasionally be used on the outside in four or five receiver formations. Cooks may be underrated due to his lacking size, but he is definitely not to be overlooked. He will be a weapon.


Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

6-5, 240

4.61 40 Time

Projected Pick: 30-35

Benjamin is an early entry player who spent three seasons at Florida State, however, he redshirted in 2011. In 2012, , 2013, Benjamin really improved, putting up numbers of 54-1011-15, with 72.2 per game and 18.7 per grab.

Pros: Benjamin has a huge build, allowing him to get physical with DBs on the line. His size also makes him dominant in jump ball situations. He has a huge stride and wingspan, and shows solid body control in traffic. Solid deep ball target. Benjamin shows solid and surprising agility and sometimes can play like a smaller receiver where he shows good burst and quick step speed. He can block like a pro downfield, and he is a tank to tackle.

Cons: His speed is highly average and even poor for a receiver. He may need to transition to TE in the NFL, a position that his skill set would likely dominate. He is unpolished as a route runner, and lacks overall experience, with just one big time season to show for his collegiate career. In all, he has just 28 career games under his belt, and likely has a lot to learn.

Final Grade: C

Final Assessment: With just one standout season, and lacking elite, or even decent speed, Benjamin really should have stayed at FSU one more season. He is raw, and slow, and may be better suited to play TE in the NFL. Benjamin is too raw to pick early, and scout assessments of him going in the late 1st or early 2nd round is really more a take on his size and potential, rather than what he has actually produced. Due to this fact, Benjamin makes my overrated list.


Allen Robinson, Penn State

6-2, 220

4.6 40 Time

Projected Pick: 30-35

Robinson was a three year player at Penn State and is another early entry. In 2011, Robinson posted a line of just 3-29-0. He really came on the scene in 2012, posting 77-1018-11, averaging 84.8 yards per game and 13.2 yards per catch. Robinson returned in 2013, and took off for a line of 97-1432-6, averaging 119.3 and 14.8.

Pros: Robinson certainly has an NFL build. The fact that he has produced back to back 1000 yard seasons means that he knows how to produce. Penn State ran an NFL styled offense under Bill O’Brien, so he should have a seamless transition onto an NFL roster. Robinson is a solid blocker, and dominated in a major conference. He is physical in traffic, and uses his body to make solid catches.

Cons: Robinson is not the fastest guy in the bunch, and being that he isn’t a super-sized receiver, there really isn’t any excuse. As physical as he was in the Big 10, he won’t be able to muscle bigger corners around on the next level. Lacking solid speed may drop him into the second round.

Final Grade: B-

Final Assessment: Robinson is a big receiver who is physical and will fight for footballs, but may lack the total intangibles to be a solid number one receiver for an NFL franchise. He does, however, have some other very solid intangibles which are hard to ignore. Too productive in college to pass by without regret, Robinson has some solid skill to offer on Sundays if drafted in a good spot.


Davante Adams, Fresno State

6-1, 212

4.56 40 Time

Projected Pick: 40-45

Adams was a three year player at Fresno State, but he did redshirt in 2011. Adams came on the scene in 2012, when he posted 102-1312-14. He returned in 2013 to post 131-1718-24. Adams caught 38 TD passes in two seasons, and averaged over 100 yards per game both seasons as well.

Pros: Solid size for an NFL build. Adams knows his way around a red zone, having scored those 38 TDs. He was super productive in both seasons at Fresno State. Adams was a huge hit in a wide open passing game, and may fit in some of the higher powered offenses in the NFL. Adams knows how to work a route and get open, even when teams double up on him.

Cons: Adams played in a bit of an amped up, video game styled offense, and wasn’t going up against top flight competition to boot. He has decent, but not great, elite speed. He may be a starter, but does not look like a number one guy.

Final Grade: B-

Final Assessment: Adams certainly had an edge at Fresno State because of a pass happy offense, but he certainly did produce regularly. He has the size thing down, but he will likely never be able to blow corners away on deep routes. Adams is much too productive to be ignored, but may ceiling out at a number two spot. I’d still draft him in a value spot.


Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

6-3, 212

4.46 40 Time

Projected Pick: 50-55

Matthews was a four year player at Vandy, a rare senior on draft day. In 2010, Matthews posted 15-181-4. As a sophomore in 2011, he posted 41-779-5 in an increased role. In 2012, Matthews exploded as a starter by posting 94-1373-8. As a returning starter in 2013, the senior put up a line of 112-1477-7.

Pros: Matthews has an excellent blend of size and speed that will make him a pain to cover on the next level. Matthews made improvements to his game every single season. He has fluid body control, will work in traffic, and make difficult catches. Matthews will surprise many, as he was underexposed at Vanderbilt. Matthews has shown solid skill as a downfield blocker on running plays.

Cons: Matthews may not have hit full development, as he didn’t play in what can be considered an NFL offense. Some scouts have made claims that his speed isn’t as good as he times, but I personally haven’t seen Matthews run poorly, ever.

Final Grade: A-

Final Assessment: Matthews is one of my favorite players in this draft, and may possibly be the most underrated receiver here. There are a few doubters, but I am not one of them. If grabbed in the lower second round, a team can get one of the steals of the draft. His basic anonymity may shroud some teams in ignorance when it comes to him.
Paul Richardson, Colorado
6-0, 175
4.40 40 Time
Projected Pick: 60-65
Richardson spent four seasons in Boulder, but missed the 2012 season due to injury (knee). In 2010, Richardson posted 34-514-6. In 2011, he posted 39-555-5. He missed three games in 2011 due to injury again. In 2013, after missing 2012, Richardson put up 83-1343-10.
Pros: Richardson put up big numbers coming off of a serious injury, despite having a decent QB to throw him the football. He has very good speed, despite the knee injury. Not only is he fast, he is quick, and can change directions and show burst in the open field. If you miss him, he is gone.
Cons: Richardson has a slight build, and may get beat up some on the next level. You have to wonder how the knee will hold up if someone gets physical with him. He ran a limited offense at Colorado, and may have to spend some time developing some route skills.
Final Grade: C+
Final Assessment: Richardson is a smallish receiver who only really had one big season at Colorado, but how much of the lack of huge numbers early really have to do with him? Richardson has solid speed, and may be a great addition to a return game.
The Next Group
Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss: Never had a 1000 yard season. Never had a great QB.
Jarvis Landry, LSU: Ceiling is a number two, and could have used one more season at LSU.
Martavis Bryant, Clemson: Big bodied receiver, who spent time in Sammy Watkins’ shadow. An enigma.
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina: Small guy, not huge numbers, and is limited to slot work.
Robert Herron, Wyoming: Lacks ball skills, and production. Never had a 1000 yard season in passing offense.
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin: Possession guy with good, not great skills. Would be a solid 3rd down option.
Josh Huff, Oregon: Solid postseason after a great senior season. Huff is a riser.
Mike Davis, Texas: Lacked solid production, and has slid down boards despite raw talent.
Ryan Grant, Tulane: Huge last two seasons, and may be severely underrated.
TJ Jones, Notre Dame: Average career, but solid senior season. On the small side.
Devin Street, Pittsburgh: Big receiver who doesn’t always play to size. Good, not great production.
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers: Huge build, but that’s about all he has going for him.
Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: Very small prospect who is limited in what role he can play. Strictly a slot guy.
Cody Latimer, Indiana: Improving prospect, but lacks creativity and physicality.
Dri Archer, Kent State: Former tiny RB is now a tiny WR. Special teams a must for him.
Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State: Small school prospect really grabbed eyes at the combine
Note: Dorial Beckham-Green, Missouri: Was kicked out at Missouri, and may be available in the supplemental draft, but more than likely will have to wait until 2015.



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