Saturday, April 18, 2015

2015 NFL Draft Prospectus: Wide Receivers

Finally, we have a position in this draft that may have some value. The receiver class has some serious clout at the top, but where the issue is, even with this group, is that it is not necessarily deep. When you look at a draft, and you are investing a great deal of money and time in talent, one has to be able to provide impact. The days of sitting and developing and learning are gone. One has to jump in and make something happen, or else you are done at by the time you are 24 in this game. This group may provide some of that impact.

My Top Ten WRs
1. Amari Cooper, Alabama
2. Kevin White, West Virginia
3. DeVante Parker, Louisville
4. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
5. Sammie Coates, Auburn
6. Devin Smith, Ohio State
7. Devin Funchess, Michigan
8. Nelson Agholar, USC
9. Jamison Crowder, Duke
10. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

Biggest Impact Potential
Amari Cooper

Biggest Bust Potential
Dorial Beckham-Green, Oklahoma/Missouri

Best Small School Prospect
Deamin Lewis, Central Arkansas

Best Value Pick
Devin Funchess

Amari Cooper
6-1, 210
4.52 40 Time
Overview: Though not a consensus top pick at WR, Cooper may be the most prepared of this class to be the first receiver picked, and could also be one of the most impactful out of the gate. When looking at his intangibles on paper, nothing jumps out at you, but when you watch his tape, Cooper knows how to play this game. Cooper busted 100 grabs and broke 1500 yards last season, and scored 14 TDs. In short, Cooper is as much a sure thing as anyone in this draft.
Pros: Cooper, despite not having top shelf speed, is more elusive and quick than speedy. Once in the open field, no receiver in this class is tougher to catch there. He can hit top speed quickly out of the snap, and shakes off jams like a pro already. The word of the day with Cooper is fluid. He runs well, hits his routes perfectly, and just knows how to get open. He knows how to read zones and can find the seam and hang in open space. Cooper has excellent hands, and can make good plays out of bad.
Cons: Despite having great hands, he still drops too many footballs, and that may be more of a concentration thing at times than a hands issue. He can create when routes break down, but sometimes he overdoes it a bit, and that can take a QB out of rhythm. He needs to find consistency, and just go with the play as it is drawn more often. Cooper has decent, but not great speed by any means, and his build on paper isn't perfect.
Final Thoughts: Cooper is ready for the next level, despite some rawness in his game, which seems to be mostly mental. He may be ready to step in and bring amazing impact right away. He is not Julio Jones, but he's close, and with the right coaching, he can get there. Despite all of that, I consider him an absolute top five pick.
Projection: 1st Round

Kevin White
West Virginia
6-3, 210
4.49 40 Time
Overview: White may be better than Cooper, and some think so, while some don't. I am split, and consider the two a 1A and 1B type of duo in this draft. Each brings intangibles that are impossible to ignore, and both play differently. For me, what makes White my second WR in the class is the West Virginia offensive system, which does not really relate to the pro game. After a subpar 2013 season, White worked his tail off and exploded in 2014. With a bit of adjustment and coaching, White could be the most valuable receiver in the draft, he will just take a bit more work than Cooper.
Pros: The size/speed combo that White offers is top shelf. He is physically the most imposing WR in this group, and with some refinement, can be one of the best receivers in the game sooner than lower. He has the height to go up and get to balls thrown high, and has highly efficient hands. He has the ability to shake coverage and beat jams at the line, and uses his body as a shield to get to the ball. He's a great in stride receiver, and can catch footballs without stopping or slowing and flow through in stride. He is very creative in space, and if he gets by you, or gets away in the open field, he's gone.
Cons: If there is one fault, it's that he goes down too easily. He will not shake a defender off once contact is made after the catch. If he gets hit, he stops. Again, like Cooper, he can be mentally inconsistent. He still has room to grow, and the WVU spread didn't do him favors getting ready for the next level. He also has to get better playing without the football.
Final Thoughts: I wouldn't be able to easily pick between White and Cooper, but both could be top five quality picks. Of course he has work to do, and needs to develop this offseason. I believe that while he may not be as immediate as Cooper, he is going to be possibly great in short order. You can't go wrong picking either of them.
Projection: 1st round

DeVante Parker
6-3, 209
4.48 40 Time
Overview: Parker is a guy who can dominate a game, and despite missing over half of the 2014 season to injury, Parker came back and tore up the ACC, averaging 150 yards per game. Parker is a potentially surprising player in this draft, and may provide major impact over the big picture, but has to stay healthy to do so.
Pros: Parker has amazing size/speed intangibles, and had he not missed so much of last season, he may very well have been right up there with Cooper and White. He certainly has their ability, including White's ability to extend and go up for high throws and get to them. He has solid hands, and gets to the ball with ease. He works the sideline like a pro, and can shake coverage to the inside as well. He is a pro at running routes, and should be able to step into a system and have immediate impact, while becoming a starter down the road.
Cons: Parker lacks skills in the blocking game, and seems to fade when the ball isn't coming to him. He's more quick than fast, and can get jammed at the line, and will have to add bulk to offset this issue, which may slow him down. He can be outmuscled down the field, and won't fight as hard as he needs to for the ball. He lacks consistent concentration, and will drop a few. Another guy who has had some serious injury issues during his college career.
Final thoughts: Parker has a few issues that can be ironed out, but he needs the right coaching to make that happen. He also needs to tone down the rhetoric, and will sometimes be his biggest fan on the field. All that said, Parker can be coached up to be one of the better young WRs in the NFL in a couple of seasons, and in the right situation, that could happen sooner. He's not a sure early first rounder, but has enough potential to draw a mid first round pick.
Projection: 1st Round

Jaelen Strong
Arizona State
6-3, 215
4.55 40 Time
Overview: Strong became one of my favorite receivers in college football last fall, and has a knack for making big, timely plays, such as the huge Hail Mary grab that beat USC. Strong is a tall receiver with sticky hands that just seems to outplay his otherwise average logistics when it comes to the eyeball test.
Pros: Strong is a fighter in the passing game, and will use his physical strengths to go after the ball. He is a fairly big guy, and shields the ball very well. He is very smart, and reads film well, and has a knack for pre snap breakdown on defenses he is facing. He won't go down easy and fights through tackles. Makes solid cuts in the open field, and will block like an animal without the ball.
Cons: He gets a little too physical at times and welcomes contact more than you would like. He often gets a bit lazy running routes, and will take shortcuts, which will sometimes leave his QB hanging high. His speed isn't great, and he will not outrun anyone in the NFL. More of an over the middle threat than deep ball threat.
Final Thoughts: Despite lacking intangibles in the speed game, Strong is an excellent prospect when it comes to possession receivers. If you need that big first down conversion, Strong is an excellent target. If you are looking for a burner, he is not your guy. The lazy route thing can be worked out through coaching, but all in all, Strong has really good value in the late first or early second round. He may be the next Ed McCaffery.
Projection: 2nd Round

Sammie Coates
6-2, 201
4.36 40 Time
Overview: Coates was probably one of the more underutilized receivers in the nation with the weak armed, run first Nick Marshall playing QB. When you look at his season numbers the last two seasons, they aren't anything special, which is why I have him ranked 5th in class this year. What we have not seen is what Coates can do in a passing offense where his skills would be more appreciated.
Pros: Coates is a true burner in the straight line sprint game. He can flat out fly when unhindered. Adding to his speed is his top shelf size, which makes him a dark horse eventually to be a number one in someone's offense. He can be very physical when he needs to be, and will use his body to make the catch. If you miss him after the catch, he can be gone in a second. He will get to the football, and often enough has to slow down to catch badly thrown balls. HE will dive for balls, and will go get it no matter what it takes.
Cons: Due to the lack of a pro passing game at Auburn, Coates still has so much to learn. He is used to the college game, and may need some time for development, and so may not be as impactful as you like in year one. He loses concentration, and will drop too many balls because he is always thinking of where he is going next before he makes the play. His lack of knowledge shows when running routes, which are often sloppy. Football smarts may not be up to snuff, and doesn't read coverage well yet. Irrelevant as a blocker.
Final thoughts: Coates has some innate skills that make him an interesting prospect, but he needs a ton of work to be the guy that he should be. It's not all his fault, because he was often wasted by the Auburn coaching staff. He is a high risk/high reward guy.
Projection: 3rd round

 The Next Five

Devin Smith, Ohio State
Smith is a speedy slot guy on the next level who can produce a bunch in the right offense. He may fit best in a Patriot or Bronco offense type that rewards the slot receiver on the next level. He has the downfalls that many kids coming out of college has, and that's bad habits in route running and staying consistent with the football. If he can be physical off the snap, he's the kind of guy who gets lost in coverage and get deep unnoticed. Not only will he give you value on passing downs, but on special teams as well. He could have very good early round value in the right spot.
Projection: 3rd round

Devin Funchess, Michigan
A former TE for the Wolverines, Funchess moved to WR, and became an instant hit lining up outside. He could still move back inside and play TE in the NFL, but he is a size mismatch on the outside, and can score big time against smaller DBs. He is still learning how to play the position, however, and lost developmental time at WR due to an ankle injury that killed his 2014 season. A developmental type right now, Funchess has some serious potential as a possession receiver later on down the line, but don't expect too much too quickly.
Projection: 3rd Round

Nelson Agholar, USC
Agholar is a guy who often got lost in the muck that was USC QB play the last couple of seasons, but clearly had an improvement run in 2014 when Cody Kessler broke through. He has excellent hands, and even better body control in traffic, making him a solid threat. Great route runner, especially underneath, and does not fear being physical. Breaks through sloppy tackling, and hits the open field. The drawback is that he is overly physical and takes too many unnecessary hits. He will, however, provide extra value as a punt returner, which he excels at. Overall speed is average, at best.
Projection: 3rd Round

Jamison Crowder, Duke
Crowder became a star for the Devils during a rise in the programs success, and much of it on offense was due to his ability. The problem at large with Crowder is a lack of top flight size, speed, and hand size. Crowder has raw ability despite his downgraded areas, and plays better than he is on film. .Crowder broke away big time, picking up three straight 1000 yard seasons, and may be better than he looks. It's hard to overlook productivity.
Projection: 4th Round

Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett served as a highlight reel during his career with the Wildcats. Lockett is best served as a slot guy and punt/kick return man on the next level because of his overall grit and speed that overlies his lack of size. Despite ideal size, Lockett is still a fighter and will scrap with defensive players, and often enough, he gets them to overcompensate for his toughness and he burns them deep. Lockett is basically one of the more exciting players in this class, and could surprise many.
Projection: 4th round

The Rest
Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri/Oklahoma...Off the field train wreck who wasted on field talent.
Phillip Dorsett, Miami...Super speed, but a work in progress. Has never had effective QB.
Rashad Greene, Florida State...Small and weak, can get muscled off of routes easily.
Josh Harper, Fresno State...Limited as an athlete, smallish in size. Low ceiling.
Tony Lippett, Michigan State...Still learning offense. Played DB until 2012. Project guy.
Breshad Perriman, UCF...Big receiver with raw talent. Needs development on technique.
Justin Hardy, East Carolina...Would've gone early a year ago. Small system receiver.
Ty Montgomery, Stanford...Limited athletically, seems stiff running the field.
Vince Mayle, Washington State...System guy who may be more suited to TE. Still learning the game.
Dres Anderson, Utah...Great potential on paper, serious concerns in reality. Injury history is bad.
Stefon Diggs, Maryland...Lackluster route runner who lacks overall size.
Austin Hill, Arizona...Talent level is top shelf, but injuries have derailed him. Big risk player.
Deontay Greenberry, Houston...Injury risk, lackluster overall skill set.
Tre McBride, William & Mary...Best small school prospect, but limited athletically.
Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas...Big receiver that can line up wide, but limited after that.
Antwan Goodley, Baylor...Another system guy, lacks size, limited to slot.
Kenny Bell, Nebraska...Late round steal potential, was a game changer for Huskers.
Devante Davis, UNLV...Was bright spot on bleak UNLV squad. Late round diamond in rough.
Levi Norwood, Baylor...Another system guy who may have trouble fitting in on next level.

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