The bottom line is, the NFL has become a passing league. Each year that goes by we will see more and more talented pass catches enter the league. From professional football down to little league, receiver is the position the most athletic players want to play. It is no coincidence that in the 2014 NFL Draft the deepest position in terms of overall talent, without question, is wide receiver.
I don’t want to overload you with too much wordage or get too technical. Fans want to know how their new draft pick fits in with their team. I will keep the commentary short and sweet, so you can find exactly that without reading a novel about each player.
1. Sammy Watkins(Clemson) – The type of dynamic play-maker that doesn’t come around very often. In a class by himself here. His game-breaking and game-changing ability truly are one of a kind in this draft and while their are some impressive specimens below him on this list, Watkins’ explosiveness is unmatched, and in a couple short years, we might be saying it is unmatched in the entire National Football League.
2. Odell Beckham(LSU) – Already a mix of incredible athleticism with polished route running. And while he might lack both elite size and elite top-end vertical speed, don’t be fooled, his overall athleticism is only behind Watkins. He brings the versatility to return kicks, but will make his living making big plays by separating from over-matched corners. A master of working back to the football. Undoubtedly, he can become a No. 1 WR on an NFL team.
3. Marqise Lee(USC) – Faster on tape than he is in shorts. Would have been a top-10 overall pick if he was in last year’s draft. His 2012 season was special when he was completely healthy and had a serviceable Matt Barkely throwing him the football. Corners in the NFL will have to respect his deep speed, and as he improves in both how he runs routes and the total number of routes at his disposal he will become a very dangerous player. You can bet Chip Kelly remembers Lee well from coaching at Oregon in 2012, and personally I hope he goes to Philly where he would flourish.
4. Allen Robinson(Penn State) – Very fluid in his natural movements for a bigger receiver. He changes speeds with ease, and often uses this to setup defensive backs and separate. It is kind of an unorthodox style of route running, which of course will be fine tuned, but the exciting thing is that Robinson is 220 pounds and can move this way. On top of it all, he can high point the ball as well as any WR in this class and is the best run after catch guy in this draft.
5. Mike Evans(Texas A&M) – Consistently great hands, huge wingspan, and deceptive speed to boot. Evans will be the master of the back shoulder fade at the NFL level. He plucks the ball out of the air with sticky hands on a consistent basis. It is always an impressive feat when you terrorize Alabama’s defense in your career. I do see him using his physicality too often to create separation though, a negative considering the NFL is adjusting to the influx of bigger corners.
6. Jarvis Landry(LSU) – Really just an awesome football player. Was on the kick-off coverage team making big hits and absolutely is a willing and effective run blocker. Catches the ball in traffic and competes incredibly well for the ball in the air for someone his size (5’11). His knack for doing whatever it takes to come up with the reception is beyond special. He doesn’t wow you with his speed in any way and he might have trouble getting open against quicker NFL corners if he is counted on to be a top target, but I expect him to be a very good reliable slot receiver, which has become an extremely important role in today’s league. And by the way, I will put his 2013 highlight reel of catches up against any I have ever seen in one single season.
7. Kelvin Benjamin(Florida State) – Watch his highlight tape and you’ll think he is a top-10 overall prospect. Watch the film and you’ll see too many drops and too much of a one dimensional game. One dimensional in a way that he projects to only really be effective on routes that keep him on the move, unless of course it is a jump ball, then his ability turn and jump to get the football at it’s highest point is his greatest skill. Very good top end speed for somebody 240 pounds but not nearly quick enough to separate on any type of shorter to intermediate routes. Big-time red zone threat, and that pays big dividends in the league.
8. Donte Moncrief(Ole Miss) – Put on the tape of Ole Miss vs LSU in 2012 and you will see a 6’2″, 220-pound receiver that you are sure will become a first round NFL selection. His underwhelming junior season is the reason he drops this far in the rankings and why some team might be getting themselves a steal late on the second day of the draft. He is much faster than given credit for, and proved that at the combine by running a 4.4 forty. I do not want to put too much emphasis on measureables in shorts and a t-shirt, but this was a case where it actually backed up what was seen on tape…at times.
9. Brandin Cooks(Oregon State) – I like him, just don’t love him. Not sold he can be a team’s top receiving target and if I’m drafting in the first round, that is what I am looking for. The speed and quickness numbers that he put up at the combine were truly incredible, but for me, it just didn’t show up on tape as ‘special’ when he wasn’t playing against Eastern Washington or the bottom feeders of the PAC 12. Can he become a versatile productive weapon on an offense? Absolutely, but NFL GMs shouldn’t be drafting anything but potential No. 1 targets in the top 25 picks of the NFL draft.
Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) – Played against SEC defenses his whole career and put up great numbers. Between him, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin, his acceleration was the best off the line of scrimmage, as was his array of route running techniques. There are times when watching the tape I start to really fall in love with Matthews, but then there are times when he is blanketed several passing plays in a row by a college cornerback. Ask me though if I am a believer and my answer would be a pretty swift, yes, but I’d prefer an accurate quarterback throwing him the ball in tight spaces.
Jared Abbrederis(Wisconsin) – If Bradley Roby of Ohio State is considered a first round pick and potential starting corner in the NFL, then consider Abbrederis a solid NFL player because he gave Roby all he could handle. He’s the second best route runner in this class. His quickness definitely leaves something to be desired, although his top end speed is quite deceiving. Very savvy, very good hands, my 11th best prospect.
Davante Adams(Fresno State) – Honestly, the hardest prospect to evaluate in this receiver class. There was some inconsistent play, there was some lower competition he went up against, there was some poor quarterback play in the one game I put the most stock in. He does possess the speed to take the top off a defense and showed flashes of plucking the ball out of the air, but it didn’t seem that natural to me.
Cody Latimer(Indiana) – Very raw, very physical man. I can’t agree with taking him in the first round, doesn’t track the ball in the air all that well and doesn’t possess the natural receiving skills that I usually look for in a top prospect. Does know how to use his big body, and especially in the run game, this guy is a punishing run blocker.
Bruce Ellington(South Carolina) – Short WR that looks like a running back. Natural athlete that started on the SC basketball team as well. Was the Gamecock’s biggest playmaker the last two seasons, and played through injury in 2013. It won’t surprise me to see him become a weapon out of the slot in the NFL in the next couple of seasons.
Paul Richardson(Colorado) – Another wide receiver that can burn you down the field, and do it in the blink of an eye. He is more than just a burner as well, but his slight frame dropped him down the rankings to me because he let’s contact effect him too much both in his routes and when the ball is in his hands.
Thanks again for reading and make sure to follow me on twitter @JohnnyLFootball, enjoy the draft!