Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Top Prospects by Position

Wide Receivers
This was the toughest group to rank because of how much talent and depth there is at the position this year. There is a good chance that five or more receivers could go in the first round with as many as twelve going by the end of the second. Receivers who get a first round grade from teams may end up slipping into the second round. It wouldn't be surprising to see a team like Oakland, St. Louis, or Detroit taking two receivers in the first two or three rounds this draft.

1) Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers
Career Stats: 240 Catches, 3391 Yards, 27 TDs
Height: 6'0              Weight: 211 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.43 Seconds (1.53 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 37.5 inches

Watkins heads off a very strong receiver class and has made a case for himself to be in contention for the second overall pick. Any other year, he would have a legit shot at being taken first overall. He has been a difference maker since the moment he stepped on the field at Clemson and despite a rough second year, has really shined. Watkins is a tremendous athlete who just has the natural speed and agility to destroy defenses. He has a great burst off of the line and runs a very polished route. His speed allows him to take the top off of any defense and his explosiveness out of his cuts makes him difficult to cover at any level of the field. Watkins has the potential to be a true number one receiver from the moment he steps on an NFL field. He has the entire package that you can want out of a number one receiver, save maybe his height. He plays much master than he is timed as numerous unofficial 40s had him clocked in the low 4.3s. He has natural size to him that makes him tough to bump off of his routes or to out muscle him on a contested throw. His hands are exceptional and he consistently catches the ball away from his body. In my opinion, Watkins is the closest thing to a sure fire prospect at the next level.

2) Mike Evans, Texas A&M Aggies
Career Stats: 151 Catches, 2499 Yards, 17 TDs
Height: 6'4              Weight: 231 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.53 Seconds (1.57 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 37 inches

Evans answered a lot of questions when he ran a 4.53 at the Combine. Many had questioned his speed and how well he would be able to operate at the next level. While Evans might not have great top end speed, he showed that he had the quickness to separate from corners and can pick up yards after the catch. Evans does his best work along the sideline, where his size and quickness gives him a great advantage over most cornerbacks. His size and vertical is going to make him an instant impact player in the redzone as any quarterback can pretty much just loft the ball towards him. Part of what makes him so dangerous in these throws and along the sideline is his physicality which he uses to just dominate opponents. He really uses his strength well, as he has adapted it to every phase of his game. He is rarely held up at the line or pushed far off his routes, and he shields corners incredibly well to make catches. Evans has dominated some very tough competition, and its very hard to see him failing at the next level. The only real knock against him is that he is prone to some lapses in concentration. He'll make dumb drops a bit too often, but hopefully that is something he can knock out with experience. Evans could easily go in the top ten and won't last too long if he drops out of that. 

3) Odell Beckham Jr., LSU Tigers
Career Stats: 143 Catches, 2340 Yards, 12 TDs
Height: 5'11           Weight: 198 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.43 Seconds (1.50 10-Yard Dash)
Vertical: 38.5 Inches

Beckham's stock has been rising throughout the draft process as scouts have begun to take a deeper look at his tape and got a chance to see his measurables at the Combine. His height is a minor knock, but his speed and acceleration really impressed the most. He has one of the best releases off of the line and maintains great speed through his entire route. Beckham Jr. has a lot of versatility as he was lined up all over the line and even returned punts and kicks to help give a glimpse of his athleticism. His acceleration and top end speed gives him the ability to split the defense and make plays downfield. The most impressive attribute about Beckham Jr. is his hands. He measured some of the largest hands at the Combine which gives him the ability to just pluck the ball out of the air. He makes tough catches in traffic and has shown the concentration to make a catch with a poor line of sight on the ball. Beckham Jr. really doesn't have a whole lot to improve in his game besides cleaning up his routes a little bit. He has the potential to be a solid number one receiver, but at worst he is a dynamic second and slot receiver.

4) Marqise Lee, Southern California Trojans
Career Stats: 248 Catches, 3655 Yards, 29 TDs
Height: 5'11            Weight: 192 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.52 Seconds (1.56 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 38 inches

Lee actually has the best stats out of any of the top five receivers, but he is a bit lower on this list here. Yet what that means in this class is that he is still looking at a top twenty selection. Lee was recruited to USC as an athlete to play as a safety, but he was converted to a wide receiver instead and has been the focal point of the Trojans' attack since. Like some of the other top receivers here, he has a great burst off of the line which gives him an immediate advantage. He is also very explosive making his cuts and is incredibly dangerous once he has. Lee plays a lot faster than what his time would indicate. When he has the ball in space, he is incredibly difficult to bring down. He doesn't always take the best angles, but when he is able to get to the edge he is typically gone. Any doubts that one may have about his speed can simply be erased by watching him actually play against defenses. He too has the ability to take the top off of the defense and score on big plays. The factors that have dropped Lee a bit lower on this list are injuries and drops. Lee drops routine balls more than a receiver of his caliber should be. He needs to improve his concentration to avoid this in the NFL. Second, injuries have been a bit of an issue with Lee ever since his sophomore year which really showed in his production this year. If Lee can stay healthy, he should have a very good career.

5) Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State Seminoles
Career Stats: 84 Catches, 1506 Yards, 19 TDs
Height: 6'5             Weight: 240 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.61 Seconds (1.62 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 32.5 Inches

Benjamin is the biggest risk/reward prospect this draft. Benjamin has a massive frame and is very physical against corners and safeties. At 6'5, no corner can really hold him up at the line of scrimmage and it is difficult to push him off of his route. He also has some good quickness to help get himself separation. However, his quickness doesn't necessarily translate into top end speed. Benjamin takes huge strides when he runs, so its not like he can really move that much quicker. He can make some good plays after the catch, but he isn't a burner by any stretch. He also is not the greatest route runner in the world at this stage of his career. He is still very raw, but makes up for it with his sheer athletic potential. Benjamin's size and athletic prowess gives him a massive catch radius similar to that of A.J. Green. He uses his frame to shield defenders and can win contested throws and jump balls. Benjamin has had some issues with drops over the last two seasons however. He often is looking to turn up field before he has actually caught the ball. He is still very raw and is going to need a good coach to reach his full potential, but if he can reach that level he can become one of the most dangerous receivers.

6) Brandin Cooks, Oregon State Beavers
Career Stats: 226 Catches, 3272 Yards, 24 TDs
Height: 5'9              Weight: 189 lbs.
40 Yard Dash: 4.33 Seconds (1.50 10-Yard Split)
Vertical: 36 Inches

I'm going to include Cooks in this because I believe that all six of these receivers have a legitimate shot to be drafted in the first round. Cooks is all over people's wide receiver rankings, but he rounds out the first round prospects here. Despite his size, cooks is more than just an athlete who is lined up all over the field. While he has the ability to play from a multitude of line ups, he also possesses the skills of a natural wide receiver. He runs a good route and has elite explosiveness out of his cuts. His ability to stop and start on a dime makes him a terror in the open field. His 40 time speaks for itself. Once he has the ball in the open field or is able to beat a defender to the edge, no one is going to catch him. Cooks ran a lot of different routes at Oregon State rather than just a bunch of go routes. He done pretty much everything and also has a great set of hands. He may drop a few passes every now and then, but his concentration to make catches that are well defended is very impressive. The only real limitation to Cooks is his height. I'm usually a believer that talent and speed can overcome height, but in this case it could be a bit of a factor. He was able to line up out wide a lot at Oregon State, but he could be relegated more to the slot role in the NFL. Still, Cooks has an incredible amount of potential and is very tough for a player his size. He is definitely worthy of a late first round pick (Patriots, Chiefs, 9ers?).

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