Wednesday, April 19, 2017

2017 Wide Receiver Rankings

1) Corey Davis, Western Michigan Broncos
Career Stats: 331 receptions, 5278 yards, 52 touchdowns
Height: 6'3          Weight: 209
40 Yard Dash: N/A
Vertical: N/A

In an interesting turn of events, the cornerback class this year is deeper than the wide receivers. With that said, I would still take this prospect over any of the cornerbacks. Corey Davis is one of my favorite players in this class. The Western Michigan product is an incredibly fine tuned receiver with great hands, great speed for his size, and runs fluid routes. He is a true number one receiver as he has the ability to run a clean and crisp route, catch the ball in traffic, and make a man miss on his way to the endzone. Even poor quarterback play couldn’t slow down Davis as he was constantly stared down from snap to pass. This let the cornerbacks know the ball was going to the former Bronco but time and time again Davis still brought the ball down. It felt like quarterbacks could simply throw the ball up and he would come down with it consistently. The comeback routes he runs are a thing of beauty as he settles his quick feet and drops his hips all in one motion. He comes back to the ball hard and sudden and snatches the ball from the air. The best part of Davis’s game is his ability to gain yards after catch. He catches the ball, often with defenders draped all over him, and manages to stiff arm or shake the opposing player and is then off to the races. From start to finish, there are not many holes you can put into Davis's game. He's a well oiled machine that is ready for the NFL.

Stat to Know - 5278: Davis's receiving yards is one of the reasons why he is regarded as the most prolific receiver in FBS history.

2) Mike Williams, Clemson Tigers
Career Stats: 177 receptions, 2727 yards, 21 touchdowns
Height: 6'4          Weight: 218
40 Yard Dash: 4.53
Vertical: 32.5

The number one receiver in the mind of many scouts is my number two receiver. Mike Williams is a big bodied power receiver. He has the ability to be a number one receiver in the right system but I see him as more of an Alshon Jeffery type receiver where he will be a very good player but with another good receiver by his side, he could be great. He does have some great attributes such as adjusting his body back towards the ball, possessing very strong hands and the ability to come down with most 50/50 throws. But he has a tough time creating the separation that you need to make in the NFL. Most top level quarterbacks can throw you open but there's only a handful of those. More often than not, you need to create some sliver of separation and that is something Williams needs to work on. One trait that he has that somewhat nullifies his inability to create separation is that he can make tough catches in small windows. Sometimes you don’t need a lot of room, especially with the windows in the next level being small. Williams’ route running can be refined to help him get open to get that yards after catch but that will require quite a bit of work. Working on his feet and route running will keep him more upright and keep his feet under himself. This can keep him from falling down on occasion. He will be a quality receiver but I think a strong number two receiver with some help will be his ceiling.

Stat to Know - 4.53: Mike Williams's unofficial pro day forty yard dash was key to solidifying his top twenty selection.

3) John Ross, Washington Huskies
Career Stats: 114 receptions, 1729 yards, 22 touchdowns
Height: 5'11          Weight: 188
40 Yard Dash: 4.22
Vertical: 37

The person who first coined the term, “Speed kills”, obviously had no idea how fast John Ross is. The former Husky left cornerbacks and safeties in the dust and looking like a complete fool (say "hi", Adoree Jackson). Ross runs his routes with extreme precision and if he gains a step on somebody, he will be open. Don’t be fooled by his blazing 4.22 speed. One of his best traits is his ability as a red zone threat. In the red zone, his route tree is fantastic to watch. His corner routes with a little shimmy shake to the inside and then burst back out will get him open. Then he runs a comeback, drops his hips and turns towards where the throw will be and plucks it out of the air. Ross is a better prospect than Will Fuller because he can actually catch the ball. Fuller tended to have those lapses in focus and would drop non contested balls. Ross will be a fantastic slot receiver when he improves his short and intermediate routes. His return ability is unmatched when he has the ball in his hands. The main concern for him will be his small stature and knee injuries. He is as close to DeSean Jackson that you can get and will sometimes have the same body language when he drops a pass or if a quarterback misses him while he is wide open. But for a team looking to spread open the field with unbelievable speed, Ross is the guy.  

Stat to Know - 4.22: Ross's forty yard dash set the NFL combine record and it wasn't as fast as he could have ran. He pulled up a little at the end because of legs cramps.

4) Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington Eagles
Career Stats: 428 receptions, 6464 yards, 70 touchdowns
Height: 6'2          Weight: 204
40 Yard Dash: 4.62
Vertical: 31

The most prolific wide receiver in the history of the Football Championship Series finds his way into my top five. There are an obscene amount of second tier wide receivers in this year’s draft that it was hard to narrow it down but Kupp made my cut. Let’s rattle off some career numbers: 428 receptions, 6464 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns. His career was off the charts no matter what level he played against. In his career against FBS opponents, he never had less than 70 receiving yards and against a top secondary, like the University of Washington, he had 8 catches, 145 yards and 3 touchdowns. The same secondary that started current star NFL cornerback Marcus Peters and future draft pick in Sidney Jones. Kupp has fantastic spatial awareness and always knows where the defenders are on the field once he catches the ball. This helps facilitate the fact that he is great with the ball in his hands and fights for that extra yard or cuts back to the open field. His love of the game seems unparalleled as he and his wife went to New Orleans for their honeymoon and he conveniently “found” a football camp and went on to attend it! Kupp catches the ball with ease and makes incredibly difficult catches quite often. He excels out of the slot but I think he could play inside or outside. Although there is always the transition of moving up from the lower levels of collegiate football and jumping to the NFL, Kupp seemed to quiet those doubters as he crushed the Senior Bowl. I have no doubts that Kupp will make it in the NFL and have a very solid and productive career.

Stat to Know - 6464: Kupp's receiving yards in four years in college. That's over 3.5 miles!

5) Curtis Samuel, Ohio State Buckeyes
Career Stats: 107 receptions, 1249 yards, 24 touchdowns
Height: 5'11          Weight: 196
40 Yard Dash: 4.31
Vertical: 37

If it not for John Ross’s blazing 4.22 second forty yard dash, we would definitely be talking about Samuel and his 4.31. There are certain prospects that you watch and can tell that they play faster than their forty time. Most of the time this is in reference to guys who are relatively slow. Not in Curtis Samuel’s case. His forty time was fast and it appears that he plays even faster than that. It is true that he isn’t a traditional wide receiver but offensive weapons like this don’t come along very often and are always a valuable resource on a team. His route running is above par for a guy who comes out of the backfield. The best part of his game is his ability to create space. Yes, this does come from his quickness but even fast guys don’t get this wide open with such ease. I do like his ability as a receiver and think he could be extremely effective if in the right offense. His ability to return kicks can help get him on the field early and then have designed sub packages to get him on offense. Samuel does fight the ball a little bit when catching passes, especially on comeback and slant routes but he’s a special player when the ball is in his hands. He had quite a few instances when he was not on the same page with JT Barrett, so I would like to know who fault that was. The other part of Samuel’s game that needs refining is his get off against press coverage. If he’s in the slot, he won’t be seeing a lot of press coverage unless he really struggles against it but with good coaching this can be helped. Every single NFL team needs a player like Samuel. They can change the game or momentum at any instance.

Stat to Know - 23: Number of combined rushing and receiving touchdowns in 2016.

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