Top 5 Wide Receivers
This is a talent-laden, rich class of wide receivers. At the top of the class are Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright. There are a number of high-quality, slot receivers and small prospects this year with Ryan Broyles from Oklahoma as the top slot receiver and Jordan White from Western Michigan as a small school gem.
1. Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State): Justin Blackmon is the game-changing, physically dominating, two-time Biletnikoff Award winning and top rated receiver on my board. He had an outstanding year in 2011 with 121 receptions for 1,522 yards and 12 TDs. From a physical tools standpoint, he has great hands and does a good job of using his body to shield defenders. Blackmon really shows his strength and power in the red zone with his ability to go up and snag the ball at its highest point. From a statistical make-up, Blackmon's careers number match-up with current Packers' WR Greg Jennings, who was drafted out of Western Michigan in 2006. In the WR Report available on Prediction Machine.com, it is noted that NFL teams should pay close attention to any WR in the draft who is able to exceed over 100 receptions in a single season as well as exceed 32 career TD receptions. Blackmon exceeds both of these benchmarks. The only worry I have about Blackmon is that the system which he played in allowed for other wide receivers to put up just as impressive numbers but have failed to live up to their hype in the NFL. Rashaun Woods (2004 NFL Draft) and Dez Bryant (2010 NFL Draft) both put up incredible numbers while playing for Oklahoma State and their high-powered, potent offense. Hopefully for Justin Blackmon, he can break the streak of mediocrity coming from former Oklahoma State wide receivers in the NFL.
2. Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): It's a bit of a mixed bag with Michael Floyd. On the one hand, we have a player who meets or exceeds the highest standards in every receiving statistical category set forth in the WR Report. On the other hand, we have a player who had three alcohol related incidents and was suspended from the team for spring practice in 2011. He has all the physical capabilities to be a top receiver in the NFL. It's just a matter of if he has his head screwed on straight. The best statistical comparison would be Vincent Jackson. Both players put up over 3,500 receiving yards in college and 37 TDs for their careers.
3. Kendall Wright (Baylor): Wright made an immediate impact on Baylor's offense from his first game as a freshman. He finished his career with 302 receptions, 4004 receiving yards and 30 TDs. Last season, he had a total of 108 receptions, 1663 receiving yards and 14 TDs playing with Robert Griffin III. He is a quick-twitch player who shows a strong ability to read defensive coverages and adjust his route on the fly. For a statistical comparison, Wright is similar to Terance Mathis. Both players are sub-six feet tall and 190 lbs. with lightning quick first steps. Mathis, had 263 career receptions, 4,254 rec. yards and 36 TDs while playing at New Mexico. Hopefully, Wright is able to enjoy a 12 year career just like Mathis.
4. Jordan White (Western Michigan): White isn't a player that will probably be taken within the first few rounds of the draft, but he is someone who fans and front office personnel should watch. He flat-out dominated at Western Michigan, where he shattered receiving records set by Greg Jennings. At 6'0" and 195 lbs., he is not the most physically dominating wide receiver, yet he is smart and has tremendous hands to go along with elite route running ability. The knock on him is that he had two ACL surgeries early in his career. Still, he has been able to play three consecutive season with no injuries. Statistical comp: Bobby Engram.
5. Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma): Broyles is a player who was rising up draft boards all season until he tore his ACL in the ninth game of the season against Texas A&M. His rookie season may not be special, but give him time to recover and I bet he will have a long career as a slot receiver in the NFL. Oklahoma's offense was reliant on Broyles. After he went down with his injury, Oklahoma had its two lowest offense yards outputs on the season. He was Landry Jones safety valve and the loss of Broyles affected the team's overall performance. Broyles worked primarily from the slot position and has the best route running ability of any player in this year's draft class. His stats are downright incredible with over 4,500 career receiving yards, 349 career receptions and 45 TDs. That places him in impressive company. Stat comp: Wes Welker.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Jeff Fuller (Texas A&M): Fuller had a productive career at Texas A&M, which is even more impressive considering he had no help from a decent college quarterback. With his 6'4", 223 lbs. frame, he can be a force on the outside in the NFL. He had 233 career receptions for 3092 receiving yards. Fuller is a mid-round prospect that could shine in a few years.
Brian Quick (Appalachian State): A small-school prospect with great size (6'3") and a player who dominated at the FCS level, Quick, has over 300 career receptions, 3418 receiving yards and averaged over 16 yards-per-reception. Quick could be a great pick up in the mid rounds of the NFL Draft.
BIG TEN COMBO:
Marvin McNutt (Iowa): Marvin McNutt stands 6'3" and weighs 216 lbs. He comes out of college with 170 career receptions and 28 TDs. He showed great ability using his body to shield defenders to go along with his soft hands. McNutt had one of the lowest number of dropped passes in the Big Ten last season. He is not going to wow with his speed or first step ability, but he can make the tough catches across the middle or in the red zone. Stat comp: Top level-Kenny Britt; Low level-Josh Reed
B.J. Cunningham (Michigan State) Fellow Big Ten playmaker, B.J. Cunningham, could be a great steal in the later rounds of the NFL Draft. His production at Michigan State passed the marks set by previous Spartans' Derrick Mason, Mushin Muhammad, Andre Rison and Plaxico Burress. Some scouts have compared Cunningham to former Michigan State teammate Devin Thomas, who was drafted in 2008 in the second round. Thomas has been a draft bust since entering the league, furthermore he was one-year wonder with a One Year Index rating of 93%. NFL teams should have stayed away from him like the bubonic plague. Cunningham's One Year Index rating of 36% lies in the optimal range. Stat comp: Marques Colston
SLOT MEN/SPECIAL TEAMERS:
T.Y. Hilton (Florida International) and Eric Page (Toledo) In the past few years, these smaller, quick, first-step players in the mold of Darren Sproles have been drafted higher than they should have been. Dexter McCluster and Armanti Edwards are the two prime examples of teams looking to draft a smaller, speedy back that can also play receiver as a potential matchup nightmare in the NFL. This year's draft may have some better options. Both of these players can be excellent slot receivers in the NFL, in addition to prime special teams standouts. Both players averaged over 27 yards a kickoff return during their careers. Hilton has six special teams TDs to his college resume and Page has five special team TDs.