Below, NFL Draft expert Matt Richner's analyzes his top five NFL Draft 2013 Wide Reciever (outside and slot) and Tight End prospects.
2013 Top 5 Wide Receivers
The game of football has evolved to the point where most offenses in the NFL are run primarily out of a three-wide-receiver set. The explosion of the spread offense in college has forced its way into the NFL and, by doing so, more and more teams are relying on slot receivers to become integral components of their offense. Below is a breakdown of the top five outside wide receivers. These are players who can spread the field, take the top off a defense and be traditional big play threats. The second group consists of the top five slot wide receivers, who can work the middle of the field and are factors both in the screen and in short strike passes.
1. Terrance Williams (Baylor): Williams quickly made Baylor Bear fans forget about former first-round pick Kendall Wright. At 6’2” and 210 lbs, Williams has the size to battle defensive backs for the football and the athletic talent to gain separation in the open field. When catching the ball in traffic, Williams has excellent body control to shield against defenders. He averaged 140.9 receiving yards per game this past season, which was the highest amongst all wide receivers for the year.
He will need to add some more weight to handle the consistent punishment taken by the top wide receivers in the NFL. He doesn’t have track speed, but he consistently tracks the deep ball well, allowing him the opportunity to continue upfield with the football, while not breaking stride. A big play threat, Williams averaged a touchdown once every 7.4 receptions.
A good blocking wide receiver, Williams uses his size to drive defenders upfield and open up the outside lanes for his running back. Has a tendency to lose focus, though, as evidenced by his averaging over a drop per game this past season.
Williams is statistically similar to former USC Trojan and Detroit Lion Johnnie Morton. Both had over 200 career receptions and 3,200 receiving yards.
2. Robert Woods (USC): Third all-time amongst active FBS players with 252 career receptions, Robert Woods has been an elite performer for the USC Trojans. One of the best route runners in college football, Woods is able to consistently get behind the defensive secondary and come up with the big play. Showcasing his excellent route-running ability, Woods has perfected a number of NFL-caliber routes—the slant-and-go is one in particular that he routinely runs, consistently leaving his defender flat-footed. Scouts love the fact that he could come in and run the complete route tree at the NFL level.
He is deceptively fast, but he is also physically capable of going across the middle for the tough grab. Able to get in and out of his breaks with consistent speed and acceleration, Woods had very few drops on the season. A physical blocker on the outside, he brings an aggressive and physical style of play not often seen in young wideouts. He finished his career with 2,930 receiving yards and 32 touchdown receptions, averaging a touchdown once every 7.9 receptions.
An experienced kickoff and punt returner, Woods averaged 24.8 yards per kickoff return throughout his career.
He compares closest to current Eagles wideout Jeremy Maclin.
3. Cobi Hamilton (Arkansas): Cobi Hamilton was viewed by many as the player who was ready to take over the top wideout position for the Razorbacks. Standing 6’3” and weighing 209 lbs, Hamilton broke the SEC record for most receiving yards in a single game with his 306-receiving-yards performance against Rutgers University.
Hamilton’s success in the Razorbacks offense was limited to just a few route combinations. Typically he was most successful from running either the post or drag route. His average targeted pass attempt was just 7.2 yards down the field this past season.
A big play threat, who can stretch the field at times, Hamilton averaged 16.3 yards-per-reception throughout his career.
In 45 career games, Hamilton has only twice recorded double-digit receptions in a game; he achieved more than 100 receiving yards in a game six times.
He will need to improve his strength and stamina as he progresses into the NFL. He averaged just 1.4 yards-after-significant-contact. To be an elite receiver in the NFL, he will need to learn how to stay on his feet after getting hit.
4. Stedman Bailey (West Virginia): The Mountaineer pass offense finished the season ranked tenth in the nation. One of the leaders of this unit was play-making wideout Stedman Bailey. Bailey, who ranked third in the country this past season with 124.8 receiving yards per game, is a fleet-footed wideout capable of breaking tackles and picking up some extra yards after the catch.
Against Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl, Bailey was targeted nine times, coming away with eight receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. He doesn’t run a full arsenal of NFL routes, primarily running short-to-intermediate screen routes. For the game, his average depth of target was only 2.1 yards past the line of scrimmage on his receptions. He was able to pick up 78 yards-after-significant contact, an average of 8.6 yards per reception for the game.
For his career, Bailey had 210 receptions for 3,218 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. His 41 career touchdowns is tops amongst all FBS wide receivers.
NFL teams are going to want to see him develop into a more accomplished route runner. He is small, but has the strength to fight his way through bump-and-run coverage. Bailey compares statistically to current Saints wide receiver Lance Moore.
5. Brandon Kaufman (Eastern Washington): Playing at the FCS level, Kaufman has been an elite performer these past few seasons. This year, he set the FCS single-season receiving-yards record with 1,850.
For his career, Kaufman has played against four FBS opponents, recording 24 receptions for 465 yards and three TD, a 19.4 yards-per-catch average.
Blessed with size (6’5”, 220 lbs) and fantastic leaping ability, Kaufman has all the measurables scouts are looking for. He has the strength to fight through double and triple teams, while making the tough catch in traffic, and he is an above-average route runner, who understands how to use his body to shield the football from defenders.
In 2011, against the University of Washington, Kaufman was matched up against Desmond Trufant, who many scouts believe to be one of the top defensive backs in this year’s draft class. Kaufman dominated Trufant on the day, finishing the game with 10 receptions and 140 receiving yards. He consistently used his size and strength to outmuscle and outman the highly regarded Trufant.
From a scouting and statistical perspective, Kaufman reminds me of current Saints WR Marques Colston.
Inside/Slot Wide Receivers
1. Tavon Austin (West Virginia): The top receiver on my board, Austin is a physical, explosive wide receiver, who can make a handful of exciting, momentum-swinging plays each game. With extraordinary lateral quickness, Austin is able to get a step or two ahead of just about everyone on the field. At the NFL Combine, he ran a blazing 4.38 40-yard dash time, putting him in the top three amongst draft-eligible wideouts.
Austin finished his career with 288 career receptions for 3,414 yards, an 11.9 YPC average and 29 TDs. Austin also had 109 rushing attempts for 1,031 yards and six touchdowns. In total, Austin touched the ball 528 times, for a total of 6,362 yards, an average 12.1 yards-per-touch for his career; he also had 40 career touchdowns.
Most of Austin’s yards came from designed plays such as reverses, handoffs, pitches and quick slants. He averaged just over 3.7 yards-after-significant-contact this season. He is a versatile player, who can play multiple positions on offense and be an effective playmaker on both offense and special teams. He probably won’t be the focal point of any offense in the NFL, but he can be a dangerous weapon if used correctly. Don’t expect him to achieve 100 receptions in a single season, but he should expect to receive over 120 touches a year. The way the Colts are utilizing T.Y. Hilton and his explosiveness is the same way a team should use Tavon Austin.
2. Ryan Swope (Texas A&M): A fearless slot receiver who is not afraid to go over the middle and sacrifice his body to make the tough catch, Ryan Swope is as sure-handed a receiver as there is currently in college football. Swope leaves Texas A&M as the career and single-season leader in receptions and receiving yards and is second all-time in career touchdown receptions.
Blessed with terrific hands, Swope also displays precision route-running ability and has a great understanding of the soft spots in zones. His average reception came just 5.2 yards past the line of scrimmage. A mismatch nightmare for defenses, Swope—who ran a blistering 4.34 40-yard dash—can outsprint most linebackers but has the size and strength to outmuscle smaller defensive backs.
Swope will most likely be a consistent producer in the NFL—a player who is able to move the chains and be a quarterback’s best friend on third downs. A consistent, reliable, durable wideout, who possesses terrific hands and elite route-running ability, is what NFL teams should be looking for in their next slot receiver. From a statistical standpoint, Swope compares to current NFL wideout Wes Welker.
3. Quinton Patton (La. Tech): Going against Texas A&M earlier this season, Quinton Patton was able to record 21 receptions, 233 receiving yards and four TDs. Patton runs few deep-route combinations, opting for mostly shorter routes, such as slants, quick hitches and bubble screens, all intended to get the ball into his hands as quickly as possible. The average pass attempt to Patton was only 5.9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage this season.
Patton has incredibly quick feet and is able to pick up needed yards once he has secured the ball. He is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, finishing his career with 2,594 receiving yards on 183 career receptions. This past year, Patton recorded 1,392 receiving yards, of which almost half came as yards after contact. He is the leader amongst draft eligible wideouts with a mark of 7.3 receptions per game average throughout his career.
Patton compares statistically to current NFL standouts Danny Amendola and Davone Bess. Patton would be best suited to slide inside and play the slot position in the NFL.
4. Josh Boyce (TCU): Boyce isn’t blessed with exceptional speed but is able to get decent separation from defenders. His average reception came at only 5.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Showing some inconsistency in his pass-catching ability, Boyce averaged 1.7 drops per game this season.
An extremely tough and competitive player, Boyce shows no fear or hesitation working the middle of the field.
During the recent NFL Combine, Boyce finished in the top five amongst all wide receivers in seven of the nine events. He finished second in the bench press, which is impressive coming from a player who stands at 5’11” and weighs only 206 lbs. He showcases his strength in his ability to break press coverage off the line of scrimmage. Teams were consistently trying to jam him all season, but he was able to fight through the contact.
5. Conner Vernon (Duke): A deceptively quick wideout, who is able to shake defenders with little wasted movement, Vernon is one of the most productive wide receivers in this year’s draft class. With 283 career receptions, second most amongst all draft-eligible wide receivers, Vernon averaged over 5.8 receptions per game throughout his career.
A sure-handed receiver who does a great job at not letting the ball into his body, he continually snatches the ball, tucks it away and looks to get upfield to pick up the first down. A smart football player, he understands down and distance. On numerous occasions, he ran a yard past the first-down mark, and then made his way back to the quarterback. Small details like that are what help offenses sustain possession and move the chains in the NFL.
Wait and See:
1. Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee): Patterson made the most of his opportunity during his single season of play at the University of Tennessee. An All-American JUCO player the previous two seasons, Patterson was outright electric this past season, finishing the year with 46 receptions, 778 receiving yards and five TDs. The Volunteer coaching staff was creative in getting the ball to Patterson, who had 25 rushing attempts for 308 yards and three touchdowns.
Although he is as explosive an athlete as there is in college football, Patterson’s performance was less than impressive when matched up against top competition. Against Alabama and going head-to-head with one of the top-rated cornerbacks in the nation, Dee Milliner, Patterson finished with only one reception for 25 yards. In fact, his only game with over 100 receiving yards came against Troy University, which ranked 94th in the country in pass defense this past season.
Patterson’s career numbers, unfortunately, suggest he most likely will be a bust in the NFL. There are few capable players in recent years who have played only a single season of FBS college football and gone on to have prominent success in the NFL. There are, however, a number of examples of wide receivers who were just like Patterson: a dynamic one-year wonder in college, who turned out to be an NFL draft bust. Players such as Robert Ferguson, Devin Thomas, Dexter Jackson, Chad Jackson and Greg Little come to mind.
On the other hand, if Patterson were surrounded by some veteran talent and given enough time to develop his skills as a route runner and a pass catcher, he could turn out to be a quality NFL talent, similar to a Nate Washington.
2013 Top 5 Tight Ends
Zach Ertz (Stanford): There isn’t an offense in football in either the NFL or college that utilizes the tight end position more than Stanford, which runs multiple TE formations and sometimes has as many as four tight ends out on the field. The leader of the group this season was Zach Ertz, whose long frame (6’5”, 250 lbs) and great pass-catching ability had NFL scouts swarming over to Palo Alto.
Ertz took over the number one tight end spot after former Cardinal Colby Fleener departed for the NFL last season. Ertz finished his career with 122 receptions, 1,434 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns; he averaged 7.4 receptions per touchdown throughout his career.
Not your prototypical tight end who plays on the line, Ertz was lined up on the outside for over 70 percent of the snaps this past season for Stanford. Whether outside or inside, Ertz shows great pass-catching abilities. He rarely traps the ball into his body, always catching it with his hands away from his chest. His run-after-the-catch ability, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired; he averaged just 4.2 after-the-catch yards for the season.
He is not a physical presence in terms of his blocking abilities, but he shows a willingness to go inside and seal his lane assignment. He added roughly 30 pounds while at Stanford, a significant amount of weight.
Ertz is an all-around quality tight end who has the speed and athletic ability to win in one-on-one matchups.
Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame): The winner of the John Mackey award given to the nation’s best tight end, Eifert is continuing the recent tradition of Notre Dame producing some of the NFL’s best young tight ends. In his junior season, Eifert was used more as a pass catcher than for traditional inline blocking. For the year, he had 63 receptions for 803 yards and five touchdowns.
This past year with a young, inexperienced quarterback at the helm, Eifert stayed predominantly inline, finishing the year with 50 receptions for 685 yards and four touchdowns.
Showcasing great body control, he is able to go up and snatch the ball at the moment of truth between him and his defender. The best route runner amongst all the tight ends in this year’s class, he is able to quickly gain separation and make himself open to his quarterback on a consistent basis.
Eifert leads all tight ends this year with 1,830 career receiving yards. A powerful, strong tight end, he can do everything on an above-average to excellent level. He is a better all-around player than 2011 second-round pick by the Minnesota Vikings, Kyle Rudolph.
Ryan Otten (San Jose State): A smaller tight end, Otten is a player who is probably going to be utilized more as a pass catcher than an inline blocker. At 6’5” and 230 lbs, Otten is going to have a difficult time being left to block a defensive end one-on-one in the NFL.
Otten is quick off the line of scrimmage and is able to fight through being jammed. An elite route runner, he is consistently able to get behind slower linebackers and uses his size to fend off smaller defensive backs. Time and time again, he leaves his feet to make the reception in traffic.
A tall, athletic tight end who is more than a capable pass catcher, Otten is what a lot of teams are looking for when they use a multiple tight end formation. A former first team All-WAC, Otten finished his career with 126 receptions for 1,760 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Gavin Escobar (San Diego State): A junior who decided to forego his senior season, Escobar led San Diego State in receptions last season with 42 receptions for 543 yards and five touchdowns. At 6’6” and 255 lbs, Escobar is a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. He ran a 4.84 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and showcased his speed this past season by burning safeties and linebackers on a consistent basis.
Escobar finished his career at SDSU with 122 receptions for 1,646 yards—a YPC average of 13.5—and 17 touchdowns. A weapon in the red zone, he has shown the ability to make adjustments in the air and make the difficult catch in traffic. At his size, he should be an option for the back shoulder fade once a team reaches the red zone.
A waist-bender as a blocker, Escobar’s blocking wasn’t challenged on a consistent basis, and he had a hard time sustaining his blocks for a long period of time. He will need to develop this skill set to be a full-time starter.
A dangerous weapon as a pass catcher, Escobar reminds me of last year’s draft selection by the Indianapolis Colts, Dwayne Allen.
Travis Kelce (Cincinnati): As the leading pass catcher for Cincinnati this past season, Kelce averaged 3.5 receptions and 55.5 receiving yards per game. He endured some hardship during the early part of his career at Cincinnati, where he was suspended for the entire 2010 season for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
For his career, Kelce averaged 14.8 yards-per-reception, fourth highest amongst all draft-eligible tight ends. With 59 receptions for 875 yards and 10 touchdowns, Kelce was much more than a traditional tight end. He also contributed as a rusher with eight career carries for 47 yards and two touchdowns.
One of the best blocking tight ends in this year’s draft class, Kelce has the size and ability to dominate his man. His blocking goes to the end of the whistle, though, which could get him in trouble at times.
Kelce has only one season as a full-time starter, so he’s still learning the position, and he will need some time to continue his development. An all-around fantastic tight end, Kelce could be a steal for a team if selected in the mid-to-later rounds.
2013 NFL Draft Content Schedule: