2012 NFL Draft: 7 WRs Who Could Start from Day 1
Now that the once-deep free-agent pool of receivers is beginning to evaporate, teams with big needs at the position will need to look to the 2012 NFL draft to fill the void.
In a way, this can certainly change a team's draft strategy.
Instead of taking a player that will end up having a better career long term because of their raw talent, they may reach for a more polished player with less upside who can step in right away and contribute.
Here is a list of the top receivers that can step in right away and help a team in year one.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
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The top receiver in this year's draft class may not be on the same level as A.J. Green or Julio Jones, but he has the ability to be the top receiver on most teams.
Blackmon is not a burner, though his 40 time was better than anticipated. Blackmon makes his living as a physical route runner that can quickly gain separation off the line. His leaping ability and frame allow him to pluck the ball out of the air and to be a huge threat in the red zone.
Blackmon is polished enough to come into a roster like the Rams and immediately be Sam Bradford's target, but his skills are refined enough to question how much better he can get and develop as a pro.
Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
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Much like Blackmon, there is a common misconception that Michael Floyd is a "field-stretcher."
Floyd makes a lot of yardage after the catch, but he is not going to run by a lot of corners, especially in the NFL.
However, his size and power allows him to simply overpower his opposition and make plays on the ball. He is explosive off the line and shows great balance and body control.
The biggest knock on Floyd are his off-the-field issues, including a DUI in 2011 (his third alcohol-related offense since 2009). He since corrected himself by spending his senior season in the isolation of a freshman dorm, vowing to change his destructive ways.
As long as Floyd can stay out of trouble, I see no reason why he cannot come in and be a significant factor early in his career.
Kendall Wright, Baylor
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Some may attribute Wright's senior-year explosion to parallels with Robert Griffin III's amazing play at quarterback, but his spike in production is no fluke.
He was a bit miscast as a slot receiver as a junior, but exploded onto the scene for Baylor after being moved to the outside to make big plays.
Wright may fall in the draft because of his disappointing 40 time at the combine, but he plays much faster than his 40 would indicate.
To me, he is a bit reminiscent of DeSean Jackson, who had himself a fantastic rookie season. Wright has just as much ability as DeSean, so who is to think Wright cannot do the same?
Rueben Randle, LSU
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With all of the talk going to guys like Blackmon and Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle is a guy that could surprise some people early in his career.
He has the kind of natural instincts you look for in a receiver in terms of finding soft spots in coverage and setting up corners with subtle movements.
He's not the fastest or strongest guy off press coverage, but the LSU product knows how to gain enough separation to make a play on the football.
Randle certainly has room for improvement in his route running and gets a bit tight when trying to break on sharper routes, but he has the football IQ to make an easy transition to the next level.
Devon Wylie, Fresno State
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Because of his limitations in terms of size, Devon Wylie is not going to be taken in the first round. However, he has a lot of quick explosion and burst, which should allow him to contribute immediately on a slot receiver-needy team.
Wylie's biggest attribute may be his toughness and willingness to make tough catches in traffic. A fantastic gunner, he will come in and make immediate contributions on special teams.
Despite his size, Wylie has enough talent to be taken on day two. Throw in the fact that he is tough and fills valuable roles on special teams, and I would be surprised to see him make it out of the second round. Whoever drafts him will get an immediate contributor.
Brian Quick, Appalachian State
Brian Quick is one of the more interesting receiver prospects in this year's draft.
He does not have the kind of straight-line speed that can take the top off a defense, but his large frame helps him out-muscle defenders to make plays on the ball.
Quick is not hesitant to extend his hands and expose himself to make a play; he knows how to shield his body and take a hit. He shows exceptional balance taking hits and staying on his feet.
In the NFL, he should start contributing immediately as a red-zone threat. The former Appalachian State Mountaineer should also benefit from above-average route-running ability, and with a little coaching could be one of the steals of the draft.
Nick Toon, Wisconsin
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First, Nick Toon has the large frame you look for in a receiver. He understands how to set up corners and can go up and snatch balls midair. He is not going to outrun many defensive backs, but he is physical enough to create some big plays after the catch.
Toon also will not create a ton of separation on a consistent basis, but he has enough physical tools to be a solid No. 2 receiver.
However, if you are drafting Toon in hopes that he will become a dynamic playmaker down the road, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Toon simply is not explosive enough to be a big-play threat to an NFL defense.