2012 NFL Draft Predictions: Projecting the Top 10 Rookie Receivers
What runs like a cheetah, leaps like a kangaroo and has hundreds of legs?
Nope, not a millipede on steroids.
The correct answer is the receiver position in the upcoming NFL draft.
No other two words better describe this year's crop than deep and talented, with value to be found well into the later rounds.
Time to channel my inner David Letterman—the "Top 10" list part, not the fraternizing with co-workers half my age part. I'll leave that for him and a former Arkansas coach.
Okay, I'm done, now onto the list.
Before I receive truck-loads of hate mail for omitting certain names (cough, Brian Quick and, cough, Stephen Hill, cough), let me explain my simple reasoning behind this list.
It is all about rookie success, meaning NFL-readiness was the deciding factor. While I firmly believe Quick and Hill, both extraordinary athletes, will have better careers than the majority of the list, they need time to develop before contributing at the next level.
Here, in a very particular order, are the 10 receivers destined to have the most productive rookie seasons.
10. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
Sanu just barely sneaks into the list. He answered concerns about his speed by clocking a 4.54 40-yard dash at his pro day. Speed, however, is not his biggest asset—his physicality as a receiver is. Sanu does a tremendous job using his body to create separation from defenders and make highlight-reel catches.
9. T.Y. Hilton, Florida International
Hilton is the potential steal of this entire draft. He's viewed by most as a mid-round prospect, but I disagree.
Hilton has loads of talent and even more speed. He recently blazed a 4.34 40-yard dash and looks faster on the football field. What stands out on tape, above everything else, is the elusiveness in the open field. Look for him to also contribute as a return man and runner—basically anything to get the ball in his hands.
8. Rueben Randle, LSU
Randle is tough to project. He has prototypical size (6'3", 210 pounds) and above-average speed, but received limited opportunities in college and was absolutely shut down by Alabama's secondary last season—a combined five receptions for 32 yards in two meetings.
On the other hand, he is a big red-zone target with reliable hands and a willing blocker—a perfect fit for a West Coast-ish offense.
7. Marvin McNutt, Iowa
An underrated sleeper, McNutt is one of the more NFL-ready receivers of this whole group. He was a combine standout and has the on-field resume to back it up.
Last season, he totaled 82 catches for 1,315 yards and 12 touchdowns. Better quarterback play could lead to even better numbers.
6. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
The forgotten man. Broyles, among the most productive college receivers of all time, was well on his way to a second-round (at worst) selection before suffering a tear in his ACL. Five months removed from surgery, Broyles ran a 4.57 40-yard dash in front of scouts on Thursday.
He's an ideal fit in the slot with an uncanny ability to get open and make plays. Broyles is also a dangerous return man.
5. Nick Toon, Wisconsin
Toon is an all-around solid receiver, who surprised many by clocking a 4.53 40-yard dash and posting a 37.5" vertical leap in Indianapolis. He runs crisp routes, has sticky hands and is a very capable blocker.
Toon's numbers don't jump off the page, but a lot of that has to do with playing in Wisconsin's run-heavy offense. He could be a real steal in the third round and beyond.
4. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
Jeffery is a physical receiver with impressive sideline awareness. He is not a burner, but will be able to out-jump most corners in the NFL. Despite attracting a lot of attention and double teams from the opposition, Jeffery still racked up 49 receptions for 762 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Think of Anquan Boldin with a little more speed.
3. Kendall Wright, Baylor
Though small in stature (5'10", 195 pounds), Wright is a big-time playmaker. He runs the ball, catches the ball and helps out in special teams, too.
Wright improved each year at Baylor and will look to continue the trend at the next level. He caught 108 passes for an astounding 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2011. He's best suited to play the slot, and has the wheels to really stretch the field.
Which receiver will have the best rookie season?
2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
The top receiver in all of college football the past two years, Blackmon will be ready to start Week 1.
Everything coaches look for in a receiver, he possesses: physicality, size, intelligence, speed, good hands and, most importantly, on-field production.
All of this, even while constantly facing double coverages.
1. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Floyd has yet to see a throw he doesn't like (or can't catch), and he probably never will.
An absolute nightmare for defensive coordinators, Floyd can do it all against any corner. He's a big body with surprising speed, and can contort his body to make every throw appear accurate. A clear No. 1 receiver in the NFL, Floyd will have the best season of all rookie receivers.
Mark my words.
Missed the cut: A.J. Jenkins (Illinois), Juron Criner (Arizona), Tommy Streeter (Miami, Fla.), Marvin Jones (California), Greg Childs (Arkansas)
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