2012 NFL Draft: Ranking the 10 Best Wide Receivers
Justin Blackmon is a guarantee to be the top receiver off the draft board. Who will be the game-breaker to be selected next?
The wide receiver is one of the most enigmatic positions in the NFL. Arguably possessed with the most raw athleticism of any position, they can come from anywhere. From the first round to the seventh, from the University of Miami to Mississippi Valley State, you can never get a great read on these guys until they take their first NFL snaps.
So who are the top 10 prospects? Who do they compare to in a best-case and worst-case scenario? And who will take them off the board? Click along to find out.
Key stats: Over 110 catches and 1,500 yards in last two seasons, two-time Fred Biletnikoff Award Winner
Best-case comparison: Terrell Owens
Worst-case comparison: Michael Crabtree
Justin Blackmon is is the consensus best receiver in the draft and is a lock to be drafted in the top 10. He had a tight hamstring and chose to opt out of the 40 at the NFL combine, but ran a 4.41 and 4.46 at the Oklahoma State pro day.
Blackmon's stopwatch speed was pretty good, but his game speed was even more impressive in college. In the Fiesta Bowl, Blackmon embarrassed the Stanford secondary in route to three touchdowns and 186 yards receiving. Most of his yardage came from the yards-after-catch variety. Personally, I love a receiver that doesn't slide down to prevent a big hit after making a catch in the middle of the field.
Blackmon's college stats are eye-popping. They are also eerily similar to Michael Crabtree's. Like Crabtree, Blackmon was the best college receiver in his draft class. Both receivers also possess good-but-not-elite speed and good but-not-elite size.
Crabtree has been a decent player, and has improved with each season. However, to this point in his career, he has not been worth the 10th overall pick the San Francisco 49ers used to get him in 2009. Will Blackmon follow suit, or he will he be the next great YAC wideout in the NFL?
Draft Projection: Sixth overall to St. Louis Rams
Key stats: At least 700 yards in all four seasons at Notre Dame; peaked with 1,147 yards and 100 catches as a senior. Bigger and faster, on paper, than Justin Blackmon.
Best-case comparison: Brandon Marshall
Worst-case comparison: David Terrell
I really could have put Brandon Marshall in both the best-case and worst-case comparisons. Floyd was undeniably productive in college. He is big, fast, adjusts to the jump ball well and runs angry with the ball in his hands. Like Marshall, he also has had some drinking issues that landed him a suspension.
If Floyd is a bust (and alcohol is not an issue; he reportedly cleaned up after his suspension), it really will be as big of a mystery to me as Terrell was with the Chicago Bears. Big, fast and strong there was no reason Terrell should not have exceeded at the next level. Except he didn't.
Draft Projection: 13th overall to Arizona Cardinals
Key stats: 6'4", 4.36 40 time
Best-case comparison: Calvin Johnson
Worst-case comparison: Charles Rogers
With his elite blend of size and speed, Stephen Hill should be the top receiver selected in the draft. However, Hill played at a school that's offensive philosophy consisted of "run, run, run and when all else fails, runs some more."
Hill's most productive season provided only 28 catches, so the physical specimen has a lot of questions. He could easily be the steal of the draft, or he could be yet another combine monster that did not play as projected.
Draft Projection: 29th overall to the Baltimore Ravens
Key stats: 108 catches, 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns in senior season
Best-case comparison: Steve Smith
Worst-case comparison: Peter Warrick
Kendall Wright looked like had blazing speed as Robert Griffin III's primary threat for Baylor. Given that he is a smallish receiver, his 4.44 40 time had to be a tad disappointing.
As a little kid, I remember thinking Peter Warrick was the fastest player I had ever seen at Florida State. He ended up being a huge bust for the Cincinnati Bengals. So, is Wright Warrick, or is he Steve Smith, another smallish receiver who did not exactly burn up his 40 time heading to the draft.
Athletes like Smith get faster when it's game time. Wright will have to be that kind of player to succeed at the next level.
Draft Projection: 23rd overall to the Detroit Lions
Key stats: 88 catches, 1,500 yards in 2011, biggest receiver in the draft.
Best-case comparison: Plaxico Burress
Worst-case comparison: Mike Williams
Critics will point to Jeffery's deep decline in production between his last two seasons. They may have also forgotten that Jeffery lost his starting quarterback due to suspension.
The other knock on Jeffery has been his speed, or rather, a lack of it. The 6'3" wideout ran in the 4.5 range (some slightly better, some slightly worse) so he didn't destroy his draft stock, but he didn't help it either.
Draft Projection: 33rd overall, Indianapolis Colts
Key stats: 917 yards, eight touchdowns in 2011 season
Best-case comparison: Hakeem Nicks
Worst-case comparison: James Hardy
Rueben Randle was solid, but hardly elite at LSU. He also ran the worst 40 time of any of Mel Kiper's top 14 prospects. If his career is a disappointment, it will be because he does not have the speed to beat cornerbacks off the line to take advantage of his considerable size.
Draft Projection: 42nd overall to Miami Dolphins
Key stats: Fastest receiver of first-day prospects, 4.39 40 time, 90 catches, 1,296 yards in 2011
Best-case comparison: DeSean Jackson
Worst-case comparison: Darrius Heyward-Bey
A.J. Jenkins has serious speed, and at 6' tall, has the size and production to go with it. This guy could be a big-time steal in the second round or, amazingly, even later.
Draft Projection: 59th overall to Chicago Bears
Key stats: 71 catches, 1,100 yards in senior season, nearly 6'4"
Best-case comparison: Marques Colston
Worst-case comparison: Malcolm Kelly
Quick, where did the NFL's first, second and fifth-leading receivers go to college? Mississippi Valley State (Jerry Rice), Tennessee-Chatanooga (Terrell Owens) and Marshall, (Randy Moss). I'm not saying Brian Quick will be carving his name in the record books. Just don't discount the kid because he went to Appalachian State.
Quick has improved steadily in each of his four seasons and is a great low-risk, high-reward pick for a team with extra selections.
NFL Draft Projection: 62nd overall, New England Patriots
Key stats: 1,300 yards, nine touchdowns in 2011
Best-case scenario: Antonio Brown
Worst-case scenario: Ted Ginn, Jr.
Chris Givens is a burner with good size for the position. He also was only productive on an elite level in one season of college. So will he rise to the challenge in the NFL? Or will he wilt under the pressure like so many before him?
NFL Draft Projection: 67th overall to the Cleveland Browns
Key stats: 926 yards, 10 touchdowns in 2011 season
Best-case comparison: Anquan Boldin
Worst-case comparison: Michael Clayton
Russell Wilson's primary target is an intriguing prospect. He has NFL size (6'2"), borderline NFL speed (4.55 40) and played his way onto Big Boards in his senior season after three relatively mundane years in Wisconsin.
Toon could be a victim of not having a good quarterback in years past. He could also have been the beneficiary of a special player throwing him bombs against lesser competition.
NFL Draft Projection: 70th overall to Jacksonville Jaguars