NFL teams are always looking for playmakers on the outside. Unlike running backs, wide receivers have a little bit longer shelf life in the league, but speed is more important than ever on the outside.
The 2013 NFL draft has plenty of talent to go around at wide receiver, including seniors like Terrance Williams, Tavon Austin and Quinton Patton and juniors like Justin Hunter, Robert Woods and Keenan Allen.
With teams like Minnesota, Miami and Houston all looking to upgrade at the position at least once in April, it's likely they'll keep a watchful eye on the WR workouts at both pro days and the NFL combine. When those scouting reports are completed, we'll have a better understanding of what NFL teams are thinking when it comes to the selection process.
Even so, we have a relatively good understanding about what elite WRs can bring to the table right now just based on what they were able to do in college. Here's a look at three guys who will be first-round locks in this year's draft and where they might land on draft day.
WR Terrance Williams, Baylor
Williams is a sneaky pick at No. 14 when the Carolina Panthers select, and he may even go at No. 12 when the Miami Dolphins pick. Because of his familiarity with the spread offense and his sub-4.5 40-yard dash speed, he is going to be an attractive option for teams with speed needs on the outside.
If he does fall past those picks, it is going to be hard for the Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks to say no at the bottom of the first round.
Williams is being downgraded a little bit as a pro because he didn't run over the middle or show a wide array of routes during his time at Baylor, but the way he catches the ball with his hands on deep balls and his performance at the Senior Bowl should force doubters to take a back seat.
After catching passes from both Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence and teaming with another pro at his position—Kendall Wright—at Baylor, Williams has a pro pedigree and the stats to back it up. He'll be a quality prospect for a team looking to add some much-needed playmaking ability on the outside in the NFL.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson is regarded as one of the most talented WRs in this year's class, even if he isn't as developed as the rest of the field.
He has great size (6'3", 205 lbs) and speed for a receiver at his position. He's hard to bring down and is a load in the open field for smaller cornerbacks and safeties to take to the turf.
The reason he is deemed somewhat of a risk in the NFL draft is because he makes mistakes both in routes and with a lack of concentration at different times. Still, the big, physical receiver who can both make plays down the field and out-jump CBs is a premium in today's NFL (just ask Dez Bryant).
Teams have shown the penchant to gamble on a WR and even let him play out any frustrations during his first couple of seasons. If those teams (like Dallas) are any indication, Patterson has all the physical tools to be an automatic first-round pick.
WR Keenan Allen, California
Allen has battled injuries in college but still declared for the draft after his junior season at Cal. Many draft pundits label him as the No. 1 overall receiver at the position—the complete package, if you will.
He missed the final three games of the season but put up quality numbers catching passes from Zach Maynard—not exactly the Geno Smith of college football this year. In the NFL, it appears the sky is the limit for his potential because the measurables are already there.
Still, injury concerns will cloud his future as a first-round pick, at least until doctors can get a look at him during workouts. If those concerns are then assuaged by team doctors, that should wrap up Allen's place as a first-round product.
Allen headlines this year's class of WR, but he isn't the only one who could be drafted as the first WR taken. From Williams on down to a guy like DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson, there is plenty of room for teams to let the chips fall where they may and take a player who fills a need.
However, the talent of these three young men is just too good to pass up, and all three should hear their names in the first 32 picks on April 25.