The race to become the first wide receiver off the board on draft day remains wide open. California's Keenan Allen had the best chance to pull away from the pack at the NFL Scouting Combine before it was announced he wouldn't participate in drills.
It's a decision that gives the other top wideouts a chance to steal the spotlight. Although the combine has become more of a spectacle than anything else, when the battle at a certain position is so close, it definitely holds plenty of importance.
Let's analyze three top receiver prospects with the best chance to solidify or improve their draft status in Indianapolis. If everything goes perfectly, they could even challenge for the top spot at the position.
1. Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson, at 6'3", 205, possesses all the physical traits necessary to become a very productive NFL receiver. He can use speed to run past defensive backs, has good short-line quickness for the medium routes and can turn a short completion into a huge gain.
He showed off all those skills during his one season at Tennessee. He finished with 10 touchdowns: five as a receiver, three as a rusher and two on special teams. Teams are going to take notice any time a player can make that type of across-the-board production.
At the combine, scouts will be looking to see how he handles the finer points of the points. They want to see how tight he runs routes and how reliable his hands are after some drops with the Vols. It takes more than pure athleticism to succeed at the next level.
2. Tavon Austin
It's hard to ignore what Austin accomplished at West Virginia. He caught over 100 passes for two straight years, had 28 receiving touchdowns over the last three seasons and also made a major impact on special teams, with five total touchdowns in the return game.
Which receiver participating in the combine is the best NFL prospect?
Like Patterson, he demonstrated the ability to help the offense in various different ways, including as a ball carrier. With offensive coordinators constantly searching for more ways to put more pressure on opposing defenses, versatile players are always in high demand.
The only reason Austin is still facing a lot of questions heading into the combine is his size. At 5'8'', teams are going to be concerned about how he will transition to the NFL. So, his task is to wow them in other areas of his concern often associated with smaller players. If he can address those issues, he can overcome his lack of ideal measurables and become the first receiver off the board on draft day.
3. DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins exploded onto the draft radar with a monster final season with Clemson.
He caught 82 passes for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns (second in the nation) and capped his year with a 13-catch, 191-yard, 2-touchdown performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU. Last year represented massive improvement over his first two years, neither of which saw him accumulate 1,000-yards.
He's a terrific route runner, has good hands and clearly had no trouble establishing himself at the college level. But does he have enough athleticism in order to become a star in the NFL? That's what teams will try to find out at the combine.
While Hopkins certainly doesn't have to match any 40-yard dash records, talent evaluators will want to see that he does have enough speed to separate from defenders. If they come away convinced that he can, his stock will jump, possibly ahead of every other receiver in this year's crop.