Ranking the Top Wide Receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft
If all of the underclassmen on this list declare, then the 2014 NFL Draft will enjoy a really deep wide receiver talent pool.
Any of the 10 players on this list could go in the first round, and there are even one or two more who wouldn't be big surprises either.
But because these guys are all so talented, it's easy to see the same stuff in different reports over and over again about how he's either fast, or big, or both and has "good hands."
So I'm going to take a little bit of a critical approach here and reveal some things I don't like, or just try to push the envelope with some of these explanations, comparisons and rankings.
For now, here are my top 10 wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft.
10. Brandin Cooks
Cooks may be only 5'10", 180 pounds, but he ends the regular season second in the nation in receptions with 120 and first in yards with 1,670.
What makes Cooks so good? He's an incredibly quick and active receiver who has a knack for getting open and extending the play.
His lack of size and strength could relegate him to the slot in the NFL, which means his draft stock would be capped and he could have trouble jumping some of the prospects ahead of him.
9. Paul Richardson
Richardson is unique because at 170 pounds, most people would think he is under 5'10" and plays in the mold of a Tavon Austin—but Richardson is 6'1", and is a true outside receiver.
There are definitely some question marks about his extremely lean frame and his durability as he tore his ACL last year and has dealt with an ankle injury this season. He played through the ankle injury, however, which is a testament to his toughness—and he wasn't just out there going through the motions and playing safe.
The junior is averaging almost 7 catches and 112 yards per game.
Richardson, a team captain for the Buffs, has declared for the draft. Colorado fans will be sad to see such a tremendous player go, but he can have a heck of an NFL career if he puts on weight and stays healthy.
8. Kelvin Benjamin
It's still pretty early to jump on the Benjamin hype train, so you still have some room if you want to hop on now.
He's the most physically imposing wideout in the class at a ripped 6'5", 234 pounds, and has unbelievable explosiveness, strength and coordination for such a tall guy, which leads to crazy plays like this and this.
But he is far from a finished product, and needs to work on all of the little things. For every big play he makes, he misses an easy one and that's something that needs to be improved.
Benjamin is the biggest wild-card on the list. He's only a redshirt sophomore and could go back to school, but he has the potential to be a top-15 pick if he does well through the draft process.
7. Jarvis Landry
I came into the season higher on Odell Beckham, Jr., but Landry has proven this season to be the much stronger and more reliable receiver.
He's not the burner that Beckham is, but he's still a ridiculous athlete who can make highlight-reel catches. There are smaller things he has to work on though, and his inconsistent route-running and blocking ability need improvement.
There's also something to be said for catching NFL-level lasers from Zach Mettenberger all season, which should give Landry confidence. I fully expect him to declare for the draft.
6. Donte Moncrief
Moncrief gets overshadowed a bit in the SEC and certainly on the national stage, but there's a good chance he'll be a first-rounder if he chooses to declare.
He's the kind of athlete who could definitely light up the combine, and his athleticism shows up on the field, but he might not have the kind of breakaway speed to be a big-play threat in the NFL.
Although he's massively talented, there are definitely some concerns about him being too raw and inconsistent at this stage. While stats shouldn't be relied on heavily at all, the fact that he's had seven games with 60 or less yards and four games with three or less receptions is a bit troubling.
He's pretty similar to the next guy on the list from an athletic standpoint, although Moncrief's lack of consistency is what keeps him a notch down right now.
5. Allen Robinson
Before the season began, I mentioned Robinson as one of eight players who were flying too far below the radar, but even I didn't know how good he would be in 2013.
He isn't without flaws, of course. Robinson has struggled some with fumbles and he doesn't have great quickness in small spaces. He also won't wow you in any one category, and his ceiling is somewhat capped by that.
The junior has gone for over 100 yards in eight out of 12 games this season and has all the tools to succeed in the NFL. He's 6'3" with good fluidity, jumping ability and has also shown a knack for making big plays when his team needs it.
It wouldn't be a shock if he jumped one of the next couple guys on the list.
4. Jordan Matthews
If I showed the average fan 15 random catches of Matthews' from this past season, they probably wouldn't come away overly impressed.
And I'm sure they'd be absolutely shocked to hear that he averaged roughly nine catches and 111 yards per game and is a legit first-round prospect.
That's because the senior isn't a world-class sprinter or highlight-reel machine, but he is a crafty receiver who uses his big frame and route running ability to consistently make plays.
He's one of my favorite receivers in this class because he relies on things other than sheer athleticism, which everyone has in spades in the NFL.
3. Mike Evans
I read recently that Evans is a clone of Vincent Jackson. I don't like comparisons in general, but this one really had me scratching my head. Other than the height, I don't see much in their playing style, physique or personalities that are similar.
Evans is a very good prospect with a really high ceiling, but I think some of that has a ton to do purely with his size—which isn't necessarily a good thing in the NFL where defensive backs are getting bigger at alarming rates.
He can also disappear at times, and look visibly frustrated on the field. But it's impossible to teach Evans' jumping ability, and his 11-catch, 289-yard, four-touchdown game against Auburn is even more impressive than his seven-catch, 279-yard, one-touchdown game against Alabama.
2. Marqise Lee
At the end of last season, a strong case could have been made for Lee as the best player in college football, but he's gotten practically zero attention this year.
Injuries, lesser quarterback play, and a mid-season coaching change can do that to a player. There are definitely some question marks surrounding him and his reliability, but we cannot forget just how dominant Lee is capable of being.
This is a guy who had 118 catches and 1,721 yards as a true sophomore. He's explosive, can make guys miss, will out-jump and out-fight anyone for the ball and is a tremendous competitor. He'll be a steal if he falls out of the top-20, although I wouldn't say he's 100 percent declaring at this point.
1. Sammy Watkins
Watkins may be the consensus No. 1 receiver in the draft, but the gap between him and Lee is a lot smaller than most people think.
While he's a phenomenal prospect, he's not the can't-miss surefire top prospect that Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green or Julio Jones were, and it wouldn't be shocking if he fell out of the top 10.
Don't get me wrong, I think Watkins will be a difference-maker in the NFL. He's a speedster, but he's bigger and tougher than people give him credit for. He's unbelievably dangerous with the ball in his hands and has made Tajh Boyd look way better than he actually is for three years now.