2014 NFL Draft: Best Fits for Each of This Year's Top Receivers
It’s not very often that we get such an impressive collection of wide receivers in a single draft class. These guys are fast, big, tall and highly productive.
With so many prospects for teams to choose from this year, there are concerns that the entire draft class could be devalued under the philosophy that first-round talent can be acquired in the second and third round of this draft. To some degree there is validity to this way of thinking, but there are also some guys looking for a home who are simply too good to pass up.
In this slideshow, I break down the best landing spots for each wide receiver, focusing on how the player and the team will benefit from the union.
I did consider draft position to some degree, but this is mainly about how the prospect would fit best with a particular team.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Height: 6’1” Weight: 211 lbs
Best Fit: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders have a decent arsenal of young wideouts but are severely lacking in offensive playmakers. If Oakland opts out of a quarterback prospect with the fifth overall pick, Watkins would likely be the best player available.
Watkins would benefit from becoming a key focal point of the Raiders offense immediately and would be a significant upgrade to an offense that just didn’t have the talent to compete against elite-level teams last year.
With the former Clemson stud you get a receiver who has virtually no weaknesses in his game. This kid can truly do it all.
Expect him to be a star at the next level almost immediately.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Height: 6’5” Weight: 231 lbs
Best Fit: Detroit Lions
I know what you’re thinking: Why would the Lions bring in another 6’5” receiver when they already have Calvin Johnson? My question to you would be why would they not?
Think about it—putting Mike Evans opposite Megatron would create a combination of physical mismatches that teams would never be able to contain. Even if defenses were somehow able to lock down both Evans and Johnson downfield, they’d be allocating such a large amount of their resources to do so that it would free up Reggie Bush to work the underneath zones with plenty of space to make plays.
Besides, Matthew Stafford’s gunslinging mentality would benefit greatly from adding a big-bodied target like Evans who can shield off defensive backs like a power forward getting rebounds. We saw how much this ability helped Johnny Manziel throughout the 2013 season at Texas A&M.
In addition to how much it helps out Stafford, think about what Alshon Jeffery was able to do for Brandon Marshall in Chicago last season. Evans is much more physically imposing than Jeffery and would force teams to pay much less attention to the best receiver in football, Calvin Johnson.
There’s a good chance Evans will be around when the Lions pick at No. 10, and though they may have bigger needs at other positions, they aren’t likely to gain more of an impact player than adding Evans to that offense. He may be the final piece to their puzzle from an offensive standpoint.
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Height: 6’3” Weight: 212 lbs
Best Fit: Seattle Seahawks
In a draft class dominated by giant receivers with impressive athletic ability, Jordan Matthews may possess the most well-rounded collection of physical measurables of any at his position this year. At the combine he dominated the competition, running a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, a 6.95 three-cone and a 4.18 short shuttle while weighing over 210 pounds.
That combination of size and speed is highly coveted by NFL talent evaluators.
In addition, he impressed scouts with long arms, big hands and explosive upper- and lower-body power. He benched 225 pounds 21 times in Indianapolis, which was the second-highest amount at his position this year.
Despite impeccable measurables and elite college production, I’m not convinced Matthews has what it takes to be a true No. 1 receiver in the NFL. I think he would benefit greatly on a team like Seattle where he can assist in a balanced offense opposite guys like Harvin.
There’s no telling if free-agent Golden Tate will return to Seattle next season, although he has been open about his desires to remain a Seahawk. Matthews would be a good addition with or without Tate on the roster, but without him it makes even more sense for the Vandy wideout to land with the Super Bowl champs.
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Height: 5’10” Weight: 189 lbs
Best Fit: New Orleans Saints
It’s no secret the New Orleans Saints love adding speedy targets for Drew Brees to play with, and apparently Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks is showing up big on the Saints’ radar (see the video above).
Cooks ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.33) of all receivers at the combine this year and has the ability to take it to the house on any given play, especially when given a little space to work with. Speed, not size, is this receiver’s primary weapon, and he can become a deadly weapon in Sean Payton’s offense opposite the bigger, more physically imposing Marques Colston.
No team in the NFL is better at finding ways to exploit mismatches and arrange its talent to create advantages for its players. If Cooks is to thrive in the NFL, there is truly no better place for him to do it than in New Orleans catching passes from a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Sure the Saints need to add talent on the defensive side of the ball, but Cooks is a pick they might not be able to pass up if he becomes available to them in the first round.
Marqise Lee, USC
Height: 6’0” Weight: 192 lbs
Best Fit: New York Giants
Marqise is an interesting prospect in this draft class. He struggled in 2013 comparatively to the year before as a result of playing through some nagging injuries.
Lee might be one the most elusive and slippery receivers in this class and is certainly the most dangerous after the catch. Where he does tend to struggle, though, is in consistency with his hands.
The Giants seem to favor wideouts with impressive YAC ability. Both Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have this quality to their game. Nicks is expected to be gone for the 2014 season by way of free agency, leaving a pretty big hole needing to be filled.
It seems reasonable to believe both the Giants and Marqise Lee could benefit from joining forces. Eli Manning is an established quarterback who knows how to get his receivers the ball.
Lee should be able to provide Eli with a lot of help in underneath routes while also providing the skills needed to make plays deep.
Allen Robinson, Penn State
Height: 6'2" Weight: 220 lbs
Best Fit: San Francisco 49ers
Over the last two seasons, this dynamic playmaker had more than 2,400 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns in a pro-style offense.
He is outstanding after the catch and deceptively quick.
In fact, the more tape I watched of him, the more I was reminded of Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Like Bryant, Robinson will drop the ball every now and then, but he is generally a reliable target.
Robinson is actually one of my favorite receivers this year and could end up being the second-best wideout, behind Sammy Watkins, available.
The 49ers could use another body outside after the failed experiment that was A.J. Jenkins two seasons ago. Anquan Boldin is getting up there in age and lacks the speed to stretch a defense.
Pairing Robinson up with Crabtree and Boldin would be like sending this former Nittany Lion to wide receiver graduate school.
Having the opportunity to learn from a guy like Boldin while adapting to the speed of the NFL would be an invaluable resource—one that would pay dividends for both his career and maturity.
The 49ers saw what happens when you lack playmakers on the outside and cannot afford to have another season where they’re short-handed on weapons for Colin Kaepernick—especially if they plan on dishing out the kind of cash Kaepernick is asking for. They better make sure this kid has everything he needs to be a success.
Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
Height: 5’11” Weight: 198 lbs
Best Fit: Green Bay Packers
It’s not looking like veteran receiver James Jones will be returning in 2014, and with the departure of Greg Jennings a year earlier, the Packers will need to start replenishing their weapons on the outside.
Odell Beckham Jr. seems to fit the perfect mold of a Packers receiver. He’s quick, tough and has impressive elusiveness after the catch.
Considering Aaron Rodgers has the ability to bring out the best in his receiving corps, I expect nothing less for Beckham.
Sure Green Bay needs help on defense, but they’ve been addressing that side of the ball early for years. It may be time to think about another playmaker on offense who can step in and contribute right away.
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Height: 6’5” Weight: 240 lbs
Best Fit: Carolina Panthers
If ever a quarterback was in need of weapons on the outside, it would be Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. During his brief yet impressive NFL career, Newton has had little help beyond Steve Smith in terms of guys willing to make plays downfield and show up big in the passing game.
It should be the Panthers' top priority in this year’s draft to bring in at least one new option for Newton to work with.
Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin is a physically gifted specimen weighing in at 240 pounds at the wide receiver position. That type of size gives Newton an extremely large target who could significantly boost the Panthers' efficiency in the red zone in 2014.
Benjamin has been inconsistent with his hands, but he displays a rare combination of size and speed that makes it difficult for defenses to cover him. He’s also great at winning jump balls and can eventually grow into one of the more dominate receivers in the NFL.
If Newton has managed to have the type of success he has had so far, imagine what he can do with a weapon like Benjamin on the outside making plays.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and currently writes for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @Ryan_Riddle