The San Francisco 49ers will almost assuredly take a wide receiver at some point in the 2014 NFL draft. In a draft top-loaded with receiving talent, a lot of attention has gone to players sitting in the first round.
However, wide receiver isn’t the only position the 49ers may look at early in the draft. With the recent Chris Culliver situation still developing, the pendulum might swing toward the 49ers taking a cornerback in the first round.
The 49ers might then look to find a bargain pick later in the draft. Here are some wide receivers who might be available on Day 3 of the draft:
Devin Street, Pittsburgh
2013 stats: 51 receptions, 854 yards, 7 touchdowns
In his four years at Pittsburgh, Devin Street became the school’s all-time leader in receptions. Street is a great route-runner. He’s fully fluent in an NFL-style route tree, meaning the shift to a more complicated pro system won’t be much of an impediment.
He’s a natural athlete with very good body control. With excellent footwork, he’s able to gain steps simply by his positioning and body control. When the ball is in the air, Street does a good job of going up to get the ball, catching it at the peak of his jumps with reliable hands.
Why, then, is Street falling in the draft? The most notable issue is his speed, or lack of it. At the combine, Street managed only a 4.55 40-yard dash, firmly middle of the pack. That’s a further concern because Street’s only 198 pounds—it’s not like he’s carrying a lot of extra mass along with him.
The end result is that he struggles to elude opponents after the catch. He’s going to get his yardage by catching deep balls, not turning short slants into long gains. That’s enough to diminish his draft stock, but it’s also somewhat in line with Greg Roman’s offensive strategy.
Street could use some extra pounds on his frame and needs to learn to battle for contested balls better. His smooth route running and soft hands bode well for him becoming a solid possession receiver, however, and he’d be a good choice for a pick toward the end of the fourth round.
Mike Davis, Texas
2013 stats: 51 receptions, 727 yards, 8 touchdowns
Looking at Mike Davis, you see a player with great potential. Davis has long arms and big hands which, combined with his good deep speed, allows him to be a threat deep.
Davis was unable to work out at the combine due to a right foot injury, so his pro day, held on March 26, was his first time to put up numbers for NFL scouts. Davis ran a 4.42 40-yard dash which, while decent, didn’t knock anyone out of the park. On tape, however, Davis has shown that he’s a potential deep threat. He’s comfortable adjusting to the ball in flight and making plays deep downfield.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s fast out of the blocks. He has very good acceleration and fluidity. He may not be the fastest receiver in the world, but he gets to his top speed quickly and has to be accounted for by the defensive backs. He’ll adjust to the deep throw and bring in the catch at the high point of his jump.
Davis’ big issue is that he’s never quite lived up to his potential. Davis was highly recruited coming out of high school, but he never took that step forward into being a star in college. Part of that can be attributed to poor quarterback play; Texas hasn’t had a solid quarterback situation in the past four seasons.
NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki warns that some teams may be turned off by his “playing demeanor and approach,” noting that Davis isn’t much of a team leader. His raw talent may be enough to overcome that, but only in a later round.
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
2013 stats: 78 receptions, 1,081 yards, 7 touchdowns
Going on the opposite end of the work-ethic spectrum, we have Jared Abbrederis. Abbrederis went to Wisconsin as a walk-on and earned his way into a scholarship.
Abbrederis does not have prototypical size or speed. He’s only 6’1” and 188 pounds, making him small for the position. At the combine, he only ran a 4.50 40-yard dash—average, at best. He’s not your stereotypical chiseled receiving prospect.
He is a fantastic route-runner, however—possibly the best natural route-runner in the entire class. He doesn’t have the world’s best athleticism, but he makes up for it on the field with double moves and precise routes.
One player the 49ers might take in the first round is Ohio State corner Bradley Roby, but Abbrederis demolished Roby in their matchup this season. Matched up against the highly touted corner, Abbrederis pulled in 10 receptions for 207 yards and a touchdown. Abbrederis used his great technique to create space for himself—that’s an ability he’ll need at the next level.
Abbrederis is never going to blow people away in the NFL. He really only meets the basic requirements for an NFL-caliber athlete. However, with his outstanding field awareness, route-running prowess and soft hands, he could very well contribute immediately. He has the opportunity to be a successful possession receiver in the NFL.