In an extended offseason such as this, there’s a lot of time for common wisdom to set in. Player X has to be drafted in the first round, because everyone agrees he’s a first-round pick, but Player Y’s arms are a quarter-inch too short, or his hands an eighth of an inch too large, and therefore he’s only a fifth-round pick, and so on.
For the most part, common wisdom does a good job of determining which players are worth drafting and which are worth passing on. However, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be players who fall through the cracks. The San Francisco 49ers will be looking for talented receivers to draft, and they could potentially find some talented players who fall through the cracks of common wisdom.
After perusing several wide receiver rankings, here are three receivers who are deserving of a higher draft slot than they’re being given. I suppose you could call them my pre-draft crushes at the wide receiver position
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
CBS compares Brandon Coleman to Jon Baldwin, pointing out a lack of toughness and physicality. They say he relies on his size too much, and that he’s too easily knocked off balance. It’s true that he’s not an elite athlete, and that he isn’t the best route runner out there.
Still, Coleman is a 6’6”, 220-pound threat in the red zone. Yes, he tends to box people out with his size, but that’s only because he’s got plenty of size to spare. That’s not a demerit—that’s him using his best attribute positively.
He’s also a very good blocker, which is something the 49ers have liked in their receivers in recent years. His hands need a little work, but are fair enough to start with. Poor production can be partly blamed on the turmoil he faced at Rutgers, where he worked with four different offensive coordinators and sub-par quarterback play.
He really needs a year of stability to improve, and the 49ers can offer him that. With Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin in the fold, Coleman wouldn’t need to produce right away, and could sit down and learn how to break some of the bad habits that he’s developed. The 49ers have three picks in the third round; if they used one on Coleman, I think it would pay off in the long run.
Shaq Evans, UCLA
If the 49ers can’t get Mike Evans, they could wait until the third day of the draft and get the second-best receiver named Evans available.
Shaq Evans doesn’t have the same sort of top-end burst as some of the other receivers in this draft class and isn’t really a deep vertical threat, which would be the ideal player to find for San Francisco. However, he makes up for it with very solid hands, and he can make some very difficult catches look simple. He’s good at competing in traffic and pulling in balls over the middle or in a clump of defenders.
He can get past tough press coverage with a very solid combination of quickness and strength. He’s not going to slip around people and turn a five-yard catch into a fifty-yard gain or anything like that, but he has a future settling into gaps in the opposing defense’s zone and bringing down tough catches at the first-down marker.
Damian Copeland, Louisville
Damian Copeland’s rated so low by CBS that he doesn’t even have a player profile and is expected to be an undrafted free agent. NFL.com considers him a training-camp body, as opposed to a solid shot to make an NFL roster. We don’t even have a player comparison video for him here on Bleacher Report.
Now, I’m not saying Copeland should be flying up draft boards or that selecting him would solve all of San Francisco’s receiving woes, but he’s worth a look, thanks to some of the numbers he put up at the combine.
Copeland put up the second-best vertical jump of the combine among receivers—reaching 40 inches flat—behind only Tevin Reese. He also showed off very good ability to change direction and accelerate, finishing first in the three-cone drill and second in both the 20- and 60-yard shuffles, behind only the lightning-quick Brandin Cooks.
With numbers like that, he’s worth a flyer. I’m always wary of over-valuing a prospect based on combine numbers, but a sixth- or seventh-round pick is essentially a lottery ticket, anyway. In addition, it’s not like Copeland didn’t contribute at the college level—he led Louisville in receptions in 2012 and 2013.
Copeland might turn out to be nothing in the NFL. He is, however, worth kicking the tires on to see if those combine numbers can develop into something decent as a slot receiver at the next level.