After seeing the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft come and go without a wide receiver being selected, the 2009 Draft saw six wideouts come off the board within the first 32 picks.
So what’s in store for the 2010 draft?
Looking at the senior class, there seems to be some intriguing talent toward the top end, including several players with the ability to develop into bona fide starting wide receivers in the NFL.
Here’s our preseason look at the top senior wide receiver prospects for 2010.
The Top Three
Brandon LaFell, LSU (6-3, 209)
I feel pretty comfortable saying that LSU’s LaFell is this year’s top senior wide receiver.
He likely would have heard his name called during the mid to late portions of the first round in April, if only he had decided to become eligible.
LaFell probably would have graded out very similar to first-round picks Kenny Britt and Hakeem Nicks, but now can potentially increase his value with another year of development at the college level.
He’s a big, fluid receiver who not only has the body control, size and speed to make plays down the field, he also does a nice job getting out of his breaks and adjusting to the ball. He possesses good hands and coordination on all levels of the field and reminds me a bit of former LSU WR Dwayne Bowe.
Jacoby Ford, Clemson (5-10, 186)
You might be surprised to see Ford rated so high, but when I watch him on tape, the one trait that jumps out is his ability to consistently separate.
He plays at another speed and not only is able to make plays down the field, but he’s also extremely quick out of his breaks and deadly after the catch.
He’s still a bit raw and needs to sharpen his overall route running, but he has never had a chance to get a full season of football training in because of his commitment to the Clemson track team. Once he gets more time to strictly focus on football, I think he’ll develop into a much more polished wideout. Ford, the 2009 NCAA 60-meter indoor champ, has some rough edges to his game, but he’s a natural football player who has big-play potential at the next level.
Marshawn Gilyard, Cincinnati (6-0, 185)
Gilyard developed into one of the nation’s most productive receivers last season, finishing with 81 catches for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He possesses decent size, but it’s his body control, hands, and balance that consistently allow him to make plays on all levels of the field. Gilyard seemed to develop a good chemistry with starting QB Tony Pike last season, and the two will likely pick up where they left off.
One drawback: Gilyard has a slim and frail-looking frame and needs to add a little more muscle and power to his game. I worry about his ability to beat press coverage at the next level and I think he may be bullied by some of the more physical corners in the NFL.
The Next Two
Eric Decker, Minnesota (6-2, 215)
Decker is a highly productive receiver who uses his frame and body control to consistently gain the advantage against opposing defensive backs.
He isn’t the most explosive wideout and lacks ideal deep speed, but he’s a clean route runner who understands how to setup corners and use his size and long arms to consistently catch the pass. He does a nice job gaining initial separation off the line and isn’t afraid to work the middle of the field.
Decker is never going to become a bona fide playmaker in the NFL, but he looks like a solid starting wideout who should find his niche as a possession guy on the outside.
Emmanuel Sanders, Southern Methodist (6-1, 173)
I didn’t know about Sanders until last year, but after watching only one quarter of him in June Jones’ offense at SMU, I was immediately impressed.
Here are some of my notes from 2008: "Displays very good body control, balance, and coordination in and out of his routes. He is a vertical threat who consistently showcased a second gear to get behind defenses. He needs to add more bulk to avoid being re-routed so easily, but certainly has the frame to do so."
Sanders is one of the more natural wideouts in the country, and if he attended a bigger school, he would certainly be drawing much more attention. Even so, he has plenty of tools to work with and simply needs to add a bit more mass to his frame to take his game to the next level.
Jordan Shipley, Texas (6-0, 192)
A smart, instinctive wideout who runs sharp routes and displays the ability to separate out of his breaks. He catches the ball well, but I worry about him beating press coverage vs. physical NFL corners.
Naaman Roosevelt, Buffalo (6-0 187)
An ultra-productive receiver who has dominated his competition week in and week out. He possesses a decent build, but is a very fluid route runner and knows how to separate off the line.
Bryan Anderson, Central Michigan (6-5, 214)
A king-sized receiver who needed just three seasons to become Central Michigan’s all-time leader in receptions and touchdowns. He lacks deep speed, but uses his body well to shield defenders. Anderson is also a big-time red zone threat.
Dexter McCluster, Mississippi (5-8 168)
A half-wideout, half-running back who knows how to make plays with the ball in his hands. He should add a lot of versatility to an NFL offense.
Jeff Moturi, UTEP (6-0, 185)
Moturi didn’t have a great junior campaign, but he’s an explosive player with good deep speed who knows how to separate vs. man coverage.
Be sure to check out the rest of my breakdowns at NationalFootballPost.com.