2011 NFL Power Rankings: The Top 6 Wide Receivers in the NFL Draft
With the NFL Draft just one month away, and the NFL in the midst of a work stoppage, fans don't have much else to look forward to this offseason.
There are a couple of valuable receivers who will be hitting the open market when free agency starts, including Braylon Edwards, Santana Moss, Vincent Jackson, Sidney Rice, Santonio Holmes and Steve Smith (New York Giants).
Unfortunately for teams like the St. Louis Rams, they don't have the luxury of waiting until free agency starts to bring in a weapon for Sam Bradford.
The Rams, Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals are three teams that will certainly be looking to land a receiver in the first two rounds of the draft.
These six receivers should be sure-fire bets to be off the board by the end of round two.
6. Jonathan Baldwin (Pittsburgh)
Baldwin started off as the No. 3 rated receiver prospect on almost all the big boards; however, with his recent pro day, he has slid down to sixth on this list.
Baldwin has good speed for his size, as he ran a 4.5 40-time and stands at 6'4" and weighs 225 pounds.
Russ Lande of AOL's sporting news called Jonathan Baldwin a bust after his pro day and said that any rumors of Jonathan Baldwin going in the first round is "crazy talk." Russ Lande pointed out that Baldwin did not drop a single pass at his pro day, but said the biggest issue with Baldwin was that he catches the ball with his body and not his hands.
Another weakness of Baldwin is his lack of acceleration, which could hinder him greatly against NFL talent.
5. Randall Cobb (Kentucky)
Randall Cobb is in the Dexter McCluster mold, as he is very versatile and can play three different positions on the field. He can be lined up in the backfield as a running back, in the slot as a receiver and can be a return specialist.
Cobb has moved ahead of Baldwin on this list due to his speed and versatility. He has very good hands and is exceptional gaining additional yards after the catch.
Any team that adds Cobb to their roster will immediately be able to expand their playbook and add additional sets that play to his strength. Having a player who can catch the ball out of the backfield is becoming a necessity in the NFL, one team that desperately needs a player like that is the Cincinnati Bengals.
4. Leonard Hankerson (Miami, FL)
If there are any questions about Hankerson being an elite level receiver, then go take a look at what Hankerson did at the Senior Bowl.
He was easily the most dominant player on the field as he finished the game with five catches for 99 yards and added a pair of touchdowns.
Hankerson has solid size for an NFL receiver, standing at 6'2" and weighing 195 pounds. He also has exceptional speed, as he ran a 4.45 40 at the combine.
With the potential to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, Hankerson will likely see his name go off the board early in the second round. Possibly to a team that is desperate to land a top receiver, like the Washington Redskins.
3. Torrey Smith (Maryland)
Smith has shot up draft boards recently and appears to be gaining headway as a first-round selection in April. He put up solid numbers during his time at Maryland; however, his intangibles will be the reason he is drafted in the first round.
Smith is 6'1" and 204 pounds, and has incredible speed. Smith cracked the 4.4 mark easily in the 40 at the combine, as he clocked in at 4.37.
The biggest concern for scouts was that he has small hands; however, he did not drop a ball during his pro day and uses his hands to catch the ball, not his body.
Smith's rare blend of speed and size make him a very promising prospect. Look for Smith to be taken near the end of the first round, possibly to the Atlanta Falcons or Baltimore Ravens, as both teams will be looking to add a No. 2 receiver for their quarterbacks.
2. A.J. Green (Georgia)
Things just keep getting weirder and weirder during the lockout. At A.J. Green's pro day, scouts were not allowed to be present and had to watch via closed circuit television because Justin Roper, the quarterback who threw passes to Green, did not live within a certain mile radius of Athens.
Green was outperformed by Julio Jones at the combine, and has shown that he has just as much talent, if not more than A.J. Green.
Green will be a dominant player at the NFL level and should have no problem becoming a star. However, the knock on Green by scouts recently, as Peter King points out, is that teams are concerned about his work ethic and his run blocking abilities.
He certainly has all the potential in the world to be one of the best receivers in the game; however, after being given the No. 1 spot on receiver boards all season long, Julio Jones has staked his claim to that throne.
1. Julio Jones (Alabama)
Based on numbers alone, there is no reason to place Julio Jones ahead of A.J. Green on any big board. In order to do so, you have to evaluate each player individually and not solely on statistics.
A.J. Green averaged more yards per game and had more touchdowns despite serving a four-game suspension.
That clearly makes him the better receiver, right? Wrong.
A.J. Green played on a pass-first team as they ranked 73rd in the NCAA in rushing and did not have a single running back top the 1,000 yard mark. Julio Jones, on the other hand, played in a run-first system in Alabama that featured two elite running backs. While Alabama did not have a 1,000-yard back either, they had two runners eclipse the 700-yard mark and they ranked 29th overall in rushing yards.
Also consider the fact that Alabama won eight of their games this past season by more than 20 points, meaning they were not throwing much late in games, at a time when most receivers pick up extra catches to pad their stats. Georgia, on the other hand, lost seven games and only won four games by greater than 20 points
At the combine, Julio Jones completely blew A.J. Green out of the water. Jones defeated Green in the 40-time by nearly a full 10th of a second. Jones also jumped four inches higher on the vertical and nearly a foot longer on the broad jump.
While combine performances don't make stars, Julio Jones' toughness and athletic ability certainly help his argument in becoming the top receiver in the 2011 NFL Draft, as teams like the Bengals have taken notice.
When it all comes down to it on draft day, Julio Jones will be 1A, and A.J. Green will be 1B.