NFL Draft 2011: Top 5 Wide Receiver Prospects and Their NFL Equivalents
You’ve heard a lot about prospects A.J. Green and Julio Jones, but this year’s WR class could prove to be one of the best (top to bottom) ever. It’s hard to predict the success of guys as they make the transition to the next level. A good way to go about it comes in comparing their skill-sets to guys that are already in the league.
I took the time to run down this year’s top five receiver prospects and compared them to some of the NFL’s elite.
5. Randall Cobb, Kentucky
Randall Cobb’s stock has been on the rise, due mostly impart to his versatility. At 5’11”, 190 pounds, he’s a bit undersized, but his athleticism and ability to run after the catch will make him a viable number two or three option at the next level. He pulled down 84 passes for 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns in 2009 as a junior. He also ran the ball 55 times for 424 yards and five scores.
Cobb will make an immediate impact on special teams and will likely contribute as a QB in wildcat formations. He’s a little smaller than the Browns’ Joshua Cribbs, but they bring extremely similar skill-sets to the table. Both ran a 4.46 40-yard-dash coming out of college and have experience running, receiving and passing. Cribbs went undrafted in 2005 and Cobb seems to have higher expectations, but both utilize their athleticism to make contributions on offense and special teams.
NFL Equivalent: Joshua Cribbs, Cleveland Browns
4. Leonard Hankerson, Miami FL
In 2010, Hankerson had 72 catches for 1,156 yards and broke Michael Irvin's single-season school record with 13 TD receptions. The 6’2” receiver has impressive speed (4.41 forty), but it isn’t going to stand out at the NFL level. Like many other WR prospects, he’s prone to drops. He also needs to work on getting in and out of his breaks as well as his overall play-making ability after the catch.
Hankerson’s favorite player is fellow Miami alum Andre Johnson. However, he compares much closer to the Vikings Sidney Rice. Rice has a little height on Hankerson but both were similarly regarded coming out of college. Both guys flash a long wing-span and fit well into pass-first offenses. Rice was drafted 44th overall in 2007. Expect Hankerson to go just a few picks later.
NFL Equivalent: Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings
3. Torrey Smith, Maryland
After an eye-opening junior season, Smith decided to take his talents to the NFL. He’s already had private workouts with the Bengals and Rams and is climbing up draft boards. He ran a 4.43 at the combine and is highly regarded due to his vertical speed and ability to gain separation from even elite corners. He needs to work on his route running and his ability to haul in passes over the shoulder, but his speed and work ethic will make him an attractive pick early in the second round.
It should take Smith a few years to reach his full potential. He’ll enter the league as a deep-threat and will contribute on special teams. He has a lot of work to do if he hopes to become a number one receiver. If he does, it will result in a lot of off-the-field experience as well as placement in the right system, ala Reggie Wayne
Wayne was taken 30th overall in 2001 and took several years to find himself among the league’s elite. Wayne ran a 4.45 coming out of college and improved the other aspects of his game as his speed decreased. While comparing Smith to Wayne at this time seems ridiculous, he has the skill-set to succeed at an elite level.
NFL Equivalent: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
2. Julio Jones, Alabama
Julio Jones enters the draft at 6’3”, 220 pounds. His size alone makes him an intriguing NFL prospect.
At this year’s combine, he surprised scouts by posting a 4.34 forty and watched his name shoot up draft boards. His lethal combination of size and speed helped him catch 78 passes for 1,133 yards with 7 scores in 2010. Jones isn’t afraid to make a block and has a great head on his shoulders. An all around excellent receiver, he should go early in the first round and will be the second receiver off the board.
Jones’ overall skill-set at WR compares favorably to Terrell Owens. Both stand at 6’3”, 220-plus pounds, and came out of college running a 4.3-4.4 forty. Jones has thus far proven a stand-up guy and a character pick. While success at the next level could change that, personality is not at all the means for this comparison.
TO was taken during the third round of the 1996 draft, mostly due to the fact he was coming out of a small school in Tennessee-Chattanooga. Both guys have faced criticism as a result of dropped passes, but this combination of size and speed is a rarity and a gift.
NFL Equivalent: Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals
1. A.J. Green, Georgia
AJ Green has been projected by some as the No.1 overall pick. Listed at 6’4”, 210 pounds, he has excellent size and has already developed the skill set of an NFL receiver. His awareness is a tier above the rest of the receivers in this year’s class. He knows how to get open and always fights for the extra yard. He has solid experience under his belt coming out of the SEC, where he pulled down 9 TDs in 2010 despite missing time.
He’s been drawing comparisons to Calvin Johnson since he declared for the draft. Both receivers tout long arms and soft hands and can pull down passes even in double coverage. Each guy gives you everything a team looks for in a number one receiver. Johnson went second overall in 2007. Green could go anywhere in the top five depending on team needs. Despite a solid class, he will easily be the number one WR coming off the boards on April 28th.
During Johnson’s rookie year he managed 756 yards and five total TDs, despite joining a lowly Detroit Lions team. Green will be in a similar position heading into the 2011 season, so expect more of the same.
NFL Equivalent: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
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