2011 NFL Draft: Catch This- Top Wide Receivers (and Who Needs Them)

Joseph Fafinski@Joseph FafinskiCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Catch This- Top Wide Receivers (and Who Needs Them)

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    BOISE, ID - NOVEMBER 19:  Austin Pettis #2 of the Boise State Broncos runs after a catch against the Fresno State Bulldogs at Bronco Stadium on November 19, 2010 in Boise, Idaho.  (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
    Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

    So many questions linger about the quarterbacks heading into the 2011 NFL Draft. Is Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, or Ryan Mallett the top gun? However, without wide receivers, who would these top QB's throw to?

    While all the attention sits on them, there are plenty of top-tier receivers available in this year's class.

    I will look over the top 10 and decide where they will land, based on position and what teams could use a guy like him.

    How many receivers will go in the first round? How high will A.J. Green go?

    Hope you enjoy and I would love some feedback!

    (Writer's note: Austin Pettis of Boise State is pictured. This list also assumes that Notre Dame junior Michael Floyd will enter the draft, even though a decision will not be made until Wednesday.)

15. Austin Gettis, Boise State

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    LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 06:  Boise State Broncos fans cheer after wide receiver Austin Pettis #2 scores a touchdown against the Virginia Tech Hokies at FedExField on September 6, 2010 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)
    Geoff Burke/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 71 receptions, 951 yards, 10 touchdowns

    Projection: Fifth round

    Perfect fit: Miami Dolphins

    Austin Pettis may have not even been the most dominant receiver on his own team, with all thanks to Titus Young.

    In four seasons at Boise State, Pettis snagged 229 balls for 2,838 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was supposed to be a shorter threat—as Young was the deep ball man,but always made sure to run after the catch, and he ended with a 13.4 yard per reception average in 2010.

    Kellen Moore often found Pettis in the most timely of fashions, and Austin Pettis is a name that will be revered in Boise for a very long time.

    The Miami Dolphins are a perfect fit for the 6'3" Anaheim, California native because they already possess long ball threats like Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess. They just better pull the trigger on him before anyone else does.

14. Niles Paul, Nebraska

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    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 13: Niles Paul #24 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers finishes off a reception against the Kansas Jayhawks during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska Defeated Kansas 20-3. (Photo by Eric Franc
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 39 receptions, 516 yards, one touchdown

    Projection: Fifth round

    Perfect fit: Oakland Raiders

    We all know that year after year the Oakland Raiders take a chance on a speedy wideout.

    In 2009 they took Darius Heyward-Bey out of Maryland. Last year they took Jacoby Ford out of Clemson.

    This year it will be Niles Paul, a speed demon who battled injuries toward the end of the 2010 season. He caught 39 balls in nine games on limited duty.

    More than 25 percent of this season's total (131) came against a ranked Oklahoma State team that the Huskers beat 51-41 in Stillwater. Paul was a large part of that game, and I can see his skills translating well into the pro level if he heals properly.

13. Greg Little, North Carolina

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    CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 22:  Greg Little #8 of the North Carolina Tar Heels dives past Florida State Seminole defenders Patrick Robinson #21 and Nigel Carr #12 for a first quarter touchdown at Kenan Stadium on October 22, 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Caro
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    2010 stats: None

    Projection: Fourth round

    Perfect fit: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Greg Little has perfect size (6'3", 215 lbs.) for an NFL wide receiver and was on the road to an excellent senior season after having receiving 724 yards and five touchdowns as a junior in '09.

    However, Little was suspended for the entirity of the 2010 season as a result of an NCAA investigation into improper contact with agents.

    This shouldn't say anything about Little's character, and he would fit right in well with a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    The reason he fits in the Steel City has to do with the fact that veteran Hines Ward is quickly declining, and the Steelers will need a third or fourth guy out there at wideout. Little is a viable option in the late third round, and I can see Pittsburgh jumping at the opportunity to get an athletic guy like him.

    They may expect lofty (like the image above, no pun intended) expectations from Little.

12. Ronald Johnson, USC

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 30: Ronald Johnson #83 of the USC Trojans celebrates his two point conversion for a 32-29 lead over the Oregon Ducks during the third quarter at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on October 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  (Phot
    Harry How/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 64 receptions, 692 yards, eight touchdowns

    Projection: Fourth round

    Perfect fit: Philadelphia Eagles

    Ronald Johnson had a consistently decent 2010 campaign, catching at least two balls in every contest.

    He has shifted from a deep ball specialist to a short yardage option, dropping his freshman and sophomore yard per catch average of 16.8 to 10.9 in his final two seasons at USC.

    Under Lane Kiffin he has changed into this slant-type of a receiver, and I could see him fitting in very well in Philly, where he could be a dependable third wideout behind the likes of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, both long ball receivers.

11. Vincent Brown, San Diego State

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    PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 05:  Vincent Brown #80 of San Diego State catches a pass from teamate against the UCLA Bruins at Rose Bowl on September 5, 2009 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jacob de Golish/Getty Images)
    Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 69 receptions, 1352 yards, 10 touchdowns

    Projection: Fourth round

    Perfect fit: San Diego Chargers

    One of the best deep threats in the 2011 NFL Draft, Vincent Brown had an excellent senior season, surpassing 3000 yards over his solid four year career.

    In 2010, Brown had four games for the Aztecs of at least 140 yards and three games with at least two touchdowns, and collected 1352 yards this season, good for sixth in the nation.

    He also averaged 19.6 yards per catch and formed a formidable duo with DeMarco Sampson while at SDSU.

    He is a perfect fit for the San Diego Chargers for one simple reason: Philip Rivers. Rivers loves throwing it deep, and Brown loves catching it deep.

    Also, someone needs to replace that other disturbing Vincent.

10. DeMarco Sampson, San Diego State

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    SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 20:  Wide receiver DeMarco Sampson #1 of the San Diego State Aztecs makes a catch over cornerback Brandon Burton #27 of the Utah Utes at Qualcomm Stadium on November 20, 2010 in San Diego, California.  Utah won 38-34.  (Photo by Steph
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 67 receptions, 1220 yards, eight touchdowns

    Projection: Fourth round

    Perfect fit: Minnesota Vikings

    Vincent Brown—featured on the previous slide, and DeMarco Sampson were hands down the best wide receiver duo in the nation in 2010.

    Sampson added 1220 yards to the mix, 10th in the nation, and combined with Brown they had nearly 2600 receiving yards.

    I could see the Minnesota Vikings pulling the strings on the 6'2", Chula Vista native. They would like a solid receiver to replace the all-of-a-sudden declining Bernard Berrian, and Sampson is a legit deep threat that any quarterback would love tossing the pigskin to.

9. Tandon Doss, Indiana

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    COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 9:  Brandon Saine #3 of the Ohio State Buckeyes attempts to make a tackle on Tandon Doss #2 of the Indiana Hoosiers during a kickoff return at Ohio Stadium on October 9, 2010 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 63 receptions, 706 yards, seven touchdowns

    Projection: Fourth round

    Perfect fit: Arizona Cardinals

    Tandon Doss burst onto the NFL Mock Draft scene after his October 2nd contest against Michigan. Although the Hoosiers lost to the Wolverines that day, Doss made his name known by catching 15 balls for 221 yards, which would end up being about 30 percent of his 2010 collective total.

    He slumped a bit after a great sophomore season—77 catches, 962 yards, five scores, but has great skills that will translate to the big leagues.

    He is a good fit in Arizona—I know they drafted another wideout earlier, for a few reasons; one, because the Cards are deprived in the receiving department, and second, he would make a great compliment to Larry Fitzgerald and another receiver on this list—tune it to find out who.

8. Titus Young, Boise State

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 22:  Titus Young #1 of the Boise State Broncos catches a pass just out of bounds in the end zone in front of Brandon Burton #27 of the Utah Utes during the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas at Sam Boyd Stadium December 22, 2010 in Las Vegas, N
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 71 receptions, 1215 yards, eight touchdowns

    Projection: Third round

    Perfect fit: New England Patriots

    The latter of the two Boise State Broncos' on this list, Titus Young is the deep threat to Austin Gettis' short.

    Kellen Moore found Young often while at Boise, and he put together a heck of a career donning the blue and orange. He totalled more than 200 catches and 3000 yards with 25 touchdowns.

    Young is irresistible to the New England Patriots because of his 4.5 speed and his excellent agility. He is also able to run miles after catching the pigskin.

    Tom Brady won't be able to contain—oh wait, Tom Brady can do anything.

7. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 18:  Jerrel Jernigan #3 of the Troy University Trojans scores a touchdown over Donovan Fletcher #29 of the Ohio University Bobcats during the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on December 18, 2010 in New O
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 84 receptions, 822 yards, six touchdowns

    Projection: Third round

    Perfect fit: Kansas City Chiefs

    Troy? Who comes out of Troy and succeeds in the NFL?

    Oh, uh DeMarcus Ware. That's right. Surely no one else though?

    Wrong. Usi Umenyiora did too.

    You get the point—Troy has been producing NFL talent as of late, and Jerrel Jernigan should be no exception.

    You might think the Kansas City Chiefs are set with their current receiving corps, but think again. Jernigan should be a great third option behind the high-flying Dwayne Bowe and the aging yet consistent Chris Chambers.

6. Leonard Hankerson, Miami (Fl.)

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    MIAMI - NOVEMBER 20: Leonard Hankerson #85 of the Miami Hurricanes runs after a catch during a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Sun Life Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 72 receptions, 1156 yards, 13 touchdowns

    Projection: Third round

    Perfect fit: Buffalo Bills

    The latest and greatest to come out of Miami—of Florida, that is, Leonard Hankerson is a speedster who'll likely be a success in the NFL due to his hands and his feet.

    Hankerson—actually a funny name to say, but that's not the point, the 6'3" Fort Lauderdale native, has skills that will likely bode well in a Bills-type offense, and I picture him doing well.

    Lee Evans is practically falling off the map in Buffalo, so Henderson would be a solid third option behind him and Stevie Johnson. His speed goes well with that of Johnson's, one of the top rising stars in all of the NFL.

5. Torrey Smith, Maryland

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    2010 stats: 67 receptions, 1055 yards, 12 touchdowns

    Prediction: Second round

    Perfect fit: Baltimore Ravens

    Torrey Smith is the only player I couldn't locate a picture of on this entire list. So instead of a picture, I added a YouTube video showing his monster of a performance against NC State this season.

    In the game Smith had 14 catches for 224 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Pretty incredible numbers, huh?

    The Baltimore Ravens would love to get their hands on a prize like Smith. He would be a great third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and the seemingly never aging Derrick Mason. His speed and hands make up the ingredients of an NFL wide receiver shake.

4. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 20: Michael Floyd #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes against the Army Black Knights at Yankee Stadium on November 20, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 79 receptions, 1025 yards, 12 touchdowns

    Prediction: Second round

    Perfect fit: Arizona Cardinals

    Remember how I made note of the Cardinals picking a receiver earlier in this slideshow?

    Michael Floyd, ladies and gentlemen.

    The St. Paul, Minnesota native has put up solid numbers in two-plus seasons with more than 2500 yards and 28 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish

    His stats are even more amazing this year when you consider he missed a game and a half.

    I say he joins forces with another St. Paul native in Larry Fitzgerald in 2011. The Cardinals will once again have a great group of receivers for, um, someone to throw to.

3. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh

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    PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 05: Jonathan Baldwin #82 of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers catches a pass against the Cincinnati Bearcats on December 5, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 53 receptions, 822 yards, five touchdowns

    Prediction: First round (31st Pick)

    Perfect fit: Atlanta Falcons

    Could Pittsburgh Panther Jonathan Baldwin become the next Larry Fitzgerald?

    That could be a possibility. He definitely has similar skills to what Fitzgerald possessed seven years ago in the Steel City.

    I think he even reminds me of a Greg Lewis, another dominating receiver who wore the dark blue and Pitt gold.

    Baldwin had 2337 yards at the 'Burgh and added 16 touchdowns in his solid career.

    The Falcons could use a real compliment to Roddy White, you know.

2. Julio Jones, Alabama

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    ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a touchdown during the Capitol One Bowl against the Michigan State Spartans at the Florida Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Im
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 78 receptions, 1133 yards, seven touchdowns

    Prediction: First Round (14th Pick)

    Perfect fit: St. Louis Rams

    Supposed to be "the next big receiver", Julio Jones had a slump of a sophomore season and followed it up with a spectacular junior campaign.

    He possesses the necessary skills in order to become a great receiver in the NFL, and after improving his yards by nearly 600 from '09 to '10 he took a great step back into the first round of the draft.

    He had 2653 yards and 15 touchdowns during his career in Tuscaloosa.

    The former member of the Tide would be a great fit in St. Louis. Sam Bradford desperately needs a star receiver, and with the 14th pick Jones should still be available.

    You heard it here first—Julio Jones will be a Pro Bowler by 2013 for the Rams, along with the up-and-coming Bradford. 

1. A.J. Green, Georgia

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    AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 13:  A.J. Green #8 of the Georgia Bulldogs against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2010 stats: 57 receptions, 848 yards, nine touchdowns

    Prediction: First round (1st Overall Pick)

    Perfect fit: Carolina Panthers

    The stats should fool you—A.J. Green is the best and most complete receiver in this year's draft.

    Green missed four games at the beginning of the season for solding his signed memorobilia and still put up 848 yards and nine touchdowns.

    Those stats are telling for an average team.

    The Carolina Panthers need a new Steve Smith after the old one has been washed up the river a little bit. I expect the Panthers to gamble and choose Green over other options, such as a defensive lineman or a quarterback like Blaine Gabbert.

    I also expect to see A.J. Green in the Pro Bowl very, very soon.

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