Draft Notes: WR superlatives and rankings

Happy Thursday, friends.  Today, our positional tour of the 2013 draft class stops in the wide receiver area.  This is an unusually strong year at the position, in a deep overall draft class, and there’ll be a lot of opportunity for teams to bring in quality players  in the second and third rounds, and not pay them a whole lot of money for about four years.

Whether the Broncos are players in the receiver market will depend a lot on what they intend to do with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.  Decker is entering the final year of his contract, and Thomas is under contract through 2014.  The removal of Elvis Dumervil from their salary structure will help create room to pay at least one of them (presumably Thomas), but it will be tough to pay them both.

If the team doesn’t think that it can retain Decker after this season, then it may be looking for a receiver to replace him after a year.  Good teams have to let middle class players walk sometimes.  This is the kind of receiver class that lends itself to yielding a quality starter at the 58th pick, so you should consider the possibility that the Broncos do something there.

On to the receiver class…

The Dangerous Guy Who Isn't Really a Receiver

Tavon Austin, West Virginia – Austin isn’t a receiver in the true sense of the term; he’s more of a space player who is dangerous with the football in his hands.  I’ve seen him compared to Percy Harvin, but he’s much slighter built, and doesn’t have the run strength or the physicality to separate from outside coverage that Harvin has.  Austin, to me, is more like Darren Sproles, even though he won’t line up as a RB too often.  He’s dangerous, but he’s not an outside receiver, and I think he has a ways to go before he can be counted on to run option routes as a slot player too.

The Best True Flanker

Keenan Allen, California – Allen comes from a pro-style background, and he has a good combination of height, route-running ability, ball skills, and run-after-catch ability.  I view him as being similar to Brandon Marshall, but not quite as big or strong.  In terms of being a polished pro-ready receiver, I think he’s the best one in this class.

The Talented Guy

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee – Some people view Patterson as the best receiver in this class, and he may end up being that.  He only played one year at Tennessee, but he showed good speed and ability, mixed with excellent size.  Patterson is a thick and powerful athlete, and he shows signs of being able to win fights for the ball.  He has a good background running the ball too, and may be able to help there in some specialty packages.  My only concern is his lack of high-level experience, and the fact that his time in junior college was caused by struggles with academics.

The Big-Play Outside Guy

Justin Hunter, Tennessee – On film, I like Hunter better than Patterson, and I view him as a guy who can stretch the field outside the numbers.  Hunter is actually 6-4 ½, which is taller than his 6-4 listed height.  (Patterson was listed at 6-3, and measured at 6-1 ¾.)  Hunter also ran a 4.40, against Patterson’s 4.49 at the Combine.  I view Hunter as being similar to Stephen Hill from last year’s class, but a much more polished version, who has shown evidence of being able to run most of a pro route tree.

The Most Decker-like Guy

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson – Hopkins has above-average size, speed, route-running ability, and ball skills.  He will do everything well in the NFL once he gets up to speed, and he’s the kind of receiver that would work well in any scheme.  Hopkins was really productive in college, and I think he’ll be an excellent number-two receiver in the NFL.  I’d compare him to Decker, and also Roddy White.

The Best Route-runner

Robert Woods, USC – Woods got overshadowed as a junior by young phenom Marquise Lee, but don’t sleep on him.  I think he’s another guy who’s going to be an excellent number-two receiver, and that he’ll do it pretty quickly at the pro level.  I tend to agree with Pat Kirwan’s assessment that Woods is very similar to Donald Driver, and I’d even compare him to Rod Smith.

The Best Slot Receiver

Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech – Patton isn’t necessarily limited to playing in the slot, but I think it will be his best spot in the pros.  I’m not entirely sure he has the strength to beat outside press coverage consistently, but when he’s playing with some bubble, he’s going to get open.  I like his route-running skills, the way he catches the ball, and his consistent productivity.  He’s got some Reggie Wayne qualities to him.

The Overshadowed Guy

Stedman Bailey, West Virginia – Bailey isn’t as dangerous as Austin is, but he’s a better receiver.  He lacks the greatest size, but on film, he looks like he has a good chance to separate from press coverage, and I like the way he catches the ball.  He’ll be a late second- or early third-rounder, and I think he has a good chance to start in the NFL.  If I were drafting Geno Smith, I’d think about getting Bailey too; they go back to high school together, and they connected for 25 TDs in 2012.

White Boy Day!

Ryan Swope, Texas A&M – I think Swope is a guy who was a very good college player, but who will struggle to see regular playing time in the NFL.  He ran a 4.34 at the Combine, and nobody who ever watched him thought he played nearly that fast.  The Caucasian-lovers will be on his bandwagon, but to me, he’s not quite good enough to play in the NFL for very long.

Mike Mayock’s Cup of Tea

Terrance Williams, Baylor – I don’t love Williams as much as Mayock does, because I view him as being a product of a great passing system at Baylor.  He has good speed, and if he gets into the right system, he could be a productive vertical receiver, but I don’t think he’s a player who fits everywhere.  I’d consider Williams in the third round, but he’s down the list for me, among some of these other guys.

The Speedster

Marquise Goodwin, Texas – When I was a kid, my dad would always talk about the Speedster Willie Gault, who, for some reason, was one of his favorite players.  I think Goodwin is likely to end up like Gault, as a tremendously fast guy who has his moments, but never puts it all together as a pro receiver.  His upside is Mike Wallace, but it’s an unlikely-to-be-reached upside.  Goodwin is a flat-out blazer though, and some team will think he’s worth developing as a third-rounder.

My Rankings

  1. Keenan Allen
  2. DeAndre Hopkins
  3. Justin Hunter
  4. Cordarrelle Patterson
  5. Tavon Austin
  6. Robert Woods
  7. Quinton Patton
  8. Stedman Bailey
  9. Terrance Williams
  10. Marquise Goodwin

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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