NFL draft: Chicago Tribune: Rating the wide receivers
By Dan Pompei
Chicago Tribune reporter Dan Pompei looks at a deep group of wide receivers:
Most drafts are bursting with wide receivers, but this isn't like most drafts. It's possible only one will be chosen in the first round. There should be some good late-round values, however.
1. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, 6-2, 225: He is big, strong, explosive and fast. He breaks tackles and has excellent hands. He is an outstanding punt returner. His talent would merit being a top-five pick, but he is a high-maintenance player who was suspended for the last 10 games of his college career for lying to NCAA investigators. Bryant also needs refinement in terms of route running and technique work.
2. Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 224: Thomas has a great combination of size and speed and is as physically gifted as any receiver in the draft. He is tough to bring down because of his speed, instincts and strength. His hands are a little inconsistent. He also will have a major learning curve in the NFL because he ran just a few routes in the Georgia Tech offense. He has a lot of upside. Some teams are cautious because he's recovering from a broken bone in his left foot.
3. Golden Tate, Notre Dame, 5-10, 199: With a strong lower body and a competitive, tough nature, he is part running back, part wide receiver. What Tate does better than any receiver in this draft is run after the catch. Before the catch, his route running needs work. He ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine but does not play that fast. He doesn't have ideal height, but he finds ways to make plays. Tate also was an excellent center fielder on Notre Dame's baseball team and a draft pick of the Diamondbacks. Tate's father was a fifth-round pick of the Colts.
4. Arrelious Benn, Illinois, 6-1, 219: Benn has a nice body for the position and is a very good athlete. He can make really difficult catches but can be a little inconsistent with his hands. He doesn't play with blazing speed but is a pretty good runner with the ball in his hands. He was better as a sophomore than a junior, when he battled nagging injuries. Benn did not have a very good workout at the combine, but he improved at his pro day, when he ran a 4.42 40. He needs work on route running and getting off the jam. In college, he often worked from the slot.
5. Taylor Price, Ohio, 6-0, 204: This sleeper could be better than advertised. He was not a featured player on a bad offense, but he clearly has NFL skills. He distinguished himself at the Senior Bowl. Price runs very good routes. He's quick and he's fast. He can beat a defender to the post or take a short pass and elude defenders. His hands are very good.
6. Brandon LaFell, Louisiana State, 6-2, 211: LaFell is big and athletic and has the kind of ability NFL teams look for. He played college football at its highest level and was very productive. He is a physical, tough player who does not shy away from contact. LaFell has small hands and does drop some balls.
7. Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati, 6-0, 187: This is a thin receiver with excellent body control. He has the suddenness to get in and out of breaks quickly and cut on a dime. Gilyard is shiftier than he is fast, but he's fast enough. His hands are good, but he sometimes will lose a pass because he's not concentrating. He also is a fine return man.
8. Eric Decker, Minnesota, 6-3, 217: Teams looking for a big, tough, dependable possession receiver will like Decker. He isn't a speed demon, but he catches everything and has top intangibles. Decker reportedly had the highest Wonderlic score of any player at the combine. He has a good feel for route running and getting open, especially against zones. Decker can run over defenders, and he is a fine blocker. He is comparable to Jordy Nelson of the Packers. He also is a former baseball player who was drafted twice. His stock could drop a little because he can't run as the result of a foot injury.
9. Damian Williams, USC, 6-0, 197: This is a fluid, smooth player with excellent ball skills. He has reliable hands and runs pretty routes. He isn't flashy or explosive, and his pedestrian combine workout showed why. Williams' stock probably has dropped by a round since the season ended. He will bring added value as a punt returner.
10. Emmanuel Sanders, Southern Methodist, 5-11, 186: After running a 4.40 40 and a 6.64 three-cone drill at the combine, Sanders' stock has been skyrocketing. This is an explosive player who is quick getting in and out of breaks. Sanders accelerates quickly. He is outstanding as a slot receiver. He's a little smaller than ideal.
11. Dexter McCluster, Mississippi, 5-8, 172: He's the type of player who can be a slot receiver, take a few snaps at running back and help on special teams. He plays bigger than his size and is extremely tough. McCluster is very quick, explosive and elusive but does not have great speed. His hands are reliable.
12. Riley Cooper, Florida, 6-3, 222: He has the kind of size that can create mismatches, and though he is more of a possession receiver, he has deceptive speed. He is strong, tough and physical. He doesn't drop a lot of balls. His athleticism also is evident in his baseball exploits. Cooper doesn't have the quickness to be a good slot receiver, so he probably has to line up outside. Creating separation consistently could be a problem. He has been described as bold, brash and cocky, and he rubs some people wrong.
13. Jordan Shipley, Texas, 5-11, 193: Shipley has been compared to Wes Welker of the Patriots. He is a competitive receiver who can play the slot well because he is quicker than he is fast. He runs good routes and shows steady hands. Dependability and toughness are assets. He also can be a return man. Durability is a concern as he has a history of hamstring problems.
14. Jacoby Ford, Clemson, 5-9, 186: He was a combine sensation with a 4.22 40. Ford is a track guy who is not a natural football player. He runs ragged routes, and his hands are inconsistent. He has versatility to play running back and even quarterback in a wildcat-style scheme. Physically, he has all the tools except size.
15. Andre Roberts, Citadel, 5-11, 195: His stock has risen in recent months. Roberts performed well at the Senior Bowl and had a solid combine. He's a fast player with the speed to stretch the field, and he has pretty good hands. He also is elusive after the catch. Roberts can contribute to special teams as a punt returner.
16. Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas, 6-2, 207: Briscoe is a solid, physical possession receiver with good ball skills. He was productive in college. He isn't going to run by many cornerbacks, and he isn't very sudden or explosive, so creating separation could be an issue. He did not have a great workout, and his stock has gone down.
17. Carlton Mitchell, South Florida, 6-3, 215: He's intriguing because he's big and runs fast in a straight line, but he is not real nifty. Mitchell is a raw route runner who needs refinement. His hands have been inconsistent. His stock has risen because he has worked out well.
18. Jeremy Williams, Tulane, 6-0, 206: He's a possession player with a lot of production. Williams can make the tough catch and get some yards afterward. He may be off some team's boards because of medical concerns.
19. David Reed, Utah, 6-0, 191: This is a shifty player who knows how to get open. Reed is tough, consistent and competitive, and he catches everything. He should make a good slot receiver in the NFL. He is comparable to the Broncos' Brandon Stokley.
20. Blair White, Michigan State, 6-2, 209: White is more consistent than he is flashy, but he finds ways to be productive. He is tough and resourceful. White runs good routes and can adjust his body to the ball. He had a fine workout at the combine, running a 4.49 40, but he doesn't play that fast. He is more of a possession receiver.
21. Antonio Brown, Central Michigan, 5-10, 186: This productive player could become a good slot receiver in the NFL because of his quickness and ability to run underneath routes. Brown competes for the ball and catches most of what is thrown to him. He lacks top-end speed.
22. Shay Hodge, Mississippi, 6-1, 209: Hodge is a possession receiver with strong hands. He gets good yards after the catch and competes hard. He helped himself at the Senior Bowl. He is a little too slow to be considered a top prospect.
23. Mike Williams, Syracuse, 6-1, 221: Some scouts think he has first-round ability. He is a strong, physical receiver with very good body control. He runs good routes, and his hands are dependable. He has the ability to take over a game. His speed is good but not great. He was suspended for the 2008 season because of academic reasons, and he quit the team halfway through the 2009 season. NFL teams are concerned about his character and maturity, so he probably will be drafted much later than his talent would suggest.
24. Marcus Easley, Connecticut, 6-3, 210: He has an intriguing combination of size and speed (4.39 40 at the combine). Easley can stretch the field. He came on late in the season, but he is a developmental player who is very raw.
25. Joe Webb, Alabama-Birmingham, 6-3, 223: He has an NFL body and has helped himself in the postseason with an impressive Senior Bowl and a very good workout. Webb, a converted quarterback, has the athleticism to play wide receiver. He is raw, however, and needs to learn the nuances of the position.
26. David Gettis, Baylor, 6-3, 217: Like a lot of track stars turned wide receivers, Gettis can fly, but his hands are inconsistent. He is a raw prospect.
27. Danario Alexander, Missouri, 6-4, 215: He has good size but is a little slow. Alexander catches well and could find a role as a possession receiver. He has had numerous injuries and could fail some teams' physicals.
28. Chris McGaha, Arizona State, 6-1, 201: This is a good route runner with sticky hands. Though he is not a flashy player, he is a dependable receiver who can come up with clutch catches.
29. Sevi Ajirotutu, Fresno State, 6-3, 204: This is a big-bodied possession receiver who plays strong. He drew the attention of scouts with a nice performance at the East-West Shrine game. He doesn't have top speed, and he has had numerous knee problems.
30. Freddie Barnes, Bowling Green, 6-0, 215: He was a very productive receiver who played consistently and did not drop a lot of passes. Barnes isn't very fast and does not have make-you-miss ability. His ability to separate from defenders could be better.
31. Chris Carter, UC Davis, 5-11, 191: This is a consistent, reliable player. Carter runs routes the way they are designed. He also has kick return ability. He does not have a special trait, however, and his size and speed are only average.
32. Kyle Williams, Arizona State, 5-10, 188: He has the quickness and cutting ability to make it as a slot receiver. Williams catches pretty well. He also can contribute as a return man.
33. Alric Arnett, West Virginia, 6-2, 188: This tall, lean player has the ability to get downfield and make plays for big gains. He does not have much quickness or change of direction, however, and he could struggle getting off the jam.
34. Verran Tucker, California, 6-1, 200: With decent size and speed, Tucker has some things going for him. He is more of an outside receiver who is at his best running straight. He needs to improve his route running.