|Date & Time||Tuesday February 18, 2014, 12:00 PM (EST)|
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This top ten list is the first in a series that will introduce you to some of 2014’s top draft prospects by position. On tap for today: wide receivers. The NFL is a QB driven league to be sure. A great QB alone, though, does not a great offense make. In the modern NFL, top receivers are a must if your team wants to have a shot at bringing the Lombardi Trophy home. There are some great options in this year’s draft class. Read on to learn who ought to be on your radar heading into the combine and draft day.
1. Sammy Watkins (Clemson) - No surprise here. Watkins tops the list due to his sheer athleticism and play-making abilities. For me, Watkins’s spot as the best receiver in this year’s draft was solidified after his performance in the Orange Bowl against Ohio State. I don’t necessarily think Watkins will be a No. 1 receiver his rookie year, but give him a season or two to get acclimated and Watkins has the potential to turn into one of the best the NFL has to offer.
2. Mike Evans (Texas A&M) - In a mere two seasons with the Aggies, Evans skyrocketed in popularity among football fans. He set school records for both yardage and TD receptions during the 2013 season. At 6’5 and 225 pounds, his size is ideal for making the transition to the NFL, but he is still a young player. Under a coaching staff that can help him hone his natural talents, Evans undoubtedly has the physical ability to become a massive success.
3. Marqise Lee (USC) - As with Watkins and Evans, you would have had to be residing under a rock to miss the fact that Lee declared for the draft this year. Due to injuries, Lee put-up career low numbers for the Trojans this year, so the combine bears special importance for him. At 6’0, Lee doesn’t have the same height at some of the other receivers on this list, so one of my favorite things about him is that he was also a sprinter for USC; this is proof positive that Lee’s speed is not in question.
4. Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU) - Though he only clocks-in at 6’0, 207 pounds, Beckham Jr. tends to play like a significantly larger guy. Beckham Jr’s size will probably be an issue for some NFL front offices, but his hands should make-up for it; Beckham Jr. rarely drops passes and has the ability to catch difficult balls. Beckham Jr. also served as a kick returner and punt returner for the Tigers, which will surely appeal to some league administrators and coaches.
5. Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) - 6’5, 235 pound Benjamin has a National Championship ring, the right size for the NFL, and the potential to make big plays, but fails to catch the ball too frequently for my liking. This is why I have Benjamin sitting squarely in the middle of this list. If the right coaches get ahold of Benjamin, he could certainly become a top-tier NFL receiver. First, though, I want to wait and see how Benjamin looks at the combine.
6. Allen Robinson (Penn State) - Robinson has both size (6’3, 225 pounds) and quickness, which can be a deadly combination in the NFL. Robinson can make big plays in almost situation; this versatility will be attractive to a number of league front offices. Under Bill O’Brien’s tutelage, Robinson began looking like a No. 1 receiver and I think he could be before too long.
7. Jarvis Landry (LSU) - Landry and Beckham Jr. made names for themselves as one of the elite receiving duos in college football. Statistically, Landry is the more consistent player, but Beckham Jr. has more potential to make game-changing plays. Landry and Beckham Jr. will undoubtedly draw comparisons due to the fact that they played on the same turf, but this is challenging to do well since they have unique strengths. Landry, for instance, has reliability on his side with four or more catches in all but one game during the 2013 season. At the end of the day, both young men are fine NFL prospects who are likely to be assets to whatever teams they go to.
8. Davante Adams (Fresno State) - Adams and Fresno State QB Derek Carr worked well during their relatively brief time together (Adams was a redshirt sophomore when he declared for the draft this year.) Adams is has good hands and great speed, but he’s young. If Adams wasn’t part of such a receiver-heavy class, I think he could easily be ranked quite a bit higher than most experts currently have him.
9. Brandin Cooks (Oregon State) - Cooks, who was the recipient of the 2013 Fred Biletnikoff award, is arguably the fastest receiver on this list. He’s small, only 5’10, 186 pounds, but he can create separation from defenses in no time. His speed is his hallmark and as long as he ends-up on and NFL team who knows how to utilize him properly, I look for him to make a splash.
10. Paul Richardson (Colorado) - The odds of Richardson going in the first round are slim and he won’t become a No. 1 receiver, but I still like him as an NFL prospect. When Richardson played for the Buffs, he averaged 41.8 yards per score; this is impressive by any standard. Durability is sure to be front offices’ primary concern in regard to Richardson. He missed the 2012 season with an ACL injury, but proved himself to still be worthy of consideration with 79 receptions and 1,280 yards in 2013.