Fire Sale: NFL Draft WR Preview
With the NFL Combine in the rear-view mirror it's time to begin the process of breaking down this year's draft class. Through my contacts in the NFL I've received videos of close to 150 draft prospects. I use what I see on those videos to go along with countless hours of watching college football in order to form my opinions. After breaking down each prospect we'll offer some early thoughts on their potential fantasy impact. We'll take a look at quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends for fantasy purposes. If you want to discuss any draft prospects or have fantasy football questions you can follow me on Twitter
I've already broken down
Floyd has long arms and that helps him both go up and get the ball and push defenders off in traffic. Floyd isn't Larry Fitzgerald but he's similar in the way he goes up and gets the ball at its highest point. Floyd is going to be a huge asset in the red zone for any team that drafts him. He has tremendous body control to go along with the ability to fight for the football. Floyd has the best hands of any receiver in this draft; of lf the plays I watched of him, Floyd dropped only one very catchable pass, by far the best of all the receivers I broke down.
Floyd ran well at the Combine but his speed isn't an issue. He's a fluid receiver who doesn't lose speed or quickness when he changes direction.
Floyd is one of my top-rated players in this draft at any position. If we're nitpicking, he seemed a little disinterested at times. Again, this is something NFL teams are better suited to assess, but in games where Floyd wasn't targeted much it looked to me like he took some plays off. Other than that, there aren't any holes holes in Floyd's game.
People were up in arms about Blackmon's 40-time, but the guy is a big-play machine. It's almost impossible to provide as many big plays as Blackmon did at the major college level without having good speed. That's not a concern for me. Blackmon may not be a track guy but he resembles Anquan Boldin. When Boldin was in his prime he rarely got caught from behind.
Along with Floyd, Blackmon is one of the two receivers in this draft who look like they belong in the NFL now. He runs good routes and has no problem going over the middle, something NFL teams love.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Blackmon was rarely challenged by Big 12 corners. The one corner that was physical with Blackmon and jammed him at the line was Iowa State's Leonard Johnson, and he was able to frustrate Blackmon. This is the biggest question mark surrounding Blackmon heading into the NFL. How will he handle press coverage? I don't think many people can answer that question right now considering he saw so little of it in college.
Many are wondering if Blackmon is better than former Oklahoma State receiver and current Cowboy, Dez Bryant. I say no. Blackmon put up better numbers but he also played with an NFL-caliber passer in Brandon Weeden. Bryant is still one of the most physically-gifted college receivers I've ever seen. Let's not get into why Dallas refuses to throw Bryant the ball in the second half of games. I'll save that for another day.
Wright was a big-play machine at Baylor. There was really no cornerback in the Big 12 who could handle his speed. Wright changes direction well without losing his top end speed and that makes Wright very difficult to cover. If a corner takes one wrong step, Wright will blow right by him.
The fascination with Wright's speed overshadows the fact that he has tremendous hands. From the tape I watched, Wright dropped fewer balls than Blackmon. He never breaks stride. That makes him dangerous on short slant routes.
While Wright is a good route runner, I still think he needs some work in that area. A lot of times in college Wright used his speed to blow by defenders. That's harder to do at the NFL level. Wright has quick feet but he doesn't disguise his routes as well as Floyd or Blackmon. Once he learns how to do that, he'll be scary.
There's no doubting Randle's physical ability. He has good speed, quickness, great moves in the open field and his hands are above average. The one question surrounding Randle at the NFL level is route running. Randle simply wasn't asked to run a lot of different routes at LSU. He ran go routes, outs, square-ins, basically simple routes that any major college receiver can run. It's not his fault; it's just the offense he played in.
One thing we know Randle can do is block. Playing in LSU's predominately run-oriented offense, Randle was asked to block often and he did it well.
My gut tells me Randle will be a good pro. I think he has all the physical skills to succeed; Randle just needs some seasoning in a pro offense first.
It's impossible to ignore all the red flags surrounding Jeffery. First, he came into the '11 season 15-20 pounds overweight. Then he goes to the NFL Combine and refuses to workout. Furthermore, he turned off a lot of NFL people during his interview process by acting aloof and immature. If you add up all the players throughout history who did the things I just mentioned over a calendar year before the draft, I'd bet almost all of them were busts. It simply isn't a good recipe for success.
On the field, Jeffery can still be a dominant player if he stays in shape, gets his head screwed on right and plays hard all the time, but those are a lot of "ifs." During the year it seemed Jeffery's numbers went down because of South Carolina's horrendous quarterback play. While that did have something to do with it, there's no question that Jeffery was much quicker and created more separation two years ago when he was in better shape.
Jeffery goes up and gets the ball over defenders as well as any receiver in a long time. He has that uncanny skill like Randy Moss, where he waits until the last second to put his arms out for the football, so the defensive back has no idea the ball is coming. I've only seen a couple receivers in my lifetime do that as well as Jeffery does. Moss is the best at it.
Jeffery has great body control and he's a master at using his big frame to wall off smaller defenders. He has to use that skill a lot because he doesn't have great speed. Jeffery picks up speed once he gets going but he doesn't get off the line fast, and that's concerning.
It's too early to close the book on Jeffery, but the Combine incidents are troubling. If I said you were about to make millions of dollars and all you had to do was be in great shape and act mature, would you do it? Yeah, me too.
Hilton is just 5-10 and 183 pounds but he's lightning quick. Hilton may be the best receiver in this draft when it comes to not losing any speed in and out of his breaks. Hilton will be a dangerous slot receiver in the NFL but he'll also be a dynamic return man.
When you consider where players will be drafted compared to their talent level, Hilton may represent the best value in the draft. Whichever team gets Hilton in the fourth round area will be getting a steal. If Hilton had played at a bigger school he would be one of the most talked about players in this draft. He's that good.
Adams is probably the best open-field runner in this draft. The way he changes direction and avoids tacklers makes Adams a nightmare to bring down in the open field. He's still raw as a receiver, but Adams will initially win a job as a kick returner and have a chance to develop into a productive slot receiver down the road.
Receiver is one of the deepest positions in this year's draft. There are a bunch of solid mid-round prospects like Juron Criner, Nick Toon, A.J. Jenkins and Greg Childs that I didn't even get a chance to talk about in this article. There are three studs in Floyd, Blackmon and Wright but don't be surprised if more than a couple receivers drafted in Round 3 or later end up becoming big-time NFL players at some point. The receiver class this year is that deep.