Receiver class filled with different options

Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins could go earlier than people think

This is actually turning into a pretty interesting receiver class. John Schneider admitted he wasn’t too enamoured with 2012’s group, but I wonder what he’ll make of this one? There’s a lot of range, a lot of different body types and skill sets. You would think there’d be a player or two of interest.

In 2008 no receivers were taken in round one, but when Donnie Avery was selected at #33 overall it created a scramble. Ten wide outs were taken in the second round, including the easily forgettable Devin Thomas, James Hardy, Dexter Jackson and Limas Sweed. Also among the group were Jordy Nelson and DeSean Jackson. I suspect something similar will happen next April, perhaps just a little earlier.

There’s unlikely to be a receiver drafted in the top ten, unless of course Brandon Coleman turns pro and puts in a star turn at the combine. I’ve been including Coleman in my mocks through sheer hope rather than expectation – because he really should go back to Rutgers for another season of college football. Even if he does turn pro, he’s still no lock for the top ten. He does have the size (6-6), speed and catching ability to generate major interest as a high pick, but he’s only a redshirt sophomore and plays to his level of experience at times.

Assuming Coleman stays at Rutgers, you could be looking at the first receiver leaving the board in the 20-25 range. The teams that list a receiver among their greatest needs (Miami, St. Louis) will pick in the top ten and will probably wait until round two or use free agency. Those currently projected to pick in the middle of the first round (Cincinnati, New Orleans, Arizona) will prioritise other positions. There are exceptions, such as the New York Jets, who could make light work of this suggestion. However, value meets need best for the receivers at around the #20 overall mark as things stand.

One player who could yet change things is California’s Keenan Allen. He didn’t have an amazing year for Cal, but then he was severely limited playing within a mediocre passing game. Jeff Tedford has been fired as a consequence and a player like Allen hasn’t been able to max out his potential during college. It’s easy to forget he had offers from all the big schools – including Alabama – but chose Cal to play with his quarterback brother. It’s a nice family story, but unfortunately the working relationship hasn’t paid off. Allen had just one 100+ yard receiving game this year ┬ábefore getting injured – against struggling Washington State.

Nobody can deny Allen looks the part. He’s a prototypical big receiver at 6-3 and 210lbs. He looks fluid running routes and isn’t heavy on his feet despite a filled out frame. He looks primed to deal with the physical approach of the NFL. But is he special enough? We didn’t see many explosive plays this year, just a lot of coming back on a route to bail out the quarterback. He fits, he chips away. Allen has that rare intensity and spirit in a receiver that has certainly helped A.J. Green make a quick impact in the league. Yet he’s going to need to prove he also has athletic potential to match the size. A great combine and Allen could be a top-20 pick. If he runs a slow 4.5 – you’re talking second round.

Whenever the first receiver is drafted next April, there could be a mad rush. Like 2008, I think we might see as many as ten receivers quickly leave the board. Admittedly it’s still very early in the process and difficult to make a completely accurate projection when draft order hasn’t even been decided. However, we are approaching the end of the college season and have a good idea of the talent level available.

For example, teams looking for a dynamic playmaker will monitor a guy like┬áTavon Austin. He’s shown he does have the speed and range to warrant comparisons to Percy Harvin. On Saturday he rushed for 344 yards from 21 carries out of the pistol formation, flashing the ability to out-run the fastest Oklahoma defensive backs and break off huge gains. He’s going to be a first round pick, mainly due to his speed and range as a multi-faceted playmaker. Cordarrelle Patterson also has that home run-hitting ability and has scored touchdowns on kick and punt returns, receptions and rushes. As soon as either leaves the board, don’t be surprised if another team gets impatient about making sure they don’t miss out on the other. They could leave the board shortly after each other.

Markus Wheaton and Robert Woods aren’t anywhere near as ‘flashy’ and won’t score quite as many cheap points, but both should leave the board no later than the early second round. They have enough speed to create separation, but may struggle against physical cornerbacks. Woods is a little sturdier and has better production at USC, but Wheaton is quicker and a more important fixture for his team. Both a superior players to A.J. Jenkins, who was drafted at the end of the first round last April.

Justin Hunter could still have an impact if he declares – he’s rated by many as a potential high pick. It’s hard not to appreciate his controlled routes and likeness to A.J. Green physically, but the truth is he’s had a poor year with bad drops and not enough explosion after recovering from a bad knee injury. I’ve never been truly sold on Terrance Williams at Baylor – he looks like a product of his environment without stand out physical tools. Da’Rick Rogers remains an interesting case after being kicked out of Tennessee and being forced to play at Tenn. Tech. Keep an eye on DeAndre Hopkins who could go much earlier than most people expect, while Coby Hamilton has enjoyed some big performance for Arkansas and certainly looks the part even if he lacks consistency.

How (I think) I’d rate the receivers today:

#1 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#2 Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#3 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
#4 Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#5 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#6 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
#7 Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#8 Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
#9 Coby Hamilton (WR, Arkansas)
#10 Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)

Of course, if you want a player who can make 1-2 huge plays in a game and can be used in many different ways, you’d push Patterson and Austin nearer to the top. And if Keenan Allen runs a 4.4, you become a little bit more excited about his potential. So there’s still a lot to be decided between now and April. But you knew that already.


  1. MJ

    Great stuff. I have my eye on this class as well. It is a really unique class that is basically the Baskin Robbins of the NFL Draft this year. I think we will definitely see a pass catcher in R2. I still think R1 goes to the Defense. Who that is, I have no idea. I am kind of hoping for Ziggy Ansah.

    *and if my memory serves me correct, I think Keenan Allen is actually an East Coast kid (North Carolina maybe?) He did choose Cal in part because his half brother (Maynard) decided to transfer there from Buffalo. Now, I sound like “that guy.” Just an FYI dude.

    • Rob Staton

      Appreciate the heads up, MJ.

  2. Kevin Sylliaasen

    Tavon Austin has a little Barry Sanders in him.

  3. Caleb

    Hi rob,

    wondering about your WR rankings. Why the big drop for Cordarrelle Patterson? I seem to remember about 3 weeks ago he was your favorite. Perhaps i’m wrong?

    • Rob Staton

      He’s a player I think Seattle could have right at the top of their board, because they seem to like multi-faceted players who can make big plays in the passing game. However, he was never my pure #1 receiver personally. As a wide out he’s very raw, but he’s a home run hitter. I have some concerns with his character and body language which just seem a little ‘coasting’ shall we say. How badly does he want to be great? I just see Markus Wheaton busting his ass to make plays, and then Patterson will drift through a series or two per game. He is sensational at times, frustrating as hell the others.

      • Gage

        Just outta curiosity, not sure if your big on comparisons but for Patterson do you think he could be similar to a Mike Wallace in the NFL?

        • Rob Staton

          Not sure I’d say similar to Wallace. I think he might be a bit of an enigma at WR… not as consistent as Wallace. A player who will make highlight reel plays every week or two, but will also have zero catch games fairly often. I doubt he’ll ever get more than 7-800 yards in a season, but might score 8-10 total TD’s.

  4. Snoop Dogg

    My top 2 receivers are Tavon Austin and Keenan Allen.
    If Tavon Austin ran a 4.28 and Keenan Allen ran a 4.42 (both with good 10 yard splits), which would you rather pick in the first round?

    • Rob Staton

      Good question. Probably Allen based on the speed for his size and the upside there. Although if he runs a 4.42 I’ll run for president next time.

  5. Stuart

    Tavon Austin would be thrilling everytime he touched the ball. We could use him as a return man on kickoffs and punts besides WR duties. It’s also interesting how successful he is out of the back field with over 300 yards from the RB position last game.

    My concern is his size 5″9″ 172. He is so fast and so elusive that he avoids the big hits but in the NFL it will be different. How tough is this guy? If we had a cyrystal ball and knew he wouldnt get injured all the the time then this is the touchmaker kind of guy that Pete would love. It’s to bad he wouldnt last until our selection in R-2, would he, could he???

    What are your feelings on the most important traits in a WR, (1) size, (2) speed, (3) dedication, (4) hands, (5) concentration, (6) quickness, (7) elusivenes, (8) attitude and (9) injury history? Thats a big list but it helps narrow down a canidate based on your specific criteria.

    It’s sure fun to read about these players and think about what if scenarios. Much appreciated Rob:).

    • John_s

      I just watched a vid of Tavon vs Oklahoma and all I have to say is wow! He made himself some money in that game.

      His acceleration and cutting ability is unmatched IMO with the others.

      I think the traits you look for in a WR depends on 1) the type of offense you run and 2) if the WR is playing inside in the slot or outside.

      Imagine a 4 WR set if Sidney Rice and Golden lined up outside and Doug Baldwing and Tavon Austin lined up inside in the slot.

  6. Michael

    There is a good variety in this class, but none of them (assuming Coleman stays in school) really do a whole lot for me. How much money is Mike Wallace gonna end up getting? Should Seahawks fans forget about him considering the improvements from Rice and Tate, and the paychecks of Rice and Miller?

    • Rob Staton

      Wallace will probably command serious $$$ if the deals for Jackson, Garcon, Robinson etc are anything to go by last free agency. So I think he’s unlikely. Would be good though to have a real dynamic deep threat like that.

      • John_s

        Do you think the Steelers would franchise him? That would add another layer to acquiring Wallace giving up draft picks

        • Rob Staton

          I could see it.

  7. Phil

    If I had to pick right now, Tavon Austin would be my first round pick. Among other things, his versatility is impressive. I knew he was a top-rate receiver, but I didn’t realize his skills at RB. (I now know that he played RB in Baltimore when he was in High School and didn’t move to receiver until WV recruited him.) I can see him as an every down receiver. Then maybe he would move to RB on third downs as a change of pace back — kind of like Leon Washington — and then maybe shift to where some poor LB has to try to cover him, or be used to run draws or screens. In the Oklahoma film, I didn’t see any plays where he was asked to stay in the backfield to pick up the blitz and this could be a problem for a 175# RB. I did see that he was an effective downfield blocker. It also looks like he can throw the ball, so he could join Golden Tate and Sidney Rice as a potential thrower on sweeps. I have serious doubts that he will be still be on the board when the Seahawks pick, but I can hope …

  8. Michael

    I made the mistake of watching Tavon Austin’s tape first… After that all the other ones were just boring.

  9. Zach

    First time poster (been reading for a couple years). Just thought I’d give my two cents. Tavon Austin does NOT seem like an every down reciever, unless he can blow the top off of any NFL secondary every play. It seems, to make him effective you need to let him work in space (hard thing to find in the NFL, especially someone of his “caliber”). BUT, if he can run by his CB or whoever is on him, and make the safety have to go over the top just to cover him, he can become a HUGE asset to a team, by leaving everyone else one on one (obviously this goes for man to man). My next problem is how easily he gets brought down when he gets touched (it is hard to get a hold of him though). Obviously he can run around you, but what happens when you throw a screen, and if he breaks that tackle he has a touchdown? 90%+ I think he gets brought down at the LOS. Then there is the question how he fairs on press coverage. Obviously he is a playmaker and has great potential, it just scares me how small he is.

    • MJ

      Good points, which is why I ultimately think he won’t go in Round 1. I love the guy, don’t get me wrong. I just have a hard time seeing a GM banging the table. Maybe a team like NE or GB goes after him. Outside of them, hard to imagine others doing so.

      • Michael

        He would be a monster in NE

  10. Chris

    We already have a version of Austin on the team, and his name is Golden Tate.

    We don’t need another playmaker in space … we need a competent down the field receiver, and Austin does not seem to be that at all. His separation down the field is horrible … he plays receiver like a running back trying to put juke steps on the guy guarding him. As a runner he looks interesting, although he goes down with a soft push, and in this tape he has legitimate running options on every single play. The way the line was playing in this game, a player like Austin should run for 250 yards. For those that love him, re-watch this tape and look at all the possible running lanes he has to choose from. I’m frankly amazed he didn’t break more big ones. No one presses him seriously at the line of scrimmage.

    He is fast, he is very shifty, and he has clear football skills in the Percy Harvin mold. Golden Tate is also very good at these things in our offense, and I don’t see a player like Austin filling our WR needs in any way.

    I honestly think if Tate was playing as a running back/wide receiver in the same offense he’d have been equally as good as Austin. Not quite as shifty (but close), but more power and determination.

    • AlaskaHawk

      Maybe Austin’s role would be like Wes Welker with New England. He has good hands and can make the difficult catch. I wouldn’t think of this as either/or Tate. It would be nice to have the flexibility and players to take advantage of our opponents. If there secondary doesn’t do well against speed then we use the speedy sml receivers. If they don’t do well against big guys we use Rice and the tight ends.

      Both Tate and Austin are much too valuable as receivers to be using them as running backs. That’s what we got lynch and Turbin for. I’m warming up to picking a nose tackle first round and speedy receiver in second.

      • MJ

        I think Austin and Tate are different animals. Tate is like a RB who can break tackles and to me, is more of a gadget player. I think Austin could be a dynamo in the slot and could even be a 3rd down RB, with Baldwin going to the slot on those downs.

        The beauty of being a power run team, is that it’s best accented by big play threats. I think Austin would keep defenses honest and be a huge “tool” for this offense. He might become an elite 3rd down player with his speed, agility, and flexibility. Seriously, imagine him lining up in the backfield on 3rd down. How creative could you get with him?

        I wouldn’t draft him in R1, but I wouldn’t mind a trade down to high R2 for him. I really tink Austin is special. His performance against Oklahoma was appalling. Oklahoma has some stud athletes on defense and they had no chance against him.

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