Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top Players by Position- Wide Receivers

by John Huffstetler

1) Justin Blackmon- Oklahoma St.- If Blackmon were in the NFL right now, he would be a pro bowler. His talent is absurd. I've heard the talking heads on ESPN compare him to Terrell Owens, but Owens never had the hands that Blackmon displays. He's a better version of Owens, with his size and strength and with better ability to catch the football and run routes. He should be drafted between picks 2 and 5 and any later would be a steal.

2) Alshon Jeffrey- South Carolina- I've seen Jeffrey listed as low as the 5th rated receiver, which is absurd. His size and ability to leap for the football is reminiscent of Calvin Johnson when he entered the draft early from Georgia Tech. Jeffrey never had an elite quarterback throwing him the ball at South Carolina either. Give Jeffrey a QB who can somewhat consistently get him the ball on fade patterns and deep-ins and he will put up terrific numbers on the next level. He's a top 15 talent overall and a clear top-2 receiver in the draft.

3) Michael Floyd- Notre Dame- Floyd performed consistently well for his entire 4-year career in South Bend despite some early injury issues. He showed an ability in his impressive senior season to generate first downs as a possession receiver, racking up 100 receptions. Floyd will be a terrific receiver on the next level and should be considered by teams in the mid-to-late first round.

4) Kendall Wright- Baylor- Of the top 4 receivers in this draft, Wright has the most "boom" or "bust" potential. He could turn into a great speed and slot receiver in the mold of a Mike Wallace; however, his statistics could be the result of Art Briles' system at Baylor. I tend to think he will be a good receiver in the league because of his ability to extend the defense with his top-level speed. Because he is a riskier selection than Blackmon, Jeffrey and Floyd, I wouldn't draft him until early second round. He will most likely be drafted sooner, however, because he is the best quick, slot receiver in the draft by far.

5) Mohamed Sanu- Rutgers- What a season Sanu had in 2011, even though Rutgers split QB duties between two below-average QB's, gaining 1,206 yards on 115 receptions. He's also shown an ability in past years to gain yards on the ground by running reverses or lining up in the backfield. He gained 309 yards on the ground with 4 rushing touchdowns in 2010, and 346 yards and 5 td's in 2009. He uses this ability to break tackles to gain yards after the catch and will continue to do so in the NFL. I think Sanu should be drafted near Wright in the early second round.

6) T.Y. Hilton- Florida International- There are many candidates to be the second-best speed receiver in the draft but I prefer Hilton. Not only did Hilton gain 1,038 yards on 72 receptions, but Hilton also finished the year 7th in kickoff return average and 16th in punt return average. He can be an elite asset for any team on both offense and special teams. Many projections list Hilton as a 3rd or 4th round pick, but I think he's a 2nd round talent and the most underrated receiver in the draft.

7) Rueben Randle- LSU- The sheer athleticism alone warrants a high draft pick. He's not the most polished in the draft, but he's made some amazing circus catches in his career. He has the potential to develop into a tremendous receiver in the league with some maturation and practice. He's probably worth a look in the early 3rd round.

8) Chris Givens- Wake Forest-We're at the point in the draft here where the elite possession receivers are gone, but the speed guys with "questionable size" remain on the board. These are the guys teams should be looking at now to help improve their passing game. Givens fit this mold at only 6 feet even with excellent ability to find space using crisp route-running skills. He can be a tremendous slot receiver on the next level with his speed.

9) A.J. Jenkins- Illinois- With how bad the rest of Illinois offense was the 2nd half of the season, it's amazing Jenkins reached 90 receptions on the year. He was the lone bright spot on this poor offense, managing 10 games of at least 6 receptions for the campaign. He has great speed and can catch anything that comes near him, but could use some better strength to improve his blocking and ability to create separation. He will, nonetheless, be a terrific slot/speed receiver in the NFL.

10) Joe Adams- Arkansas- I could easily have put his Arkansas teammate, Jarius Wright, here as well, but I prefer Adams' ability to change the game on special teams. Although Wright is a much better receiver, Adams finished the season 6th in punt return average and first in the nation with 4 punt return TD's. He also has the potential to be a big play receiver in the passing game. In 2010, he averaged 16.3 yards per reception while pulling in 50 balls for 813 yards. He has the potential to be a Devin Hester-like big play contributor on offense and special teams.

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  1. Rueben Randle isn't going to the draft, and you are seriously underrating Joe Adams.

    1. randle declared for the draft about a week ago. also, one of the stronger receiver classes in recent memory, so listing joe adams as 10th is pretty solid, in my opinion

    2. Yeah, I've actually seen Adams much lower in other rankings and I bumped him up because of his added special teams ability. He does have questionable size at 5 ft. 10 in. and needs to work on his route running, but I put him on the list because of his big play potential.

  2. just out of curiousity, where do you have a guy like juron criner? he had a great 2010 season, but kind of fell off the map in 2011. he should still be a 2nd round pick, but what do you think his potential is in the nfl? its hard to say whether his struggles were a result of the struggling arizona offense or his own struggles

  3. what about devier posey from OSU?

    1. I like Posey but it was just difficult to get the list down to 10 with so many viable options in this deep WR class. Posey's ability to extent the field vertically and make plays makes him capable of being an effective receiver on the next level. Most of his yards come before the catch, however, which will make him limited on the underneath routes at the next level, in my opinion. If I listed a top 15, he would definitely be on the list, and I see him going lower than he should because of the off-the-field issues last season. Check back again this weekend and I will have a most underrated and overrated prospects in draft article posted. Posey might make my underrated list.