The 2013 NFL Draft won’t feature a huge crop of wide receivers who will make their way into the first round unlike past years. Like the quarterback prospects and running back prospects, this year’s class of pass catchers might feature only one true first rounder. Maybe two if things fall into place and players help their stock at the Combine. Who will those players be? We’ll have a much better idea once the Combine comes and goes. But for now, here is a list of my top 5 receiver prospects, including the one player I think is most deserving of entering first-round glory.
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1. Cordarrelle Patterson – Tennessee
Originally listed at 6-foot-3/205 while in college, beat writer Bryan Broaddus tweeted Friday morning that Patterson weighed in at 6’2/216 pounds. I highly doubt the difference in height is going to mean much for teams who initially gave him a high grade. But the 11 extra pounds he put on between the end of the college year and now could be huge for a guy who was already coming into the NFL with a solidly-built frame. Patterson is a fluid athlete who has good initial burst and has the ability to gain separation in single coverage. He has solid strength and can use his ability to box out defenders. Gaining that extra muscle will help that trend continue. While he has all the traits of being a strong No. 1 receiver, he tends to lose concentration. Which leads to dropping catchable balls. He also has to work on his route running and to take what’s given to him instead of trying to go for the big score when it isn’t there. Did most of his damage at the junior college level, so there are some small red flags regarding whether or not he could be a one-year wonder. A borderline first rounder right now, he should solidify himself as the top wide receiver option between now and the draft. This prediction could change by next week. But as of now, I predict Patterson to be the only receiver taken on day one.
2. DeAndre Hopkins – Clemson
At the Combine weigh-ins, Hopkins measured in at 6’1/214, which is 9 pounds heavier than he was listed at on Clemson’s website. Hopkins had a phenomenal 2012 season at the college level, catching 82 passes for an ACC-best 1,405 yards and a school-record 18 touchdowns (also 2nd in the nation). Hopkins plays with toughness, has the ability to power through arm tackles and does an excellent job of catching the ball in stride. He does a good job of being able to stop and go and has a second gear to create separation on a route. He has average height, but the weight he put on in the early months of 2013 are a plus. He isn’t known for being able to break a lot of tackles and also loses focus, turning to run before securing the ball. He isn’t a speedster and won’t outrun cornerbacks, but he does most of his damage in crisp route running. He’ll also need some polishing up at the next level. Still, he should be one of the top receivers taken on the second day of the NFL Draft, with a chance he breaks into the first round.
3. Keenan Allen – California
Allen actually came in shorter and leaner than his college listing when he weighed in at 6’2/206. The loss of weight can be attributed to the fact that he is still dealing with a left knee injury, which is a huge red flag considering he suffered the injury 4 months ago and knocked him out 3 games. Allen will not only be out of the Combine, but he’s only expected to run routes at his Pro Day. Some still have Allen ranked as the No. 1 overall receiver prospect. But if he doesn’t put in a strong 40 time at a private workout scheduled in early April, he could see his draft status tumble. Allen possesses strong receiver abilities, however, as he is a natural big-play threat and also isn’t afraid of contact. He possesses patience in allowing his blocks to set up and has shown sneaky build up speed. A strong route runner, he has the ability to line up in the slot and on the outside. His downfall, of course, is his lack of down-field speed and the ability to make corners miss in tight spots. He’s also prone to easy drops. He does show toughness and just enough speed to make him worth a high pick. But, again, if he doesn’t put in a high 40 time, he’ll dip into the second round after being considered the top receiver prospect earlier in the year.
4. Tavon Austin – West Virginia
Austin weighed in at 5’8/174 at the Combine weigh in, but don’t let his small stature fool you. This dude is lightning. He has elite athleticism and should be a player whose stock rises if he puts up strong numbers in the agility tests at the Combine. One of Austin’s biggest strengths is his ability to change directions without losing initial speed. He has shown excellent ability in the open field, forcing defenders into poor-angled tackles. He has also shown patience to set up his blocks and anticipates holes. Despite his small stature, he has shown fearlessness in taking hits and works hard for every yard after initial contact. Will be a dynamo on special teams. His fearlessness could come back to haunt him, however, as his smallish frame could make him much more injury prone at the pro level. He dances around too much and goes east to west to make a play instead of running forward. He has shown willingness to block, but his size will make it easier for bigger corners to knock him around. Won’t be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but will be an excellent slot guy and a No. 2 on a team that is desperate for speed at the position.
5. Terrence Williams – Baylor
One of the star receivers at Senior Bowl practices, Williams shows smoothness in his acceleration and has good balance and body control for his size (6’2/208). Has the flexibility to make tough catches, but isn’t known as a burner. Williams has also shown to be a natural leader on the field and the sidelines. He puts in a good effort in blocking and has shown the ability to drive defenders out of a play. Didn’t run a big route tree at Baylor, so he’ll need to polish up his route running at the next level. He’s shown toughness issues in the past and seemed to have given up at times after an interception. Williams is also more finesse and has shown to be a bit too talkative if he doesn’t get the ball. Could be an excellent option if he puts up strong Combine numbers and does well in the interview process, but his “me-first” mentality could cause many teams to pass on him.
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