Speed is important at the wide receiver position, but the ability to run routes (Steve Largent and Wes Welker for example), have a burst (Jerry Rice) and catch the quick slant for a first down to keep a drive alive (Michael Irvin and Cris Carter) are all important as well. Speed is an important trait for success because it makes it possible to stretch the field. It’s not often that you find a receiver that can run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash after the third round of the draft these days.
Wide receiver is a position in which players selected after the first round have a chance to play at a high level. Chad Ochocinco, Anquan Boldin, Sidney Rice and DeSean Jackson were all second-round picks while Steve Smith (Carolina), Hines Ward and Mike Wallace went in the third round. Brandon Marshall went in the fourth round, Donald Driver in the seventh while Miles Austin and Welker weren’t even drafted.
Since the common draft began in 1967, only two WRs have been selected first overall: Irving Fryar (1984) and Keyshawn Johnson (1996)). Both caught over 800 passes and recorded over 10,000 receiving yards. Here are my top five senior and junior prospects.
5. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, 6,3″, 220 lbs, Junior.
Michael Floyd is one of the top prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft. While at Notre Dame Floyd has developed into one of the top receivers in the country. He possesses great size at 6-3 and 220lbs, he utilities that size to make a lot of big plays. Floyd has great body control and uses that and his size to pluck jump balls out of the air. Floyd threatens the defense with his ability to make plays deep down the field. All of these skills would mean less if it weren’t for his impressive hands. Another thing that helps Floyd’s stock is the fact that he has experience in Charlie Weiss’s pro style offense. Floyd is usually a mismatch against smaller corners. He is very explosive off the snap and is physical enough to beat a jam. He has outstanding ball skills and is always a threat down field. Floyd is deceptively quick for his size.
4. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, 5,9″, 178 lbs, Junior.
One of my favourite players in the game and he can do it all. I honestly think he could go in the first round as a corner back if he wanted to but he’s such a great weapon on offense it’s almost a waste of talent not to see him with the ball in his hands. With Landry Jones throwing to him this season it would not surprise me if he’s in New york for the Heisman ceremony. Last year he set an OU season record with 89 receptions and tied TD mark at 15 . He was a great high school corner and had 73 tackles and 6 interceptions as a senior and came into college football as one of the top corners in the country. He’s also a dynamic kick returner and along with his many other skills, Scouts will love this about him. He’s just a really exciting player and with what guys like Harvin, Cribbs and McCluster and co are doing on a Sunday I don’t think Broyles who is similar to these will get out of the first round if he decides to turn pro next April. I just can’t wait to see him at the next level.
3. A.J. Green. Georgia, 6,4″, 205 lbs, Junior.
Suspended for the first four games for selling a jersey to someone the NCAA says qualifies as an agent. Green sold his Independence Bowl game jersey for $1,000 but gave the money to charity. I’m not holding this against him as a flaw in my evaluation of him. He has great height for a wide out and he uses that height and excellent body control to come down with the ball in most jump ball situations. This skill comes in handy with deep balls and in the Red Zone. Green possesses superior speed which only enhances his big play ability. Although he is only entering his Junior season he has a lot of game experience. He has performed well under pressure at a very young age and that speaks well for his character. Green also benefits from playing in Georgia’s pro style offense. Green has the size and physical skills needed to be a great NFL wide out. He will continue to improve and should have a solid season. After playing for one of the most decorated high school programs in South Carolina (Summerville HS), He came to the Bulldog program as one of its top rated recruits ever. It could be argued that he was the school’s most highly regarded wide out since former star WR Andre Hastings, who was the number one recruit in the nation when coming out of Morrow, GA. Green is tall, athletic, possesses fine stride length and can adjust to nearly any ball. He should go early if he decides to turn pro. I think he will. He runs a 4.4 sec 40 yard dash. That’s great for his size.
2. Julio Jones, Alabama, 6,4″, 220 lbs, Junior.
If you watch college football you have heard the name Julio Jones. Jones has been leading the Alabama receiving team since his freshman season. Jones is a tall and athletic receiver. He uses his good size and excellent body control to make plays on jump balls. Jones utilizes his speed and elusiveness to find cracks in the opponent’s defense. Jones excels with the ball in his hand and often breaks many tackles on his way to gaining extra yardage. Jones isn’t afraid to take big hits and makes a lot of his catches in the middle of the field where massive linebackers wait. Jones has been starting since his freshman season and has excelled under the immense pressure at Alabama. His ability to perform under pressure will help with his transition to the NFL. Alabama runs a pro style offense so that will limit some of the adjustments Jones has to make. It was a tough task for me to rank these top 3 as all have similar attributes. I have Jones a little ahead of Green at the moment due to what I think he has physically over Green. I think Jones will be a little better after the catch at the next level. Like Green, Julio runs a great 40 time for his size and has also clocked a 4.4 sec 40 yard dash at 220 lbs. Incredible athlete. Should be a top 15 pick if he decides to turn pro next April.
1. Jon Baldwin. Pittsburgh, 6,5″ 225 lbs, Junior.
When you look at Jonathan Baldwin the first thing you notice is his unbelievable size. At 6-5 Baldwin is an immediate mismatch for most cornerbacks. Not only is Baldwin tall but he also possesses great strength. His size and strength allow him to make plays on jump balls and in tight coverage. Those skills also make him a great Red Zone threat. When watching video of Baldwin another thing that jumped out at me is that he always gets the ball at its highest point and doesn’t allow the ball to get to his chest. Baldwin also excels at finding the opening in a defensive zone and settles nicely in those openings. I mentioned I was impressed with Julio Jones and A.J Green running good 40 yard dash times, Well Baldwin has clocked faster in the 4.4 range and at 225 lbs it’s going to be very impressive to scout’s coaches and G.M’s next April. With Baldwin’s great size and strength he is a quarterback’s best friend. He will make plays on a lot of poorly thrown balls. A quarterback can count on Baldwin to be the first to touch the ball in a jump situation. He flashes the skills of Larry Fitzgerald in that Pittsburgh uni and I often have to look twice to check it’s not Fitzgerald on some old footage I have. I think Baldwin could be a top five pick when all is said and done. He’s my favourite receiver in the college game and I expect him to decide to turn pro next season with the talent level of this senior class of receivers. Can’t wait to see him on Sunday’s also.