Draft Rankings – Wide Receiver

AJ Green (Georgia #8) is the best WR in the draft, but the Patriots would have to trade up significantly to get him. Image via "Tennessee Journalist" on flickr.

Wide receiver is a position in this draft where there is a clear 1st tier that consists of two players, AJ Green and Julio Jones. Similar to the situation with Peterson and Amukamara which I’ll discuss when I get to the cornerbacks. I do think this position is a very deep one and there’s a lot of potential Patriots here. Wide receiver isn’t an urgent need in my opinion for NE but I think it’s one that needs to be addressed, possibly in the 2nd or 3rd round.

  1. AJ Green – Georgia
    For me, Green is the clear top prospect at WR, and he’s up there with Patrick Peterson, the corner from LSU, as the top guys in the whole draft.  In some people’s opinion, the gap between Green and Julio Jones has been closing over the course of the pre-draft process due to Jones’ great workout at the Combine. AJ Green is a real deep threat, and to me compares well to Larry Fitzgerald. Catches almost everything that comes his way, he has excellent size and runs with a fluidity and long stride that might remind you of Randy Moss. If I needed a number 1 receiver, there’s no-one I’d love to get more than Green. Projection – Top 5 pick.
  2. Julio Jones – Alabama
    If Green is Randy Moss,  Jones is Terrell Owens. Lots of ability after the catch, he runs with good strength and quickness and doesn’t shy away from contact. Physical freak who dominated the position at the combine and ran surprisingly fast as well. Played injured at times and that needs to be looked at. Handled himself okay but not great against Patrick Peterson, the draft’s top CB talent. Projection – Top 10-15 pick.
  3. Randall Cobb – Kentucky
    Cobb does it all. Caught passes and runs well after the catch, ran the wildcat as a lefty QB, returned kicks and was a team captain. He even held for kicks, not that that’s important. Very good athletically, but with an average frame he’s not a number 1 deep threat receiver but could be an excellent number 2 or even a slot guy with his agility and ability with the ball in his hands. Will need to improve his route running and strength but I think he looks like a Patriot. Projection – 2nd round.
  4. Leonard Hankerson – Miami (Fla.)
    Hankerson had me pleasantly surprised  at the combine with his 40 time and, while you don’t want to put too much stock in that, it made me feel a bit better about him as a player and I already really liked him. Not an elite deep threat or a shifty slot player, he’s more a number 2 or possession number 1 receiver. Anquan Boldin is a reasonable projection for what he might become. Projection – 2nd round.
  5. Titus Young – Boise State
    Players like DeSean Jackson have shown that  you don’t necessarily have to be as tall as Randy Moss to be a deep threat, and that pure speed and explosiveness can get you those deep passes. Titus Young is one such player that can do that. Agile, fast and fluid, he can be a deep threat or a flat-out huge mismatch against linebackers in the slot if you want. Also adds value in the return game. Projection – 2nd round.
  6. Torrey Smith – Maryland
    I was worried when I watched Smith’s tape that he didn’t run many NFL routes. I also saw a couple of times where he seemed to give up. If I was going to draft Smith I’d be worried about his mental attributes. However, physically I love the way he plays. Great acceleration and fantastic production as a receiver and a returner, and by all reports seems to have good character. Whether he’s competitive enough remains to be seen. Small hands. Projection – 2nd round.
  7. Greg Little – North Carolina
    The obvious knock on  Little is that he was one of the UNC players that was suspended for the 2010 season for taking “improper gifts” from an agent. On the field, he looks the part with great size, athleticism and speed. Makes some really great catches and makes them look easy at times. He lacks elite speed but he might drop down boards because of the suspension and that makes him great value. Projection – 2nd-3rd round.
  8. Jerrel Jernigan – Troy
    A senior with great production at Troy, 5-9 Jernigan projects as a slot receiver at the next level. His athleticism also translates to the return game and while he is a little short he has good enough agility, vision and quickness to make people miss once the ball is in his hands. Projection – 2nd-3rd round.
  9. Greg Salas – Hawaii
    Despite questions about whether he can fun a full NFL route tree because all his production was from the slot and he had freedom to improvise, I think Salas can be an good receiver in the NFL. Adjusts well to the ball and catches with his hands, rather than letting it into his body. Has a 2nd gear once the ball is in his hands. Projection – 3rd round.
  10. Edmund Gates – Abilene Christian
    A raw talent at a smaller school, there are a few knocks on Gates before we even get to the tape. On tape though, you have to like what you see from Gates. Great speed, hands catching, fluid routes. Flat out beat people for speed often, but is that due to the lower level of competition? Maybe, but he legitimately runs a 4.36. Projection – 3rd-4th round.

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