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Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 NFL Draft: Top Ten Wide Receivers

As I pointed out yesterday, the ever-rising importance of the passing game in the NFL has degraded the value of running backs, and that's easy to see in recent drafts. Of course, someone has to benefit from this movement, and in my opinion, it's wide receivers and cornerbacks. Since it's a below average year for cornerbacks, the wideouts will really be pushed up draft boards. This year's crop may be the deepest I've ever seen. There's a good chance we'll see five go in the first round and up to 15 between Thursday and Friday.
It's no surprise that Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd are the top two rated receivers in this class, but I believe the true value will be with the receivers that follow. Don't get me wrong, I like Blackmon and Floyd, but I think there will be better value players in the top 15 than those two. Blackmon reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin, and while he's been more than an effective wideout for Arizona and Baltimore, I wouldn't take him in the top 10 picks.

I like Rueben Randle as my third receiver because I think he's the best combination of size and speed in this draft. The reason I have him ranked third is that he lacks the consistency that the top two have displayed their entire college career, not only in the statistical categories, but with focus and effort as well.

Here are the rankings:

1Justin BlackmonOklahoma St.6007207
2Michael FloydNotre Dame6025220
3Rueben RandleLSU6027210
4Stephen HillGeorgia Tech6040215
5Kendall WrightBaylor5102196
6Mohamed SanuRutgers6020211
7Chris GivensWake Forest5110198
8Alshon JefferySouth Carolina6027216
9Juron CrinerArizona6030224
10Alfred "AJ" JenkinsIllinois6000190

I know that most people are not used to seeing Kendall Wright in the fifth position, but I have my reasons. First, with his size and questionable speed, I'm not sure he can play anything but the slot position to be truly successful. And, if I'm spending a first round pick on a wideout, I want to make sure he can win in one-on-one matchups against a team's best corner. I don't want to have to design plays to get him in favorable spots. Second, when word came out that he was 16% body fat at the combine, it told me that he might not be dedicated in his conditioning.

Another receiver that is getting a lot of attention right now is Brian Quick from Appalachian State, many even talking about him going in the first round. Personally, in the few games I saw of his, I didn't see him dominating FCS competition. In addition, like most tall wideouts, he looks to be really tight without much hip or ankle flexion. That, along with his being a very raw prospect, makes me think he's a project.

On the flip side, Ryan Broyles was considered a second round pick until his knee injury that kept him out of the latter part of his senior season, the all star games, and the Combine. Now, even after his knee checking out in Indianapolis last week on the medical re-check, they're talking about him falling into the fourth round. There are few receivers in this draft that can match his production while at Oklahoma. Getting him in the third or fourth round as a slot receiver would be a really nice bargain.

Lastly, Eugene "Ty" Hilton is really gaining steam as the draft gets closer. The primary reason is the 4.32 40 that he ran at his pro day, and unlike many, he actually plays to that speed. Furthermore, when you consider his production both on offense and as a returner, and his raw athletic ability, one team is going to get great value in the fourth or fifth round.

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