All of the NFL teams looking for help at wide receiver this offseason are in luck, because this year’s draft class is loaded at that position. There are well over a dozen receivers available in the 2014 NFL Draft that could end up being impact players in the NFL. Let’s look at the top 10.
10. Davante Adams, Fresno State – Adams was the beneficiary of having Derek Carr at quarterback, as he racked up over 3,000 yards receiving over the past two seasons. He’s not a game-breaker, but he has good size and is well built, which should turn him into a reliable possession receiver in the NFL. He also tracks the ball well and has good leaping ability, making him a threat in the red zone. He may not be as productive as he was in college, but he will be a frequent contributor in the NFL.
9. Jarvis Landry, LSU – Landry doesn’t have the size or speed that’ll stand out, especially in this draft class, but he has strong hands and knows how to use his body to catch the ball in traffic. He also runs well after the catch and can be tough to tackle. Landry is also not afraid to go across the middle and is a willing to blocker, which means he’s a team player. Without great size or speed he won’t be a star in the NFL, but with an impressive set of hands and a well-rounded skill set, he’ll be a good number-two receiver in the NFL.
8. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State – Cooks is a little small, but he’s an explosive athlete who put up incredible numbers at Oregon State in 2013, with over 1,700 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He can be elusive and does a lot of damage after the catch. He’ll struggle against press coverage, but he’s versatile enough to play both outside and in the slot. Cooks could also help out in the return game and would make a great asset to any team despite lacking ideal size for the position.
7. Odell Beckham, LSU – Beckham is another receiver that lacks ideal height, but he has lightning quickness that could make him a big-time playmaker in the NFL, as he’s a nightmare to tackle in open space. He’ll struggle against physical corners in press coverage, but if he doesn’t get knocked down at the line of scrimmage he has the quickness to get open. Beckham also has a lot of room for improvement after just three years of college, and he can be dynamic in the return game due to his elusiveness in space, giving him a chance to be a real difference maker.
6. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt – Matthews was arguably the best receiver in the SEC over the past two seasons, which shouldn’t be surprising, as he’s the cousin of Jerry Rice. He’s as well rounded as any receiver in this draft, as he can make plays all over the field with a good combination of size and speed, as well as good hands and route-running skills. He may not become a star, but he could become one of the most steady and reliable wide receivers in the league, as he was a productive college player on a mediocre team and has few weaknesses.
5. Allen Robinson, Penn State – Robinson is one of the best receivers in this draft at getting yards after the catch. He doesn’t have blazing speed, and his route-running abilities could use some improvement, but he has a big body and knows how to put himself in position to catch the ball, and afterwards he can be tough to bring down. He has no problem being physical with defenders, both before and after the catch, which allows him to create big plays. He’s not the most polished receiver available, but he has a high ceiling and the chance to be a versatile playmaker a couple years down the line.
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State – Benjamin has the size that NFL teams covet at wide receiver. He complements that size well with big hands, long arms, and great leaping ability, which will make him a nightmare for opposing defenses in the red zone. On top of that he has good acceleration after he catches the ball and can be difficult to tackle in the open field. He’s far from perfect and far from polished, as he needs to improve his route running and he needs to learn how to use his body to get separation. Outside of being a red zone threat, he may not contribute a lot right away, but he has the potential to grow into an outstanding NFL wide receiver.
3. Mike Evans, Texas A&M – Evans is both big and strong, which means he can bully cornerbacks that play press coverage against him in order to create space. He’s also a monster on 50-50 balls because of his physicality, as well as his exceptional body control and great hands. All that size and weight also makes Evans a tough player to tackle. On the downside, he’s not an exceptional athlete, and he doesn’t have a lot of experience running routes, so there could be a learning curve once he gets to the NFL. However, he has the kind of size and physical presence that can’t be taught, which will make him a red-zone target and a quarterback’s safety valve, and if he can develop the other parts of his game, he could be a special player.
2. Marqise Lee, USC – Pay no attention to the diminished stats his final year in college. The thing to focus on with regards to Lee is his incredible speed, as well as his phenomenal athleticism. He has the speed to force cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, and that space allows him to wreak havoc collecting yards after the catch. His leaping ability allows him to play bigger than he is, making his lack of size almost a non-issue, especially since he’s so hard to press. One of the few questions with him is his durability taking hits in the NFL, but if he stays on the field he will undoubtedly be a dynamic playmaker.
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson – Without question, the cream of the crop this year at wide receiver is Watkins. He changes speeds as well as any receiver in the game, and when he needs to he can go from 0 to 60 in an instant. Aside from the mind-blowing athleticism, Watkins runs good routes and has great ball skills. He also has the versatility to line up anywhere on the field, even in the backfield, in addition to being a good kick returner. He has average size and isn’t a physical presence, so he can be tackled, but only if teams are able to catch him, which can be extremely difficult, and makes him the most dynamic offensive playmaker outside the quarterback position to come out of the draft in the last several years, and a near guarantee to be a game-changing playmaker in the NFL.