Congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks and all of their fans on the big win over the Broncos. Now that the big game is in the books, I want to take this time to give everyone my Top-10 wide receivers in the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Each player will get a brief overview, and then my prediction as to where they will be drafted come May. I do realize there are many trades of picks in each draft, but since that is completely unpredictable I decided to base where each player will go as if no trades were to happen. Also I am going to give a shoutout to the little guys (meaning the FCS, DII, and DIII players), and went over five receivers that could be late round fliers or undrafted free agents to look out for in the future. Thanks for reading this year everyone, and I hope to see you on the diamond this spring!
THE TOP 10
Sammy Watkins, Jr – Clemson – Watkins took the reigns in 2013 after having to share the spotlight with former teammate and current Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins 2012. He capped a terrific season with a 16 reception 227 yard and two TD exclamation point against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, which should propel him past other receivers in the upcoming Draft. Watkins being compared by some to Percy Harvin which could have him creeping up fantasy draft boards as well, but it would only exponentially increased if he goes at the #10 spot (like I hope he does) to lineup across from Calvin Johnson in Detroit.
Mike Evans, rSo – Texas A&M – Evans is must figure it’s all down hill after Johnny Manziel leaves, so the redshirt sophomore is calling it a career at Texas A&M. Evans had a big 2013 catching 65 passes for 1322 yards and 12 TDs, but he still may slip some come the Draft due to his on-field behavioral issues. It could be he is still a bit immature, or maybe he’s just very passionate about winning, it depends on who takes him and their definition of it. Regardless of his issues, Evans is definitely a big (6’5” 225 lbs) receiver with a long stride, who could fit nicely with the Rams (#13 pick) as a deep threat to go along with Tavon Austin.
Marqise Lee, Jr – USC – Lee the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner has opted to forgo his senior season at USC, not that anyone could blame him after enduring the Lane Kiffin era. Lee had an injury riddled 2013 campaign, but after his showcase against Fresno State in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl (really?) of 7 receptions 118 yards and 2 TDs he cemented his status as the third best receiver in this class. Though Lee could be a great addition for the Ravens at #16 or #17 depending on a tie breaking coin flip, it’s likely Ozzie Newsome addresses other needs on the offensive line. Leaving the Jets at #18 as the next viable team in need of a great route running receiver of Lee’s talent.
Kelvin Benjamin, rSo – Florida State – Benjamin made a highlight reel catch with mere seconds remaining to give the Seminoles the game winning touchdown in the National Championship game last month, and now the 23-year-old will take his raw talents to the NFL. Benjamin is a big and strong receiver at 6’5” 235 lbs with a large wingspan, which allows him to go up and pick footballs out of the air making him an automatic red zone threat. His route tree needs to be developed further, but a coach like Andy Reid and his staff can take care of that once the Chiefs take him at #23.
Allen Robinson, Jr – Penn State – Robinson declared himself eligible for the Draft on the same day current Texans head coach Bill O’Brien announced he was leaving Penn State for greener pastures, and it’s likely not coincidental. Robinson has deceptive speed, but is not going to burn by defenders at will. Though he couples that deception with excellent hands and should be a good possession guy with enough gas to be big play capable receiver at the next level. Which is precisely what the Panthers need at the #28 spot to give Cam Newton another target downfield.
Brandin Cooks, Jr – Oregon State – Cooks won the 2013 Biletnikoff Award in large part to his FBS leading 1670 receiving yards over the course of regular season. At 5’10” 186 lbs Cooks isn’t the biggest guy at the position, but he uses his ability to burst into and out of routes along with his quick hands to make up for that. Cooks is also what some would call a grinder type, meaning he shows toughness to get open in the middle and try’s to get the extra yards if possible. The only downfall to that is he has shown to fumble on occasion, but that could be fixed with coaching. With two established bookends in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, as well as an athletic TE in Vernon Davis, Cooks would be a perfect fit as a slot receiver for the 49ers at pick #30.
Jordan Matthews, Sr -Vanderbilt – Matthews is very close to being the most polished receiver in this years Draft, using his 6’3” 209 lbs frame to box out defenders and go get the football. He has great hand-eye coordination that enables him to make some spectacular catches (as seen here), and it’s even possible he picked up some of the work ethic from his Hall of Fame cousin Jerry Rice. Assuming here that the top tight ends (Eric Ebron & Austin Seferian-Jenkins) have already been taken off the board, the Seahawks would be primed to get Matthews to go along with Jon Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and the dynamic Percy Harvin at #32.
Davante Adams, rSo – Fresno State – Adams had a very productive 2013 hauling in 131 receptions for 1718 yards and 24 TDs, but unfortunately he has to break the “product of the system” label coming out of the spread offense that’s run at Fresno State. Hopefully the label doesn’t drop him too far down peoples draft boards, otherwise teams will be caught sleeping on a very talented 6’2” 216 lbs wide receiver with good speed and strength, and has the ability to make blocks downfield. I see Adams slipping into the round two and being scooped up with the #35 pick by the Browns, giving them a solid receiver to match with Josh Gordon. That is of course if they actually did address their quarterback situation in the first round.
Jarvis Landry, Jr – LSU – Landry has decent speed and very fluid body control when going after the ball, which along with his good hands gives him the ability to succeed going through the middle and making catches in traffic. Landry runs routes very well creating separation with sharp cuts, and also helps that he shows toughness after the catch always scrapping for extra inches. This isn’t the prototypical Raiders receiver we’ve seen in the past, but I think with pick #36 Landry will go great alongside Rod Streater and Danarius Moore in silver and black.
Odell Beckham Jr., Jr – LSU – Beckham is a shifty guy, very quick and has speed making him an excellent return man, but he has some room for growth as a receiver if given the proper time and coaching. Beckham runs routes very well, and has the ability to make guys miss in open space making him a danger to make big plays at a moments notice. At 5’11” 193 lbs Beckham is often compared to Cecil Shorts, and like Shorts I think he will end up in Florida, just on the west coast of the state with the Buccaneers with pick #38. He could become a dynamic slot receiver to compliment Vincent Jackson and a healthy Mike Williams, giving QB Mike Glennon another option.
THE OVERLOOKED OR UNDERVALUED
John Brown, Sr – Pittsburgh State – Brown is a very quick and agile 5’10” 175 lbs slot receiver, and return man out of Pittsburgh State. Brown has shown he has impressed scouts at the 2014 East West Shrine Game, with his route running abilities and quick hands. Brown is an explosive returner averaging 32.4 yards per kick return, to go along with his 61 receptions for 1198 yards and 14 TDs receiving in his senior season for the Gorillas. Even if a team takes him solely for his return game, he has the skills to break into the lineup and reminds me a bit of T.Y. Hilton.
Jeff Janis, Sr – Saginaw Valley State – Janis has good size at 6’3” 218 lbs, and speed (has run a sub 4.4 40) to make it on to the next level. He is fast and has decent hands, uses sharp cuts to get in and out of routes. Scouts got to get a closer look at him over the week of practices for the 2014 Senior Bowl, and the results have been very favorable. Many have compared him to the Packers Jordy Nelson including Janis himself, and it’s not a bad comparison. Janis could end up a a mid to late round guy with a team in need, possibly Detroit or Jacksonville to add depth at the receiver position. There’s plenty of upside with Janis, and if he stays healthy he can certainly stick with a team out of preseason.
Erik Lora, rSr – Eastern Illinois – Lora is another guy built for the slot position, but a bit more physical for a guy at 5’11” 200 lbs. He shows good range in going after the ball in the air, and is not afraid to layout to make a grab. Lora could work on some of his routes, but he uses crisp cuts and his hands well to create separation in tight spots. Lora has good speed but isn’t a burner by any means, which reminds me a of Wes Welker or a Julian Edelman type. Lora preformed well at the 2014 East West Shrine Game, and it would be a shame if he didn’t hear his name called on draft day.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rob now resides in Philadelphia, PA. Has been playing fantasy football since 2003, and is a former high school football coach. Always a student of the game, he uses knowledge of coaching for fantasy wins. He’s always available for advice on twitter at @RoJoPal.