Let’s be honest; wide receiver prospects get a lot more attention than they probably should. It is very difficult for a wide receiver to produce a big turnaround for a team unless that team already possesses a good quarterback. Even though this is the case, we still love to watch tape of elite receiver draft prospects and pray that our team rolls the dice on them. Why is this? Because we, as fans, have an almost sick infatuation with scoring touchdowns even though we know that so much more goes into winning football games than a wide receiver making an unbelievable catch in the end zone. But who said fans are supposed to be logical? We have to be logical with everything else in our lives, so let’s live on the wild side a tiny bit and rank the top five 2013 NFL Draft wide receivers in this year’s draft.
There is a massive possibility that five wide receivers will be selected in the first round this year, which has not been seen very often in the past. This means that there is a decent chance that your prayers will come true and your team will select an elite receiver. But to know if your team made the right pick, you must first know the strengths and weaknesses of each of the top five receiving prospects. Well in that case, you came to the right place. Let’s get started:
5) Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Hunter has run into some bad luck through his college career. He tore his ACL in 2011, missing the majority of the season. Despite this, he came back in 2012 with a solid season and caught the eyes of many scouts. He notched 73 receptions with 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. Hunter has ideal height for an outside receiver, standing at 6’4”, and uses his long strides to coast past defenders. He proved that he still has his speed, running a 4.44 at the NFL Combine, which is very important for his stock.
The biggest worry with Hunter other than his injury is that he has a very slender frame. He only weighs 200 pounds and scouts are going to link the injury problems with his lean frame. A.J. Green is only seven pounds more than Hunter with the same height, so it should not be that big of a worry. He has extremely soft hands and possesses the ability to make catches in traffic. Although Hunter has potential to be a great player in the league, that injury is going to scare teams away that would otherwise take him higher. He will go anywhere from the low first round to the second round. Whoever lands Hunter in the second round will get an extremely valuable pick.
4) DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Hopkins is a very confusing prospect to rate. He jumped onto the scene after the suspension of teammate Sammy Watkins, taking full advantage of the increased playing time. He finished the season with 82 receptions, 1,405 yards, and 18 touchdowns. He is fantastic at running the deep route and making catches in traffic. He is a very strong receiver, frequently overpowering defenders with his big frame, but he is not big enough coming into the draft at only 6’1”, 200 pounds, to continue to overpower NFL cornerbacks.
My biggest worry with Hopkins is that he is just a one-trick pony who relies on the big play far too often to get into the end zone. He will have to be able to run routes over the middle to make an impact in the NFL. Hopkins could go anywhere from the first round to the second round, but I don’t see him dropping past the second round. He is talented, but I would wait to take him in the second round.
3) Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Cordarrelle Patterson is an athlete. That’s all you really need to know. Athletically, he has a mix of Randy Moss’ speed with Brandon Marshall’s ability to break tackles. Sounds like the best wide receiver ever, right? Well, the only problem is this specific package does not include the route running ability of either of those two superstars. Although Patterson has the highest ceiling of any receiver in this draft, he is extremely raw and at this point, he is more of an athlete than a receiver. It is kind of like the difference between a pitcher and a thrower. Some pitchers in the minor leagues get on the mound and throw their stuff as hard as they can and just try to throw strikes, rather than being selective with their pitches, command, and speed. It is sometimes better to be smart than good, but when a player gets on the mound and puts those together, he graduates from a thrower to a pitcher.
Right now, Patterson is an athlete and relies strictly on his ability to run fast and overpower defenders with his 6’3”, 200 pound frame. He will never become a receiver until he polishes his route running, which could very well happen over time. Patterson could go anywhere in the first round due to his unpredictability. We may see a team take a chance on him early or see him drop because teams are unable to take on a project right now. The best place for Patterson to go would be to a good team that already has a number one receiver, so there will be less pressure on Patterson to produce right away and he will be able to learn at a necessary pace. The Texans at #27 would be a fantastic spot for him to be taken. It will remain to be seen if Patterson will drop that low, though.
2) Tavon Austin, West Virginia
We have not seen many first round receiver prospects like Austin in past years. Standing only 5’9”, teams are going to have to be wary of using a first round pick on him. But, some scouts might believe he can produce the same output as smaller slot receivers like Wes Welker and Danny Amendola. Well, if he is drafted to the right team that can groom a slot receiver, I very much think that will be the case. Austin possesses elite speed, running a 4.34 at the combine, which ranked him second among wide receivers behind Marquise Goodwin. He has the ability to make cuts while remaining in top gear, which is very impressive and useful for a speedster.
He had a monster 2012 season, totaling 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns. He may have benefitted from playing with Geno Smith, but I believe he will be able to get it done without Smith. His route running is not perfect, but it is not terrible either, and is something that can easily be taught. Austin spends a lot of his time in the middle of the field, so we know he has the ability to learn how to run solid routes across the middle. He also has this undeniable swagger about him that I love. It has been proven that the best wide receivers and competitors in general are extremely sure of themselves and it is obvious from watching one game of Austin’s that he possesses these qualities. Austin should fall somewhere in the top-20, but I have a hunch that the Rams will take him at number 16. With Danny Amendola a free agent, Sam Bradford will need another threat to replace him, and Austin would fit perfectly into Amendola’s former role.
1) Keenan Allen, California
Allen is the most polished receiver of the group. He has great receiving speed, as well as a keen sense of how to run flawless routes. Believe it or not, even with some first round receivers, this is not always the case. Although Allen had to deal with poor quarterback play last season, he still excelled, totaling 61 receptions for 737 yards and six touchdowns. Allen often had to get himself open with fantastic routes, rather than his quarterback throwing him open. He also has the ability to turn short routes into big gains with his ability to break tackles.
He will benefit greatly from playing with an experienced quarterback in the NFL. He can definitely help a team right away, but it does not appear that he has Julio Jones or A.J. Green potential. He will be a great receiver, but not elite. With that said, he is a very safe pick. He also has the ability to assist in the return game, so that increases his worth a bit. Allen could go as high as the top-15, but due to the fact that the majority of the top-5 wide receiver prospects this year are interchangeable, he could drop to as low as the second round. Whoever ends up with Allen will get a player that can help right away in the passing game, which is all you can ask for from a wide receiver.