April 24, 2012
NFL draft rich in receivers
By John Kryk, QMI Agency
With the passing game more integral than ever in the NFL, a field-stretching wide receiver is gold.
It seems just about every team is mining for one at this year's draft, which goes Thursday to Saturday in New York.
Lucky for them, there will be plenty of gold in them thar hills.
"Wide receiver is the deepest of just about any spot in this draft," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "There's a ton of wide receivers who are going to get drafted. You might see 30 wide receivers taken, maybe more than that."
That shouldn't surprise, considering the NFL invited 47 receivers to the combine. Four or five will catch on in the first round.
Most experts consider Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State the gem -- likely a top-10 pick. Despite standing just over six feet, he's sturdy (207 pounds), has elite jumping ability and hands, is fast enough, and has been a big-time playmaker for three seasons in Stillwater.
"Is he going to be an A.J. Green or an Andre Johnson or a (Larry) Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson?" Todd McShay, ESPN draft analyst, said last week. "I think the answer is no. Does that mean he's not a really, really good football player? Of course not."
Some say Blackmon doesn't always play fast enough but, in reply to that at the scouting combine in February, Blackmon said, "Look at the tape. I've never been caught from behind."
Notre Dame's Michael Floyd is right up there with Blackmon. In fact Greg Cosell of NFL Films, whose draft assessments are revered and who probably studies as much college game film as anyone not paid by an NFL club, rates Floyd slightly ahead of Blackmon.
Floyd is tall (6-foot-3), solid (220 pounds) and fleet for having such a big body (4.47 seconds in the 40). He was dominant in college and holds most career receiving records at Notre Dame. What's more, he "combines reliable route-running and soft hands, and might be the draft's best downfield blocker," said Rob Rang, draft analyst with CBSSports.com.
But Floyd has those dreaded "off-field issues." Namely, three alcohol-related brushes with the law during his past three years at Notre Dame -- two for underage drinking, and a DUI last spring.
"I think I've grown a lot," Floyd said at the combine. "Coming to the NFL now I think you do have to mature a great deal."
Expect Blackmon to go before Floyd but not by much.
The next most heralded wideouts are Kendall Wright of Baylor (Robert Griffin III's favourite target), Rueben Randle of LSU and Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech. All three are among the 26 marquee players who accepted invitations from the NFL to attend Round 1 Thursday at Radio City Music Hall.
Hill wasn't on anyone's first-round radar before the combine. But after the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder scorched the 40-yard track -- posting one unofficial time of 4.30 seconds, and officially averaging 4.36 in his two runs -- his stock skyrocketed.
"He's one of the most intriguing players in this draft because from a height, weight, speed perspective and from a talent perspective, he's probably a top 15-type player," the NFL Network's Mike Mayock said.
"I was at his pro day, and what really surprised me for a tall player was his ability to get in and out of breaks. That's rare to have a guy that big not be stiff."
Hill's downside? He played in a run-based option offence at Georgia Tech and caught only 28 passes in 2011.
"Either you think he's a raw, developmental guy (who is) not worthy of anything but a late-two or mid-three (pick)," Mayock said, "or you're intrigued, and if he only catches 30 or 35 passes as a rookie, five or six of them are probably going to be for touchdowns, and that's worth pick No. 24 or 25 or 28 or whatever."
In other words, as good as gold.
THE GOOD-HANDS PEOPLE
Top WR prospects in this year's NFL draft:
JUSTIN BLACKMON, Oklahoma State
MICHAEL FLOYD, Notre Dame
KENDALL WRIGHT, Baylor
STEPHEN HILL, Georgia Tech
RUEBEN RANDLE, LSU
ALSHON JEFFREY, South Carolina
T.Y. HILTON, Florida International
MOHAMED SANU, Rutgers
CHRIS GIVENS, Wake Forest
MARVIN JONES, Cal
MARVIN McNUTT, Iowa
A.J. JENKINS, Illinois
RYAN BROYLES, Oklahoma
DANNY COALE, Virginia Tech
JURON CRINER, Arizona
JUNIOR HEMINGWAY, Michigan
GREG CHILDS, Arkansas