After a long break from my last post, I will begin my Spring Break with a new post. Also, I hope to get the next three positions done (including this post) before my Spring Break ends so you can probably expect somewhat of a rash of these posts in the next week.
Wide receiver is quite possibly the most confusing position as of right now going into the 2011 season. With the top two receivers in the draft likely gone by the time they reach the Rams and the lockout probably preventing the Rams from getting one through free agency, it is confusing as to what they should do. I am of the opinion if we draft a receiver, then he must at least show #1 potential. Otherwise, no thanks. I'll let myself explain why we need a new receiver from my Looking at the Rams Needs post earlier in the year.
The receiver on their team with the most potential has had five knee surgeries. The leading receiver in yards had just 8.1 YPC, quite literally last among qualified receivers. Another is the second worst receiver in the league according to DYAR (via Football Outsiders). The receiver who was probably, statistically the best, improved his catch rate by 9%... and it's still below average. The two missing receivers missed all but two games the whole year.
So if you somehow disagree with me on this one, you are alone. There is no denying a need for a new receiver. It's a little less clear if we can and should do anything about it. Without further ado, here are the top prospects:
1. AJ Green, Georgia - 6'4, 212 - 8 games, 57 receptions, 848 yards, 9 TDs
Why get him - Where to start? He's 6'4 and fast, the kind of combo that makes scouts think Larry Fitzgerald; amazing athleticism, great hands, elusive and good after the catch, absolutely dominated the SEC, has a propensity to make "Did you see that?" catches
Why not get him - Wouldn't prevent me from getting him, but he did serve a 4 game suspension - while a very minor offense, it could still say something about his character
Summary - I'm not a fan of trading up, but I won't complain if we trade up and get him. He's jaw-dropping and has been amazing ever since his freshman year. His highlight videos rival Calvin Johnson's highlight videos. Yeah... that's right, just threw out a Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson NFL pro comparison.
Projected Pick - Top 5
2. Julio Jones, Alabama - 6'3, 220 - 12 games, 78 receptions, 1,133 yards, 7 TDs
Why get him - Blazing fast with 4.39 40 time at Combine, tremendous ball control and body control, great after the catch, tough and plays through injuries, plays in a pro-style offense at Alabama so a transition to the NFL should be seamless
Why not get him - Well, for a potential #1, he doesn't show up in every game (4 games with under 50 yards), the injuries he has played through could make him a potential injury problem in the future, inconsistent hands as he drops catchable balls
Summary - Thanks to his great Combine performance, we likely won't get him either. Unlike Green, I do not want to trade up to get him though. If we have to trade up and I'm opposed to doing it, then go for it all and get Green. However, I wouldn't kick him out of bed either if he was an option (Uh... I mean as a player... on an NFL team)
3. Torrey Smith, Maryland - 6'1, 200 - 13 games, 67 receptions, 1,055 yards, 12 TDs
Why get him - He dominated the ACC... on second thought it is the ACC so not that impressive by itself, a burner with a 4.37 40 time, incredible vertical, he is a kick returner something the Rams need, good character, has a penchant for the big play
Why not get him - Well, in four of his best games, he had more receptions and twice as many yards as in the other nine games, he has tiny hands for an NFL receiver, route running is suspect, had 10 receiving yards in his bowl game
Summary - Alright so he is basically Donnie Avery except taller and can return kicks. The problem with that is that we already have Donnie Avery. Also, his weird ability to not show up in games at all is not exactly enticing. Plus, he is a #2 with the very small chance at being a #1, but that is not something I would bet on.
Projected Round - 1st-2nd
4. Leonard Hankerson, Miami - 6'2, 209 - 13 games, 72 receptions, 1,156 yards, 13 TDs
Why get him - He dominated the ACC... wait (Can I do this joke twice? - Checks Orange Bowl - Virginia Tech loses 40-12 - the team that went 8-0 against the rest of the conference - Yes I can do it again...), physical receiver, long arms, good hands that have netted him some spectacular catches, good leaping ability, Senior Bowl may have erased some of the below weaknesses
Why not get him - He had a tendency to drop passes that he shouldn't have, route running needs improvement (supposedly, he showed improvement in catching and route running in Senior Bowl), effort not always there in blocking
Summary - Now this is what I'm talking about. I feel like - and I'm oversimplifying the comparison here - he is a lesser man's Julio Jones, but in the second round. The two things that jump out at me that Jones has as well - #1 potential and inconsistent hands. And this guy most definitely has #1 potential. I'd take him in the second round for sure.
Projected Round - 1st-2nd
5. Jonathon Baldwin, Pittsburgh - 6'4, 228 - 13 games, 53 receptions, 822 yards, 5 TDs
Why get him - (ACC fans, I'm avoiding a Big East joke - they have basketball after all), there is no denying he has the size, strength and speed to be a #1, has reliable hands, he'll win most jump balls, very good in yards after the catch, big play ability
Why not get him - Major character concerns - charged with misconduct, disorderly conduct and harassment in May '09 (charges were dropped), said coaching staff was out to ruin his draft stock, lacks initial burst, sometimes he caught ball using his chest, not his hands
Summary - Another player who has definite #1 potential - moreso than Hankerson I'd venture to say. However, his character concerns are such a big issue that there is no way Devaney is drafting him. You have better odds to win your bracket tournament of 50 people than the Rams drafting Baldwin.
Projected Round - 2nd
6. Randall Cobb, Kentucky - 5'10, 191 - 13 games, 84 receptions, 1,017 yards, 7 TDs
Why get him - very soft hands led to very few drops, runs sharp, crisp routes, outstanding effort on every play, he also rushed for 424 yards in the Wildcat and was a threat to pass, run, or catch, one of the best returners available in the draft, fast with a 4.46 Combine
Why not get him - could struggle blocking with his small frame, primarily will be used as a slot receiver in the NFL
Summary - He seems like a pretty good bet to become a good NFL player, but I don't want another receiver who has no shot at being a #1.
Projected Round - 2nd
7. Titus Young, Boise State - 5'11, 174 - 13 games, 71 receptions, 1,215 yards, 9 TDs
Why get him - explodes out of his stance with good speed, very sharp and good route runner, very elusive after the catch, a deep threat in any game, can create his own yards after the catch, adds value as a dangerous returner
Why not get him - another surefire slot receiver, his 4.43 Combine disappointed given his tiny frame, drops catchable balls, has a reputation has an egotistical player, can be stymied by physical corners
Summary - As appealing as a slot receiver with hands issue and character concerns is, I hope the Rams are able to resist drafting him.
8. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy - 5'9, 185 - 13 games, 84 receptions, 822 yards, 6 TDs
Why get him - great after the catch as he is very elusive, great straight-line speed, good hands, very good athlete, good burst and lateral agility, is a potential big play waiting to happen, good vision to use blockers effectively
Why not get him - Getting this from Rob Rang - he may struggle with complicated playbook and there were questions about him getting in Troy academically - lacks size and strength to be a good blocker, route running could improve
Summary - I guess the 2nd and 3rd rounds are mostly for burners because this is 3 in a row. Nonetheless, if Rang is correct in his assessment, then I'm not so sure I want another Mardy Gilyard.
Projected Round - 2nd-3rd
9. Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian - 6'0, 192 - 11 games, 1,182 yards, 13 TDs
Why get him - He has long arms that will play taller than he is, exceptional speed with 4.36 Combine, he'll win most jump balls, good awareness in keeping both feet in, has willingness and size to be effective blocker on screens, playmaking ability
Why not get him - Well, his production was at a Division II school (the third level in college behind FBS and FCS), raw route runner, his hands are inconsistent, is starting his career at 25-years-old
Summary - We're getting to the point were all of the receivers have some serious baggage or lack of talent, but this guy is a rare exception. The knock however is that we don't really know if his talent is because it was against Division II and he's starting his career late. I'll pass on another probable slot receiver as well.
Projected Round - 3rd-4th
10. Tandon Doss, Indiana - 6'2, 201 - 11 games, 63 receptions, 706 yards, 7 TDs
Why get him - excellent hands specifically his ability to concentrate in traffic, good after-the-catch, solid kick and punt returner, strong, leader in the clubhouse who led by example (Spag's kind of player)
Why not get him - may struggle to separate against NFL corners (he'd fit right in!), his route running is not consistent, not very elusive, little effort in blocking, injury concerns as he missed a game this year and 4 as a sophomore - also had off-season surgery on his groin (ouch)
Summary - Remember when I said this is where receivers have baggage? This guy's baggage is his injury concerns that forced him to miss the Combine. Despite it all, his potential is a #2.
Projected Round - 3rd-4th
11. Greg Little, UNC - 6'3, 231 - DID NOT PLAY
Why get him - will make the occasional spectacular catch, good leaping ability at an already tall 6'3, very physical who has good vision to make something out of nothing, good build-up speed
Why not get him - I'm not going to go too hard on a guy who was suspended for the entire 2010 season because a lot of his teammates were as well. But according to SI, he was less than honest in his Combine interviews and that they were putting it nicely. Yikes. He will have some ugly drops as result from letting it in his chest too often, route running is in development
Summary - "You coulda been somebody" - I foresee him being a 1st-2nd round receiver if he wasn't such an idiot. Depending on where the Bengals have him on their draft board, he could go anywhere from the 3rd to undrafted. He's a nice story as well as he was a former running back (which is why he is so good after the catch).
Projected Round - 3rd-6th
12. Niles Paul, Nebraska - 6'1, 225 - 10 games, 39 receptions, 516 yards, TD
Why get him - has good hands with only occasional drop, makes great catches in tight spaces, great route runner, Good speed (how good? Well I'm more inclined to believe his somewhat slow 4.59 than his Pro Day 4.42), can create yards after catch
Why not get him - He has freakishly small hands - 8 5/8 inches - no other WR has smaller than 9 inches, loses concentration on catching if he needs to make a big play, arrested twice for alcohol consumption during his time at Nebraska, missed final two games of season with broken foot
Summary - Paul seems to not have any one trait that stands out which could be a problem in the NFL. He's not overly fast, not overly elusive, not overly good at catching, and his punt/kick returning can be described as average.
Projected Round - 4th
13. Terrance Tolliver, LSU - 6'4, 211 - 13 games, 41 receptions, 579 yards, 5 TDs
Why get him - He has a great size-speed combo with a 4.52 Combine time, good body control, will fight for extra-yardage, fluid and elusive in space, true #1 potential
Why not get him - His numbers in college were very pedestrian - If he didn't do it in college, why would he in the NFL? - struggles to consistently separate from corners, was arrested on charges interfering with police officer
Summary - He could be worth a mid-round pick with his upside but I still can't get past the fact that he was very mediocre in college, even if it was the SEC. I don't think he would suddenly live up to his potential.
Projected Round - 4th
14. Austin Pettis, Boise State - 6'3, 209 - 13 games, 71 receptions, 951 yards, 10 TDs
Why get him - has good and soft hands, has a big frame that he knows how to use to his advantage, has strength to break tackles and get yards after catch, has good concentration and will win most jump balls, good redzone target with 39 TDs over 4 years, 4-year-starter
Why not get him - he lacks the great athleticism necessary to be in the top tier of receivers, his speed is relatively average made worse by the fact that he is sluggish off the line, lacks physicality necessary to consistently beat man corner defense, tends to tip his hand on his routes by leaning towards wear he is going
Summary - I'm struggling to figure this one out. He's tall, he had great production, and his hands are his best feature AND he has no character concerns to my knowledge nor injury issues. And he's pegged as a 4th rounder? Well, he must really lack the tools to separate from corners and to be honest, I don't want another receiver who has that issue.
Projected Round - 4th-5th
15. Vincent Brown, San Diego State - 5'11, 187 - 13 games, 69 receptions, 1,352 yards, 10 TDs
Why get him - Well, look at those numbers - they'd make angels fall (Yes I managed to put a Satanic and Axe reference in this post!), reliable hands, good concentration, he's above average at route running, again... 19.6 yards per catch so he makes a deep play threat
Why not get him - Well, whatever he did in MW certainly won't work in the NFL - He ran a weak 4.66 Combine time that surely won't get him away from corners, slight injury concerns, somewhat of an awkward running style
Summary - Given the fact that he's average speed-wise (and really slow for slot receivers) and most of his game involved speed, I don't foresee him being successful. But hey what do I know?
Projected Round - 4th-5th
16. Greg Salas, Hawaii - 6'1, 206 - 13 games, 119 receptions, 1,889 yards, 14 TDs
Why get him - Those numbers are so unbelievable that you probably googled it to makes sure I was right, sure handed receiver with good concentration, has good vision that makes him good after the catch, long arms, has a second gear that allows him to pull away from defenders
Why not get him - Well his numbers are a product of the system mostly - Colt Brennan not exactly lighting the world on fire right now, mostly play in slot despite good size, avoids contact too much, route running is questionable at best
Summary - I'm wary of jumping on his bandwagon because Hawaii is kind of known for their outlandish passing numbers and none of it has really translated to NFL success. At this point, I'm just going tell you that I'm opposed to drafting a WR because 4th-7th is depth and depth is the last thing we need. So I'll just throw it out there that unless I say I want this guy (unlikely), then I don't want him.
Projected Round - 4th-5th
17. Ronald Johnson, USC - 5'11, 199 - 13 games, 64 receptions, 692 yards, 8 TDs
Why get him - impressive athleticism, very effective return man, elite second burst, reliable hands, savvy route runner, has good effort and is adequate at blocking, good initial quickness
Why not get him - His production has not matched his potential, had a collarbone injury that forced him to miss five games in '08, only has moderate vision for a punt returner
Summary - I still cannot get past the mantra, "If he didn't do it in college, why would he in the NFL?" - Not to mention, his potential isn't even that great in the first place and his impressive speed turned to relatively average at the Combine with his 4.51.
Projected Round - 5th
18. Jeremy Kerley, TCU - 5'10, 185 - 12 games, 56 receptions, 575 yards, 10 TDs
Why get him - explosive athlete who did everything in college - over 150 punt returns, 38 kick returns, 306 career rushing yards, 153 career passing yards - pretty much the everyman, great route runner, sure hands, dangerous after the catch with his elusive abilities
Why not get him - Not only is he small, he also has small hands and short arms, will look to run before securing the ball, will get beat by physical corners, needs to improve awareness in zone coverage
Summary - Not much here as a wide receiver - Likely to struggle in both man coverage and zone coverage - not a great recipe for success. But if you do draft him, draft him for his punt returning skills with a very solid 8.1 YPR and 2 TDs.
Projected Round - 5th-6th
19. Dwayne Harris, East Carolina - 5'10, 209 - 13 games, 101 receptions, 1,123 yards, 10 TDs
Why get him - obviously his production was fantastic, makes the occasional circus catch, very good after the catch who is hard to take down easily, is a great kick returner with an astounding 3 TDs last year (0 this year), good vision in the open field
Why not get him - He's pretty small and not overly fast with a 4.56 Combine, hands are so-so as some balls will get through his hands (Accidentally written this way; upon realization, I chose not to re-word for obvious reasons), pretty raw as a route runner, cocky on the field
Summary - I'm sorry if I see nothing here unless you draft purely for kick returning. He is a slot receiver who is not really that fast, struggles catching the ball, and apparently is cocky on the field. His only positives as a receiver are mostly his outstanding production which was against inferior competition and his after-the-catch ability which is only useful if you can get the ball.
Projected Round - 5th-6th round
20. Cecil Shorts III, Mount Union - 6'0, 193 - 11 games, 70 receptions, 1,196 yards, 18 TDs
Why get him - Well, here's how his '10 stats match up with his other three years as a receiver: receptions: 3rd; yards: 3rd, TDs: 3rd - So he had a down year and did that, good character and very coachable, effective as a returner, good vertical, elusive after the catch
Why not get him - Mount Union is Division III so his domination is less impressive, defenders can knock ball out of hands too easily, not incredibly fast with a 4.50 time, injured in last three games of '10 (helps explains his "down year")
Summary - Ok this might be the best name ever that is not due to a parent's odd first name for the kid. Another receiver that might have more value as a returner.
21. Danarius Moore, Tennessee - 6'0, 194 - 13 games, 47 receptions, 981 yards, 9 TDs
Why get him - great hands that are soft, 20.9 YPC.... 20.9!, he's a consistent deep threat (20.9!), disciplined route runner who can adjust if QB's throw is off (playing for the Volunteers, he's probably had a lot of experience adjusting for poor throws)
Why not get him - can have trouble breaking through in man coverage, effectively shut down against good competition
Summary - Well, he had a 4.37 Combine time so if he's close to that speed, it would sure make a huge difference. Compared to the other receivers, Moore looks like a good option if available this late.
Projected Round - 5th-6th
22. Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M - 6'1, 224 - 12 games, 70 receptions, 1,021 yards, 11 TDs
Why get him - He had an incredible pro day with a 4.38 time although his Combine was 4.50 so I'd take that with a grain of salt - point being he's really fast, high vertical, strong for a receiver
Why not get him - Obviously he played against lesser competition to say the least, seems like a workout warrior player, really nothing on him at this point
Summary - He'll probably get drafted for his speed and the fact that he's not tiny like most fast guys. Two fun notes: If drafted, he'll be the fourth West Texas player in three years, two of which were drafted by Rams. Those two aren't with the Rams, so I hope they avoid the risk here. Second, a search of Stephen Burton stats reveals an interesting result. The first words on the first link were "Steve Burton - General Hospital." So he has a side job as a soap opera star who has starred in 1300+ episodes and is over 30. Impressive work on hiding his identity.
Projected Round - 6th
23. Tori Gurley, South Carolina - 6'4, 216 - 13 games, 44 receptions, 465 yards, 4 TDs
Why get him - Well he's tall with average speed, good effort as a blocker, knows how to shield himself from corner to make catches, tough to bring down, reliable hands
Why not to get him - Well, he did absolutely nothing in college - He had less than 1,000 yards in his career amazingly. maturity is very questionable, straight-line speed is not ideal
Summary - Well he's basically the extreme when it comes to "no production, but looks like a receiver" receivers. He's purely a possession receiver as well. I'm very wary of taking somebody with so little actual results.
Projected Round - 6th round
24. Jeff Maehl, Oregon - 6'1, 189 - 13 games, 77 receptions, 1,076 yards, 12 TDs
Why get him - good hands that can make him a quality possession receiver, production is undeniably good, high effort guy (then again, he is white and as a white receiver, it's a must in the reports to include that he is high effort guy)
Why not get him - he will probably struggle to gain separation from NFL corners, in the 3 cone drill, he kept falling and couldn't complete it (that would be hard to watch)
Summary - His production and hands will get him drafted but I hope we avoid him because we don't need another receiver who can't get open.
Projected Round - 6th round
25. Ryan Whalen, Stanford - 6'1, 202 - 11 games, 41 receptions, 439 yards, 2 TDs
Why get him - has good upper-body and lower-body strength, works hard and gives full effort (Note: also white), reliable hands and ability to make tough catches
Why not get him - lacks ability to separate from corners, not a very good athlete, drops catchable balls, can by stymied by aggressive corners, not really that fast with a 4.59 Combine time
Summary - Someone find me a white receiver who is not full effort because I haven't found one who isn't described as one in the first few paragraphs. Anyway, Whalen might be the least exciting prospect on this list.
26. Dane Sazenbacher, THE Ohio State - 5'11, 182 - 13 games, 55 receptions, 942 yards, 11 TDs
Why get him - great work ethic (my theory has yet to be disproved: he's white as well - sorry at this point I need some interesting subplots because the players are just not interesting to me), great hands, good at separation from man-to-man and finding seams in zone
Why not get him - He's undersized and slow at 4.55 (Realize I am saying this in the context of other 5'11 receivers), easily outmuscled, terribly ineffective as a blocker, carries ball too loosely
Summary - The scouts say he is good at separating from corners, but a slower, tiny receiver is not an easy target. He is also pretty weak apparently so he's probably catch and down.
Projected Round - 6th
27. Darvin Adams, Auburn - 6'2, 190 - 13 games, 52 receptions, 963 yards, 7 TDs
Why get him - wins most jump balls, has a good burst and quickness coming off the line, tall with exceptional length, quick feet
Why not get him - needs to add bulk, not reliable catching the ball, does not use his hands well to separate, takes a little to get to top speed
Summary - I have no idea at all why he would declare for the draft as a junior. His draft stock is shaky at best and he could stand to gain a lot more by staying. With that said, a player who can't catch is not an NFL receiver.
28. Aldrick Robinson, Southern Methodist - 5'10, 184 - 13 games, 65 receptions, 1,301 yards, 14 TDs
Why get him - His production is top of the line, impressive speed with 4.41 Combine time, very good route runner who knows how to get separation, reliable hands, patient blocker
Why not get him - will get out-muscled as he is not physical at all, suspended in 2008 (unknown), poor job of securing the ball after the catch, does not sell pass on running plays
Summary - His draft position does not seem in line with his traits and production. He's fast, has good hands, and is a good route runner. I'm not sure his weaknesses overwhelm that to the point where he is a 7th rounder.
Projected Round - 6th-7th
29. Ricardo Lockette, Fort Valley State - 6'2, 207 - 23 receptions, 262 yards, TD
Why get him - His size-speed combo is scary good with a 4.37 Combine time, big and soft hands, good body control
Why not get him - workout warrier special, next to no production, checkered history as he has transferred in and out of schools, inexperienced
Summary - Despite TST's apparent obsession over him (9 stories about him), I come away unimpressed. But he seems like a Fendi Onobun at WR so it would probably be worth the risk in the 6th or 7th round.
Projected Round - 6th-7th
30. DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss - 6'6, 233 - 6 games, 20 receptions, 305 yards, 3 TDs
Why get him - He's extremely tall and will win most jump balls, strong hands, good red-zone target, over 1,000+ yards as a freshman so he has done it before
Why not get him - He broke his leg in a winter practice game after his frosh campaign and hasn't bee same since, missed 7 games with lower leg strain, inconsistent hands, plays with too much attitude asking for pass-interference calls more than he should
Summary - He is a huge injury concern and he doesn't have much confidence in his ability to have a bounceback senior season by leaving early as a junior.
Projected Round - 6th-7th
7th round prospects
31. Courtney Smith, South Alabama - Tall receiver who dominated FCS, but he has inconsistent hands and off-field concerns
32. Mark Dell, Michigan State - Possession receiver with solid hands and good separation skills, but pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and suspended for Alamo Bowl in '09 for fight. (Somehow avoided dismissal)
33. Lester Jean, Florida Atlantic - Tall receiver with good speed (4.52) and big play ability but has inconsistent hands and is not particularly elusive.
34. Jock Sanders, West Virginia - One-dimensional and smalll (5'6, 181) receiver who is very athletic, but is one-dimensional and tries to run around defenders.
35. Marshall Williams, Wake Forest - His lack of production in his senior season (272 yards) and the reason for it (dislocated pinky) in addition to his ankle injury in '07 (missed entire season) may leave him undrafted.
High production, lack of talent- James Cleveland (Houston), Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (Iowa), Chris Matthews (Kentucky), Detron Lewis (Texas Tech), Lyle Leong (TTU)
Lack of production, good Pro Day/Combine - Greg Ellingson (6'3, 4.45 Pro Day), Terrence McCrae (6'3, 4.42 Pro Dya), Terrell Zachary (5'11, 4.44 40), Scotty McKnight (Mark Sanchez threw to him)
Return specialist: Phillip Livas (25.8 on kickoffs, 12.8 on punts, 8 TDs in 3 years), David Gilreath (4.40 Pro Day), LaVonn Brazill (3 punt return TDs in '09)
Slot receiver: Armand Robinson (5'11, 197), Jordan White (6'0, 210)
Small school: O.J. Murdock (Fort Hays State - 5'11, 195), Marcus Harris (Murray State - 6'1, 187 - 4.55 40), Andre Holmes (Hillsdale - 6'5, 209 - 1,368 yards, 11 TDs)
Most of the above in the "Others" category will not be drafted and may not even be signed as an undrafted free agent. But I just threw a few of them out there to show how common these receivers are late.
Note: I obviously have not seen most of these receivers so what I wrote down is not necessarily my opinion, but likely an opinion of either a Walter Football anyalst or a CBS Sports anyalst among a few other outlets.
Second Note: Sizes and heights, for consistency, were used from Walter Football. If they failed to have a receiver I profiled, I used CBS Sports height and weight.
Third note: written from the perspective of the average fan NOT an expert. I'm no 3K.