Yesterday, we looked at the top quarterbacks and running backs in this year’s NFL draft. Now, let’s look at the wide receivers and tight ends:
Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Most likely the top offensive player to go in the first round, Austin is projected to be one of the top picks. He is a wide receiver that can take on a Percy Harvin type role, catching swing passes from the backfield, returning punts and going out wide. He’s physical, he’s fast and he will likely be on Fantasy rosters come August. If he can land on a team that will utilize him, he may even be a high WR2.
Projection: New York Jets. They are desperate for some offense, somehow.
Da’Rick Rogers, Tenn Tech
Rogers had played for the University of Tennessee before failing three drug tests and then transferred to Tennessee Tech. If a team is willing to deal with those off-field issues, he does have the size needed to be a powerful receiver. In the vein of Brandon Marshall, if he can focus his talents on the field, he can certainly help a receiver-needy team.
Projection: Baltimore Ravens. It’s not like they haven’t dealt with players with off-field issues before.
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
Listed as a solid route-runner, he is faulted for not being able to gain yards after the catch as well as others. He can make catches in tight spaces and according to reports, has shown toughness, both as a receiver and a blocker. He will likely start for a team this fall. He’s been working out with the Rams during Draft Week, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in St. Louis.
Projection: St Louis Rams
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson has been faulted with inability to run routes and learn complicated plays. Scouts have sugar-coated the fact that there are concerns with his mental ability. However, he can make the tough catches, and he excels at yards after the catch. Patterson can move well with the ball. As long as a team is willing to keep it simple, he can be a great asset.
Projection: Minnesota Vikings. They are in the market for another WR and there has been interest already.
Keenan Allen, Cal
With a number of flags against him, Allen will likely fall on draft day. His speed leaves a lot to be desired as he injured his knee at the end of last season and it was still an issue at the Combine. However, he has proven that he is a good pass catcher and route-runner, which are valued more than speed for some teams.
Projection: Cincinnati Bengals. They have the quicker guys already, and Allen can learn from them.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee
If he can fix the drops, he would be higher on the list. His biggest criticism is inconsistency when it comes to being able to catch the ball. Since tearing his ACL in 2011, he hasn’t come back the same player. While the 2012 season was just a year away, there is room for improvement as he gets more comfortable playing again. He is athletic enough to excel, but if he shies away from contact, he won’t help a team
Projection: Dallas Cowboys. They might be willing to give him the time he needs to develop.
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
Patton will need a little time to learn the ropes in the NFL, but the talent is there. He is athletic and good with the ball after the catch. He’s not very quick, but he’s speedy enough to get the job done. He runs routes well and can use his body to stay in bounds when needed. He will help a team, just not this year.
Projection: Seattle Seahawks. They don’t need him this year, but he’ll fit in with their young team.
Robert Woods, USC
He’s not the biggest or the quickest guy out there, but Woods can get the job done. He runs routes well and has a low drop rate. Woods will need to bulk up a bit to be successful in the NFL, but that’s easy enough to fix. He has had ankle issues, including a surgery last year. If the ankle can stay healthy, Woods will be playing the slot for a team in the near future.
Projection: New York Giants. They don’t need him immediately, but he may be worth a gamble.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
More of a red-zone threat than a deep threat, Bailey isn’t big enough to be a matchup nightmare. However, he does have good hands and good body control. He’s not a fast receiver, but if he can provide six or seven catches a game for first downs, that’s the role he’ll play. Wes Welker isn’t big or fast either, but he’s able to succeed.
Projection: Atlanta Falcons. They are going to lose Tony Gonzalez eventually, and that role can be filled with a wide receiver just as easily as a tight end.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
As a potential slot receiver, Wheaton is quicker than other receivers in the draft. He can get open and he can run well after the catch. The knock against him is dealing with tight coverage and physical defenses. He will have to work on his blocking ability, but with his speed, a team will be able to use him.
Projection: Carolina Panthers. Cam Newton needs some new, speedy receivers to throw to.
Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
The reports of Eifert show that he may struggle with blocking duties, but he can catch the ball. He has the most all-around skills out of the tight end group this year. He will get taken down as he’s not the biggest of the group, but he’s quick and he can make the tough catches.
Projection: Pittsburgh Steelers. They should be looking for a backup tight end that will become their starter.
Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
Kelce posted good numbers at his Pro Day after sitting out the Combine because of an abdominal tear, however, there are off-field issues that may keep some teams away. He was suspended from the 2010 season for reasons that are still unknown. He does have the size needed to become a powerful tight end, but he’s a gamble for a team.
Projection: Possibly Cleveland. They do need a tight end, but not sure if they’ll reach for Kelce.
Vance McDonald, Rice
The knock against McDonald is his ability to catch and hang onto the ball. Not a solid endorsement for someone who will likely be asked to… catch the ball. He’s a good athlete and doesn’t have the off-the-field concerns that plague some prospects. A team that is willing to work with him may end up getting a great deal.
Projection: Green Bay Packers. Hey, if Jermichael Finley can play with the drops, why not take on another?
Zach Ertz, Stanford
If Ertz was quicker, he’d be higher on this list. However, tight ends aren’t typically known for their blazing speed. His size makes him a decent fit at TE, but he does need to improve on his blocking. Excelling at catching the ball is good, but teams are looking for blocking from their tight end as well. He also can add yards after the catch, so a team willing to forgo the blocking aspect for now may take him.
Projection: Atlanta Falcons. They are looking for a tight end that will be a red zone threat. Ertz can fill that role.
Jordan Reed, Florida
Once he has the ball, Reed can run well with it. However, if he doesn’t get the ball, that skill is useless. He struggles when running routes and with blocking. Comparisons are made to Aaron Hernandez (another Florida product), but these guys are two completely different players. Don’t look at Reed to have the success Hernandez has had.
Projection: Philadelphia Eagles. They need a tight end, and they are good at finding spots for players with unique skill sets.
Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Escobar is a tight end that will succeed as a receiver, but not a blocker. The scouting reports criticize him when it comes to contact. He catches the ball well, but he doesn’t get great yards-after-the-catch because of the hesitation to plow through a defender. His blocking ability will limit his draft stock, but a tight end-needy team will still take him.
Projection: Miami Dolphins. They’re tight end needy.
Ryan Otten, San Jose State
While he lacks quickness, he does excel as a blocker. He is also lauded for his toughness, which is shown after he catches the ball and works to gain as many yards as he can. Being tough does get you drafted if you’re a tight end that can catch the ball and can help a team with blocking.
Projection: San Francisco 49ers
Nick Kasa, Colorado
Kasa is more of a blocker than a catcher, but he can play the position. He does have some speed, but he certainly is catchable down the field. He didn’t really play the tight end position until his senior year, so he still has some learning to do. For a team that needs a blocker and then a pass-catcher, Kasa is a good fit.
Projection: New York Giants. They have Brandon Myers as their starter for now, but they will be looking for their next TE.
Dion Sims, Michigan State
Sims has the size needed to play tight end, but he isn’t always able to haul in the passes. The downside of being a big tight end is that he lacks the quickness needed to move with the ball. He is a good blocker, which may be what a team is looking for when they draft him.
Projection: Chicago Bears. They need all the blocking they can get.
Kyle Juszczyk, Harvard
More of a fullback than a tight end, Juszczyk did play tight end a bit. He’s able to catch the ball, but he’s better as a blocker. Don’t look for him to be drafted until at least the fourth round.
Projection: Seattle Seahawks. They can see what they have in him.