I’ve spent some time over the past couple days going over the top receivers in this year’s draft class. There are five guys who clearly stand out above the rest and, barring any dramatic events in the upcoming months (arrests, injuries, etc), I’ve setting on my rankings for each.
1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Blackmon is the obvious top choice. He’s a physical freak who has the size and speed to dominate from Day One. The only thing that can keep Blackmon from developing into a Pro Bowl receiver is himself. He was arrested on a DUI charge in 2010, and his effort on the field hasn’t always been 100%. But he appeared to step up his game in 2011, staying out of trouble and staying more focused on the field.
2. Kendall Wright, Baylor
Michael Floyd and Alshon Jeffery have been No. 2 on most boards throughout the season, but after watching Wright dominate in some of his toughest matchups this season (vs Oklahoma, Texas), I’m bumping him up into this slot. Five years ago it would have been tough to rank Wright this high. But the NFL passing game has been changing in recent years and we’re seeing more undersized receivers emerge as a legitimate No. 1 targets (Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson, etc). Wright has all the tools necessary to join that group and be a game-changer at the next level.
3. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Early in his career, I thought Floyd would be a top-10 pick. And while that’s still within the realm of possibility, injuries and off-field issues have lessened my interest in him. On the field, Floyd has the size to be a dominant possession receiver and serious red zone threat. He’s a tough, physical receiver who runs crisp routes and simply knows how to get open. Off the field, however, he’s a bit of a mess. Floyd has been arrested three times for alcohol-related offense, raising serious concerns that NFL teams will need to investigate.
4. Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers
From the limited clips I saw of Sanu during the season, I was generally unimpressed and thought he might be all hype and no substances. But after going back and watching some full games, it’s apparent that Rutgers altered his role due to shaky quarterback play in an effort to feed him the ball. Sanu frequently lined up in the slot, catching a lot of quick slants, but rarely made plays down the field. When reviewing the few opportunities Sanu had to play the role of a more traditional X or Z receiver, it became clear that he was capable of making plays in a more traditional offense, but his quarterback wasn’t capable of getting him the football. Sanu definitely deserves credit for taking on a role to help the team, even though it probably limited his development in terms of his pro potential. Sanu may need some time to adjust to the pro game, but there’s a lot to like about his potential.
5. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
If this were a list based purely on raw talent, Jeffery would be No. 2, but I have some serious concerns about his desire to be great. To put it bluntly, Jeffery plays like he simply doesn’t care. His route running is slopping, he carries the football with one hand flailing about, and his effort as a blocker is half-hearted at best. There are so many basic fundamentals that Jeffery could improve upon, but he appears to put no effort into this aspect of the game. To be fair, the South Carolina coaching staff has publicly supported Jeffery, praising his work ethic and leadership ability. But something doesn’t add up between their public comments and his performance on the field.