Here are my final rankings for the wide receiver position this year. As always, I only ranked those I broke down, so anyone not on the list, I never got a chance to really watch in depth. This receiver class could be historic in terms of the talent and depth. While there is no elite receiver talent in this class, they have everything else, in every shape, size and style. The depth in this class is incredible as there could a number of players picked on day three or even go undrafted that could have a major impact going forward. There are receivers in this class that would go multiple rounds higher in different years. So with that in mind, here are the rankings:
1. Mike Evans, Texas A&M – Evans is not the most polished receiver and there are questions about his route running as well as his maturity. The bottom line with Evans is he has an uncanny ability to go up and high point the football. In the tape watched, on throws that went to Evans up in the air, the ball hit the ground twice. Evans caught every other pass. Basically, even when he is covered, he is still open. Between that, his size and his speed for his size, he is the best talent in this class and should be an almost indefensible red zone threat.
2. Odell Beckham Jr, LSU - Beckham has a tremendous combination of hands, technique as a route runner and his overall athletic ability that allow him to be a tremendous playmaker in addition to being a reliable target. He knows how to get open and make plays but is also a terrific open field runner that can make opponents miss after the catch or as a returner. The scary part with Beckham is that the light fully went on this past year and he improved a significant amount, so he might be just scratching the surface of what he can be.
3. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt - Matthews is such an incredible technical route runner and receiver. Some suggest he cannot get separation and in some cases, it is because he is using his body to create the separation and shield opponents from catches. He is also far faster and more agile than some give credit and does a great job of setting his feet before he catches the ball, so he maximizes yards after the catch. There are some drops that need to be eliminated, but he brings a lot of size in addition to athleticism and his SEC record for catches is no fluke; he was dominant.
4. Sammy Watkins, Clemson - Watkins is a fantastic Z receiver who can win with speed and be a deep threat. He does great when it comes to power routes that allow him to be heavy with his leg and really drive, allowing him to create separation quickly and give him options down the field. Watkins has great hands and can make some spectacular catches. His agility is relatively limited and his route tree at Clemson reflected that, not doing much in terms of quick twitch routes. Watkins is a great #2 receiver with potential to be more, but he is likely always going to do his best work opposite a franchise receiver.
5. Marqise Lee, USC - While injuries really hurt him this past year, Lee was able to display an incredible amount of toughness and fought through pain to keep helping the Trojans and keep making plays. Lee is an explosive athlete with a terrific first step that can be a nightmare after the catch and is always a threat to score. Had Lee and Watkins exchanged their past two years where Lee had a down year as a sophomore and great as a junior while Watkins had his bad year this year as opposed to a sophomore, the conversation might be completely with where those two are ranked.
6. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State - Cooks is a tremendous route runner that can get open once he gets a release from the line. The Beavers did a their best to protect him from potential press, which makes sense considering his relatively slight build. Cooks has speed, agility, and really does a great job of beating man coverage and settling in open spots in zone. Despite his size, Cooks has been incredible in his ability to find openings and win in the red zone, especially with getting open and making plays in the end zone.
7. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State - There are a number of concerns with Benjamin including his hands, his age (23) as a redshirt sophomore and how raw he is still as a receiver. However, his 6’5″ size and his size that could have teams look at him like a slot tight end in addition to being able to play out wide is too difficult to ignore at this point. Benjamin is not a high pointer of a receiver yet, but what he can do is get a clear out slant in the middle of the field and take it the distance because he is explosive and has long speed. He made strides this year and if he can continue along that path, Benjamin could only be starting to figure out how to be a great player and could get much better quickly.
8. Davante Adams, Fresno State - After Mike Evans, Adams is the best high pointer in this class despite his lack of obvious height. He is still somewhat raw as a route runner, but he knows how to go up and get the football and his broad, strong build helps him create space when he wants to catch the football. Adams is not a burner by any stretch but he is quick and has strength that allows him to gain yards after the catch. While he is not a #1 type receiver, he is a great complementary threat that can make plays down the field, in the red zone and take a short pass and gain yards after the catch.
9. Shaq Evans, UCLA - One of the most under the radar receivers in the class because he did not get as many opportunities as he probably warranted at UCLA. He is incredibly technically proficient in how he runs routes, how he plays and beats press, and his ability to catch the ball. Evans has a good amount of strength and can put a defender on the ground as a blocker or in creating space as a receiver. Evans also has the ability to make plays after the catch. After he gets accustomed to the speed of the NFL, he could make an impact as a rookie.
10. Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest - Campanaro does not have the physical potential that many of the receivers in this class have, but he is the best pure slot receiver in this class. His preparation and route running are second to none and he has great hands and is able to make plays down the field. While his upside might be limited, Campanaro is the type of receiver who may outlast every receiver in the class from a longevity standpoint as a reliable weapon that can extend drives and gain yards.
11. Cody Latimer, Indiana – Latimer’s potential and physical tools are impressive, but he is still raw and developing as a receiver and his situation at Indiana hurt him in how much he could do. There is a lot of buzz that he could end up in the first round and his potential can make that argument, but he is not there yet in terms of what he has proven yet.
12. Allen Robinson, Penn State - Robinson has terrific feet and is great with the ball in his hands. He has a great build and a ton of potential, but he is a project from the waist up. From how he positions his body to how he tracks and frames the football, he has a long way to go to fully realize what he can be. Robinson would have been better served to stay his final year in college and continue polishing game, but if a team sticks with him and he can figure it out, he could end up being one of the best receivers in the class.
13. Jarvis Landry, LSU - Landry might have the best hands in the entire class of receivers. He is also a weapon as a blocker who forces opponents to keep their head on a swivel or he might pancake them. Landry is an intriguing weapon, because he could operate as a slot receiver that hits like a tight end. The concern with Landry is that he is an inconsistent route runner and his speed and quickness are average.
14. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss - It is not a question of talent or tools with Moncrief as he has both. The issue with Moncrief is effort and just how badly he wants to be great at football. When engaged and interested, he showcased tremendous skill and ability, but teams have to find out why his effort wavered at times. Was it the losing, the bad quarterback play and lack of opportunities that just wore on him over time or is football just something he does as opposed to something he truly loves. If he has a passion for the game, he could be a steal for a team.
15. Paul Richardson, Colorado - Richardson is another smaller receiver, but he has good speed, quickness and body control. While he has generally been a reliable pass catcher, he just needs to be more confident in his ability to catch the ball away from his body. Richardson can attack deep down the field but is not afraid to go inside and make catches through contact. He needs to continue to get stronger and add weight to his frame but he could be a nice addition to an offense as a second or third receiver.
16. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina - Ellington is a great athlete, having played both basketball and football in college as well as just being an overachiever in general. He is able to make plays from the slot, but still has untapped potential and is natural with the ball in his hands. Ellington is short but has a great build for the position, carrying a good amount of strength while being extremely light on his feet.
17. Cody Hoffman, BYU - Hoffman has a nice combination of size and agility, allowing him to have the size of a big receiver but able to run good routes. He improved quite a bit in how he was able to set his feet up before he caught the ball this year, adding another dimension to his game and being able to create more yards after the catch. His long speed is fine, but he does need to improve his explosiveness.
18. Martavis Bryant, Clemson - Bryant has a great combination of size and raw speed. He has shown some good instincts with how he is able to track and catch the ball, particularly down the field. Bryant still has quite a bit of raw talent that needs to be worked out, but especially for a team that wants to push the ball down the field and can carry him as a third or fourth receiver, he is a great project to bring in and develop.
19. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin - Abbrederis is one of the most polished route runners in the class that also has some speed and agility to get open and get yards after the catch. Much of this season, he was able to create problems for defenders because he was so far ahead of the game in his ability to set up opponents and get open. He is a pretty consistent pass catcher who tries to catch the ball with his hands as often as possible. Abbrederis is a receiver that might get overlooked because his physical gifts are not overwhelming but he just understands how to play the position and should be a long time contributor.
20. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers - Coleman passes the eye test as he brings a tremendous amount of size and strength to the position. Bad quarterback play probably held him back, but he has to get better as a route runner and understands where and how to position himself to catch passes. For someone his size, he does not play as big as he should and while declaring makes sense as it is difficult to have faith in Rutgers having much at quarterback next year either, he is still a project. If a team can make it work though, they have a big time weapon.
21. Josh Huff, Oregon - Huff created a lot of positive buzz for himself after a great week at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, showing himself to be a great competitor, but the tape over the season did not match up to that week. A high effort blocker and an impressive player after the catch, but he needs to get better in how he runs routes as he will sell his athleticism short at times.
22. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma - Saunders is another talented slot receiver who is fearless going across the middle and has shown a knack for managing to avoid getting the opponent’s best shot. That’s important as he is incredibly thin and small in terms of his weight, making some wonder how long he can hold up when someone is able to get a good shot on him. The other thing with Saunders is that he takes every excuse away for any receiver who does not block as he was fantastic as a blocker despite being only about 160lbs. He put on an absolute show when the Sooners beat Alabama, displaying his ability to create separation and make plays after the catch.
23. Devin Street, Pittsburgh - Street is a unique receiver because he is tall and has really long arms, but he was also quick enough to where he did much of his damage in the slot. His length is a huge advantage but he is so lean and opens up like an extension ladder when trying to high point the ball, which is a mixed blessing. Street can go up and get the ball, but he is possibly going to get broken in half in the process. He also has a good amount of speed when he can get going.
24. Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina - The first player from the FCS ranks, Hazel has a nice combination of physical talent and the ability to get open, running pretty good routes. He has been a reliable target for the Chanticleers that can attack deep but does a good job of working back to the ball, able to extend drives.
25. Alex Amidon, Boston College - Amidon worked in the slot for the most part for the Eagles and was their most dynamic receiving threat when they were not running the ball with Andre Williams. Amidon is fearless attacking the middle of the field and shows impressive toughness. He is not afraid to drop his shoulder and fight for extra yardage but he can make an opponent miss as well. The biggest issue with Amidon is that he just needs to clean up some drops due to concentration.
26. L’Damian Washington, Missouri - Washington certainly looks the part, although even at his height, he was somewhat dwarfed by the now former Tiger Dorial Beckham-Green. At this point, Washington is intriguing as a height, weight, speed prospect but has shown little in terms of savvy and nuance for the position. Nevertheless, he will get his shot to show what he can do because of his physical gifts.