Oct 6, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears wide receiver Keenan Allen (21) after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the UCLA Bruins at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-US PRESSWIRE
Through October, these receivers have stood out as the top prospects for the 2013 NFL draft.
Fun Fact: 3 of them play for, or have played for the University of Tennessee.
1. Justin Hunter, University of Tennessee.
Hunter’s physical abilities have been tops in college football ever since he was a freshman. The most important thing for Hunter was to come back from the severe knee injury and maintain that explosiveness. At 6’4″, 208 lbs his long frame gives him a huge range in the passing game. He is definitely on the skinny side, but his build reminds me of AJ Green’s. He won’t be the most physical receiver, but with his reported 4.4 speed, he won’t need to be.
2. Cordarelle Patterson, University of Tennessee.
Patterson is the Jason Pierre-Paul of receivers. He is extremely raw and if he decides to come out this year (I think he will) he will have had only one year of division I production after spending the past two years in Junior College. Like Hunter, Patterson makes up for a skinny frame with excellent burst off the line and big-play ability. He is a bit shorter than Hunter, probably measuring in at around 6’2″, but his quickness is unreal. His route-running ability is impressive for a guy coming out of junior college. Some may call it crazy to have the top two receivers from the same school, but these guys have been the most explosive receivers in the country and arguably have the highest ceilings as well.
3. Keenan Allen, University of California.
Allen misses out on the top two because of a lack of explosiveness and stand-out physical attributes. At 6’3″, 210 lbs Allen has good size combined with solid speed. His long speed is good enough to potentially clock him into the 4.4 40 range, but his burst off the line is lacking. His lateral agility is solid, but he is not a guy who gets open at the line of scrimmage, he gets open down the field with physicality and change-of-direction. I think he could certainly be a top 20 pick, especially for a west-coast team. Elite wide receiver prospects can win the battle at the line-of-scrimmage, either with physicality or speed, Allen hasn’t shown he can do that consistently.
4. Robert Woods, University of Southern California.
My instincts tell me to put Woods a little lower, but he certainly meets my criteria of having to win at the line-of-scrimmage. Woods is very quick off of the line and is often open early. He isn’t as impressively sized at 6’1, 190 lbs, but that is a fine build for an NFL wideout. His YPC average is not very impressive and his TD numbers are down, but that could be due to the emergence of Marquise Lee and the lack of o-line play leading Barkley to rush throws. Either way he hasn’t been as impressive this year as he was last year. Part of me wants to put some blame on him, but I’m going to give him the benefit of a doubt here in October.
5. Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech.
Rogers sits here at #5 because of the potential he flashed at Tennessee before he was released from the team. The character concerns are very much there. As a receiver, he is a big-bodied guy with room to add to his frame. His leaping ability and range are both excellent. He doesn’t have game-breaking speed, but he is physical at the line of scrimmage and extremely aggressive with the ball in the air. Julio Jones comparisons are being thrown around, but I think Jones was on another level as an athlete, but Rogers has first round potential. If he loses the diva attitude and off-the-field concerns, he could be the best of this class in the long term.
*WILD CARD*: Tavon Austin, West Virginia.
I had to include a wild card here, and the textbook wildcard in this draft is Tavon Austin. The explosive playmaker from WVU has a very intriguing draft range right now. As a wide receiver, I have trouble putting him higher than the 2nd round because of his size; he will probably measure in at 5’7″ and around 175 pounds. However, he is one of the most explosive athletes in college football and can run as well as catch. He could be the third “wide receiver” drafted to a team needing a dynamic returner, slot threat, and occasional 3rd down back. Imagine a faster and more dynamic Dexter McCluster. I think a team like New England or Houston could certainly grab his playmaking ability in the first.