1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
High End NFL comparison: Julio Jones, Atlanta Flacons
What He Does Best: Sammy Watkins is going to be one of the most dangerous run after the catch receivers in the NFL the second he gets drafted. Watkins runs with aggression and immediately moves forward with the football once he makes the catch. There is almost zero wasted movement with Watkins when the ball is in his hands, he runs decisively and he runs hard.
Low End NFL Comparison: Darrius Heyward-Bey, Pittsburgh Steelers
What May Hold Him Back: Watkins ran a limited route tree at Clemson and is going to need some refinement on the NFL level before he can be counted on as a #1 receiver. He relies too heavily on his natural ability to create separation and in a league full of physical freaks, he is going to need to work on the nuances of the position.
Where He Ends Up: Sammy Watkins has little chance of falling outside of the top 10. There are rumblings that he could go as early as #2 to St. Louis, with Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Oakland at picks 3, 4, and 5 also heavily interested. Tampa Bay at #7 and Detroit at #10 will likely sprint to the podium if Watkins is still on the board. One spot that I could see Watkins thriving in would be Cleveland. Browns general manager Ray Farmer is rumored to be very high on the Clemson product and could look to pair him with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron in what could be a very explosive Cleveland passing attack.
2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
High End NFL comparison: Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What He Does Best: Mike Evans ability to go up and get the football in traffic is as good if not better than any draft prospect in recent memory. His 6’5, 231 lb. frame makes him very tough to cover, but it is his ability to get the football at its highest point along with strong enough hands hold on to the football in traffic while defenders hit and hang on him that makes him special.
Low End NFL Comparison: Malcolm Floyd, San Diego Chargers
What May Hold Him Back: Like most big bodied receivers there is some concern that Evans may have trouble separating at the NFL level. He occasionally struggled at getting off of press coverage while at A&M and it will be something worth monitoring early in his career.
Where He Ends Up: There are several analysts that have Evans as the top wide out in the 2014 NFL Draft class, and Evans expects to hear his name very early on draft day with a decent chance at landing in the top 10. At #7, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could look to pair Evans with fellow big bodied wide receiver Vincent Jackson, giving newly signed Josh McCown a pair of 6’5+ wideouts in the passing game.
3. Odell Beckham Jr., Louisiana State
High End NFL comparison: Victor Cruz, New York Giants
What He Does Best: Beckham is the most natural pass catcher in the entire draft. He can high point the ball and makes catches with his hands, rarely if ever letting the ball come into his body. He has fantastic concentration and is capable of making difficult catches in traffic.
Low End NFL Comparison: Andre Caldwell, Denver Broncos
What May Hold Him Back: At 5’11, 198 lbs. Beckham could have a difficult time with some of the more physical corners in the NFL. His ability to separate, run clean routes, and explode in and out of his breaks will need to get even better at the next level. Some analysts will argue the history of LSU receivers in the NFL does not help his case much either, but I personally find that type of argument to be absurd.
Where He Ends Up: Beckham Jr. looks to have established himself as the draft’s #3 wide receiver with a strong season and an even more impressive combine/pro day. I believe he will come off the board sometime between picks #9 to Buffalo and #18 to the New York Jets. The Giants, Rams, Steelers, Cowboys, and Ravens are all possibilities as well depending on who else is available. He would make an excellent addition to the Dallas Cowboys across from Dez Bryant with Terrance Williams in 3 receiver sets.
4. Marquise Lee, Southern California
High End NFL comparison: Santonio Holmes, Free Agent
What He Does Best: Lee can accelerate to top end speed faster than any wide receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft class. His ability to catch the ball and turn up field makes him very dangerous running after the catch and one of the more explosive big play threats available.
Low End NFL Comparison: Robert Woods, Buffalo Bills
What May Hold Him Back: Lee has some size and durability concerns after a somewhat disappointing junior season at Southern Cal. After a monstrous sophomore season with quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods, there was a heavier burden and unreasonably high expectations placed upon Lee. Coaching issues, injuries, and inexperience at quarterback combined for an awfully disappointing season and Lee has gone from a top 10 prospect to what some believe will be a place on the drafts second day.
Where He Ends Up: Lee is looking at the middle of round 1 as a best case scenario, with some serious potential of him falling into the early second round. Ideally, I think the Kansas City Chiefs would be an ideal landing spot for Lee. A terrific fit in Andy Reid’s west coast offense, playing opposite of Dwayne Bowe and battling Donnie Avery for #2 WR duties.
5. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
High End NFL comparison: Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
What He Does Best: Jordan Matthews does everything well. He’s a very clean receiver prospect and has the size, strength, speed, and athleticism necessary to succeed at the NFL level. He approach to the game and the film room is almost unheard of for a collegiate player, Matthews even went so far as to break down film of the Senior Bowl defensive backs he was preparing to face off against.
Low End NFL Comparison: Greg Little, Cleveland Browns
What May Hold Him Back: Hands. Matthews has had his ups and downs when it comes to catching the football consistently. It obviously was not that much of an issue considering he is the SEC’s all time leading receiver, but it is still an issue worth following.
Where He Ends Up: Matthews has some late round one potential, but more than likely will hear his name called on day 2 of the NFL draft. His draft range could be elevated based on how early some of the other wide outs come off of the board, but it would be hard to imagine him going before the early 20’s or much lower than the New York Giants at #43. Matthews would make a terrific fit in Carolina and could almost immediately become the #1 receiving option for Cam Newton.
6. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
High End NFL comparison: DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins
What He Does Best: Cooks is one of the fastest and most explosive players of any position in the draft this year. Whether he is going deep on a go route or catching a bubble screen, Cooks has the ability to find the end zone from any point on the field.
Low End NFL Comparison: Eddie Royal, San Diego Chargers
What May Hold Him Back: His size. Cooks came in at 5’10 and 189 lbs. at February’s NFL combine. The one things Cooks has working for him is a thicker, solid frame. He has muscular build and a strong lower body, but at the end of the day, 5’10 and 189 lbs. is a concern.
Where He Ends Up: The speed and playmaking ability that Cooks brings to the table makes him tough to slot. The earliest I could see him come off of the board would be at #18 to the New York Jets who are rumored to be enamored with his speed. My personal favorite fit for Cooks would come at #22 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Cooks would be an excellent candidate to fill the void in the Eagles offense created by DeSean Jackson’s release.
7. Davante Adams, Fresno State
High End NFL comparison: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
What He Does Best: Davante Adams was Derek Carr’s go to receiver in 2013 and much of his production came from tough catches made in traffic. Adams showed a natural ability to locate the football on the move and go up and get the ball at its highest point. Despite average height and length, Adams ability to locate the football makes him a tougher cover than receivers 2-3 inches taller than him.
Low End NFL Comparison: Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans
What May Hold Him Back: Adams has average size and he is a good athlete, but not an elite athlete. He is going to need to improve his route running and overall polish as a receiver, but considering he has entered the draft after his redshirt sophomore season at Fresno State, he is a bit of a project.
Where He Ends Up: Adams is going to come off the board sometime on the draft’s second day. The earliest I could see his name getting called would be by the Browns at #35 if the Browns were looking to pair Adams with his former quarterback and potential first round target Derek Carr. Oakland at #67 also makes a great deal of sense for Adams.
8. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
High End NFL comparison: Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
What He Does Best: Kelvin Benjamin is a size/speed freak. At 6’5, 240 lbs. Benjamin is a tight end in a wide receivers body. He uses his body very well to shield defenders from the football and he can elevate and go up and get the ball at levels that defensive backs could only dream of.
Low End NFL Comparison: Jonathan Baldwin, San Francisco 49ers
What May Hold Him Back: Benjamin is another redshirt sophomore and is a bit of a project himself. He is going to have to refine his craft if he hopes to create separation with consistency at the next level. He also has a tendency to be a body catcher and his hands have been the subject of criticism as well.
Where He Ends Up: Kelvin Benjamin is an interesting prospect. While he needs work and has consistency issues, you simply can not teach 6’5, 240 lbs., athleticism, and ball skills. There have been rumblings of Benjamin going as early as the mid teens to Pittsburgh or the New York Jets and as late as the mid to late 2nd round. Benjamin would fit in nicely with the 49ers who own pick #30, giving quarterback Colin kaepernick a big bodied target with a huge catch radius, not to mention finally giving them a red zone threat that has cost the team dearly now in back to back years.
9. Allen Robinson, Penn State
High End NFL comparison: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs
What He Does Best: Robinson is a dynamic athlete who brings plenty of run after the catch potential. Blessed with a 6’3, 200+ lb. frame, Robinson has the long arms and athleticism to provide a fantastic catch radius for his quarterback.
Low End NFL Comparison: Brian Quick, St. Louis Rams
What May Hold Him Back: Robinson had a tendency to outmuscle his opponents in college, something he will not be able to do so easily at the next level. Robinson lacks true game breaking speed, so the early entrant from Penn State will want to clean up his footwork and route running before he is ready to make a significant impact.
Where He Ends Up: Day 2. Robinson has a terrific combination of size, speed, and skills, but the depth of this receiver class, some serious room for improvement, and a lack of upper echelon physical ability will push him down the draft board. The Steelers could make some sense with their 2nd round pick and Oakland, Cleveland, and Jacksonville could make sense early in round 3.
10. Jarvis Landry, Louisiana State
High End NFL comparison: Greg Jennings, Minnesota Vikings
What He Does Best: Landry is a smooth athlete who is capable of making plays on short, intermediate, and deep routes. He has strong hands capable of winning battles in traffic, while using his body well to shield defenders from the football.
Low End NFL Comparison: Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
What May Hold Him Back: Landry does not offer much in terms of making plays after the catch. He is not a creative runner or dangerous with the ball in his hands. He has strong #2 potential but does not possess #1 wide receiver upside.
Where He Ends Up: Jarvis Landry is a 2nd day prospect, and has an decent shot at going anywhere from mid round 2 and on. Landry could make sense for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2nd round or a team like Carolina, who is looking for someone to step in immediately and be able to produce.