2014 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Rankings (Oliver Thomas)

Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin has a rare combination of size and speed. And in turn, he has the attention of NFL scouting departments. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

January is a month of divergence for the NFL. Eight teams are left in the Super Bowl hunt; 24 others have cleared out lockers and dispersed for the offseason. But before long, all 32 will be back in the same lane, preparing for the 2014 NFL draft.

It’s a process of personnel evaluation from now through May. There will be all-star games, combines and pro days to gauge a player’s value in the same setting as their peers. Yet in actuality, 90 percent of their value has already been determined.

It’s been determined by the game film and the eyes viewing it.

Now big boards and positional rankings must be taken with a grain of salt. It ultimately comes down to preference, need, and fit.

One area where that rings especially true is at wide receiver.

Over the last three drafts, 90 receivers have been selected by NFL teams – including the Cleveland Browns’ compensatory pick of Josh Gordon in 2012. Of those 90, 36 were chosen within the first three rounds, netting an average of 12 annually.

That trend is expected to continue this spring.

This year’s class of predominantly junior wideouts is considered or “top-heavy” or “deep,” depending on who you talk to. Although, it may be best described as “wide open.” There is size, there is athleticism, there is speed, there is fundamental skill, there is potential – it’s contingent upon which traits a particular team or eye is looking for.

And with that at the forefront, here is one eye’s view on the top dozen receiving prospects – including one playing tonight in the BCS Championship game.

1. Sammy Watkins, Junior, Clemson – 6’1″, 205 Pounds

A fast, aggressive and strong open-field threat with the footwork and field awareness to maneuver the sideline on in, Sammy Watkins runs with purpose and unheralded power. Those attributes explain, at least in part, his penchant for turning short passes from quarterback Tajh Boyd into big gains. And while it’s important not to oversell a player comparison, he’s provides glimpses of Percy Harvin-like utilization with Cordarrelle Patterson-like athleticism. There is reason to believe he will be a No. 1.

2. Mike Evans, Redshirt Sophomore, Texas A&M – 6’5″, 225 Pounds

A big, physical target who makes 50-50 plays without necessarily shedding coverage, Mike Evans knows how to shield and box out at the catch point. As he tucks the ball away, his leg drive and power can generate yards through tackles. And with quarterback trust – something he secured with Johnny Manziel – he can be a second-level security blanket and red-zone nightmare in the right offense. Even with some stiffness in his running, the former standout basketball player has displayed the commanding hands and upper body to out-muscle cornerbacks post-release. He has some Vincent Jackson and Alshon Jeffery to his game.

3. Marqise Lee, Junior, Southern California – 6’0″, 195 Pounds

USC’s Marqise Lee has average height and a thin frame, but he’s been a smooth, gliding, agile play-maker for the Trojans. Even with an injury-hampered, underwhelming 2013 – similar to teammate Robert Woods’ 2012 – Lee still managed to be a game-breaker. He’s tough, he sees the field well, and he runs his routes with tremendous control. He has had issues with drops in the past; however, his build, as well as the way in which he excels is similar to that of Jeremy Maclin. Lee may no longer be at the top of the receiving board, but it would be an oversight to count him out as a first-round talent.

4. Odell Beckham Jr., Junior, Louisiana State – 5’11”, 193 Pounds

Son of a former LSU running back and an LSU track star, Odell Beckham Jr. is a compact, elusive player built to impact that game in multiple facets. He stands out as a receiver and returner with DeSean Jackson-esque flashes, but he has 15 pounds on the Philadelphia Eagle. That sturdiness is visible when he’s fighting for the football and breaking off the line. Yet as a pass-catcher, you’d like to see him use his hands more than body, and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be best suited for a slot or flanker role.

5. Allen Robinson, Junior, Penn State – 6’3″, 210 Pounds

Allen Robinson is a wiry, combative route-runner with good length, strong hands and shift to extend back to the ball or amass yards via ground. He was a rock for current Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and the Penn State offense this season. He can play inside and reel in screens and slants for yards after catch; he can play outside and use his height to bend back to the ball. It may be high praise for a receiver who plays smaller than he looks, but Robinson’s offensive use and style shape him in an Antonio Brown mold.

6. Jordan Matthews, Senior, Vanderbilt – 6’3″, 205 Pounds

Often overlooked, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews has an ideal “X” receiver build but is not restricted to that spot. In addition to the aesthetics, Matthews runs routes with fluidity and command of his positioning. The senior possesses strong hands and has some stylistic toe-tapping similarities to former Cal Bears Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones. His strides can cover ground after the catch, too. And while he may not light up the combine tests at Lucas Oil Stadium, he’s one of the most polished receivers in this class. He could be great value on Day 2.

7. Kelvin Benjamin, Redshirt Sophomore, Florida State  – 6’5″, 235 Pounds

Soon-to-be 23-year-old Kelvin Benjamin is only a redshirt sophomore. He doesn’t look like one; he looks like former Seminole Greg Carr but with far superior quickness. A big-bodied receiver who can threaten over the middle and vertically, Benjamin has uncommon speed for his size. He showcases great length in space and has the wingspan to secure jump balls, suggesting he could be more than a possession receiver. Now he may not have the most complete hands or footwork and he’s still putting it all together, but the way in which Benjamin uses his body and overpowers smaller corners reveals some Dwayne Bowe. Nonetheless, Benjamin is three inches taller and will be contrasted with the Aggies’ touted Mike Evans.

8. Brandin Cooks, Junior, Oregon State – 5’10”, 186 Pounds

Without the benefit of size, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks makes big plays with home-run speed, quick twitch, decisive change of direction and determined pursuit. There’s something to be said for maintaining balance through cuts, taking precise route angles, as well as seeing the field ahead. Those are aspects of Cooks’ game that he shares with T.Y. Hilton, only he bounces around more than the Indianapolis Colt. Cooks projects as a slot receiver and will struggle to out-leap larger and stronger defenders, but he is a creative ball-carrier who can be a highlight in the return game, on the reverse, in the underneath or deep downfield.

9. Paul Richardson, Redshirt Junior, Colorado – 6’1″, 172 Pounds

Colorado’s Paul Richardson has a notably skinny build for his height. With that skinny build, though, he is quick through breaks and can test a defense’s safe coverage as his speed is often revered. Richardson can turn the corner on a wheel route and lose his man in the flat – a testament to his lateral agility and steady pattern-running. Yet while his athleticism allows him to separate and compete ball, he would benefit from some added strength for durability, blocking and push off the snap. In terms of build,  burst and role, Richardson carries some Johnny Knox qualities in his arsenal.

10. Jarvis Landry, Junior, Louisiana State – 6’0″, 195 Pounds

Jarvis Landry proved to be a trusted receiver for LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger over the last two years. And while he doesn’t have the same explosive skillset as his teammate Odell Beckham Jr., his coordination, glove-sized hands and improbable catches make him one of the most pro-ready receiving prospects. Helping out on special teams and as a blocker, Landry’s little nua make a difference. He’s not real rangy or rapid, and he is more a “Z” or inside receiver. But he is technically sound. Landry plays with the effectiveness and dependability a player like Donald Driver once exhibited.

11. Davante Adams, Redshirt Sophomore, Fresno State – 6’2″, 216 Pounds

A rugged receiver with impressive physical measurables and hands, secondaries must account for Davante Adams along the sideline and in the back of the end zone. He doesn’t carry blazing speed and was not required to diversify his route tree much for QB Derek Carr and the Bulldogs passing game. Furthermore, he’s a young talent with significant development still ahead of him, and he has met some defensive back constraint in the Western Athletic Conference. But despite his deficiencies, there lies towering upside with the strong-armed receiver. Adams was ultra-productive this season, and has some like-minded features of Michael Crabtree coming out of Texas Tech’s air-raid offense.

12. Brandon Coleman, Redshirt Junior, Rutgers – 6’5″, 220 Pounds

A long, imposing receiver with impressive build-up speed and a wide radius to catch the football, Brandon Coleman’s physical ceiling figures to be raised at the NFL combine. He is far from a finished product – as a long-strider and often body-catcher – yet if he makes improvements in those areas, he could bloom into a Malcom Floyd-type mismatch with time. Much like Floyd some eight years ago, Coleman is still learning how to use his frame to eclipse coverage. He will be drafted not for what he has been, but for what he could be.

Honorable Mentions: Washington’s Kasen Williams, Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis, Wyoming’s Robert Herron, Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief and Missouri’s L’Damian Washington.

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33 Responses to “2014 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Rankings (Oliver Thomas)”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    If anyone cares to look, checkout the official Patriots page and go to rosters, does any notice the 3 WRs on their roster who recently got here and their sizes seem familiar WR’s Greg Orton 6’3 199 ( Aaron Dobson) Sam McGuffie 5’11” 200 ( Amendola,Edleman,Tj Moe) Reggie Dunn 5’9 178 ( Woodhead,Washinton) Checkout these guys yourself and give some feedback!
    Reggie Dunn is Tavon Austin fast!!! Are these guys future Patriots?

  2. get gronk'd says:

    Draft Jenkins and Lyerla. Out two problems will be solved. Also gotta hope that Dobson gets better. KT isn’t good enough imo, nothing more than a number 4 WR. I like Abbraderis from Wisconsin, underrated but flat out makes plays.

  3. J H TARBORO says:

    Anybody who’s 100% sold on our receiving corp. this year is just watching the game, and not looking to improve the squad. Edelman( pay the man!) Dobson and Thompkins are keepers! Amendola is a 5yr. 40 million dollar waste of money! Boyce??? Harrison??? TJ Moe???

    • Alex says:

      Amendola looked good before he got injured.
      He is also taking better acre of his body when on the field, which should cut down on injuries going forward.

      I’d wait and see what he looks like after his groin gets reattached to the bone. I expect he’ll be good for us, especially if KT and Dobs can make the second year leap.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Alex, i have to disagree on this one! We could draft a cheaper and more explosive guy. Also watch out for Sam McGuffie who’s on our practice squad! If you haven’t seen him youtube him!

        • Alex says:

          Explosion isn’t everything. Amendola was consistently getting open when he hadn’t ripped his groin off his bone.
          We can’t get anyone cheaper than him next year, as even if we cut him, we pay him the same amount. Let’s give him more than a year to prove his worth.

        • steve earle says:

          JH, as you know I’ve never been a fan of Amendola and his injury history but maybe Alex has a point about giving him one more year. If he can’t perform up to expatations in camp put him on IR because as Alex says we have to pay him anyway and that opens a roster spot.

        • acm says:

          cutting Amendola now would make 0 sense, contract-wise. He has 10 mil guaranteed (of a total of about 30, +/- a couple give or take) and carries a 5+ or so mil cap hit next year, iirc. Cutting him would not save much if anything and I expect he would do a lot better next year – as mentioned, he may be playing thru a torn groin now but that is still a painful process and has cost him his explosiveness, which is really the bread and butter of a slot WR.

  4. J H TARBORO says:

    Thanks Oliver, i’ve been waiting for this one. The best pure hands in this draft belong to the LSU boys of Beckham jr. and Landry, the most pro ready receivers are Sammy Watkins, kelvin Benjamin,Odell Beckham jr,, and Jordan Matthews. I would also add two others that are the same size and same weight Clemson’s Martavis Bryant and Mizzou’s L’damian Washington whom are both 6’5″ 200lbs. I don’t really care for Brandon Coleman, although he’s 6’6″ and a good player, he needs to be grittier! and no more Rutgers!
    After the TE article, i started thinking about large receivers and a bookend to Aaron Dobson would be a smarter choice than a TE early in draft, our offense isn’t predicated on a 2 TE system anymore, now that we have receivers that stetch the field, it time to throw outside the numbers to the big guys and down the seams to Gronk, and play small ball underneath to the slots. This late in Tom Brady’s career, he should have some real weapons at his disposal and head of player personel should go get him some real playmakers, this draft is pretty deep! We need Kelvin Benjamin 6’5″ 235lbs. as for Mark Harrison????

    • Alex says:

      We might not need to be a 2TE offense, but we have no-one behind Gronk. Only DJ Williams is healthy and on contract as a TE for next year.

      We need depth, injury insurance for Gronk, and could also benefit from the flexibility a second stud TE could help provide.

      With the youth of our WRs, and the problems said youth caused Brady this year. Adding a mid priced vet seems a smarter move, than a high draft pick.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Alex, i don’t mind that that we draft a TE , not at all, but late round, also remember the only vets were Edelman and Amendola. This year would be bit different, i hope Brady invites the young guys to Cali in the off season to develop repoire.

        • steve earle says:

          On this one I have to go along with Alex. His point that we have no one behind Gronk is telling. Also with Gronk getting hurt every year, missing the playoffs, we need another TE to be able to go down the seam and be a red zone force. In the best scenario a big bodied guy who can also in-line block would be ideal. I’d vote for, if I had a vote, a vet free agent and let our rookies develop. To soon to disregard their growth potential.

        • Alex says:

          I also hope the receivers all spend some quality off season time with Brady, and I think they will.

          Unless the value is great, then I think WRs should wait, as our young guys all have potential, and deserve more chances.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I would be surprised if Bill takes a WR in this years draft, BUT thier are some great prospects. My biggest area of need is CB. Talib will walk looking for to much money from the Patriots. So this leave’s the Patriots with; Ryan, Dennard, Arrington, and (P-Squad) Green.
      So I think Bill may go for TWO in the draft, CB Kyle Fuller, early 1st or trade back early 2nd, and S/CB Brock Vereen, or CB Phillip Gaines in the 4th-6th?
      The best looking WR’s I like are ; Sammy Watkins, Jordan Matthews, and Jared Abbrederis.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Russ, i agree about Talib, i like Mizzou’s Ej Gaines, and CB Stanley Jean Baptiste and after last night BCS Championship CB LaMarcus Joyner.

        • steve earle says:

          Talib getting all-pro honors will pretty much assure his ego will demand a “pay day”. BB isn’t fond of big paydays for guys who are so frequently injured imo. I like Marcus Joyner CB in spite of his lack of height, the guys a player.

      • Alex says:

        I think Talib will be back. He likes winning, and his play has dropped off enough down the stretch that his price should have come down. There are also a glut of good CB options hitting FA this year. All that said, I don’t see him getting offered more than $8m per. I think we could do something close to that.

        If he goes we need a replacement, but it wouldn’t have to be with our first pick. We’ve done better with mid round guys, who have a little less size and athleticism than the top guys, but more smarts and readiness.

        • Lidman says:

          There is no way Talib, who made All-Pro, settles for $8mm APY. Brandon Carr is making nearly $10.5mm and Revis makes $16mm. In fact every NFL GM should pray TB cuts him because he makes nearly 40% more, APY, than the second highest paid player, at his position. No other position has a differential > 10% and most are between 3-5%.

          That said, with BB record of DB, and specifically CB, picks over the past decade, maybe this is the one area where he should pay up.

        • steve earle says:

          I’m afraid the list of midround DB’s the Pat’s have gone through is by now legend.

  5. WinstonShouldBeInJail says:

    I love the above cut-ups, but I seriously question Benjamin’s speed. He looks slow/lumbering – I know tall guys often do. But I wonder whether he will come in under 4.7. Keenan Allen and Anquan Boldin prove that speed is only “so much” but they were/are very polished route runners with exceptionally strong hands.

  6. Duuude says:

    So you’re saying we’re gonna draft Brandon Coleman, then.

  7. jim r says:

    The Honorable mentions look like a good group too. I really like the Wisconsin kid.

  8. Alex says:

    My Patriots 2014 NFL Draft
    Patriots trade Ryan Mallet to Texans for Texans 2nd Rd and 6th Rd picks.

    1. Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State
    The Patriots wont pay Talib the kind of money he wants so he will probably sign somewhere else. Alfonso Dennard and Logan Ryan are both playing well but they will need talent and depth.
    2. (Texans) James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
    Solder has been hurt a little this year and Volmer is on IR. The Patriots have always been able to groom offensive linemen but they need to find a premier backup at both tackle spots. Hurst could also play inside if necessary.
    2. C.J. Fiedorowicz TE Iowa
    Gronk will be fine next season, but they will need someone to provide talented depth as well as spot replacement from Gronk. Imagine Brady throwing to both Gronk and Fiedorowicz.
    3. Daniel McCullers NT Tennessee
    Wilfork is getting older and probably wont be able to play right away for New England. Kelly is also aging so bringing in a giant body like McCullers to dominate the line and open up gaps for Jones and Armstead would be a smart decision for New England.
    4. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
    This will be Brady’s successor. McCarron has the intelligence and accuracy to be a good Pro QB. Give him a few years under Brady and he could be a really good QB.
    6. (From Texans) Jeoffrey Pagan DE/DT Alabama
    Depth for the Patriots DL. He can play end in the 3-4 and replace Vellano now and Kelly in the future at DT.
    6. (From Eagles) Ronald Powell DE/OLB Florida
    Powell should have stayed in school and I think he will fall because teams will be scared of his injuries and moderate production when healthy. IF he does not get hurt I can see Powell becoming a great backup DE for the Patriots and a rush linebacker on third down.
    6. T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
    A good reliable reciever who plays above his stature. He is a great route runner and would add more talented depth to the patriots WRs. Reminds me of Deion Branch.
    7.Brandan Bishop S N.C. State
    A raw prospect but talented. The Patriots are deep at DB and Bishop could be a core special teams player at first and gradually adjust to the defense.

    Patriots projected Depth chart.
    * Denotes Rookie

    QB: Brady, McCarron*
    RB: Ridley, Blount, Bolden
    3RB: Vereen

    WR1: Dobson, Thompkins, Boyce
    WR2: Amendola, Edelman, Jones
    TE: Gronkowski, Fiedorowicz*
    BTE: Hoomanawanui

    LT: Solder, Hurst*
    LG: Mankins, Kline
    C: Wendell, Kline
    RG: Cannon, Kline
    RT: Vollmer, Hurst*


    LE: Ninkovich, Buchanan, Pagan* (3-4)
    NT: Wilfork, McCullers
    DT: Armstead, Jones, Pagan*
    RE: Jones, Carter, Powell*

    LOLB: Collins, Fletcher
    MLB: Hightower, Beauharnais
    ROLB: Mayo, Jones (3-4), Fletcher

    CB1: Alfonso Dennard, Ryan
    CB2: Darqueze Dennard, Ryan
    NCB: Arrington, Cole

    FS: McCourty, Wilson
    SS: Harmon, Gregory, Bishop

    • Alex says:

      Interesting picks, and I like it, although I go by Alex here. I can’t see us getting that much for Mallett though.

    • j H TARBORO says:

      Alex, nice effort and some pretty good picks!

    • j H TARBORO says:

      Package Mallett and Ridley for a 2,3,4 this year and for a 2015 pick! Possible teams are Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Oakland, And Arizona.

  9. tonn says:

    man, we better not draft a wideout with anything more than a 5th rounder. with dobson, kt, amendola, boyce and hopefully edelman, we`re set at WR for a long time.

    my perfect draft:
    1st rd: ebron/amaro/asj – TE
    2nd rd: yankey/richardson/martin – OG
    3rd: jones/mccullers/coleman – DT/NT

    lower rounds: a developmental CB so that marquice cole never has to see the field again, a developmental o-lineman for coach Scar to educate, maybe an ILB in case Spikes bolts.

    go pats woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

    • Duuude says:

      I like that draft strategy, tonn. Here’s my one worry: Will a 3rd round DT/NT make the team? I mean, whoever gets drafted in the 3rd will make the team, but I’m thinking about the roster.

      One way to think about the draft that seems to me underrated: Think about who you’re replacing on the 53/46 rosters.

      At DT/NT we’re definitely replacing Soap. As little as the Pats paid for him, it was too much. But there’s Wilfork, Kelly, Armstead, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, and Joe Vellano. That’s too many interior guys for a 4-3. Maybe we move back to a 3-4? But I don’t know how to project that.

      My guess is Wilfork reworks his contract, but it’s hard to see him get cut. Vellano: maybe you just let him go. Seemed to show a lot for a rookie, though. But Siliga and Jones showed even more, I don’t see how you cut them. And the buzz is high for Armstead. So I don’t see how this position group works: you’ve got vets and youngsters, full up.

      But even if you want to improve the group, I don’t think a 3rd rounder will do. You’re basically trading Chris Jones or Siliga for that guy on the roster. You’d better hit with that pick! No Bequette or you’ve done worse than waste a pick.

      Looking at the defense, S and LB are the places I don’t mind cutting for a 3rd or 4th.

      • tonn says:

        Cut vellano. He did not flash as much as jones, to me at least. And we need a true nose!

        P.s. i have always thought that mark harrison would be a perfect project to transition to flex TE, anybody else on that bandwagon?

        • Henry Carmen says:

          That is not true at all, he has shown up every time he in the game. It would be a terrible mistake to cut Vellano. Cut Sopoaga instead, he is due like 4 mil the next few years.

    • steve earle says:

      Please no, not McCullers. This guy is huge but plays like a blocking bag. Unless a RB accidently runs into him he useless. He gets no push inside on pass plays, waddles around trailing any pursuit. Please no! I agree Vellano is the odd man out at DT though he might be tried at DE ( that’s where some of us had him projected last spring). Other then that he’ll be waved but still might end up on the ps. Just my opinion.

      • Alex says:

        McCullers is too tall to play inside. He just can’t win the leverage battle, and so can get washed out on plays, despite his ginormous size. Also do not want.

        • steve earle says:

          Okay, I’m confused. Do we have two Alex says’s posting here or is Alex changing his mind every couple posts? If the later is the case please try again to clearify your ideas.

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