2014 Pre-Draft Class Evaluation: Wide Receivers – The Other Guys
April 29, 2014 | Rich Hribar
Since there were so many wide receivers to touch on, I decided to break them into two parts. You can find the first part here, which covers who I believe are the top six prospects at the position. Now, it’s time to cover the other guys at the wide receiver position.
Other Pre-Draft Evaluations at Fake Football:
Enigmas and Riddles
There is no player who has a bigger disparity between his ceiling and floor than Donte Moncrief. Physically, his combine performance was unparalleled by anyone in this class. Weighing in at 221 pounds, he ran a 4.4 forty, putting him in an area with Michael Floyd and Andre Johnson in regards to speed scores adjusted for size. His explosion score was even more impressive, placing him in an area with Dez Bryant, Julio Jones and Johnson again.
Here’s where things get sketchy. He was dominant as an 18 year old, but then completely looked pedestrian this past season. Small hands for a wide receiver can be overcome, and there’s no strong correlation to them having a blanket impact on the position, but Moncrief’s hand size (9 1/8”) shows up when watching him. He constantly lets balls get deep on his body, which turn into drops or allowing the defender to break up the play, completely negating the natural separation his big frame creates. That also affected his red zone performance, where he caught just five of 29 targets.
Missing on him if he hits his floor won’t set my franchise back like it could in the pros, so for fantasy purposes, I’m willing to invest in him over safer options because his ceiling is rare.
There’s no rookie receiver I’ve gone back and forth on how I should feel than Marqise Lee. In a matter of 12 months, Lee has gone from Torry Holt to Donnie Avery in terms of comparable draft picks. He was a stud producer at ages 19 and 20, before posting a subpar campaign in 2013. He did play through a knee injury and poor quarterback play, but was also frequently outplayed by teammate Nelson Agholor. His physical profile is also somewhat of a mixed bag. His speed (4.52 forty) was putrid for a receiver at 6’0, 192 pounds, but he has one of the highest explosion marks in the class. He’s the wide receiver version of Lache Seastrunk in that regard, another player who produced a healthy amount of big plays that stem from explosion and not speed.
Lee could very well still be a first round selection, helping his case of possibly being a value in your rookie drafts. I don’t want to ignore his young production or draft slot weight if that’s the case, but for a svelte receiver, he’s going to need to go to an open offense in the NFL to have his best chances for success.
Public opinion is all over the map on Kelvin Benjamin because at 6’5” and 240 pounds, he’s built like wide receiver Frankenstein. The real issues are that he’s very raw in development still and that he is fairly old for a wide receiver prospect (he’ll be nearly 24 as a rookie), not the best combination. If he was a finished product you may be able to sell me that his age won’t have an impact because I love touchdown production. Scoring touchdowns is really all he did in terms of production, catching 15 touchdowns this past year and converting 10 of 25 red zone targets into scores in his two seasons at Florida State.
He’s also not much in terms of athleticism other than just being big. His speed, agility and explosion were all subpar and he probably needs to cut a little weight in the pros. If he does land in a situation in which a coaching staff was smart enough to exploit his greatest strengths inside the twenties, I can see him having an impact in a similar fashion as the wide receiver version of Joseph Fauria. But then you’re relying on rational coaching to carry his value. All in all, I’m likely to pass on him in drafts because I have a hard time of seeing him develop well enough to tack on cheap points outside of the red zone. If you like what he brings to the table, I don’t see why you wouldn’t just select Brandon Coleman later in the draft.
More In Reality Than Fantasy
I can imagine most readers out there wondering when in the hell I was going to get to Odell Beckham and Brandin Cooks because their names are everywhere, so here we are.
Cooks has nearly every box checked in what you look for in a receiver. He’s the youngest receiver in the class, turning 21 in September. He’s fast (4.33 forty) and agile, and was immensely productive at a young age. But he’s 5’10” and 189 pounds (go back and check the chart regarding size in the initial post). My main issue with him is a team drafting him with the immediate thought (I would hope at least) that the way you need to use him is not going to be in way that you will be consistently moving the football in your base offense. Teams should be self aware of this, knowing he’s going to very likely be a third option in the passing game and used in specialty situations that require creativity. We know teams covet the second part of that equation because a team traded up to the number eight overall spot a year ago to grab Tavon Austin, who really is a shell of what Cooks can do. In the right place, such as Philadelphia or San Diego, I can see him being an effective pro, but for fantasy purposes, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be as impactful as his draft selection would suggest.
Beckham is a head scratcher for me. Aesthetically, his game has little flaws, physically he checks out in every area except for having tremendous size (5’11”, 198), although he’s not so small that it’s as problematic as it is for Cooks. I have two areas of concern with him. One is that Beckham has such a gigantic gap in athletic score to actual production. He never tallied big numbers and was dreadful in performing in conference, stacking the bulk of his stats versus the weaker competition on his schedule. He doesn’t profile to be a factor in the red zone in the NFL, and it already showed in college where he caught just two of 19 targets. You can’t really point to his quarterback play having that big of an impact on things either for me, because his teammate, Jarvis Landry (who is the athletic equivalent of an armless and legless man compared to Beckham) was plenty productive.
The second concern is he appears to have crazy, exaggerated buzz that has pushed his price extremely far away of what he probably is going to be in the league, which is a hybrid WR2/3. His closest comparisons are Golden Tate and Nate Burleson, players that were selected well after the expected draft slot of Beckham. I have a hard time seeing him as a player that you are ever going to consistently feed with targets to carry your offense, but you’ll be drafting him at that cost. Personal opinion is he can do a lot of good things in a real football sense, but outside of leagues that reward kick return yardage, he will be over drafted in rookie fantasy drafts.
NFL evaluation on small school receivers has been very buckshot at best. Probably because there’s an overstatement on their end of how to discount production based on strength of opponent. The league really whiffed on a few guys from my end of scoring, such as Pierre Garcon, Victor Cruz, Vincent Jackson and Miles Austin. They did have a few hits correct on guys like Roddy White, Greg Jennings, and T.Y. Hilton, so they aren’t poor either. It’s also hard on my end as well, because I was high on Brian Quick, so correctly navigating small school players becoming successful as NFL receivers can be tricky. They are also the toughest to weigh based on draft slot, as evidence with Garcon, Austin and Cruz and the high selection of Quick. This draft does have its share of intriguing small school guys, and a few were invited to the combine.
Everyone’s personal favorite after the weekend in Indianapolis is Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State. At 6’3”, 219 pounds, he put on a workout clinic, running a 4.42 forty, high end explosion and crazy agility. Fellow fake footballer Chad Scott loves his profile and compares him to Jordy Nelson. I already mentioned that I don’t weigh in agility scores that greatly into receiver athletic scores, but Janis’ score is worth mentioning for those that do. He posted a 3.98 time in the 20-yard shuttle and a 6.64 three cone time. Brandin Cooks is coveted for his agility and had raw scores of 3.81 and 6.76 and weighs 30 fewer pounds.
Janis has big time drop problems, which tie back into his baby hands (9”). He still had massive production based on his athleticism, something he will absolutely have to bring over into the NFL to compensate for that shortcoming. It seems counter intuitive, but dropped passes are a pretty overvalued characteristic overall. You still to make enough splash plays to make the drops worth tolerating, however, something that at least Janis is capable of. I don’t mind throwing a late pick on him if he can creep his way into the fourth round or higher, or has an optimistic path to playing time. I want him to be good so I can attempt to make the nickname, The Human Torch or Janis Blaze stick, but most owners will likely value him more than I do based on his raw measurables.
Albert Wilson is a stump at 5’9”, 202 pounds, and a productive stump at that. Wilson totaled 1,428 yards from scrimmage and nine touchdowns in his lone season at Georgia State. He went over a thousand yards receiving, ran for 250 yards and returned both punts and kickoffs. He appears to be an ultimate arbitrage on Odell Beckham, even matching him athletically.
|Odell Beckham Jr.||21.8||71||198||27.61||4.43||7||38.5||122|
|Final Year Production||Rec||Yds||TD||Rush YD||KR Yards||Avg.||PR Yds||Total TD|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||57||1117||8||58||806||26.9||141||8|
I won’t sell you that production in the Sun Belt should be equally weighted to that in the SEC, and he certainly won’t be afforded as long as leash in the pros based on the area he’s drafted. But it’s possible there will be a 150 plus pick gap between when Wilson is selected to that of Beckham. If you are someone who is targeting Beckham and miss out, Wilson could be a nice late add to make up some of the ground.
If you like Dri Archer, you should really like former track star John Brown, because he can contribute in many more ways than Archer can. For his minuscule frame (5’10”, 179) he has similar speed to Archer with far more explosion. In 2013 at Pittsburgh State, Brown caught 61 passes for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns, had 103 rushing yards and three touchdowns and 653 combined kick and punt return yards with another touchdown. He is older, turning 24 in his rookie season, but so is Archer, who will be 23 at the start of the 2014 season.
There are a lot of contributors in this area, so I’ll try to stay brief. If you’re an owner who prefers high floor options with low ceilings, stacking receptions over touchdowns and big yardage, these are your types.
Michael Campanaro is a very solid prospect outside of age, but that isn’t too much of a concern because he can be plugged in immediately to the role he’s going to play in the NFL. He averaged 7.2 receptions per game in his final three seasons at Wake Forest.
The same can be said for Jared Abbrederis, who has the same strengths in his game as Campanaro and also is an older prospect. Abbrederis isn’t the athletic equal though, and has a disgustingly low explosion score (an area where Campanaro is strong). He did perform well versus strong completion, having a field day on projected first round corner Bradley Roby.
T.J. Jones, Ryan Grant, Bruce Ellington, and Josh Huff are your other targets if you desire inside options.
As much as I like big receivers, I hate big receivers who don’t play big. At 6’5”, Martavis Bryant is more reliant on splash plays than red zone production, scoring seven of only 13 career touchdowns from over 30 yards out. He has the requisite speed and workout credentials, but not the production to match. I see him as a poor man’s Justin Hunter and a player who will be over drafted by a team in two weeks.
Jarvis Landry is a favorite of many based on his film, but I just can’t get on board. I’m a fan of his production, decent red zone success (eight for 28) for a smaller player and having equal to, if not better numbers than team mate Odell Beckham. But he never projected as more than a possession type of chain mover in the league before his disastrous combine and pro day. The fact that everything outside of his forty was still a complete fail doesn’t make me hedge any thoughts on tossing out his athletic score in favor of his production. There’s two things everyone is pining for this offseason; finding the next Josh Gordon, and finding the next Keenan Allen. It’s likely neither exist and I’d caution chasing waterfalls. I just don’t see how there aren’t very strong odds that he isn’t the next Vincent Brown before he’s Allen.
Paul Richardson is a dark horse to be productive a the next level if he lands in the right spot. He’s frequently compared to Todd Pinkston because of his slender build at 175 pounds, but he’s far more explosive and was more productive, scoring 12 of his 21 career touchdowns from over 30 yards out. He’s a bigger version of DeSean Jackson in terms of what he’ll bring to an offense, but it’s unlikely he will ever be a consistent weekly option.
Quincy Enunwa hasn’t had much of a chance to work out for teams after pulling his hamstring at the combine after running a 4.45 forty. At 6’2”, 225 pounds, that time would’ve had a massive impact if it was followed by a good performance in the areas at the combine. Enunwa also was a big time red zone producer, hauling in 11 of 23 targets for scores. He didn’t do much until his final year at Nebraska, but his profile and red zone ability make him a good lottery pick selection.
Final Pre-Draft Wide Receiver Ranks
|1||Mike Evans||Texas A&M||21.0|
|4||Allen Robinson||Penn State||21.0|
|5||Davante Adams||Fresno State||21.7|
|7||Donte Moncrief||Ole Miss||21.1|
|8||Odell Beckham Jr.||Louisiana State||21.8|
|10||Brandin Cooks||Oregon State||20.9|
|12||Kelvin Benjamin||Florida State||23.6|
|13||Michael Campanaro||Wake Forest||23.6|
|14||Jeff Janis||Saginaw Valley||23.2|
|16||Albert Wilson||Georgia State||22.2|
|17||Jarvis Landry||Louisiana State||21.8|
|20||Bruce Ellington||South Carolina||23.0|
|24||T.J. Jones||Notre Dame||22.1|
|27||Erik Lora||Eastern Illinois||23.0|
|29||Willie Snead||Ball State||21.9|
|30||John Brown||Pittsburgh State||24.0|
|31||Cody Hoffman||Brigham Young||23.5|
|32||Dri Archer||Kent State||23.1|
|37||Alex Amidon||Boston College||23.5|
Check back after the draft to see if any of the destinations or draft slots that these prospects end in affected their ranking before entering your rookie drafts.