Scouting the Draft: Top 5 Wide Receivers

Sammy Watkins | Clemson

Scout's draft experts rank the Top 5 wide receivers entering the 2013 NFL draft complete with strengths, weaknesses and what current NFL pro their game most closely resembles.

Sammy Watkins | Clemson

Strengths

Easily the best wide receiver prospect in this draft, and maybe the best that we've seen since Julio Jones in the 2011 Draft. Watkins is a flat out play-maker, demonstrating the ability to play out wide, in the Slot, or even in the backfield while also returning kicks. He's dangerous with the ball in his hands, and his eye popping stats back it up, putting up over 100 catches, 1,464 yards, and double digit touchdowns. His greatest attribute is by far his burst. His ability to accelerate is almost Ferrari like. He has golden hands and his acceleration is also complimented by his gazelle-like strides; making him almost impossible to man up. Watkins is not only a make you miss type of wide receiver. He's a very aggressive player, and has shown the ability to blow defensive backs up, almost as if it's a fullback out wide.

His speed, elusiveness, and strength make Watkins the type of player that can create offense on his own, and can pick up easy first downs on simple routes such as simple bubble screens. In fact 57.43% of Watkins' receptions came via screen passes. That's over 700 yards just off Watkins ability to create after the catch alone. Speaking of YAC, Watkins has had 8.48 Yards after the catch, higher than anyone else in this draft class. Along with elite physical tools and YAC ability, Watkins possesses hands that are soft as velvet. Having a drop rate at 4.49% is excellent for a wide receiver that caught 101 balls. Watkins also displays solid route running with smooth hips and stop and go ability. He's an NFL ready WR, and has potential to be the offensive rookie of the year.

Weaknesses:

Watkins' frame still needs work. At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, Watkins can stand to sculpt his body a bit while also adding a few more pounds to his frame. This may correlate with his lack of going over the middle, as it's been a rarity to see from Watkins. Other than these minor concerns, Watkins is a complete Wide Out and top 10 pick. The Jets can desperately use his outstanding playmaking skills, but as the undisputed No. 1 wide receiver in this class, it would be a reach to see him fall to No. 18. It would be a hefty price to get into the top 10 for, but if anyone is worth it, it's certainly Sammy Watkins.

Comparison:

Percy Harvin with a growth spurt and no durability issues.

Mike Evans| Texas A&M

Strengths

– The bash bro of highly publicized QB Johnny Manziel has turned himself into a formidable weapon at WR, even raising the question as to which Aggie is selected first. Standing in a 6-foot-5, Evans is a terrorizing threat that can use his combination of excellent size and leaping ability to catch any ball in a wide radius. Evans is a physically dominating athlete with has an uncanny ability to snag balls at the highest point, making him near un-guardable in jump ball situations. With an astonishing 20.2 yards per catch, Evans is a big play just waiting to happen. For a big play threat, Evans also provides a confidence boost in any QB throwing to him at the next level. With the lowest drop rate out of any WR in the draft at a mere 4.29% Evans is as sure handed as it gets. He's the type of player that you just throw in his radius and he'll find a way to bring it down. This draws comparisons to two Pro-Bowl caliber WR's in Vincent Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, and as a prospect Evans has shown more promise than either player coming out of the draft. His 6'5 frame really gets put to use because of his basketball background. Averaging 18.3 Points per contest as a senior in High-School, Evans understands how to post up and box out opposing defenders. In today's NFL, the "Above the Rim" type of WR/TE has found immense success in the pro game, which bodes well for Evans. He's also a very intense player that is an elite blocker that will factor into any teams run game. At 18, the Jets don't stand much of a chance to land Evans, outside of a trade up scenario. While he may not be the perfect fit for Geno Smith and this offense, he would be the first physically imposing WR this franchise has seen in quite a while.

Weaknesses:

What scares most scout about Evans is the Manziel situation. Manziel breaks a lot of plays, and often you see Evans roam free, catching uncontested balls for big gains. Also, this brings up the question that if Manziel is the engine running the Evans hype train. Was hi success was a mere product of Manziel's play? To be expected for someone at 6-foot-5, his hips aren't as quick, and his routes are a bit limited as of now. He'll need to be in the right situation with a QB similar to Manziel and a more play action style offense that will use Evans' deep ball ability. I don't see him getting past Baltimore or Pittsburgh with their need at WR and fit at the position.

NFL Comparison

– Vincent Jackson

3. Odell Beckham | LSU

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Strengths:

After his impressive combine showing, "OBJ" has been rising up draft boards as of late. With the Jets sitting at No. 18, Gang Green would be reluctant to nab the former LSU standout. Despite his lack of height at 5-foot-11, OBJ possesses the ability to go up and snatch a ball out of the air. A rare commodity for smaller WR's, OBJ has been a consistent deep threat, plucking the ball at its highest point. When faced with going up against bigger defenders, he has used his leaping ability to rip balls out of the air on deep balls. Unlike recent undersized wide receivers, OBJ is far from a gadget player. He played mostly outside, and set himself apart as an elite wideout in the college ranks, collecting almost 1,200 yards in the SEC. Beckham's hands are second to none in this draft class as well. Watkins and College teammate Jarvis Landry are the only receivers with arguably better hands than OBJ. But what makes OBJ really special is his ability to play on special teams. Currently the all-time record holder for all-purpose yards at LSU with 2,222, OBJ has shown his incredible athleticism returning kicks and punts for LSU. With multiple return touchdowns this past season, Beckham is a weapon a team like the Jets are sorely missing. To combat his 4.43 speed, JR also possesses extremely quick hips and a shiftiness to him that enables him to find windows in the defense, drawing comparisons to undersized standout Steve Smith. While Beckham may be slightly undersized, he plays a lot bigger, and will be an asset to any team that picks him up in the draft. Rising in the draft, Beckham JR. should be a surefire day 1 pick. (Round 1)

Weaknesses:

As talented as he may be, JR. still stands in at 5'11 and may have trouble getting off the LOS in the pros. With DB's getting bigger and stronger, Beckham may have issues adjusting to the pros. Beckham has also had some concentration drops, like many WR's do in college. The LSU pedigree doesn't bode well for Beckham either as past Tiger wideouts have struggled in the pros. Outside of Dwyane Bowe, you'd be hard pressed to find a No. 1 wideout from LSU. - Worth mention that new Jets' STC comes from LSU, and worked a lot with Beckham JR. in College, as his KR/PR. Keep your eye out for him at pick 18.

NFL Comparison:

- Steve Smith

4. Jordan Matthews|Vanderbilt

In a loaded wide receiver class, Matthews falls to No. 4 on my rankings. This is not due to his play, but more as an indication of how deep this class really is. Matthews was an integral part of Vanderbilt's surprising success this year as he completed 112 catches, adding over 1,400 yards and 7 touchdowns. His numbers are mostly due to his extremely high football IQ. Despite lacking elite athleticism, Matthews is a very good route runner and knows how to find openings in the defense. Matthews is also an extremely well respected player in the locker room as he was the captain with Vanderbilt, a rarity for WR's in college. While setting almost every Vanderbilt record in the SEC, Matthews put up some Madden like numbers in big games, showing the ability to put the team on his back. In the last three games of the season, he single handedly carried Vanderbilt as he posted 36 catches and 564 yards in that stretch, as they went 3-0 in that stretch. He's a big body, with a 6'3 frame and can be a great red zone target in the next level. Will get up for a ball if need be and can run the full route tree with his vast understanding of the game and fluid hips, a rarity for players at his size. The most polished WR in this class. (Round 1-2)

Weaknesses:

The Vanderbilt product had some concentration drops that might devalue his stock a bit. Despite an impressive 40 time, lacks on field explosiveness to burn past defensive backs. Matthews may not have the potential that other wide receivers in this class have as his athleticism really doesn't scare opposing defenses.

NFL Comparison:

Jordy Nelson

Brandin Cooks | Oregon State

- Jets fans, warm yourself up to the idea of Cooks in Green and White. In last year's draft, it was reported that an unidentified team, presumably the Jets, had a 'man-crush' on Tavon Austin. The Rams ultimately traded up and snatched Tavon right before the Jets pick at No. 8. While Tavon hasn't exactly lit the league on fire (40 catches, 418 yards, 4 TD's) the Jets are still looking for a similar type of player for their rookie QB to work with. Smith had immense success with Tavon Austin as well as Stedmon Bailey in college, and Cooks looks the part to fill the position for the Jets. Cooks, however, may provide an upgrade for Smith, as he is much more than a Tavon Austin. While being undersized, Cooks is bigger than Austin, coming in at 5'10 and just under 190 pounds. Even at 5'10, Cooks plays much bigger than that. He played mostly outside with Oregon State, and succeeded, posting 1,730 yards with 128 receptions and 16 touchdowns. Those mouthwatering numbers are really amazing, considering he totaled over 1,000 more yards than any of his fellow receivers. Teams were game planning to stop Cooks, and were unable to do so. That says a lot about his ability. While not being a gadget player, he has shown the ability to play in the backfield, while also allotting 217 rushing yards, in the Percy Harvin/Randell Cobb mold. He has shown the ability to take a hit and also go up for balls which is really impressive for such a small kid. He has solid hands and runs extremely well, as his 4.33 40 would suggest. The former Biletnikoff winner would be a great fit in a West Coast Offense where he can utilize his YAC ability. Look for Cooks to go somewhere in the latter part of the first round. (Round 1-2)

Weaknesses

The size is obviously an issue, and many question if he can truly play outside in the pro game. Putting him in the slot significantly decreases his value. Press coverage may give him issues as a player with the size of Brandon Browner or Richard Sherman can throw him around. Cooks needs to add bulk, and struggles with blocks. His hands aren't amazing for a smaller receiver, which is kind of disappointing as well.

NFL Comparison:

- Santana Moss

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