CFF Overview: WRs – Sleepers
Gordon McGuinness continues our overview of the wide receiver class with a group that may pay off later in the draft.
CFF Overview: WRs – Sleepers
Continuing our look at wide receivers today, we’re going to start with a look at some potential sleepers who could develop into good NFL wide receivers despite being unlikely to hear their names called in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Yesterday Sam Monson brought you the top of the class, and some players who have their issues but have something that catches your eye potential wise. Now it’s time for us to look lower down the draft again, and highlight the players who are worth a chance, especially if your team misses out on one of the top wide receivers.
The best receiver in the NFL in 2014 was Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he was drafted in the sixth round back in 2010, so who are the potential Brown’s of the future in this draft?
Devin Smith, Ohio State
The knock on Smith, and something we definitely found watching the tape, was that he was used so much as a downfield threat that we didn’t get a chance to see much of him on shorter routes. It’s hard to fault Ohio State for using him that way, though, because he’s one of the few wide receivers in this draft class who possesses the speed to simply blow the top off of a defense with pure speed alone.
It’s tough to see him making it out of the second round, because at a minimum he looks likely to be a deep threat in the NFL from Day 1, but if someone takes him in that second, develops his route tree a little more and makes him a better all-around player, we’ll be talking about him as one of the steals of the draft in years to come.
Signature Stat: His 754 yards on passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air lead all of the FBS in 2014.
Tre McBride, William & Mary
Small school guys often don’t get the credit they deserve, with the level of competition viewed as a knock. Yet we still see players from those schools wind up in the NFL and have productive careers. If there’s going to be a small school guy who makes it this year, it looks likely to be Tre McBride.
A smooth route runner who looks really good on out routes in particular, McBride changes direction really well and does so with one hard step more often than not. If anything, his hands may be a bit of an issue, with two ugly drops late in the game against Richmond, but his overall work will likely see someone take a chance on him by the middle rounds of the draft at the latest.
Signature Stat: The game against Virginia Tech was his only one against an opponent from a Power Five conference, and in that game he produced an impressive Yards Per Route Run Average of 4.13.
DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech
If you’re willing to take a chance that you won’t get much out of Smelter in Year 1 as he recovers from injury, I think a team are going to be really happy a few years down the line. Similar to Jaelen Strong and Devin Funchess, though, I think he’s a better player than the former University of Michigan standout, he’s a big physical receiver who can dominate defensive backs.
He’s also the best blocker in the draft class, with some monster blocks in the 2014 season, and I think if he was a little bit taller people would be calling for a move to tight end the way some are for Funchess just now. His injury might prevent him from being much of a factor in his rookie season, but that should only push him further down the draft and give some team the potential at a real bargain in a late round.
Signature Stat: His 4.36 Yards Per Route Run lead all of the receivers available in this class.
Kenny Bell, Nebraska
The knock we have on Bell is that we didn’t feel like he made enough tough catches, and had some bad drops in 2014. If you’re willing to take the chance that you can work with him to improve that though, Bell has a lot of things to like for a lot of teams.
He’s not a massive guy, he has decent size, but he is fairly fast. That speed isn’t just in a straight line, either, there was some nice quickness and fast footwork making him tricky for defensive backs to cover at times.
Signature Stat: Had the ninth-highest Yards Per Route Run average in the class, at 2.95.
Sammie Coates, Auburn
Sammie Coates is a little bit frustrating to watch at times. Physically he’s one of the more gifted receivers in this draft class, with a nice blend of size and speed. He can out muscle an opposing cornerback at the line of scrimmage and shows his strength after the catch, too, dragging defenders with him or shaking them off.
The downside, though, is that there were a few too many occasions where he looked to lose concentration, particularly on deep balls with a couple of bad drops and times where he just looked to lose the ball in the air. Correct that and a team could be looking at a big-time steal on Day 2 of the draft.
Signature Stat: His 488 yards on passes traveling 20 or more yards in the air were 7th the most in this draft class.
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Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.