CFF Overview: WRs – Top of the Crop
We intend to break down the group into four distinct areas, showing you the top players available, a selection of sleepers, some guys who should carry ‘buyer beware’ labels, and another group who may have significant flaws, but who bring something intriguing to the table to work with.
We begin by running through the Top 5 wide receivers in this draft. For other positions this number may be more or less than five, but the top receivers seem to separate themselves nicely before a drop-off to the rest in our eyes.
* Editors note – CFF has graded only the 2014 season, so our view of Dorial Green-Beckham is incomplete, hence his omission from this list.
Amari Cooper, Alabama
Amari Cooper is head and shoulders above the rest of the receivers in this draft class. He finished the season as the top-graded wide out when looking only at his work as a receiver, and though his iffy blocking dragged him down a little, he was still right at the top overall. When you turn on the tape you see not only one of the most physically impressive receivers available, but also by far the most sophisticated when it comes to route running, understanding of zones and intelligence on the field.
Cooper was made the focal point of the Alabama offense and carried that load easily, finding space against zone coverage and beating man coverage with equal comfort. He is a smooth athlete with good hands, speed, size and athleticism after the catch and should produce at a high level from Day 1.
Signature Stat: Led FBS with 174 total targets, 124 receptions and 26 missed tackles forced over the season.
DeVante Parker, Louisville
While many people see this class as a two-horse race between Cooper and Kevin White for the best prospect, we think DeVante Parker is actually the second best name available. Parker only played 359 snaps this season before injury struck (compared to over 1,000 by some receivers) and yet graded well enough in those snaps to still end up in the Top 10, in a comparable area to Jaelen Strong.
He runs extremely sharp, crisp routes, generating separation with a single step often and beating defenders with quickness they just can’t match. He showed impressive hands, snatching the ball out away from his body without thinking about it and was another receiver with impressive run-after-the-catch skills.
Signature Stat: Forced 15 missed tackles from defenders on just 43 receptions. Only 16 players in FBS notched more over the season and just four beat his mark by more than two despite the time he missed hurt.
Kevin White, West Virginia
The offseason darling of the draftnik community, White rivals Amari Cooper for many analysts, but the best he can manage is a photo finish with Parker for us. White played a huge number of snaps in 2014, leading the FBS with 1,078, nine more than any other receiver. He doesn’t have Parker or Cooper’s quick step but has better speed than either and really accelerates away from defenders after he makes the break or when he gets the ball in his hands.
Big, fast and adjusts well to errant passes, and, unusually, White is a pretty good blocker — significantly better than Cooper in that regard. White might be the most physically gifted receiver in this draft, but he ran a far more Spartan route tree than Cooper or Parker, and will find a bigger adjustment from his college to NFL playbooks.
Signature Stat: Played 1,078 snaps over the season to lead the FBS, including a ridiculous 111 in a single game, away to Marshall.
Nelson Agholor, USC
A player who grew on me hugely over the course of this season, Nelson Agholor represents the only of the top receivers to bring added value as a return man. Agholor returned two of the 14 punts he received for scores, with an average of 13 yards, and was used on kick returns on occasion, too. As a receiver, his development over the year was marked, and he punctuated his season with back-to-back 200+ yard games.
He showed great speed and smooth route running, but occasionally was a little too weak through contact after the ball arrived, allowing defenders to dislodge a ball that should have been his. Agholor’s star is still on the rise and he could end up better than some of the players above him on this list if he continues to improve.
Signature Stat: Caught 76.3% of the passes thrown his way, the best mark of any of the top receivers in this draft and one only six draft-eligible receivers can better.
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
If there’s one receiver in this draft that divides opinins it’s Jaelen Strong. He is a unique dichotomy of a player, with extreme strengths and weaknesses making evaluation a tough prospect at times. Many thought he wasn’t fast, but a 4.44 forty at the combine belied that misconception which comes because he often struggles to separate in his routes. It’s not a lack of speed that causes this, but some sloppy route running and an almost total inability to use his hands to avoid press or physical coverage. Often he can’t shake his defender, causing a contested ball, which he usually wins, outmuscling the defensive back for the reception.
When the ball is in the air, Strong is a natural, and his weaknesses are in the areas that should be easy to fix, with his strength lying in the area that is tough to improve.
Signature Stat: Notched just seven missed tackles forced despite his 81 receptions, a stat that hints at the contested nature of many of his catches.
Also see: WRs deemed “Something to Work With”
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