CFF Overview: WRs – Top of the Crop

Starting off a position-by-position review of the 2015 draft class, Sam Monson shows off the best of the receiver group.

| 2 years ago

CFF Overview: WRs – Top of the Crop

cff-over-wr-topAs part of CFF’s free content we are going to be diving deep into each position group of draft eligible prospects, beginning with the wide receivers.

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

CFF-profiles-inset-parkerWhile 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

CFF-profiles-inset-strongIf 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”

Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam


| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN and NBCSports.

  • Chad Lundberg

    Really REALLY hope my Packers get Dorial Green-Beckam. 6’6″ athletes who is similar in structure to Calvin Johnson. Perfect replacement for Jordy Nelson who will slow down within a year or two.

    • Kent Lee Platte

      The rest of the NFCN would be glad for you to have him. 1, he’s not Calvin Johnson, he’s just the same height. 2, he’s one mistake away from watching games on TV with the rest of us. Have fun with that.

      • Chad Lundberg

        Get with the times dude, more and more receivers and Tight Ends are getting taller and taller and the results have been amazing. Just last year there were two rookies named Kelvins Benjamin and Mike Evans, both of whom are 6’5″ and had 1,000 last season. Beckham was considered to be a clear first round talent, he’s just had some off-field issues that have hurt his draft status, but his talent still remains.

        • Kent Lee Platte

          And yet the best rookie receiver last year was under 6′. In fact, 6 of the top 10 receivers in the NFL were 6′ or less. Meanwhile, Justin Hunter (A much closer physical comparison to DGB than Calvin Johnson) managed less than 500 yards.

          Receivers aren’t getting taller and taller, it’s just fanciful thinking.

          DGB IS a talented receiver, but you’re going to be VERY disappointed if you’re comparing him to Calvin Johnson. Hell, you’ll be disappointed if you’re comparing him to Mike Evans (Who was a LOT better) or Kelvin Benjamin (Whose drop issues persisted throughout his rookie year and isn’t as good as his yardage suggests).

          • Chad Lundberg

            “Receivers aren’t getting taller and taller, it’s just fanciful thinking.”

            You sir are quite obviously just a troll. I’ll admit I was dumb enough to fall into this trap of yours, that one is on me. But no more, good day to you sir.

          • Kent Lee Platte

            I had no idea pointing out factual inaccuracies made one a troll. If you have some facts to support that tall = good, I’d be glad to entertain.

          • Chris

            Hey now. As a Tennessee fan, Hunter was a BEAST before his knee injury. It’s not even fair to compare him now to what he was early as a Volunteer.

            That said, Calvin Johnson is a once in a generation receiver. DGB is simply a top 5 WR in his class. The comparison just isn’t there.

          • Kent Lee Platte

            I Wasn’t actually comparing DGB and Hunter in terms of their play, only their physical ability. Hunter another tall, fast player who couldn’t change direction well and didn’t have the burst or ups you’d expect from his size. Comparing their play, Hunter was more productive but had absolutely terrible hands, which followed him to the pros.

          • Panther Fanatic

            Kelvin Benjamin makes more money in one second than you’ll get in your entire lifetime.

          • Kent Lee Platte

            While that is both incorrect and irrelevant, JaMarcus Russell made a lot of money, too.

            Are you seriously going to argue that Kelvin Benjamin didn’t have a drops issue last season? I mean, you clearly have an unbiased view of it.

        • Chris

          You can’t teach height or speed and DGB has plenty of both.

          But elite route running often goes overlooked when receivers are evaluated. As if you can teach any physical specimen to master the full tree. That, more often than not, is not the case.

          As mentioned, Cooper is beyond anyone in the class in terms of his ability and crispness running routes. He still is 6-1 and ran a 4.4. I’d take him over White/DGB.

          • Chad Lundberg

            The Packers will not be selecting a WR in the first round, nor the second. 3rd at the earliest, and if Dorial is still on the board, and he probably will be, I hope that they go for it.

          • Kent Lee Platte

            Second round has been the money spot for the Packers. They like putting highly drafted targets around Rodgers.

          • Ted

            DGB wont be there in the 3rd. No way 32 teams pass on this dude twice if not more times

      • Mike

        Definitely agree with the people who aren’t so high on DGB. Sure he looks the part, but has had both off-the-field issues and limited prodution. Raw in both route running and separation. Not to say I think theres no chance he becomes an impact NFL player. He can. I’m just not enamored by his size alone. He’s also very capable of bone-headed moves a la Titus Young and Josh Gordon. Not a guy I’d spend a top 2 round selection on.

    • Malachi

      if packers don’t go defense they’re crazier than you and DGB combined, lol

      • Chad Lundberg

        When did I say they shouldn’t go defense? I’ve been saying draft a linebacker and a CB in the first and second round. If you had been paying attention you would know that I have been saying that they should pick DGB if he’s available in the 3rd or 4th round. And furthermore, the Packers did go almost all defense in the 2011 NFL draft, and look how well that worked out?

        This is a sports blog intended for fun discussion, why do people insist on being such jackasses?

        • marc wenzler

          You think dgb is gonna make it to the 3rd or 4th round? I’d be shocked if he made it past new England in the 1st.

        • PaulyG4

          You think Green-Beckham is going to be available in the 3rd or 4th round, yet, you call this guy a jackass?

          • Chad Lundberg

            There’s a difference between calling someone crazy and having an opinion.

          • PaulyG4

            That’s nice but that’s not the point.