In terms of immediate impact, last year’s class of receivers wasn’t a very good one. Donnie Avery, Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson showed flashes of brilliance in their rookie years but the rest of the class was a disappointment. Many people had high expectations for Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas and James Hardy but none of them showcased their potential in their rookie seasons. Jerome Simpson, Andre Caldwell and Mario Manningham could all have big impacts this year due to changes this offseason. With the loss of TJ Houshmandzadeh and the future of Chad Ocho Cinco up in the air, both Simpson and Caldwell should get more playing time. Manningham has a great opportunity in New York as the Giants are looking for a number one receiver after the release of the troubled Plaxico Burress. Here are my wide receiver rankings for this year’s class.
1. Michael Crabtree Texas Tech: Crabtree is arguably the best player in this entire draft. He has very good hands and excellent body control when going up for jump balls. While he doesn’t have elite speed, Crabtree is very good after the catch and plays faster. If it wasn’t for his ankle injury, Crabtree could have been a top five pick but if he falls past the top ten, whoever gets him has the possibility of getting a steal.
2. Jeremy Maclin Missouri: Maclin in full pads could be the fastest player in the class. He has the ability to score everytime he touches the ball and has lots of upside. The only problem is he didn’t run many NFL type routes at Missouri and will need to bulk up at the next level. Maclin coming out right now is a more polished Ted Ginn who was a top ten pick in the 2007 draft.
3. Hakeem Nicks North Carolina: Nicks is a very physical receiver with great hands who is excellent after the catch. He doesn’t have great timed speed but is very tough to bring down. Nicks isn’t put in the same class as the Crabtree’s and Maclin’s but could be the best receiver in the class.
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey Maryland: Heyward-Bey hasn’t put up the numbers that some others on the list have but it’s not his fault. He was in a run first offense with quarterback play that was average at best. Heyward-Bey has excellent speed but needs to work on his route running and isn’t as elusive as you would think. If he works on these things, he has a very good chance of turning into a great player.
5. Kenny Britt Rutgers: Britt is a very physical receiver who is willing to go up and battle with defenders for a jump ball. He doesn’t have great speed but is very competitive and should become a very good possession receiver at the next level.
6. Brian Robiskie Ohio State: Robiskie is a very polished route runner with great hands. That can be attributed to his father Terry, who is currently the receivers coach for the Falcons. Robiskie might be the most NFL ready receiver in this class but that also limits his upside. He should be a very good number two receiver for the next decade.
7. Percy Harvin Florida: If this was based on playmaking ability, Harvin would be near the top of the list. But as a receiver, he has a lot to work on. At Florida he never really ran routes and it is essential for him to develop this ability at the next level. Both durability and character are major issues as it was very hard for him to stay on the field at Florida and he has a documented history of incidents with refs, teammates and coaches. If Harvin develops as a receiver he could end up as a Santana Moss type player. But for many teams, the risk isn’t worth the reward.
8. Mike Wallace Mississippi: Wallace is one of the fastest receivers in this year’s class and has the potential to be a very good player at the next level. He really impressed as a receiver at the Senior Bowl and also has the ability to help out a team in the return game.
9. Jarett Dillard Rice: While Michael Crabtree was clearly the best receiver in college football the best few years, Dillard was actually more productive. In the past three years, Dillard had 257 catches for 3614 yards and 55 touchdowns. He is a very good route runner and has excellent body control. Dillard is quicker than he is fast and has the potential to be this year’s Greg Jennings.
10. Mike Thomas Arizona: Thomas, who is the Pac 10’s all time receptions leader, is the best slot receiver in this class. He is a very good route runner and while he doesn’t have elite speed, is very quick in and out of his cuts and has the ability to get away from tacklers. Look for Thomas to come in and have a rookie season like Davone Bess of the Dolphins where he makes an immediate impact as a sure handed receiver.