The 2010 draft class looks like it could be remembered as a very good one for receivers. Before a season ending injury, Dez Bryant showed his All Pro potential for the Cowboys. Receivers from the middle rounds also made a big impact as Mike Williams had a huge rookie year and teamed with Josh Freeman should become one of the league’s elite duos. Jacoby Ford also showed glimpses when given a shot at receiver for the Raiders after already making a huge impact as a return man. On paper, this year’s class has a few elite prospects that should be top ten picks but there are a lot of guys I like in second or third round range that could have big impacts right away.
1. A.J. Green, Georgia: Green has everything that a team looks for in a number one receiver. He has excellent size, can catch any ball thrown his way (in a way only a few receivers such as Calvin Johnson can) and has the ability to get by defenders. Green does have to add some weight to his frame but other than that, he is one of the draft’s top prospects.
2. Julio Jones, Alabama: Jones has been shooting up draft boards ever since his performance at the combine. He is very good after the catch, runs polished routes and is also an excellent blocker. Jones doesn’t always catch with his hands which could be why he had some struggles with drops. While he didn’t put up huge numbers during his time at Alabama, Jones projects to be an excellent pro and plays very similarly to a young Terrell Owens.
3. Titus Young, Boise State: Young is considered by some to be a “poor man’s DeSean Jackson” not only for his ability to stretch the field but for immaturity concerns. Needless to say I am a fan. Young is also very good after the catch and showed at Boise State that he can rise to the occasion. While he isn’t a finished product, Young could make an immediate impact for a team both as a receiver and a return man right away.
4. Jonathan Baldwin, Pittsburgh: Baldwin has excellent size and will go up and get the ball at its highest point. He is also willing to go over the middle and is strong after the catch. Baldwin was inconsistent during his time at Pittsburgh which could partially be contributed to the inconsistent quarterback play. He is still a bit raw but could develop into a Vincent Jackson type player.
5. Torrey Smith, Maryland: Smith is the latest Maryland player with elite physical skills to enter the draft. Not surprisingly, he has great speed and could make a huge impact in the return game. Smith also showed that he can adjust well in the air to catch the ball. However, he needs to catch more balls with his hands and develop as a route runner. Nothing but great things have been said about Smith’s character and work ethic so those things should develop.
6. Leonard Hankerson, Miami (FL): Hankerson got better each year he was at Miami and has the makings of a very good receiver at the next level. He has deceptive speed and is able to find openings in coverage. Hankerson isn’t that elusive after the catch and makes too many drops but could end up being an excellent value in the draft for somebody willing to take a chance.
7. Randall Cobb, Kentucky: Cobb is a very versatile player who lined up at quarterback, running back and receiver while at Kentucky. He is elusive after the catch and is also willing to go over the middle to make plays. Aside from teams falling in love with his versatility, Cobb is also a very good return man and should develop into an efficient slot receiver at the next level.
8. Dwayne Harris, East Carolina: Not many are talking about Harris among this year’s crop of receivers, but he could develop into a very effective player at the next level. He is very good at separating from defensive backs on short to intermediate routes, has solid hands and is tough to bring down after the catch. Harris could also bring value in the return game as well. While he may not develop into a number one receiver at the next level, Harris has the potential to catch 60 to 70 passes a year as a cross between Anquan Boldin with his physicality after the catch and Davone Bess with his ability to find openings in coverage.
9. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy: Jernigan is the latest in line of talents the Troy program has produced over the years. He doesn’t have ideal height but is very quick out of his breaks, has great speed and is very dangerous after the catch. Jernigan also showed that he could make an impact in the return game as well. He has the upside to develop into a more complete receiver and with his return abilities could be a poor man’s Percy Harvin.
10. Edmond Gates, Abilene Christian: Aside from the fact that he will be a 25 year old rookie, there is a lot to like about Gates. He has game breaking speed, catches with his hands and got better each year. Gates is still very raw as he played basketball before transitioning to football. However, like Mike Wallace and Johnny Knox before him, he could have a huge impact right away as a deep threat.
2011 class grade: B+