Last year was a solid one for rookie receivers as a good amount showed plenty of flashes to make their teams excited for the future. Justin Blackmon really came on towards the end of the year while T.Y. Hilton emerged as a big time deep threat for the Colts. Kendall Wright, Michael Floyd and Josh Gordon showed plenty of flashes while players like Alshon Jeffery and Reuben Randle could breakout in their second season. There is a lot to like with this crop of receivers as it is a very deep class with plenty of players who are capable starters.
1. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee: At 6’2 216 Patterson has the size teams look for but also maintains great speed. Two of his strengths are finding the openings in coverage and fantastic ability to create after the catch. Patterson is more of a body catcher at this point which is a turnoff along with the fact he only played one year at the D-1 level. He is a boom or bust pick and if he pans out could be a Pro Bowl caliber talent for some time. Some teams aren’t willing to take the risk but at the end of the first round, it becomes too much to pass up.
2. Tavon Austin, West Virginia: Austin doesn’t have the size that many of the league’s top receivers do. What he does have is elite acceleration when the ball is in his hands. He plays bigger than his size and is tough to bring down. Austin also goes up and catches the ball with his hands. Due to his height, it will be rare for Austin to play anywhere but the slot. However, with players like Randall Cobb the slot receiver is more important than ever. With all of his talents, Austin should be gone by the middle of the first round.
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson: Hopkins has a little bit of everything in his game. He has good size, decent route running ability and can beat defenses in the short, intermediate and deep passing games. Hopkins has the hands necessary to catch balls in traffic and he is also an effective run blocker. The main thing he has to show at the next level is that he will be able to beat the different kinds of coverage. If that’s the case, then the Roddy White comparisons will not be far off.
4. Keenan Allen, California: Allen has been hurt for most of the pre-draft process but otherwise he would be mentioned among one of the top receivers of this class. He has the ability to separate from defenders and the size at 6’2 206 to go up over a defender for the ball. Allen is also effective after the catch but he isn’t as fast as you would think due to a long stride. Allen could be a similar player to Miles Austin and could end up being a good value in the middle of the second round.
5. Justin Hunter, Tennessee: Hunter has really moved up draft boards of late due his 6’4 frame and the speed to take the top off of defenses. He has also shown deceptiveness in his routes. Hunter could become more physical and gain strength to improve as a player. The torn ACL that ended his sophomore season prematurely could also be concerning to some. Another concern is that while usually reliable, Hunter had problems with drops this past season. If he can get that behind him, the potential to be a top receiver is there.
6. Terrance Williams, Baylor: Despite Robert Griffin III leaving, Williams went on to have another big year at Baylor. He has the ability to beat defenders deep, the size to win battles in the red zone and is also a willing run blocker. He didn’t have to run many NFL type routes at Baylor but could become a very nice starter if he makes necessary adjustments.
7. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech: Leading up to the draft, Patton has received Reggie Wayne comparisons which is very impressive. Most players from smaller schools aren’t considered to be that polished. He catches the ball naturally with his hands and has the ability to make acrobatic catches. There are times where Patton struggles to adjust to the ball in air but other than that could be ready to contribute for a team right away. He should be a great value in the late second or early third round.
8. Robert Woods, USC: During his time at USC, Woods showed that he is already a very good route runner and is willing to go over the middle. Woods also catches with his hands and has the ability to gain yards after the catch. He has had some trouble with drops and could improve in the 50/50 jump ball situations but ideally could become a very good number two receiver.
9. Aaron Dobson, Marshall: At 6’3 210, Dobson has great size and possesses very strong hands. He is also willing to fight through contact to get extra yardage. Dobson didn’t face much of a challenge from opposing corners in college so it will be very interesting to see how he fairs at the next level.
10. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia: Due to playing with Tavon Austin, Bailey didn’t receive all the attention he deserved. He is very good at finding openings in coverage and showed he can be counted on to get key first downs. Bailey’s size projects him as a slot receiver and his skill set fits that role perfectly.
2013 class grade: B+