2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Wide Receivers
1. Tavon Austin (West Virginia): Austin put up Welker-esque numbers during his final year at school, racking up 114 catches for 1289 yards - his second consecutive season with 100+ catches. He's a quick little playmaker who shakes defenders in small areas to give his quarterback an easy underneath option. While he is often thought of as a quick receiver, he also has exceptional straight line speed, which he proved at the combine by running a 4.34 forty-yard dash. He added 643 yards on the ground at 8.9 yards a carry in 2012, displaying his versatility. The biggest concern with Austin is his size, but I think he'll be able to add a few pounds as a pro, and size is not as important for his style of play. I love Austin's speed, quickness, and versatility, and think he'll be a favorite of whatever quarterback he teams up with in the NFL.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee): Size and athleticism are what have Patterson ranked in this spot. At 6'2'' and 216 pounds, Patterson ran a 4.42 forty at the combine - very impressive for his size. He also finished with a top-five vertical jump at 37 inches. He may be a raw prospect, but he dropped jaws several times throughout the season, displaying his underlying potential. As the late Al Davis used to say, you can't teach size and speed. Patterson has unteachable, natural athletic ability, and if he can learn how to utilize it, he'll be a very dangerous weapon in the NFL.
3. DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson): With all eyes focused on Sammy Watkins entering Clemson's 2012 campaign, Hopkins ended up being the standout receiver. He doesn't blow you away with measurables (didn't finish top-five in any drills at the combine), but he can simply go out and play ball. When the ball is anywhere near his area, he's always a threat to snatch it out of the air. His 4.57 forty time doesn't do his on-field speed justice. He is a fantastic route runner who sets up defensive backs well to find open space, and excels at adjusting to balls in the air. He has great hands and is dangerous after the catch.
4. Da'Rick Rogers (Tennessee Tech): Rogers is flying a bit under the radar coming out of a small school, but he's a former SEC leading receiver from his days playing for Tennessee. The main concerns with Rogers are off-field related, as he was kicked off the Tennessee football team for the use of marijuana, but I'm a big proponent of giving second chances to kids who make mistakes during their college years. Rogers is a big, physical prospect who outmuscles cornerbacks to make plays on the ball with his strong hands. He can go over the middle to make a play in traffic, or fight with a defender on the outside for a jump ball. He lacks elite speed, but is quick after the catch with the ability to pick up extra yards. He finished top-five among receivers at the combine in vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone drill, twenty-yard shuttle, and sixty-yard shuttle.
5. Robert Woods (USC): Woods' production was down this season, in part due to the emergence of sophomore Marqise Lee, but he still hauled in 74 passes and scored 11 touchdowns. He is a versatile prospect in that he can be used as a possession receiver with great hands or a downfield weapon with explosiveness and open-field ability. A quarterback can pad his stats by tossing a screen pass to Woods and watching him elude several defenders on his way to a big play. His combination of solid speed, precise route running, great hands, and explosive after-the-catch ability makes him a truly complete receiver prospect.
6. Keenan Allen (California): I don't have Allen ranked as high as a lot of other people, and that's not to say that I don't like him - it's just that I believe the rest of these receivers are special as well. Allen possesses great size for an NFL receiver at 6'2'' 206, and he uses his body well to shield defenders from quarterbacks' passes. He's a great route runner, especially against zone defenses, in which he can often find holes in the coverage. He shows nice balance and can make good things happen after the catch. However, he has solid but not great speed, and may not ever be able to become a vertical threat at the next level. Injuries are also an issue. He was hindered by a knee injury in 2012 and missed the combine due to a longer-than-expected recovery.
7. Quinton Patton (Louisiana Tech): Patton is a well-rounded prospect who possesses a number of different strong qualities. He can run well and is smooth in his routes, can go up and fight for 50/50 balls (often snatching them away from defenders), and can gain yards after the catch. I had a particularly hard time ranking Patton, and considered him as high as 4th, but ultimately slotted him in here. Rogers' physicality, Woods' playmaking ability, and Allen's ability to get open is what dropped Patton to this spot. Don't think that I don't like his game, however. He's well developed and was incredibly productive during his two years at Louisiana Tech, and could make an immediate impact at the next level.
8. Aaron Dobson (Marshall): At 6'3'' 210, Dobson might have the best size of any receiver in this draft, and he has great athleticism to go with it. He doesn't have elite speed, but is fast enough to get down the field and allow quarterbacks to heave the ball in his direction. If you watch some of his college highlights, you'll see some unbelievably impressive grabs - one in particular where he basically backhands the football like a first baseman fielding a short hop. His college production was mediocre due to catching passes from a subpar quarterback, but his size and athleticism could draw him some looks in the late-first/second round.
9. Stedman Bailey (West Virginia): This guy won't be the flashiest draft pick, but I think whoever drafts him will be getting a safe underneath receiving option. He's not very big or athletic, but he's quick with a great knack for getting open. Unlike his teammate Tavon Austin, he's not a threat to catch a short pass and leave eleven defenders in a cloud of dust, but he has great hands and should be a reliable security blanket at the next level.
10. Justin Hunter (Tennessee): Like his teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, Hunter relied almost strictly on athleticism to produce in college. He has great speed and explosiveness, which he displayed at the combine by running a 4.44 forty and posting the highest numbers in vertical jump and broad jump. He is not a polished receiver, however, as he struggles to beat press coverage, is not a precise route runner, and drops too many catchable passes. He has more upside than some of the players ahead of him on this list, but as of now, I think he's too big of a risk to take over the nine other receivers.
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