The NFL draft is fast approaching and the Ravens front office is busy preparing. the NFL combine is coming up soon and before that happens, lets get some preliminary rankings done by position. In this first edition we will take a look at the Wide Receiver class.
Overall thoughts: this is a very strong class. One of the best receiving groups in recent memory. There isnt a guy worth taking in the top 10, but the depth is incredible. you can get a high quality second round talent player late in the third. That is bad news for WR needy teams in the top 10, great news for teams like the Ravens who dont have a glaring need for immediate WR help but are in need of depth and players for the future.
1. Keenan Allen, Cal-(update 2/13/12) Allen is unquestionable the top player at his position this year. he has great size(6’2″ 215lbs) and he is a very polished player. He runs strong routes and is powerful going after the ball. He plays a lot like Dez Bryant, but lacks Bryants game breaking ability. Allen is also far and away the best run blocker in the top half of this WR class. PRO Comparison- Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee- (update 2/13/12)Patterson is the most intriguing prospect in the draft at his position. Patterson has enormous potential, almost limitless. He has the size(6’3″ 200 lbs.) speed(projected 4.38 40) and the instincts to make the game-breaker type plays we see from guys like Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald etc.. The reason he isnt the top player? He is about as raw as they come. He wasnt asked to much at Tennessee except get the ball and make plays. He has very limited route running polish and tends to get pushed out of plays by physical DBs. If Patterson could put it all together though, he could be a top 5 player in the NFL at the position. With the measurables he possesses, look for him to blow up after the combine, he will finish top 5 in every timed drill. Pro Comparison: Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons.
3. Terrance Williams, Baylor- (update 2/13/12) Williams is an interesting player. He has good but not great measurables and probably has no business being a teams top wideout. That said, he is extremely productive and extremely versatile. The Ravens probably dont have a shot at either Patterson or Allen, but Williams would be an excelent fit for them and he could be available. The Ravens dont need a no.1 WR, they have Torrey Smith for that, but Williams would be a great guy to add for depth and to be the eventual replacement for Anquan Boldin. Pro Comparison: Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles.
4. Tavon Austin, West Virginia- (update 2/13/12) Austin is a niche player. He has the versatility to play all over the field, but his size (5’9″ 176lbs) leaves a lot to be desired. Austin is a big time playmaker though. He has a nose for the endzone(26 TDs at WVU) and is the type of player that you just try and find ways to get the ball in his hands. Some people expect him to run a 4.3 40 at the combine. Pro Comparison: Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings.
5. Justin Hunter, Tennessee- (update 2/13/12) 4 weeks int the 2011 college football season, Hunter looked like he was a future NFL superstar. he had over 300 yards and 2TDs in just under a game and a half. Quite simply he was making the competition look silly. No one could cover him, he shredded zone defenses and was pretty much completely unstoppable. Then he tore his ACL. Out for the season. Hunter looked better and better each week after his return this year, but still hasn’t been the player he was last season. Any team drafting him is looking to buy low and bank on him returning to form. Pro Comparison: a poor mans Randy Moss(if healthy).
6. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson- (update 2/13/12) Hopkins is a near carbon copy of Greg Jennings, but a bit faster. I have seen Hopkins graded as high as the 3rd best WR in the draft, he will likely be taken between about 24 and 38. Hopkins has strong hands and excels against zone coverage. He has the top end speed to take the top off a defense and the guts to go and attack the middle of the field. Pro Comparison: Greg Jennings(with speed)
7. Da’Rick Rodgers, Tennessee Tech.- (update 2/13/12) Rodgers is a flat out stud. He is the most physical WR in this class, he manhandles corners and is fearless when attacking the middle of the field. He is almost unguardable with press man coverage because he simply overpowers every defender he faces. He has excellent hands and better concentration and shows excellent awareness of his placement on the field. Rodgers is probably the most physically talented WR in this class. He is also a word class bonehead. He was kicked out of Tennessee(did I mention Tennessee has a bunch of awesome WRs?)after testing positive for pot, reportedly this was not his first failed test. He transferred to Tennessee Tech and was moderately productive in their extremely conservative offense. This is a guy the Ravens should take a look at in the second round(or trade out to a high third rounder). Pro Comparison: Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens.
8. Quinton Patton, La. Tech- (update 2/13/12) Patton is another highly interesting guy. He has shown that he has the ability to stretch defenses deep through his carrer despite not having true burner speed, dont get me wrong, he is plenty fast but he isnt fast like Mike Wallace or Torrey Smith. Patton just has a knack for getting deep and making a tough catch. He attacks the ball hard and almost never loses a hand fight. he measures in at only 6’0″ but he plays like a guy several inches taller. Patton was flying under the radar until the senior bowl when he really opened some eyes. now NFL personell guys are saying he wont make it out of the top 50. Pro Comparisons: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
9. Robert Woods, USC-(update 2/13/12)Let me start by saying that i am a huge fan of Robert Woods. If i were the Ravens, I would be all over him if i got a shot at him in the second round. Woods is extremely fast, he moves in and out of breaks with speed and fluidity rarely sen with college players and he is already a pretty good route runner with a near complete route tree. Where do i sign? Woods is more physical than given credit for and given his ability to shake defenders coupled with his speed he is a threat to score at any time from anywhere on the field. He would be an excelent guy to use as a full time outside the numbers WR accross from Torrey Smith to allow Boldin to work the middle full time where he excels. there are probably better players for the Ravens to take(Patterson, Williams and Rodgers immediately come to mind) but Woods would be a very safe and solid option. Pro Comparison: Reggie Wayne(but faster and a bit smaller).
10. Markus Wheaton, Oregon St.
11. Marquess Wilson, Washington St.
12. Stedmon Bailey, West Virginia
13. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
14. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
15. Kenny Stills, OU
16. Conner Vernon, Duke
17. Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech