In recent years we’ve seen players such as Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown and Julio Jones revolutionize the wide receiver position. Thus, teams have began to draft wideouts sooner on Draft Night. Over the past three years, an average of five receivers have been called on Day One of the draft.
Last year we saw guys like Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell go in the first round, yet none really made a large impact as a rookie whether it was due to lack of playing time, injuries, or whatever the case may be. The year prior, wide receivers flew off the board as six were selected in the 1st round – the most since 2009. Of the group, Amari Cooper who was selected at #4 overall was really the only one to make an immediate impact, although DeVante Parker flashed during his sophomore campaign. The jury is still out on guys like Kevin White, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman and Phillip Dorsett. Now going back to 2014, this is widely considered the deepest draft class in recent memory. It started with Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans in the top 10 – both of whom are arguably top 10 receivers in the league right now. Then we saw Odell Beckham go at 12 – one of the best overall players in the NFL. Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin followed suit – two quality receivers, although Cooks has the edge there.
Comparing these three draft classes, most of these names failed to put up consistent production in their rookie season. The WR position proves to be a harder transition to the next level than perceived by the outside eye. Aside from that 2014 class, which is going to go down as one of the best in history. I looked back a few years and here are the 1st rounders from the previous two drafts (2013, 2012): Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, A.J. Jenkins. Only a couple names of that group actually performed early on in their careers, or at all for that matter. This further proves the point that it may be a better strategy to address WR later in the draft, and contain some value through the draft. Even Antonio Brown went in the 6th round and many consider him the top WR in the game today.
The point I’m trying to get at is just this: The 2017 NFL Draft class alarmingly lacks top-end talent at the WR position, while guys like Corey Davis and Mike Williams are tremendous prospects, they’re no OBJ or Julio Jones. They bring good traits to the table, but with that bring some skepticism in the top 10-15 range. Even John Ross, the new 40-yard dash record holder, may be a bit one-dimensional, although his speed and elusiveness is hard to ignore.
If you want a wide receiver this year, you’re far better off of taking advantage of the deep defensive class early, then cashing in on a guy like K.D. Cannon, Chad Hansen, Carlos Henderson or Ish Zamora later on. As recent trends have proved (excluding 2014), quality production out of 1st round wide receivers is few and far between.
Below we have compiled our consensus WR rankings between our Breaking Football draft team which includes the individual rank from each writer for each player. Let us know what you think in the comments below and follow the rest of our draft team on Twitter @MichaelJKist, @SteveDraft_ , @ZachHicks2.
*Note: We understand the scouting report links in the table below aren’t clickable. Simply type “[Player Name] scouting report breaking football” into Google and it will be atop your search list. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Small School Sleeper: Robert Davis (Georgia State)
Robert Davis comes from Georgia State, which has only surfaced it’s program since 2010. Coming off consecutive 1st Team All-Sun Belt appearances, Davis wrapped up his senior season with 67 catches for 968 receiving yards, 5 TDs while averaging 14.4 yards per catch – all team-highs. His 986 receiving yards accounted for 32.7% of the overall team’s passing production amongst all players with at least one reception. He proved he can play against top tier competition after posting 8/93/TD against Wisconsin earlier this season – better numbers than what Corey Davis posted in the Bowl game.. Following a productive career at GSU, Davis made a name for himself at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at 6’3”/219 – prototypical size for an NFL wide receiver. He added 19 reps on the bench press, a 41” vertical jump and a 136” broad jump – all of which ranked inside the top 2 of all receivers who participated. Davis enters the NFL as an extremely athletic receiver who backed it up in college with production – he gives an NFL team a nice piece to work with in the mid-late round range on Day 3 of the draft.
Biggest Riser: ArDarius Stewart (Alabama)
ArDarius Stewart came in to the year with only one year of starting experience. As a RS Junior, Stewart took off leading the Crimson Tide in receiving yards, yards per catch and receiving touchdowns (missed 3 games). Stewart is one of the most versatile players in the entire class. He can beat you in the slot, outside, as a ball carrier, and even as a passer. Stewart has all the tools necessary to develop into a premier NFL target.
Biggest Faller: Isaiah Ford (Virginia Tech)
Early on in the draft process, Isaiah Ford was considered by many to be one of the best receivers in this class. That viewpoint changed with inconsistent play along with Virginia Tech using him in a way he seemed uncomfortable with. Those factors along with a very poor showing at the NFL combine has caused Ford’s stock to be on the significant decline as of late. He can still be effective as a number 2 receiver in the NFL, but he lacks the athleticism and explosion required to be one of the top receivers in this class.
Risk Factor: Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma)
Gaining over 1,500 yards and scoring 17 TDs before entering the draft, Westbrook poses a serious challenge for decision makers. DeDe can burn, but he has a troubling past and didn’t help himself at the Combine. While defending his OU teammate Joe Mixon, DeDe seemingly downplayed his own checkered past, which includes two domestic violence charges with no convictions. There is also a concern about an internal injury suffered in high school that nearly killed him and caused a doctor to advise him not to play football again due to the risk involved. His tape says Day 2, but there are considerable red flags that are worth considering.