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Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects- Wide Receiver
These guys will look to become the future playmakers of NFL franchises. Today I rank the top five wide receiver prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Bio: The nation's top receiver recruit out of high school, Calvin Ridley left his home state of Florida to play at Alabama. As a true freshman, he set a school record with 1,045 receiving yards on 89 catches.
Strengths: Smooth strider with effortless motion. Dominates cornerbacks if they allow him to get free. Speed is consistent in drive phase for all routes. Feet are smooth and hypnotic in their beat along the route. Possesses elite separation ability. Route stems and breaks are seamless and sharp which allow for wide open throwing windows. Quick and quiet into cuts. Great long speed with ability to embarrass his coverman. Forces defensive backs to hesitate early. Uses subtle head movement to get safeties out of position. Play speed is top notch. Natural receiver on the move. Gears down to drop low and secure bad throws and is able to go up high as well. Touchdown totals could have been doubled with better quarterback play. Finds open space when quarterback is forced to scramble. Can be dangerous after the catch. Uses entire field as his playground. Received almost 33% of the team's targets since joining Alabama.
Weaknesses: Thin build with not a lot of room to grow. Long, press corners cause hesitation in his release. Hasn't learned to use hands as press counter. Too easily impeded by contact at times. Routes can be redirected by quality bump and run corners. Inconsistent at using body positioning to leverage target area along deep sideline passes. Despite natural hands, struggles with focus drops when he senses a hitter closing in. Had 20 drops over three seasons. Questions about toughness to catch in traffic. Dances after catch on hitches rather than getting it up the field. Runs after catch can be stopped immediately by first contact.
Projected Round: 1
Compares to: Marvin Harrison
Possible landing spot: Arizona Cardinals
2. Courtland Sutton, SMU
Bio: Originally a highly ranked safety out of high school, Courtland Sutton was seen as an ideal receiver by Southern Methodist's coaching staff. While also seeing playing time for SMU's basketball team, Sutton recorded 193 receptions for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns in his three full seasons on the football field.
Strengths: Big, durable frame. Poor quarterback limited potential of his production over last two seasons. Doesn't get hung up easily by contact. Willing to get dirty in the middle of traffic. Unfazed by oncoming contact and is able to focus throughout the catch process. Plays like power forward in basketball. Puts defender on his hip and keeps him there on slants and crossing routes. Uses body positioning and extended catch radius to pry open throwing window for his quarterback. Uses subtle, calculated hand moves that allows for sudden, late separation on jump balls. Consistent at working back to underthrown balls to help his quarterback. Has the confidence of a number one receiver. Physical blocker who will square up and sustain the block to help spring his running back.
Weaknesses: Play speed feels average at best. Faster cornerbacks sit on routes and consistently contest his catches. Route wiggle is average and feels gradual rather than crisp. Has tendency to get by on size and scheme over pattern, effort, and technique. Resorts to bodying smaller cornerbacks rather than working for cleaner windows. Doesn't show much separation burst on first and second levels. Inconsistent ball skills when adjusting late to throws. Won't scare defenses with yards after catch. Can't get it cranked back up for yards after catch if he has to slow down for the pass. Struggled to get anything going against top tier competition like TCU and UCF.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Mike Evans
Possible landing spot: Dallas Cowboys
3. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Bio: As a freshman, Christian Kirk led the Aggies with 80 receptions, 1,009 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns, as well as being their top return man. Over the last two seasons, he was named first team All-SEC both years while registering 24 total touchdowns.
Strengths: Well built frame with good overall strength in upper and lower body. Takes optimal release angles against press corners. Adjusts in space to avoid contact. Plays with consistent speed and good awareness. Quick in and out of breaks with sharp cuts. Impressive on pivot routes. Strong mental makeup and has a great desire to compete. Able to dip and scoop the low passes. Plays with strong, natural hands as receiver. Sinks into space against zone coverage and does a good job of protecting the ball. Decisive and competitive once he has his hands on the ball. Offers value on both kick and punt returns.
Weaknesses: Doesn't show desired acceleration into routes to gain separation. More quick than fast. Has below average catch radius. Generally needs throws near his body. Stunted by coverage down the field due to lack of length. Needs to use strength to combat tight coverage underneath rather than allowing defender to body him up. Benefitted from smash, whip, and shoot routes that got him wide open. Needs to play with better knee bend. Made some questionable decisions to field the ball as a return man.
Projected Round: 1-2
Compares to: Willie Snead
Possible landing spot: Baltimore Ravens
4. James Washington, Oklahoma State
Bio: Coming from a smaller high school in Texas, James Washington didn't waste time getting on the field as a true freshman. Over four years at Oklahoma State, he finished with 226 receptions for 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns.
Strengths: Gets free from press coverage with good initial quickness. Deep threat, averaging over 20 yards per catch over last three years. Awkward early steps into route develop into powerful, driving strides eight yards up the field. Surprises cornerbacks with build up speed and consistently burns by them. Bursts from stems on post routes and creates open deep looks for quarterbacks. Tracks balls like a outfielder racing for the warning track. Adjusts speed to match ball in the air and keeps cornerbacks honest. Able to go up and come down with the deep ball with the best of them despite his stature. Deep speed creates opening for comeback routes underneath. Flashes runaway speed after catch or will get physical to add critical yardage. Able to work outside or in the slot.
Weaknesses: Rarely challenged by press coverage against Big 12 defenses. Limited route tree at Oklahoma State. Gives away comeback route with more deliberate vertical push in his route. High cut with body type like a running back rather than ideal receiver. Top heavy frame causes him to roll into breaks rather than sink sharply into them. Footwork inside routes feels heavy and lack of timing. Doesn't have skillset for fluid, complex routes. Lacks short area footwork and suddenness to win underneath against tight man coverage. Not a smooth, easy pass catcher and tends to double catch some throws. Has issues finishing contested catches on first and second levels.
Projected Round: 2
Compares to: Corey Coleman
Possible landing spot: Carolina Panthers
5. Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
Bio: In his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, Marcell Ateman was an excellent reserve receiver. After missing all of 2016, he returned stronger than ever finishing with 59 catches for 1,156 yards and eight touchdowns.
Strengths: Very good size. Puts in the extra work to come back better than ever after missing 2016 with foot injury that required surgery. Has ability to run any route. Sinks into breaks and comes out with decent separation. Natural ball skills. Plays with natural hands. Knows when to secure with his body in the middle of a crowd and when to pluck it with his hands. A+ body control with ability to twist and secure it mid-air. Long target with tons of long touchdown catches. Catches with full arm extension at high point giving him clearance over almost all cornerbacks. Searches for secondary opportunities by improving when initial route is cut-off. Toe dragger on boundary catches.
Weaknesses: Needs to be smoother with his route running. More of a football player than an athlete. Leggy and takes time getting off press corners. Doesn't always play to his size. Allows cornerbacks to crowd the top of his routes. Needs to learn to use his size to his advantage to create space and keep defenders on his hip. Drifts on out-breaking routes allowing instinctive cornerbacks to make a break on the throw. Route speed needs more variety. Limited to primarily deep outs and go routes in Oklahoma State system . Leads with frame as a blocker allowing cornerbacks to gain control in run support.
Projected Round: 3
Compares to: Brandon Lafell
Possible landing spot: New Orleans Saints