Here’s my list of the top-10 pass catchers in the draft. Feel free to tear it apart and make your own list.
1. Coby Fleener, Stanford, 6-6, 247 lbs., tight end, h-back, slot receiver, split end, flanker. Fleener has the potential to be a faster Tony Gonzalez. As a pass catcher, Fleener’s the total package. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s quick, and he has good hands. As a blocker, he’s underrated and he can improve.
2. Rueben Randle, LSU, 6-3, 212 lbs., split end. Randle’s a big-play receiver who can win outside on short, intermediate and long routes. He ran a 4.43 at his Pro Day and averaged 16.8 yards per catch over his three-year career in the SEC. He’s a similar prospect to Hakeem Nicks.
3. Jarius Wright, Arkansas, 5-10, 182 lbs., slot, flanker. Last season Wright led the SEC in receiving yards and touchdown catches, with 1,117 and 12, respectively. He’s like Mario Manningham in that he’s a small guy who can play flanker and make acrobatic catches down the field along the sideline, but he’s unlike Manningham because he goes over the middle and makes tough catches in traffic. Jarius Wright is a much better prospect than Manningham was. He could be the next Victor Cruz or Antonio Brown, both of whom averaged more than 16 yards per catch last season.
4. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame, 6-3, 220 lbs., split end, flanker. Floyd’s a similar prospect to Dwayne Bowe, who caught 15 TDs for the Chiefs in 2010, but he’s not quite as good. Bowe averaged 16 yards per catch in the SEC while Floyd averaged 13.3 yards per catch.
5. Greg Childs, Arkansas, 6-3, 219 lbs., split end. Childs missed most of the 2011 season with a patella tendon injury, but before he got hurt he was widely considered one of the best, if not the best receiver in the draft. As a sophomore in the SEC he averaged 18.6 yards per catch. Recently at his Pro Day he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and he jumped 40.5 five inches vertically. His hands are massive – 10 1/8 inches. Because of the knee injury, Childs is projected to be a fourth-round pick, but he could develop into the best split end in the entire draft.
6. Marvin Jones, Cal, 6-2, 199 lbs., split end, slot, flanker. Jones will be what the Niners hoped Michael Crabtree could be when they drafted him in 2009 – a versatile wide receiver who can win outside and inside in the NFL. Jones is quicker and faster than Crabtree, and he averaged more yards per catch in college, too.
7. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech, 6-4, 209 lbs., slot. Who knows if he’ll ever be a good route runner? He didn’t run them in college – he ran straight. He has below average lateral quickness, so he’ll probably never run crisp routes, which means he’ll probably never become a good split end. But, he could become a Super Marques Colston – a big slot receiver who sprints the seam and beats linebackers, safeties and nickel cornerbacks. Certain offenses and quarterbacks – like the Saints and Drew Brees – are lethal with a big slot guy. Colston’s been a 1,000-yard receiver five times for New Orleans. Hill could be even better if he lands on the right team.
8. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, 6-3, 213 lbs., slot. Like Hill, Jeffery probably will not separate on the outside against good corners in the NFL because he’s not laterally quick. And like Hill, Jeffery’s NFL future is at slot receiver. But unlike Hill, Jeffery isn’t exceptionally tall or fast. He did however average 16.6 yards per catch over three seasons in the SEC, which is outstanding. If he stays in shape, he could develop into a good big slot receiver and red zone threat in the NFL.
9. Kendall Wright, Baylor, 5-11, 197 lbs., slot, flanker. Despite playing with an elite quarterback against weak Big XII cornerbacks, Wright averaged only 13.3 yards per catch in his four-year college career. That’s a red flag. His average jumped up to 15.4 yards per catch last season mostly because he had three monster games at the end of the year, mostly because his quarterback, Robert Griffin III, was en fuego. Besides those three games, Wright was not a big-play deep threat. He mostly caught screens and underneath passes from the slot. He’s quick and fast so he could be a good third-down slot possession receiver in the NFL, but I don’t think he’ll be the next DeSean Jackson, who can line up at flanker and consistently beat No. 1 cornerbacks deep.
10. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma St., 6-1, 215 lbs., slot. Blackmon will not consistently separate outside the numbers against good cornerbacks in the NFL. He’ll be a slot receiver who’s not very tall and not very fast, sort of like Michael Crabtree.