The most asked question since the day after Super Bowl XXXVIII has not been who will win Super Bowl XXXVIX, but have you ever seen so many good receivers in one draft. And the answer is no.
Over the past 10 years, 39 wide receivers have been selected in the first round. We could have seven taken in the first round in this draft. The previous high over the past 10 years has been six in 2001. Over this same period, 85 wide receivers were selected in Rounds 2 and 3 (8.5 per year).
Wide receiver is a position in which players selected after the first round have a chance to play and excel at a high level -- Anquan Boldin (ARI), second round; Laveranues Coles (WAS), third round; Hines Ward (PIT) third round; Terrell Owens (PHI); third round; Joe Horn (NO), fifth round -- just to name a few.
If you are a fantasy football player you would love to have this group as your wide receivers. Wideout was once a position which players started quickly or at least had an early impact on their team's success. This had changed over time due to the many different coverages players must adjust to. In the 2003 season Andre Johnson (HOU) and Boldin had very good rookie years. Height has become very important for wide receivers. Some of the best -- Randy Moss (MIN), Owens, Eric Moulds (BUF) and Drew Bennett (TEN) are all 6-2 or over.
Speed is just as important at this position, but the ability to run routes, have a burst and catching in a crowd are also important.
Over the past three drafts, wide receivers drafted in Rounds 1-4 have measured up this way:
The shortest: 5-9; the tallest: 6-3 3/4
The lightest: 169; the heaviest: 247
The slowest: 4.68; the fastest: 4.26
Size and speed
The average wide receivers at this year's combine were:
Height: 6-1 1/8
40 time: 4.57
Vertical jump: 35-inch
Long jump: 9-foot-10
Of the 50 at the combine, 18 were 6-2 or taller with, Northern Arizona's Clarence Moore being the tallest at 6-5 5/8.
Texas Tech's Carlos Francis ran the fastest 40s at 4.31 and 4.32. Two players, Colorado's P.J. Hackett and Syracuse's Johnnie Morant both had a 41-inch vertical jump.
Here are my rankings for wide receivers:
1. Roy Williams, Texas (6-21/2, 212)
Ran 4.37 and 4.42 in the 40, 3.97 in the short shuttle and 6.75 in the three-cone drill. He had a 391/2-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot-0 long jump. He played wide receiver and safety in high school and was a three-year starter. In one playoff game in 1999 against Abilene Cooper, Williams had five catches for 233 yards. On one play he caught a three-yard out and ran 99 yards. Williams also lettered in track and in the spring of 2000 he won the long jump (25-foot-6) at the state track meet. He was also second in the high jump (6-foot-10) and third in the 100 meters (10.48). At Texas, Williams started six games as a true freshman, catching 40 passes and had eight touchdowns (longest play was 96 yards). He has great hands and super quickness. Can stop and start running full speed after two steps. He has a great burst. He can be a great player, outstanding person as well.
2. Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh (6-2 7/8, 225)
Ran 4.47 and 4.51 in the 40, 4.27 in the short shuttle and 6.97 in the cone drill. He had a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-1 long jump. He played wide receiver and defensive back in high school, and also played linebacker in his junior year. He also lettered in basketball and track. Spent the 2001 season at Valley Forge Military Academy, collecting seven TD grabs in six games. Started 11 of 13 games in 2002, catching 69 passes and 12 TDs. He had 92 catches and 22 TDs in 2003. He's a big, physical wide receiver with great hands - A Michael Irving type catching slant routes. A Cris Carter type of hands. Should be a fantasy player delight. He makes some great catches. An outstanding player and an even better person.
3. Reggie Williams, Washington (6-31/2, 229)
Ran the 40 fives times (4.48, 4.49, 4.56, 4.58 and 4.64). Also clocked 4.34 in the short shuttle and 7.07 in the cone drill. He had a 36-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot-11 long jump. Played running back, wide receiver and defensive back in high school. He was also a triple jumper on the track team. In his senior year in high school he had 34 carries for 512 yards. At Washington, he played and started in 10 games as a true freshman. He caught six passes in his first game, on the road against Michigan). He had 94 catches in 2002 for 1,454 yards and eight TDs. In 2003, he had 89 catches and eight TDs. Has outstanding playing speed with a burst. A physical specimen who uses his frame well. Can really jump to make the catch but will drop some passes. This can be improved with work. He has great potential.
4. Mike Williams, USC (6-4 5/8, 228)
Ran 4.56 and 4.62 in the 40, 4.34 in the short shuttle and 6.84 in the cone drill. He had a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-1 long jump. Played wide receiver in high school, but he was a better basketball player. Some schools wanted him as a tight end. One reason he chose USC was because he was told he would play wide receiver. At USC he played 13 games as a true freshman, starting two against Washington and Oregon. Had 176 catches and 30 TDs in two years. Has long arms, small but very strong hands for a receiver - his catch against Oregon State in 2003 was one of the all-time greatest. He's a talented player. His speed and separation are question marks.
5. Michael Clayton, LSU (6-23/4, 209)
Ran 4.54 twice in the 40, 4.09 in the short shuttle and 6.77 in the cone drill. He had a 321/2-inch vertical jump and a 9-foot-8 long jump. Played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back in high school. He also lettered in basketball where he was an all-state player (he could have went to school on a basketball scholarship). At LSU he played as a true freshman in 2001 and started four games, catching 47 passes and added six TDs. Started every game he played in 2002 (missed four games due to injury) and 2003. He had 182 catches and 21 TDs in three years. Will catch on crossing route or deep ball. Has exceptional toughness, will block. Very good special teams player. Will play some safety on defense at times (played both ways the entire game vs. Texas in 2002 Cotton Bowl and had six catches).
6. Lee Evans, Wisconsin (5-10 7/8, 197)
Ran 4.40 and 4.44 in the 40, 4.02 in the short shuttle and 6.74 in the cone drill. He had 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-0 long jump. Played wide receiver and running back in high school. Also played on defense and lettered in track (finished 2nd in 300-meter hurdles in state meet). At Wisconsin, he played and started two games as a freshman in 1999. Started 25 games over the next two years. He was injured in a spring game (4/20/02) and did not play in 2002. Caught 64 passes and 13 TDs in 2003. He's the type of person you want on your team. Hard worker and a great person. Outstanding athlete who will compete. He was not 100 percent healthy for the 2003 season. Has good hands and will catch in the crossing routes. He turned 23 in March.
7. Michael Jenkins, Ohio State (6-41/2, 218)
Ran 4.38 and 4.42 in the 40, 4.31 in the short shuttle and 6.95 in the cone drill. He had a 34-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-6 long jump. Played running back, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive in high school. Also lettered in basketball and track (ran the 200 and 400 meters and triple jump). Was rated No. 2 athlete in the state of Florida as a senior. At OSU he played but did not start in 2000. Started the next three years and had 165 catches and 16 TDs. Has long arms and big hands. Can make adjustment to ball and will catch low or high. Works hard in practice and would like to see better run after the catch ability. He's a smart, good person.
8. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State (6-2 1/8, 202)
Ran 4.50 and 4.57 in the 40, 3.97 in the short shuttle and 6.93 in the three-cone drill. He had a 39-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 long jump. Played wide receiver and defensive in high school. At Oklahoma State, he redshirted and did not play in 1999. Started eight games in 2000 and started the next three years, ending up with 293 catches and 42 TDs. Very good lower body development. Runs good routes and will break a big play. Has stop-and-go ability. Has good strong hands, will make the catch, get hit and hold on. He's a top-flight worker who will not miss practice. In 2002 he caught 107 passes including a touchdown pass against Terrence Newman of Kansas State, who was the fifth overall pick in last year's draft. Woods loves to fish and has appeared on national fishing shows.
9. Derrick Hamilton, Clemson (6-2 7/8, 196)
Ran 4.42 and 4.44 in the 40, 4.22 in the short shuttle and 6.75 in the cone drill. He had a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 long jump. Hamilton played the wide receiver defensive back positions in high school and also returned kicks. He had eight kickoff returns plus eight more that were called back. He averaged over 23 points per game in basketball as a senior. At Clemson, he redshirted in 2000 because of a hamstring injury. He started the last three years, catching 167 passes and scoring 16 TDs. Has an impressive combination of size and speed and has a feel of getting open. Hamilton has a lot of upside. He has played mostly as a slot receiver.
10. Devery Henderson, LSU (5-111/2,198)
Ran 4.36 and 4.38 in the 40. Had a 351/2-inch vertical jump, a 10-foot-3 long jump, ran 4.27 in the short shuttle and 6.78 in the three-cone drill. He played running back in high school and played some at wide receiver and quarterback. He also ran track where he won the state championship in the 100 meters (10.3) and 200 meters (21.1). At LSU, Henderson played but did not start in 2000 and 20001 as a running back, then moved to wide receiver in 2002 where he averaged almost 20 yards per catch. He missed the final two games of the season. Very good competitor. He broke his arm vs. Mississippi in eight different places, but held the ball. He can also return kickoffs. His hands are a bit of a question (53 catches and 11 TDs this past season).
11. Keary Colbert, USC (6-0 7/8, 207)
Ran 4.43 and 4.52 in the 40, 4.18 in the short shuttle and 6.94 in the three-cone drill. He also had a 36-inch vertical jump. He was a wide receiver and defensive back (safety) in high school and also ran track. Played as a true freshman at USC in 200o, then started the next three years. He caught 140 passes over the last two seasons. Has soft hands but will body catch some. He's a high-effort player who will make the big catch and make the effort to block. This is a very good, solid receiver who will play a long time and most likely never be a star.
12. Jerricho Cotchery, NC State (6-01/2, 212)
Ran the 40 in 4.56 and 4.63, the short shuttle in 4.16 and the three-cone drill in 7.31. He had a 36-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-1 long jump. He played wide receiver and defensive back in high school and also lettered in basketball. At N.C. State he played as a true freshman starting one game against Virginia at tight end. A very good special teams player (can return punts). He has been a three-year starter, catching 200 passes including 86 for 10 TDs this past season. He lacks the blazing speed, but has great hands and has a knack for getting open. He's not as quick as Torry Holt but makes big plays.
13. Drew Carter, Ohio State (6-3 7/8, 202)
Ran the 40 three times (4.39, 4.41 and 4.42) and had a 10-foot-0 long jump. He did not do the vertical jump, short shuttle or cone drill because he was not fully recovered from right knee surgery. Played only one year of high school football and also lettered in basketball and track. At Ohio State he redshirted in 1999. Played but did not start in 2000, missed the 2001 season due to injury and played but did not start in 2002. Big and fast, runs track at Ohio State (long jumps and member of the 4x100 meters relay team). Has good hands, but needs to spend time on football. He has lots of upside.
WILD CARD GROUP -- Players with injuries or medical concerns
1. Devard Darling, Washington State (6-1 1/8, 213)
Ran 4.51 and 4.53 in the 40, 4.27 in the short shuttle and 7.39 in the three-cone drill. He had a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-9 long jump. He was a wide receiver in high school and also lettered in track and basketball. He started at Florida State then transferred to Washington State and was medically cleared by the school on Oct. 31, 2001. He started in 2002 and caught 54 passes, then followed up with 50 more this past year. Has the size and speed you want at this position and will catch the ball coming across the middle. He has good hands.
2. B.J. Johnson, Texas (5-11 3/8, 207)
Because of injury, Johnson has been unable to run full speed. This spring, he ran at about 80 percent on 4/16/04 and ran in the mid 4.6 area. In a high school playoff game he caught seven passes for 149 yards and two TDs. He also intercepted two passes and returned one for a touchdown. Johnson also lettered in basketball and track. At Texas, he started seven games and caught 41 passes as a true freshman. He played the entire 2003 season at less than 100 percent. He's somewhat of a body catcher but worked with former cowboys star Drew Pearson to learn how to catch the ball in his hands, which he did against Nebraska this fall. Johnson is a wild card who could be a surprise.
3. Jamaar Taylor, Texas A&M (6-0 5/8, 197)
Taylor ran 4.49 in the 40 just five months after an ACL operation and had 23 reps. Outstanding high school running back and wide receiver. Started school at Notre Dame and did not play in 1999. Sat out the 2000 season after transferring from Notre Dame. He averaged 17.3 catches and missed most the 2003 season due to injury. Can get separation. Has a burst, very good quickness, makes a lot of body catches. He's an athletic player from the same hometown of Tom Landry (Mission, Texas).
OTHERS TO WATCH
Here are some very good players (in alphabetical order) who will be drafted and could be a surprise:
1. Bernard Berrian, Fresno State (6-1, 183)
Very good athlete. Caught 85 passes for 13 TDs in 2001. Did not play in 2002. Had 63 catches in 2003. He can also return kicks.
2. Maurice Brown, Iowa (6-01/4, 219)
Had a bad ankle in 2003, produced big numbers in 2002 (42 catches, 10 TDs, 21.5 yards per catch).
3. Carlos Francis, Texas Tech (5-9 1/8, 198)
He's the fastest player in the draft. Caught 216 passes in four years at Texas Tech.
4. D.J. Hackett, Colorado (6-21/2, 199)
Reminds you of Justin McCareins, who was drafted by Tennessee in the fourth round and traded this spring to the N.Y. Jets.
5. Justin Jenkins, Mississippi State (5-111/2, 213)
Has great hands (check out his catch against Tennessee for a TD) and will block.
6. Triandos Luke, Alabama (5-11, 199)
Played as a true freshman. He has the good hands, speed and quickness needed for the position.
7. Maurice Mann, Nevada (6-11/2, 191)
A junior college player who played only in his second year at Nevada. Had 36 catches in 2003. Has good hands and is a hard worker. Worked out many times this spring.
8. Clarence Moore, Northern Arizona (6-53/4, 211)
Ran on indoor track team. He's a big target who will surprise people.
9. Johnson Morant, Syracuse (6-4, 229)
He had a 41-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-10 long jump at the combine and was one of the top ranked receivers. He's an impressive athlete (his father, Johnnie, was a famous body builder and former Mr. Olympia).
10. Samie Parker, Oregon (5-10 3/8, 179)
Lacks size, but has great speed and hands. He had 77 catches in 2003, 178 in four years.
11. P.K. Sam, Florida State, 6-3 3/8, 210)
Young player (he will not be 21 years old until 12/26/04). He won the state championship in the 110- and 300-meters hurdles in high school. Height and speed prospect.
12. Kendrick Starling, San Jose State (6-0 5/8, 193)
A junior college player, only his second year at SJS. Great high school player in Texas. Has kick return ability.
13. Darrius Watts, Marshall (6-1 3/8, 188)
Ran at Gerogia Tech's Pro Day on March 19, clocking 4.43 and 4.49. Had 139 catches over the past two years. Could be a first-day pick for some team. Had 91 catches and 18 TDs in 2001.
14. Ernest Wilford, Virginia Tech (6-3 5/8, 226)
He's not fast, but has good hands and will block. He could add weight and become a tight end.
15. George Wilson, Arkansas (6-0 1/8, 213)
A very good athlete who has not played a lot. He came out of school early. Has good hands.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Denver's Rod Smith is the only undrafted wide receiver to catch 100 or more passes in a single season (113 in 2001 and 100 in 2000)
- Phillip Rivers and Jerricho Cotchery were teammates at North Carolina State, but played against each other in basketball while in high school in Alabama.
- Ten players who can be drafted this year caught 200 or more passes in their college careers - Blake Johnson of St. John's, Minnesota Div. III school, had the most at 316.
What scouts look for when grading wide receivers:
- Ability to learn football
- Competitive toughness
- Work habits
- Athletic ability
- Adjustment to ball
- Run after catch
- Accelerate deep
- Route running
- Jumping ability
- Blocking ability
Previous Gil Brandt position analysis columns:
Gil Brandt was vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-89. He is now in his eighth year as NFL.com's chief personnel guru. (Brandt is of no relation to Packers VP of Player Finance Andrew Brandt.)