To put a cap on the wide receiver portion of Field Gulls' draft previews, here's a round-by-round breakdown of who I'd pick if I were in Ruskell's shoes. I used NFL Draft Scouts' projected round rankings to determine availability. Naturally, this is built with an eye to Seattle's needs, with 2 parts emphasis placed on West Coast abilities and one versatility/Air Coryell abilities. Seattle has no 5th round pick.
We'll look back at doubts surrounding Jackson's weight and laugh. For one, being lighter Jackson absorbs less impact (in the same way you can't whack a feather with a baseball bat), something lost on many. Minus a few dings, Jackson has been healthy most of his college career. No other player offers his combination of exceptionally rare athleticism, skill and production against elite competition. He's ridiculously football-fast. The type of on-field speed teams must account for at all times. He's an underrated route-runner, lacking discipline, but with a stutter step that could make the dead lurch forward. More importantly, the skills, agility, feet and determination are all there for Jackson to become a top route-runner. Jackson is the type who thinks he's the best and will not stop until he is. Will produce immediately receiving, returning and occupying safeties. Jackson is a true #1, concerns about his blocking, ability to beat the press and size be damned.
Doucet is a well-rounded player with a bevy of supports skills: blocking, rushing and return ability. Doucet doesn't do anything eye-popping, but his broad-base of skills, effectiveness against top competition and team-first mentality make him a low-downside, better than his numbers, above average contributor on a top club.
If brother Reche wasn't associated with choking and mediocrity, but toughness and top-production, I'm convinced Andre would be at the top of most wide receiver rankings. Caldwell is skilled, tough, a terrific athlete with a near prototypical build and in possession of above average skills or the ability for above average skills at everything you ask of a wide receiver except the deep double move. Would be an absolute rock in a West Coast; The exact combination of explosiveness and dependability that kills opponents with a 30 yard go after converting a drive-saving 8 yard slant. Low downside, minor character concerns--an absolute steal in the second.
Hardy is a bit of a project, but already possesses a vital, pro-ready skill: The ability to box out DBs. A universal and often unheralded skill, Hardy doesn't need to consistently beat or outcompete opposing DBs for the jump ball because he can simply gain position with good timing, a big body and the kind of borderline offensive pass interference hip checks and hand fighting that's more likely to force defensive pass interference in the modern NFL. May never be a consistent performer, but will punish the Kelly Jennings of the NFL.
Perhaps the highest praise I can give Nelson is that an NFL team could function with him manning the #1. Another polished player with the combination of skills and athleticism that could make him a top #2 or a serviceable #1. Won't make hay working the middle, but is steady on short and intermediate routes and will surprise with the occasional DB-shedding, deep double move. In the right system, Nelson could be a supremely productive player if never a matchup problem.
Low downside #2 with the ability to work in most systems. Polished, pro-ready, will peak early in his career, but incapable of absorbing nagging or ability-altering major injuries. As such, could have a short, anonymous pro career. Bennett projects as a steady #2 possession receiver with a little explosiveness, decent support skills and minor, non-injury related downside.
One of the funnier elements of pro scouting are the lies. Somehow, despite both being 5'9", DeSean Jackson is 3 inches taller than Reynaud. Likewise, even reputable sources list Limas Sweed as 6'5" (he's 6'3") and Hardy as 6'7" (6'5"). Reynaud is a rock-solid, punishing underneath receiver with good hands and serviceable route-running ability. Unlikely to ever produce more than as a slants and curls slot receiver, but should take to the position readily and produce. Low downside return man.
Concerns about performance against inferior competition are a little lost on slot receivers. Unlike linemen who may be outclassed and an obvious liability against never before faced superior talent, slot receivers rarely face "matchups". If Jackson is capable of reading zones, stretching seams, running tight routes and making tough catches at Appalachian State, he should be able to do so in the pros, too. Went 3/4, for 93 yards against Michigan. Miscast as anything but a seam busting slot receiver, Jackson can be, nonetheless, productive in such a role.
Blessed with neither a prospect history nor otherworldly athleticism to shed his small-school baggage, Johnson destroyed top 30 competition: 29/43, for 440 yards. The absolute best sleeper in this year's wide receiver class, Johnson is a late round pick with the ability to develop into an average #1 receiver. His quick development is very encouraging.
Well-rounded, small school product worth stashing on the practice squad and hoping he develops. Has considerably lower downside and greater upside than superior athletes Josh Morgan and Dorien Bryant.
Productive, well rounded receiver without NFL level athleticism. Worth storing on the practice squad and seeing how he develops as an athlete.
Jenkins performed his best while the rest of his team's passing offense collapsed. Has enough, skill, athleticism and determination to work his way into a decent slot receiver.