This WR class is everything it's been built up to be but doesn't quite live up to the hype, all at the same time. There are two legit studs at the top of the draft in Watkins and Evans, although neither is quite AJ Green or Megatron. After that are two guys, Beckham and Lee, that are solidly in the first round but not without question marks.
If we stop there and assume that no other WR go day one, that's an average haul for the position. Four WR would tie for the most taken since 2009. Going back to 2005, however, it'd be a much more meager number. Six WR were taken in the 2009, 2007, and 2005 classes.
It's probably not wise to assume only the four I've mentioned go in the first day though. It's a deep class in general, but when you get to the end of round one things get a little unpredictable. I wouldn't be surprised to see any of my third tier of receivers go earlier than I've predicted, nor would I be shocked to see a couple of the guys from the tier after that go day one either.
On the flip side of that, the receivers after the first four start to have some serious question marks. Some are lacking polish, some are lacking top notch athleticism. Some are lacking size, and some have far too much of it. It's a group that is deep on the surface, but individual grades are likely to vary significantly based on your flavor of choice.
Potential is a tricky thing.
To the list:
I've color coded my tiers. What this means, in short, is that I'm not going to fight you if you think Kelvin Benjamin is better than Davante Adams. That wouldn't be my choice, but the difference isn't enough for me to worry about. On the other hand, if you want to put Robert Herron ahead of Donte Moncrief, we're going to have to have a talk.
Tier 1 - As I said above, Mike Evans (6'5, 231) and Sammy Watkins are legit studs that will step in and make in an impact as rookies before growing into stars in the league. I think I'm fairly alone in ranking Evans ahead of Watkins, and maybe rightfully so. Watkins is the more dynamic athlete and doesn't lack for size at 6'1, 211lb.
Evans isn't far behind Watkins in athleticism though, trailing him by fractions of a second in most of the combine events. He does, however, have Watkins roundly beat in size. Evans' size isn't just for show, he demonstrates the body control and catch radius that puts those extra inches to good use.
Both of these guys should be big time playmakers at the next level, but if I had to bet on one I'd narrowly take Evans over Watkins.
Tier 2 - OBJ (5'11, 198) and Lee (5'11, 192) are somewhat similar players. Both are explosive playmakers in space, and neither will dominate with their size. Beckham wins out in the head to head after Lee's (relatively) disappointing junior year and combine performance. Lee's junior season was marred by an uptick in drops, a downtick in QB play, and injuries. Those don't mask his talent when you watch him play though, he's still the guy that caught for 1,700 yards a couple years ago.
Tier 3 - There is a lot to talk about in this tier. Jordan Matthews (6'3, 212) is a big bodied, dependable receiver with good athleticism for his size. He's got a big catch radius he puts to use, but he's not going to pull down many more tough catches than the average receiver and he's no less prone to concentration drops. He's a very smooth athlete, but he's a build to speed guy with good, not great, top end speed. It wouldn't be unfair to call him a safe pick, in both the good and the derogatory way. He'd almost certainly take the label of safe the wrong way, judging by his twitter he'd fit right in on the Hawks. Eric Decker is a guy that comes to mind when I think of NFL comps.
Davante Adams (6'1, 212) is a playmaker but lacks for great size and athleticism (not that either are poor, but neither are top of the line either). Where Adams makes his hay is in his ability to attack balls in the air and use his fantastic body control to extend and pull in catches. He showed off his leaping ability at the combine with a 39.5in vertical, and he has the body control to put that raw leaping ability to use. Think Brandon Lloyd. Just don't ask him to block.
Jared Stanger tipped me off to Cody Latimer (6'2, 215) and he's been a favorite of mine since. He's a bit of a jack of all trades, with nice size, good athleticism, longer arms, and dependable hands. He's a very willing and effective blocker out wide. He's a very sudden athlete, especially for his size, and he explodes in and out of his breaks. He also uses this to his advantage getting off of the line. For Latimer to really succeed he'll need to improve his ability to go up over corners and pull down jump balls.
Martavis Bryant (6'4, 211) basically has everything you want on the field, and nothing off of it. Supposedly he's getting his act together and if the Seahawks agree, look for Bryant to be a strong option at 32. Ranking him where I did was more or less random, a guess between his skill and his possible fall due to red flags.
He's a bit of a specialist, but smart teams look for players that create mismatches and Brandin Cooks (5'9, 189) can certainly do that. The athleticism is off the charts, his production was outstanding, and while he's not the tallest guy around he's roughly the same height as Antonio Brown and Doug Baldwin. Because of his height he doesn't present the biggest target and can be bodied up and bullied when defenders get into him. At the same time, he attacks balls with his hands and can correct to catch errant passes. This is critical when his QB looks to him as an outlet receiver and rockets a ball in his direction before taking a lick from the pass rush.
Kelvin Benjamin (6'5, 240) is tall. Annnnnd, that's kinda it. But, boy! He's sure tall. Big too. That does count for something though and if he can do more of this and less of this, he could become a force on the red line and in the red zone. If he takes his game a step further and learns to body out corners on slants and curls, he could become one a legitimate #1 receiver. The body control to use his size is there, it's just a matter of his focus and drive. Based off nothing more than his game tape, I'm not confident Benjamin is pissed off for greatness.
Tier 4 - To me there are a lot of similarities between Abbrederis (6'1, 195) and Landry (5'11, 205). Both are grinders that will outsmart and outwork the competition. That doesn't mean they lack for athleticism or are "try hard" guys, both players are deadly quick in and out of their cuts and have the top end speed to take a play to the house. I call them grinders because neither are likely to be consistent big play threats at the next level. These guys are going to work underneath defenses and in the middle of the field, and they'll rack up catches and first downs in the process.
Donte Moncrief (6'2, 221) blew up the combine, but to my eye those numbers don't show up during the game. Not that Moncrief looks like a poor athlete in games, but he doesn't display the explosion I'd hope for. On the flip side, he'll just be turning 21 when training camp in underway and there is still a lot to work with in both his size and raw athleticism. A coaching staff that believes in coaching up their players could be well rewarded by selecting Moncrief.
The more I've watched Allen Robinson (6'2, 220) and the more I've watched other receivers in this class, the farther down the list he's slipped. It's not that there is anything wrong with him, but there just isn't a lot of juice there either. His YAC is unlikely to translate well to the NFL, as he's not particularly elusive or sudden. He's a build to speed guy that will rely on his ability to win jump balls and back shoulder fades to threaten defenses vertically. He could be an effective slot receiver, using his size and fluid cuts to work zones and the middle of the field.
Brandon Coleman (6'6, 225) is, like Kelvin Benjamin, tall and, even more so than Benjamin, not a lot else. While I have no doubt that Gary Nova severely hampered Coleman's production, I'm still skeptical Coleman can grow into a productive NFL player. Coleman lacks the body control needed to put his size to use. He's frequently unable to organize himself and position himself to leverage his size and make a play on the ball. But he's a tall dude with decent athleticism, and that equals potential and intrigue.
Tier 5 - The first WR in Tier 5 is my 16th ranked player. You might think we're starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but that's not the case. Two guys I really like, Josh Huff (5'11, 206) and Robert Herron (5'9, 193), and in this tier. Both of these guys remind me of Golden Tate minus the hops. Herron's big knock is his height, and Huff's is his consistency. Both of these guys are likely to be nice NFL players with clear roles on an offense, and have the makeup to be solid special teams contributors.
Paul Richardson is a good athlete who has both nice top end speed, good quicks, and the body control to attempt circus catches. He's also a very skilled receiver with dependable hands and crisp routes. The concern with Richardson is his slight frame. At 6'0 and 175lb, it's possible he could literally be broken in half if asked to work the middle of the field. Richardson also has small hands, if you're into that kind of thing for receivers. His durability and ability to handle physical coverage are the major questions surrounding Richardson's ability to have a productive NFL career.
DCrockett described L'Damian Washington (6'4, 195) as "...a blazer like Lockette, but he's starting out as the receiver Lockette is now. Also, like Lockette was during his first tour in Seattle, Washington is Olive Oyl skinny. Still tough enough to play gunner on punts, and he goes over the middle as a WR." I'd agree, Washington is a lanky, straight line speed guy that can take the top off defenses and be reasonably dependable hauling in balls on the redline. Mix in his special teams abilities and he's ready made to have a nice little NFL career, and that's before predicting any growth in his game.
Tier 6 - Things start getting sparse here in terms of players that can hope to contribute within a year or two. Shaq Evans (6'1, 213) and Matt Hazel (6'1, 198) are another similar duo, both have nice size and decent athleticism. Shaq is rougher around the edges, and has a habit of drops that can be hard to overlook. He's 23, which doesn't kill his potential as a project but is on the older side of rookies. Both project as WR#4 types that can capably spot start when needed.
Jeremy Gallon will likely land a roster spot and could even be productive as a spot starter in the slot. He has good quickness and great balance, and has a Steve Smith like ability to elevate and catch contested balls. But at 5'7, 185 and with only average top speed, he'll need to find a role on special teams to hold a roster spot over the long term. Look for him to have a Justin Forsett type career.
Devin Street (6'3, 198) is a lesser version of Donte Moncrief.
Cody Hoffman (6'4, 223) is another big body, but unlike the previous guys he's more of a skilled prospect with limited physical talent. He's a plodder that doesn't elevate particularly well, and really struggles with bringing down balls when he has to leap for them. That limits the advantages of his height. He catches the ball well otherwise, and could carve out a role in the slot working the middle of the field and seams.
Quincy Enunwa is yet another guy who has nice size at 6'2 225lb, but looks very stiff on tape and doesn't catch particularly well. Likely to have special teams value and will need it to stick long enough to justify taking up a WR roster spot.
Honorable mentions - The 25 players listed above are they guys I've watched at least a little of and feel confident in my read on them. There are two other guys, Jeff Janis (6'3, 219) and Kevin Norwood (6'2, 198), that I wanted to include but wasn't able to without more tape. Janis is a freak physically and racked up numbers at Saginaw Valley St. I was only able to find highlight videos of him, and truth be told I wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped to be. Big time body catcher and he looked less dynamic than I had hoped. He housed a bunch of catches, but you kind of expect that with the competition he played against. Still, the numbers he put up at the combine are jaw dropping for his size. He's a very raw prospect, but there is a lot to work with. My minimally informed guess would put him somewhere in tier 5.
Norwood has nice size, good measurables, and once did this. From what little I've seen, he reminds me a bit of Mike Williams (Tampa's, not BMW). My minimally informed guess would have him between tiers 4 and 5.
Conclusion - This draft is deep as hell at WR, and I'm drooling over the top two guys. Teams are going to have to be smart about how they match prospect to scheme, but assuming guys are used correctly there should be a lot of production out of this class. My guess is that Seattle will be interested in the following guys (in no particular order, and not including the top 4): Adams, Bryant, Cooks, Moncrief, Norwood, Janis, Street.