We already took a look at the rookie quarterbacks and tight ends in this class, but what fellow rookie wide receivers might be making an impact this year? This draft was generally seen as light on skill players at the top, but I believe there are some real gems among the rookies and there is 1 undrafted free agent to watch if you have a later draft date. Curious to know who they are? Let's take a look.
1. Cordarelle Patterson - Minnesota Vikings (University of Tennessee)
6' 2" and 216 lbs, 4.42 40 and 37 inch vertical jump
UT: 25 carries for 308 yards (12.3 YPC) 46 receptions for 778 yards and 5 TDs (16.9 Y/C) 4 PRET 101 yards (25.2 YPR) and 24 KRET 671 yards (28.0 YPR)
JUCO: rushing 32 carries for 379 yards and 6 TDs (31.583 avg), 61 receptions for 924 yards and 15 TDs, 10 KO returns for 482 yards and 3 TDs
Draft position: Vikings Round 1 pick # 29
You can feel free to call me a Big Orange homer I really don't care. Patterson is the real deal. One of the most gifted players I have ever seen, Patterson will make an impact early and often for the Vikings. A rare size of speed, size and athletic ability, Patterson has the ability to stop on a dime and reverse course in a blink that very few rare athletes possess. Don't let this guy pass you by or you might find yourself crying in the car for years to come.
Patterson is the true total package. Can be used in a variety of ways. Standout returner, can line up in the backfield and as a receiver whether its split out wide or in the slot. An amazing combination of size, agility and speed. Can reverse course without losing speed and still maintains an extra gear. As fellow wide receiver Greg Jennings said: 'if you see the back of his jersey it's over.'
Pre-draft talk discussed need to polish route running which has some basis but Patterson came straight from JUCO and played right away. A bit inconsistent with his hands. Isn't a polished blocker but is willing. Won't be able to run around the backfield in the pros like he did in college. Needs work on going to the ball and defending a poorly thrown pass.
Where I project him: Patterson is a consensus Round 8 pick. I have seen him recently drafted in the 7th. Tavon Austin is currently being drafted in Rounds 6 and 7 and I far prefer the bigger and stronger Patterson. I would target him in Round 6.
2. DeAndre Hopkins - Houston Texans (Clemson)
6' 1" and 214 lbs
Draft position: Texans Round 1 pick # 27
205 receptions for 3009 yards and 27 touchdowns and 2 fumbles
After many years of letting Andre Johnson assume the full load, the Texans finally went out and got him a guy who can truly take the pressure off him. Hopkins is one of my favorite wide receivers in this draft class. Plus, given that he should be the compliment to Johnson you can expect him to get looks early and often. I'm not convinced he is a true #1 wide receiver but he doesn't have to be right now with Andre Johnson still producing at an elite level.
One of the best route runners in this draft. Incredibly productive at Clemson. Uses his head and body to fake out defenders and run past them. Plays faster than his 40 time shows. Once he hits the open field he is pretty much gone. Probably has the best hands in this draft. Good consistent blocker.
Doesn't possess great size (but he plays big). Could probably stand to add a bit of bulk. Didn't show great athleticism at the Combine (but production and film from college trumps this in my opinion).
Where I project him: Hopkins projects very similarly to Patterson and like Patterson I would target him beginning around Round 6. This guy is the real deal.
3. Aaron Dobson - New England Patriots (Marshall)
6' 3" and 210 lbs (4.43 40 at his pro day)
165 receptions for 2398 yards and 24 touchdowns (3 fumbles) 16.33 Y/C 3 rushes for 19 yards and no TDs
Draft position: Patriots Round 2 pick # 59
The uncertainty at the tight end position makes the Patriots wide receivers all the more important, but I already loved Dobson. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of Patterson and Dobson. This guy is simply a playmaker. Look for him to continue that tradition with New England.
I could almost cut and paste what I said about Hopkins here because they are very similar to me in what they bring. Hopkins is a bit more consistent blocking and with his route running but Dobson is a playmaker make no doubt. Nice soft hands and good athleticism. Nice combination of size and speed.
Needs to work on blocking and technique. Some inconsistencies that should be fixable. Like Hopkins needs some work adjusting his routes and defending poor throws (this isn't a major concern).
Where I project him: I have seen him drafted anywhere from round 10 to round 14. I would target him at round 10. Other wide receivers going in round 10? Miles Austin, Keenan Allen, Michael Floyd, and Lance Moore. You might even consider looking a bit early. He should challenge Michael Jenkins for playing time right away..
4. Justin Hunter - Tennessee Titans (The University of Tennessee)
6' 4" and 196 (39.5 inch vertical jump)
106 receptions for 1812 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Draft position: Titans Round 2 pick #34
You could argue this might be a bit high for Justin Hunter given the depth at wide receiver for the Titans (did I really just type that?). My how times have changed. Still, Hunter when he is healthy is just so darn good. The problem of course is that he struggled with injuries at Tennessee and during mini camps with the Titans. Still, I believe the mini camp thing was only precautionary and I expect Hunter to be healthy for camp and primed to start the season for the Titans. It is widely assumed Hunter will line up opposite Britt on the outside, leaving Washington and Wright to play in the flex or the slot.
Possesses the height and body type to be a #1 wide receiver but needs to put on some bulk. Has the ability to stretch the field. An ACL injury cut his 2011 season short and he struggled in 2012 but still managed to produce 1083 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. While sharing the playmaking stage with Cordarelle Patterson. Is a willing blocker. Really excelled at the Combine.
Needs to work on strength and could likely use a good nutritionist. Inconsistent hands at times. Injury questions starting to pop up. The usually sure handed struggled in 2012 but is expected to rebound.
Where I project him: His ADP right now is around round 10 and that seems about right to me.
5. Keenan Allen - San Diego Chargers (UCLA)
6' 2" and 206 lbs (10 inch hands)
205 receptions for 2570 yards and 17 touchdowns 12.17 Y/C
30 carries for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns 8.9 YPC
Draft position: Chargers Round 3 pick # 76
Since we are drawing comparisons, Allen reminds me a lot of Justin Hunter, a fellow rookie in this class. Not as tall as Hunter, Allen is a playmaker. Like Hunter, he struggles with inconsistent hands.
While not terribly fast, does have a giddup gear and gets it going in the open field. Plays faster than what his pro numbers suggest. Can make some really nice catches in traffic. Very productive college career.
Not as fast or as gifted as Justin Hunter. Needs to work on using his hands, both in catching and blocking. Will need work on route running. Ran a lackluster 4.71 and 4.75 at his pro day. Doesn't always use his height to his advantage. Gets knocked off his routes.
Where I project him: Allen's ADP averages about rounds 9 and 10. That seems a bit high to me but I'm really not a fan of Phillip Rivers. I wouldn't target until round 12.
6. Quinton Patton - San Francisco Forty Niners (Louisiana Tech)
6' 0" and 204
183 receptions for 2594 yards and 24 touchdowns
Draft position: Niners Round 4 pick #128
Great size and speed. incredibly productive in college. Has that "it" factor you want in a wide receiver. shows nice adjustment on his routes. Can use his body to elude defenders and has a mean stiff arm. doesn't get taken out of the play very often at all. Tracks the ball incredibly well.
Have to factor the competition. Still his quarterback left some to be desired and Patton put up big numbers. needs some polish overall.
Where I project him: I have seen him drafted most consistently in rounds 15 and 16. Marcus Wheaton who is next has gone as high as round 11. I would target at round 12 or 13.
7. Markus Wheaton - Pittsburgh Steelers (Oregon State)
5' 11" and 189
227 receptions for 2994 yards and 16 touchdowns (4 fumbles) 12.65 Y/C
83 carries for 631 yards and 5 touchdowns 7.5 YPC
Draft position: Steelers Round 3 pick # 79
I like this draft pick for the Steelers but you have to wonder where Wheaton fits in with Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown. Could work his way in the mix however and should land in front of Plaxico Burress and Jericho Crotchery on the depth chart.
Has great speed and athleticism. Projects to be a versatile player with the Steelers. Shows good use of his speed and athletic ability at times. Flashes great plays.
A bit smaller at receiver than the others (and than I personally prefer). Needs to work on strength especially in his lower body. Breaks down on his blocks. Drops catchable balls.
Where I project him: His ADP averages around round 13 and I tend to agree with that general area.
8. Tavon Austin - St. Louis Rams (West Virginia)
5' 8" and 174
288 receptions for 3488 yards and 29 touchdowns 11.68 Y/C
109 rushes for 1031 yards and 6 touchdowns 9.68 YPC
Draft position: Round 1 pick #8
I have Austin here largely against my better judgment as I truly think Stedman Bailey will be a better wide receiver in the NFL. Still, concerns about the extent to which Jeff Fisher would consider playing 2 rookie wide receivers (well either really) make me choose and Austin wins strictly on special teams value and draft status. I have big concerns about Austin's ability to perform at his college level when the talent he is going to face will be overwhelming bigger, stronger and faster. While it could be smokescreen (although I doubt it), Austin seems slated to get more playing time.
Was very productive in college. Had breakaway speed and if left in space will make you pay. Can be used in a variety of ways. has good value as a returner.
Very undersized compared to the talent he will be facing. Drops balls he should catch. Struggled at times to make plays in man coverage and there is a legitimate concern over how he will compete against the bigger corners NFL teams are trending toward. Has Fisher changed his stripes? How much will he see the field as a rookie on offense?
Where I project him: His ADP is pretty high at round 6. I would never consider drafting him there but I am clearly in the minority. My target range would be more in line with where Chris Givens and Brian Quick are going and that is round 12.
9. Robert Woods - Buffalo Bills (University of Southern California)
6' 0" and 201 lbs
252 receptions for 2930 yards and 32 touchdowns 11.64 Y/C
14 rushes for 142 yards and 0 touchdowns 28.87 YPC (please note this is skewed by one long run in 2012)
Draft position: Bills Round 2 pick # 41
If you read my rookie quarterback rankings you know how I feel about USC skill players. For that reason, Woods doesn't get much love from me as I prefer Da'Rick Rogers who I believe possesses true #1 wide receiver size and talent.
Very productive college career. Willing to make tough catches over the middle. Nice field vision. Good mix of size and speed. While not an outstanding athlete, very fluid and powerful in his routes. Not afraid to gain tough yards.
As I have have stated before, USC skill players struggle in the NFL. When was the last time a wide receiver from USC that was drafted highly was a big success. Most of them flame out and that is an inescapable fact.
Where I project him: Woods ADP is about round 12. I understand the thought process and if you like Woods I think that's fine. I prefer Da"Rick Rogers and his combination of size and measurables even with the risk factor.
10. Terrance Williams - Dallas Cowboys (Baylor)
6' 2" and 208 lbs
202 receptions for 3334 yards and 27 touchdowns 16.68 Y/A
Draft position: Round 3 pick # 74
I like Williams a lot he slides down because the Cowboys have Dez Bryant and Miles Austin not to mention Jason Witten, and Gavin Escobar who I wrote about in my tight end rankings. The Cowboys have a ton of money invested in Austin but he just can't stay healthy. Williams sits behind Austin on the depth chart so its certainly possible he could see significant playing time.
Another guy with a nice combination of size and speed and he uses it well. Also another wide receiver who tracks the ball so so well. Has that giddup gear that allows him to leave defenders behind. Outstanding college production.
Needs to be more aware of his surroundings. sometimes hit the line on the outside and could have positioned himself better on chain alignment. Some tendency to get pushed back at times. Some evaluators question his hands.
Where I project him: I have seen him drafted anywhere between 13 and 19. I would target beginning at round 14.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT
Da'Rick Rogers - Buffalo Bills (Tennessee Technological University)
6' 3" and 206 lbs
139 receptions for 2100 yards and 21 touchdowns 15.1 Y/C
20 rushes for 120 yards and 0 touchdowns 6.0 YPC
Draft position: Bills UDFA
Has all the tools to be the real deal. Great size, speed and measurables. Despite the drama surrounding him in college, he still managed to produce good numbers. A dynamic and explosive receiver who will be a matchup nightmare.
In the most obvious of observations EVER he has shown marked maturity issues. Shows inconsistent effort at times. Maturity issues flare when things don't go his way. Some draft evaluators question his tracking ability but I think he does it well.
Where I project him: His ADP is around round 14. This isn't bad considering Rogers is an UDFA. Still, it only takes 1 person like yours truly to assume the risk. Woods has an ADP at round 12 and I think a strong case can be made that drafting Rogers there makes as much sense if not more.