Top 10 Prospects: Wide Receiver

Over the next couple of weeks and leading up to the draft, I will be taking a look at each position, if the Dolphins have a need to upgrade that position in the draft, and who are the top 10 prospects going in. Remember, this is only one man’s opinion. This is the third of such posts and today we will look at the wide receiver position.

Forgive me for this post. I’m slightly distracted by the impending lockout (as I’m sure the rest of you are).

The position that has seemed to have taken a backseat to all the quarterback and running back talk is certainly the wide receiver. On paper, this looks like a pretty solid bunch. Brendan Marshall is the clear-cut number one. In my opinion, Davone Bess is probably the most underrated wide out in the NFL today. And Brian Hartline never seems to get the credit he deserves. However, as it has been noted, the Dolphins do not have a speedy wide receiver who can stretch the field and clear out the underneath stuff for Marshall and Bess. Therefore, the Dolphins will look to find that guy in the upcoming draft. Here are the top 10 WR prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft.

1. A.J. Green, Georgia 6’4, 212 lbs

Green has been drawing comparisons to Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, and fairly. He is big, and has excellent hands. He will fight for every ball thrown his way. The only knock on Green is that he may need to bulk up a bit before he plays a down in the NFL. That can and will be fixed easily with some time in the weight room. Besides that, he is NFL-ready, and is helped by the fact that he played in a pro-style offense. Experts are saying he is a can’t-miss prospect, and will more than likely be gone in the top 5 picks.

2. Julio Jones, Alabama 6’4, 220 lbs

I was extremely tempted to put Jones above Green, but I hate changing my mind based solely on combine performance. I didn’t get to watch much of Jones this year (to be honest, I’m not a huge college football fan), but I watched his 10 catch, 199 yard performance in the Iron Bowl, and I was sold. His 4.39 at the combine, coupled with the 11 foot 3 inch broad jump and 38.5 inch vertical, only further sold me on the fact that this kid is going to be a star in the NFL. He is strong, and can break tackles and elude defenders in the open field. To me, it’s amazing to watch how much he developed at Alabama, playing in a run-first offense that featured Mark Ingram. He was able to play through injuries in college, something NFL teams love. There is no way he is going to get past the Rams at #14, and his combine performance probably moved him into the top 10. If there was one player I think it would be worth it for the Dolphins to move up to get, Jones is it. Unfortunately, unless a new CBA can be agreed upon before the draft, there is no way they would be able to move up without sacrificing their entire draft.

3. Torrey Smith, Maryland 6’1, 200 lbs

Smith does not have ideal size you look for in an NFL receiver, but he is an explosive option as a receiver and kick returner. He ran a 4.43 40 and, in my opinion, plays even faster than that. He jumped an impressive 41 inches as well. His small (8 5/8 inch) hands are a concern though, and he does have a tendency to drop some passes he should catch. Despite his size, Smith is a physical receiver who is not afraid of contact. He has tremendous upside, if he is able to fully learn the position. He could be a fringe first-rounder, or possibly early second rounder. I believe he could be what the Dolphins are looking for. He is blazing fast and can definitely stretch the field. He reminds me a bit of DeSean Jackson, the home run threat the Dolphins are clearly lacking.

4.  Leonard Hankerson, Miami 6’3, 205 lbs

Hankerson has been helped dramatically by certain players going back to school, and his excellent Senior Bowl week. He has good size, and is fast. He won’t blow you away like Torrey Smith or Julio Jones, but once he gets going, he’s tough to stop. He can make the big catch and is good as making defenders miss. He is also a good blocker, something that always seems to get overlooked on a receiver’s skill set. Concerns about him go towards his tendency to drop the ball, a problem that has drawn him some comparisons to Braylon Edwards. However, he is a good route running and high character guy. He will probably be an early second round selection.

5. Jon Baldwin, Pittsburgh 6’5, 230 lbs

This may be a little low for Baldwin, but in researching the four receivers above him, I believe they are bring more upside to the table than Baldwin. However, outside of A.J. Green, he might be the most NFL ready right now. His size makes him a nightmare to cover in the red zone, and he has excellent hands all over the field. He isn’t the fastest receiver out there, which makes me think he’ll be more of possession receiver in the NFL , a-la Brendan Marshall. He has excellent body control, and is not afraid of going over the middle. Besides his speed, the main concern about Baldwin is his route running. He is sluggish in and out of his breaks, something he’ll need to work on. I like Baldwin, just not where he is being projected. As a 2nd rounder, I have no problem with him. As a 1st rounder, I think that’s too high.

6. Titus Young, Boise State 5’11, 175 lbs

Young, like Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson before him, is going to be a home-run threat in the NFL. At 5’11, he isn’t big,  but he is fast and can get down the field in a hurry. Scouts who question his size need to look at Jackson, who is also 5’11 and one of the most productive receivers in the NFL. Young could be just what the Dolphins are looking for. However, there are concerns about him. First off, his was suspended for nearly all of 2008 season. He has very little value as a blocker and doesn’t have the strength to break jams at the line of scrimmage. He also played against inferior competition at Boise State. There is no question he can run, and he can catch, but his character concerns and size may throw up some big red flags. He is projected as a late second to early third rounder. If he is there when Miami picks in the 3rd round, I wouldn’t have a problem with taking a shot.

7. Randall Cobb, Kentucky 5’11, 186 lbs

Cobb is as dynamic of a threat as you will find in the upcoming draft or in draft history. In his final season at Kentucky, he gained over 1,000 yards receiving and over 400 yards rushing. He ran a punt return back for a touchdown and threw 3 TD’s as well. In his freshman year, he actually threw the ball 99 times. During that time, he managed to break Darren McFadden‘s record for single season SEC All-Purpose yards. (Oh yeah, he also was the holder for kicks as well). But with all of that, he is going to the NFL as a wide receiver. He is built well for his size, and is strong enough to take on corners and linebackers. However, at this point he is no where near polished enough to be an every-down player. He isn’t a great route-runner and he drops too many passes. But he is as versatile as they come, and his ability to play almost every position in the offense who probably tempt a team enough to bite as early as the middle of the second round.

8. Jerrel Jernigan, Troy 5’9, 190 lbs

Jernigan is name that I haven’t heard being thrown around too much, but maybe after running a 4.32 at his Pro Day, we might hear more about him. The Sun Belt’s all time leader in all-purpose yards is a little undersized, but makes up for it by being dynamic and having good hands. He has a quick burst off the line, and has beaten corners that are bigger than him. He definitely can be a home-run threat, but he is still very raw as a route-runner and every down receiver. He will need to work on his deep routes, and his run blocking, but will still probably be off the board by the 3rd round.

9. Vincent Brown, San Diego State 6’1, 195 lbs

Brown is the type of receiver who plays bigger than he is. He can out jump almost anyone, and has pretty good hands. Unfortunately for Brown, running a 4.66 40 is a good way to make your draft stock start falling fast. I’ve seen him play though, and I believe he plays faster than that. Concerns about Brown (besides the speed) is the fact that he didn’t play against good talent in at SDSU, and his injury history. But his numbers don’t lie, and the 1,352 yards he racked up his senior year, plus a 19.6 average was pretty impressive. I expect he’ll by gone by the late 3rd round.

10. Greg Little, North Carolina 6’3, 220 lbs

I would expect you to be upset with me for this pick. Little missed all of the 2010 season for violating NCAA sanctions. But the raw talent is there, and if Little can land with the right team (i.e. not the Bengals) who can straighten him out, we might be looking at a sleeper. He has an excellent football frame and is strong for a WR. He isn’t afraid of contact and won’t get jammed at the line. He has only been playing the position a few years, so the potential is definitely there. Obviously, he is raw and the character concerns are a problem. He will also need to learn how to run better routes. But as a mid-draft selection, Little has the chance to be a huge steal.

5 Other Receivers to Keep an Eye On:

Austin Pettis, Boise State

Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian

Tandon Doss, Indiana

Greg Salas, Hawaii

Cecil Shorts III, Mount Union

There are plenty of receivers in the draft who I believe will fit what the Dolphins need. Obviously, Julio Jones tops that list, but the likelihood of him falling to #15 is very low. Out of the feasible options, Torrey Smith and Titus Young really have me intrigued. Both are not only fast receivers, but they are talented. As fun as somebody like Randall Cobb would be to watch, he is more of a gimmick option. Young and Smith are players who can contribute for years, but who also won’t take the spotlight off of Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess.

What do you think?

I’d just like to briefly take time to send my thoughts out to all the people that were affected by the earthquake/tsunami in Japan and on the West Coast today. It’s in times like these that we need to be strong and bond together as a country.

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Tags: A.J Green Austin Pettis Cecil Shorts III Edmund Gates Greg Little Greg Salas Jerrel Jernigan Jon Baldwin Julio Jones Leonard Hankerson Randall Cobb Tandon Doss Titus Young Top 10 Prospects Torrey Smith Vincent Brown Wide Receiver

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