2014 NFL Draft Prospects: Wide Receivers
By Matt LaPan
The 2013 NFL Draft ended less than 48 hours ago, which means one thing: it's now 2014 draft season. In the upcoming college football season, experts and draftniks alike will be searching for players who will be the "next sure thing" in 2014 draft reports.
While it is far too early to tell who will be the No. 1 player at each position, we can start the conversation by taking a look at those among the draft-eligible top 10.
Today, wide receivers:
1. Marqise Lee, USC
6-foot, 195 pounds
2012 season: 118 rec., 1, 721 yards, 14 TDs, 14.6 ypc, 28.5 yards per kickoff return
Lee returns to USC for his third season after turning in an All-American 2012 season. Lee has good size and great speed with enough agility to get past almost any defender at the line of scrimmage. Lee is also one of the most dangerous kick returners in the NCAA, which also translates into his ability to gain yards after the catch. With another great season, Lee will be in the conversation for best overall player in the 2014 draft.
2. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
2012 season: 57 rec., 708 yds, 12.4 ypc, 19.8 yards per kickoff return
Watkins was one of the most explosive and exciting players in the NCAA in 2011, but he struggled to regain that form after being suspended early in 2012. Watkins has great size, speed and agility, which makes him a complete threat. He has great hands and an elite ability to make plays in the open field. Watkins will need to regain his 2011 form if he wants to go near the top of the 2014 draft.
3. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
2012 season: 94 rec., 1,323 yds, 8 TDs, 14.1 ypc
Matthews broke out for an All-SEC season in 2012. Matthews has ideal size and good speed and combines it with a physical style of play that NFL teams love. Matthews accomplished all of this while being the only receiving threat for Vanderbilt, which plays against the best defenses in college football.
4. Cody Hoffman, BYU
2012 season: 100 rec., 1,248 yds, 11 TDs, 12.5 ypc
Hoffman's physical stature makes him a potential target for NFL teams. The big-bodied receiver has great agility for his size, which allows him to get open. He also uses his height extremely well to catch balls over defenders. Hoffman has some of the strongest hands in the NCAA and has a great ability to pull 50/50 balls away from defenders.
5. T.J. Jones, Notre Dame
2012 season: 50 rec., 649 yds, 4 TDs, 13.0 ypc
Jones projects to be a very good slot receiver in the NFL. His numbers do not pop off the stat sheet, but that could be due in part to constant quarterback changes and playing with the best tight end (Tyler Eifert) in the NCAA last year. Jones has good speed, strong hands and is not afraid to go over the middle to catch passes. His true value should be shown this season as Notre Dame's offense develops under Brian Kelly.
6. Devin Street, Pittsburgh
2012 season: 73 rec., 975 yds, 5 TDs, 13.4 ypc
When watching Devin Street, the first thing that jumps off the film is how many bad passes he has to catch. He does a great job of battling back to the ball and fighting in traffic to get to the ball despite his slight frame. He also does a great job high-pointing deep passes, using his height to beat smaller defenders. He has good but not great speed and agility, and will need to work on his route running.
7. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
2012 season: 40 rec., 572 yds, 4 TDs, 14.3 ypc, 22.4 yards per kickoff return
Mitchell is the ultimate team player. After a Freshman All-SEC year at receiver, Mitchell moved to corner for the first four games of 2012 to help the Bulldogs deal with injuries and suspensions, and he played better than most expected. Mitchell's play at cornerback shows how tough he is; combine this with great breakaway speed and strong hands and Mitchell is a very promising prospect on both sides of the ball. If he does not have to play much cornerback this season (which he may have to), Mitchell could break out in the SEC.
8. Kevin Norwood, Alabama
2012 season: 29 rec., 461 yds, 4 TDs, 15.9 ypc
Norwood is another player who has stats that do not jump off the sheet but is a solid wide receiver option. Norwood runs good routes and displays strong hands. He is also one of the best blocking wide receivers in the nation, one reason Nick Saban trusts him so much. He needs to become a bigger part of Alabama's offense to show NFL teams that he is ready to play at the next level.
9. Josh Huff, Oregon
2012 season: 32 rec., 493 yds, 7 TDs, 15.4 ypc
Huff is often overshadowed in the Oregon offense but is a dangerous receiving threat. He runs great routes and displays very good hands. Huff is very elusive after the catch and is strong fighting for extra yards. Huff is also a great blocker on the edge, shown by playing in Chip Kelly's offense. He should have more of a chance to shine with a new offense being implemented in Oregon.
10. Mike Davis, Texas
2012 season: 57 rec., 939 yds, 7 TDs, 16.5 ypc
Davis will be one of the better downfield threats in the 2014 draft. He is dangerous after the catch, using his great speed and cutting ability to leave defenders in the dust. Davis has strong hands and does a great job high-pointing the ball. He needs to work on his route running and blocking skills and will have to add some muscle to his frame since he struggles to get off of jams on the line.