I’ve already scouted the quarterbacks and runningbacks of this year’s class and I will be following the same format: six guys that I like a lot, listed in alphabetical order. This year’s wide receiver group lacks any elite prospect but has a lot of solid ones that I think could be solid contributors for teams, maybe potential pro bowlers down the line. It’s nowhere near the talent of the 2014 class, but I think it’s a slight upgrade over last year’s class based on depth. So let’s take a look at some receivers I like.
Simmie Cobbs Jr-Indiana
I might be a little biased on this one because I actually had a racial studies class with Cobbs during the fall semester that he was torching opposing defenses. Therefore I may have him a little higher than some others, but there is a lot to like about the kid.
Strengths: Size, Jump Ball Ability, Body Control
Cobbs is a big, strong receiver at 6’4 220 pounds. When he takes over games, he REALLY takes them over. Just watch the Ohio State game. I did say in the past that I wasn’t impressed by Ohio State corner Denzel Ward because of how well Cobbs did. Well I owe Ward a HUGE apology, he only got beat by Cobbs once and that was on a jump ball in the endzone. It was Kendall Sheffield he was abusing. Plus Cobbs’ leaping ability and body control allow him to win seemingly every jump ball he’s involved in.
Those long arms and large frame give him an unfair advantage when he’s able to get just a little bit of space. Basically all you have to do as a quarterback is throw it up and Cobbs is basically a lock to come down with it, especially since there’s a very small number of cornerbacks that can physically match up to him.
Weaknesses: Speed, Non-Complex Route Scheme, Health
Cobbs is not fast at all. I wouldn’t be shocked if he runs somewhere in the 4.6-4.7 range in the 40 yard dash at the Combine. You just watch him on film and he kind of just lumbers around. So basically if you do have a corner that matches Cobbs’ size, he’s pretty much going to be screwed because he won’t beat you with speed. The tallest active corners are 6’3 (unless you count 6’4 free agent Brandon Browner) so there are guys in the NFL who can more than handle him. Indiana also didn’t run a very complex route tree offensively so Cobbs really didn’t have to do much more than run flies and drags, not a whole lot of cuts involved, which is going to be vastly different once he reaches the NFL. However I think a lot of these problems stem from one thing: the ankle injury he suffered on his first play of the 2016 season. He was injured on a screen pass when his teammate fell onto his ankle while he was blocking and it cost him his entire season. I wonder if that ankle injury had anything to do with his lack of speed and cutting ability, which could explain the lack of variety in his routes.
Draft Thoughts: Cobbs is very raw and he’s got a lot of work to do to realize his full potential. But what he did against Ohio State was something to be very excited about and is just a glimpse of what he’s capable of. He’s going to be a project and at worst I think he’s going to be a dangerous red zone threat. I’d probably take him somewhere in the third round.
Devin Funchess. Both are 6’4 and Funchess is about 5 pounds heavier. Both have size as their biggest advantage and they like to use it. It’s taken Funchess a couple years but he’s starting to look like the type of guy we thought he would be coming out of Michigan and the Panthers seem to be comfortable with him as their #1 after trading Kelvin Benjamin.
Christian Kirk-Texas A&M
Christian Kirk was an absolute stud at Texas A&M as he had 71 catches for 919 yards and 10 TDs. Throughout the season, he didn’t really have any games that particularly wowed me statistically up until the Belk Bowl, where he absolutely torched an under-rated Wake Forest defense with 13 catches for 189 yards and 3 TD’s.
Strengths: Athleticism, RAC Ability, Versatility
Kirk is a guy that really did it all for the Aggies. He could line up outside the numbers, in the slot, even in the backfield taking handoffs. He’s just that good an athlete. He runs a 4.46 40 yard dash but he looks faster than that, especially when he makes guys miss. He’s excellent with the ball in his hands and weaves through traffic very efficiently, which also helps him in the return game. Which brings me to my point about his versatility. The guy was all over the field and that included returning kicks and punts, as he had 6 return TD’s during his 3 years at Texas A&M.
Weaknesses: Size, Inconsistent Route Running
Kirk isn’t a big receiver. He stands at 5’11 200 pounds so he’s not going to win too many jump balls. The only receiver I know of roughly that size who was good at jump balls anyway was Steve Smith Sr and that’s because his leaping ability was so great that he made up for the fact that he’s 5’9. My main issue with Kirk is that his route running is a little inconsistent. On some routes, like comebacks and hitches, he does a great job of planting his foot and coming back. But on fly routes or drags, I never see him put on any move to try and shake a receiver, he just kind of runs the route, relying on him being faster than the DB covering him. That’s fine and all but pretty much every DB in the NFL runs a 4.4 nowadays so Kirk will need to be able to shake these guys off if he wants to get open. I think he’s totally capable of doing it because I’ve seen what he can do with the ball in his hands, but first he’s got to get the ball.
Draft Thoughts: Christian Kirk is one of the most talented athletes in this class and I think he has a really bright future in the NFL. He has an Antonio Brown-like skillset, he just needs to get a little more consistency in how he runs his routes, which is of the utmost importance to me when I’m evaluating a receiver. I think I’d take him late in the first round.
I should clarify this. He’s a POOR MAN’s Antonio Brown. He does a lot of things Brown does, but to get to Brown’s level as the best receiver in the NFL, Kirk is going to have to work a little more on his technique.
Anthony Miller may not be as highly renowned as some of the other guys on this list, but he may be one of the most electrifying players in college football. He had 96 catches (5th in the nation) for 1462 yards (3rd) and 18 touchdowns (1st). He’s a pretty intriguing receiver to me, mainly because of what type of competition he faced. Miller is VERY similar to Christian Kirk in terms of skillset and play style, the main difference being Kirk was going up against SEC defenses every week, Miller was going up against Conference USA. HUGE difference in competition.
Strengths: Athleticism, Explosiveness, RAC Ability
Anthony Miller is perhaps the quickest receiver in this class. He does a great job weaving through traffic and finding the extra yards and a large chunk of his yards are RAC yards, as Memphis often threw screen passes to Miller to best utilize his strengths. He’s definitely at his best with the ball in his hands and looks like an ideal fit in a West Coast offense. He’s been clocked as fast as a 4.43 in the 40 which is about what you’re looking for in a receiver. He looks faster on tape. Just look at the way he’s able to accelerate in this game against UCLA.
That’s really what I care about, explosiveness over actual speed, which is something that Miller definitely has.
Weaknesses: Size, Competition, Can be Careless with the Football
Miller is only 5’10 190 pounds so he’s not exactly intimidating and his overall speed isn’t fast enough to where his size doesn’t mean as much. I also think he may have a rough transition to the NFL mainly because the only quality corner he went up against was UCF’s Mike Hughes. He was held to only 3 catches for 37 yards in that game. He did bounce back VERY nicely the next game against UConn with 15 catches for 224 yards and 4 TD’s, but UConn also doesn’t really have any corners and ranked dead last in all of college football in passing yards allowed per game. And for a guy who is given a lot of opportunities to get RAC yardage, he sure is careless handling the football. Far too many times I saw him kind of flailing around the ball rather than carrying it high and tight and it did cost him on a few occasions.
Draft Thoughts: I think Miller has the potential to be a very solid slot receiver in this league. I’m not sure that his transition will be very smooth but I think in the right offense he could really thrive. I’d probably spend a middle round pick on him. If he’s there in the 4th, I’m jumping at that opportunity to take him but I think overall I’d value him as a third rounder, MAYBE a second rounder depending on how he does at the Combine.
Jamison Crowder. Neither guy is very big but they both thrive as slot receivers. Crowder has been pretty solid these last couple of years and seems to be improving year after year in his role.
DJ Moore picked up a lot of steam as the season went along despite playing for a very mediocre Maryland Terrapins squad. He basically carried this entire Maryland team throughout the season and despite his quarterback being Max Bortenschlager for most of the season, he was able to put up some high quality numbers with 80 catches for 1033 yards and 8 TDs.
Strengths: Route Running, Strong Hands, RAC Ability
Route running is probably the most important asset you can have as a receiver. You see guys who aren’t super athletic like pretty much any Patriots receiver, but they always get open because they’re great route runners. Moore has that ability as he’s able to stop on a dime. He excels on hitches and comeback routes as oftentimes the corner is still drifting backward by the time he’s catching the ball when he plants his foot.
He also has pretty strong hands and does a good job in traffic. For a guy as thick as he is, he also does pretty well on screen passes, as Maryland threw a lot of tunnel screens his way. Like Miller, he’s also got great RAC ability.
Weaknesses: Speed, Jump Ball Ability, Lets Ball Catch Him at Times
For a guy who is 5’11 215 pounds, Moore doesn’t run that fast. He runs a 4.56 40, which is about average for a receiver. If you’re going to be under 6 feet at receiver, your life is going to be a lot easier if you’re running in the 4.4’s. It’s also because of this lack of height that Moore struggles in jump ball situations. Most corners in the NFL can match up with him size-wise so unlike Cobbs, Moore doesn’t have that advantage. There are also times where Moore kind of lets the ball catch him. What I mean by that is that he’ll occasionally try and catch the ball with his body rather than his hands like he’s afraid of jamming a finger. That’s going to lead to a lot of drops if he doesn’t get that taken care of.
Draft Thoughts: I think there’s a lot to like with Moore. He’s a very good route runner and that can mask a lot of deficiencies. I’ve heard some people that have him as a first rounder but I don’t agree with that. I think he’s overall too raw and he still has some things to work on before he gets in that conversation. A strong showing at the Combine can go a looooong way towards helping that, though.
Randall Cobb. Cobb’s about a tenth of a second faster than Moore, but both are on the shorter side and are excellent route runners. Lately Cobb has had a hard time getting the ball but he still poses a great threat to opposing defenses.
Calvin Ridley is essentially the consensus #1 overall receiver in this year’s Draft class and there’s a lot of good reasons for it. Despite the fact that he was Alabama’s #1 receiver and basically their only threat at that position, he still managed to get 967 yards on 63 catches with 5 TD’s. Ridley’s numbers were actually hurt by the fact that Alabama has basically been exclusively a running team these last couple of years, as the only time he topped 1000 yards was his freshman year when Jake Coker was the quarterback, but even then he led a national championship-winning team in that category.
Strengths: Route Running, Speed, Catch in Traffic, Improvisation
As far as route runners go, there’s not much better than Ridley. His cuts are so sharp every time and he has great acuity for finding the holes in zone coverage. Often times he’ll find the soft spot in the zone and kinda sit on it where Jalen Hurts could find him.
He’s also very fast, as he ran a 4.35 40 during Alabama spring practices. He’s also not afraid to get dirty and make the catches in traffic. I’ve also seen a few plays where it appears that Ridley was covered, but he found a way to get open by breaking off the route and he developed such good chemistry with Hurts that it didn’t disrupt the flow of the offense.
Weaknesses: Blocking, Not as big a focal point as maybe he should’ve been
Being a good blocker isn’t really a requirement for wide receivers, it’s just a bonus if you’re able to do it well. Ridley is not. He tries though, which is all you can ask for, but defenders are able to shed him pretty easily. I also found it interesting that he wasn’t utilized more often in the Crimson Tide offense, especially considering the success he had as a freshman. Alabama’s offense of late has a tendency to make talented receivers disappear, a la OJ Howard, who struggled as a rookie with the Buccaneers. If Ridley is this good, why isn’t he utilized more? It honestly boggles the mind and I’m wondering if it’s just the offensive scheme or if there’s something about Ridley that we don’t know because based on the footage I watched, his numbers should be significantly better.
Draft Thoughts: I would take Ridley sometime between picks 10 and 15. He might sneak into the top 10 depending on how workouts go and if a team needs a receiver badly enough (hello Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers). But there’s really very little wrong with his game here and I think he’s probably the safest receiver in the Draft.
Amari Cooper. This one might seem a bit of a cop out because both guys were Alabama receivers, but the similarities are hard to ignore. They’re both 6’1, Cooper’s about 10 pounds heavier, and they were both very complete receivers coming out of college. Let’s just hope that Ridley doesn’t develop the drops problem that befell Cooper this season.
Last but not least is Courtland Sutton. Sutton is about as gifted a receiver as I’ve seen in a long time, as he’s got the size (6’4, 216 pounds) and speed (4.51 40) combination that gets offensive coordinators salivating. In 2017 he finished with 68 catches (couldn’t get one more, could you?) for 1085 yards and 12 TD’s despite the fact there was another stud receiver lining up alongside him in Trey Quinn.
Positives: Size, Acceleration, Blocking
Sutton is huge. He’s 6’4 and almost 220 pounds and he plays even bigger than that. He’s a very physical receiver who can also run past you if you’re not careful, as he accelerates very well once he turns on the jets. He’s also an excellent blocker and he strikes me as a guy who actually takes pride in it, as pretty much anytime I saw him locked up on a corner, that corner was going nowhere. Teams would be wise to run their sweeps to Sutton’s side of the field.
Weaknesses: Level of Competition, Penalties, Inconsistent Route Running
If there’s one thing that scares me about Sutton, it’s how he performed against good defenses vs bad defenses and these kinds of numbers just scream “bust” at me. His 100 yard games came against North Texas, UConn, Houston, Tulsa, Navy, and Tulane, none of which are considered top level defenses. In fact, only Navy ranked amongst the top half of college football in pass yards per game allowed, and they barely made that group at 62nd (130 teams in the FBS). Then when he did play better defenses, he got shut down. The game that particularly worries me is the TCU game. He had 1 catch for no yards. I watched footage from that game and despite the competition, his routes weren’t that great. Granted, quarterback Ben Hicks did not have a good game, but still, he’s got to be better. Also, I watched 3 games of Courtland Sutton. He got flagged for offensive pass interference in all three games. You’ll see some receivers go years without committing OPI, but sure enough, I picked three random games and he committed OPI in all of them. It’s not like they were nitpicky either, they were pretty blatant pushoffs. He didn’t even get the catch on any of them either.
Draft Thoughts: Sutton scares me. He’s got all the talent in the world but there are times where he looks completely lost. That being said this guy probably has the highest ceiling out of all the receivers in this class based on his physical traits and overall production. However he also has the lowest floor based on how he got that production. He’s got top-10 talent but if I’m going to be comfortable with taking him in the first round like a lot of people are saying, then I have to be wowed on him in his workouts.
Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery was a big receiver coming out of South Carolina who had a ton of talent but slid to the second round and didn’t do much as a rookie before breaking out in his second season. Both guys are extremely talented but it took some seasoning before Jeffery became the receiver he is today, which is what I think Sutton needs.
That’s going to do it for this one, let me know what you think of this wide receiver class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.