- Steve Muench, Scouts Inc.
One of the biggest NFL free-agency storylines -- aside from the courtship of a certain hall of fame quarterback -- has been the movement of big-name wide receivers to new teams.
All are now in need of playmakers on the perimeter, so here's a look at how those teams can soften those losses through the draft.
The signing of former New Orleans Saints WR Robert Meachem takes some of the sting out of losing Vincent Jackson to the Bucs, because Meachem has the speed to stretch the field and make plays downfield in the Chargers' scheme. However, the Saints never made Meachem their go-to receiver and he's sure to draw more attention in San Diego, so expecting him to fully replace Jackson might be too optimistic.
And don't forget, at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds Meachem is three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Jackson. Chargers QB Philip Rivers is a risk-taker who is willing to throw jump balls downfield and let his receivers go after them, so finding another big-bodied wideout who excels in those situations would make sense.
Notre Dame's Michael Floyd (Scouts Inc. grade: 92) would be an excellent fit with his downfield ball skills, but taking Floyd in the first round might be a bit rich for San Diego now that Meachem is in the fold. The Chargers could look for a bigger receiver on Day 2, though, and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery (83) is a possibility if he proves his speed during his pro day workout. Appalachian State's Brian Quick (75) could also be an option in the third round with his size (6-3.5, 220) and athleticism.
The decision to trade Brandon Marshall to the Bears made some sense given Miami's desire to change its locker room culture and Marshall's off-field distractions. Still, the Dolphins are now left to replace a receiver who topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of the past five seasons and caught at least 100 passes in three of the past five seasons, all despite shaky quarterback play.
Miami could target QB Ryan Tannehill (93), who played under new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman at Texas A&M, with the eighth overall pick. But even if the Dolphins bring in a free agent like Matt Flynn, they are not likely to find value at wide receiver at No. 8 because Oklahoma's Justin Blackmon will almost certainly be off the board at that point.
That means Miami could look for a receiver in the early part of the second round, and there are intriguing prospects likely to be available in that area. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill* (86) is raw for a BCS-conference prospect, but he averaged 29.3 yards on 28 catches last season, and LSU's Rueben Randle (84) has strong hands and deceptive top-end speed.
Reggie Wayne's decision to re-sign with the Colts is one of the bigger free-agent surprises thus far, but the loss of Pierre Garcon to the Redskins along with Austin Collie's concussion issues still make receiver a pressing need. It's also worth pointing out that Indianapolis cut TE Dallas Clark and blocker Brody Eldridge is the only tight end on the roster right now.
The Colts are expected to make Stanford QB Andrew Luck* (99) the first overall pick and he made the most of his talented tight ends at Stanford. In fact, Indianapolis could target Luck's college teammate Coby Fleener (88) at the top of the second round.
Assuming the Colts take Luck in the first and a tight end in the second, Arkansas WR Joe Adams (76) would be a good value in the third round. Adams has the quickness to separate from single coverage with Wayne drawing attention away from him, and could also give the Indianapolis punt-return unit a much-needed boost.
The Cowboys still have Dez Bryant and Miles Austin on the roster, but Laurent Robinson departing to the Jaguars after a breakout 2011 season still hurts. He made the Cowboys' spread sets tougher to defend and provided excellent depth behind Bryant and Miles, both of whom have missed time with injuries.
Dallas has done a nice job using free agency to address needs in the secondary, which opens the door for earlier-than-expected receiver additions through the draft. One name to watch is Baylor's Kendall Wright (91). Wright is a fringe first-round pick on film, but his 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the combine could cause some teams to shy away. Should Wright somehow get out of the first round and fall to the Cowboys in the second, they would do well to grab him because Wright is much better playing in pads than running in shorts.
Steve Muench looks at 2012 prospects who could replace some of the big-name wide receivers who switched teams in free agency.