Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree is currently the second-rated player on our board, and it's hard to imagine a scenario in which he falls out of our top five at any point between now and draft weekend. That speaks to how much we value his pro potential. However, it is understandable if some teams are skittish about investing top-10 money in him. After all, Crabtree is two inches shorter than advertised and he appears on film to possess nothing more than average top-end speed.
In addition, Crabtree is recovering from surgery on a stress fracture in his left foot that will prevent him from running for NFL coaches and decision-makers. Our argument is that Crabtree's game is not predicated on speed and that two years of game tape prove his potential as a difference-maker. Then again, we're not the ones deciding whether to put tens of millions of dollars in Crabtree's pocket.
Maclin has the best combination of receiving skills and return ability. Harvin can be even more dangerous with the ball in his hand but questions about his durability and whether he will find a true niche in the NFL will keep him out of the top 10 overall. Heyward-Bey is the least consistent of the bunch, but he flashes home-run-hitting ability on film and backed it up by running the fastest 40-yard dash (4.30 seconds) at this year's combine.
Hakeem Nicks remains our third-rated receiver despite gaining 14 pounds between the combine and his pro day. An injured hamstring prevented him from working out as hard as if he had been healthy. Nicks is an underrated athlete with a sturdy build and excellent hand-eye coordination. In fact, it won't surprise us a bit if Nicks becomes the most productive rookie wide out in 2009.
Kenny Britt of Rutgers rounds out the underclassmen receivers who could come off the board late in the first round. Britt possesses good size and vertical playmaking ability. While his questionable work habits are concerning one of the most impressive pro-day workouts this off-season has thrust him into the late first-round conversation.
The only senior wide receiver we expect to come off the board on Day 1 is Brian Robiskie, who lacks big-play ability but is as polished as they come.
Mohamed Massaquoi of Georgia is the most underrated of the remaining Day 1 prospects. He came on strong late in his career and his combination of size, underrated speed and improved hands should lead to him flourishing as a No. 2 target in the NFL.
On the flip side, Brian Robiskie projects as a first-day pick but we think he's overrated at this point. Sure, there's a lot to like about his route-running skills and hands, but Robiskie has very limited upside and should become nothing more than a possession-type No. 3 receiver in the league.
North Carolina's Brandon Tate and Penn State's Derrick Williams are two more senior receivers we expect to come of the board on Day 1. Both are fluid route-runners who have the body control to adjust to adjust to passes thrown outside their frame and are dangerous after the catch. They also have the potential to develop into productive return men, especially Tate, who owns the all-time NCAA record for total return yards (3,523). Even though Tate is coming off a knee injury and has been unable to work out for scouts during the pre-draft process we believe that his versatility and big-play ability to make him worthy of a first day selection.
As usual, there is a wide variety of talent to be found at wide receiver on Day 2. Here's a look at three prospects that we believe will be considered great value picks three to four years down the road:
Mike Thomas, Arizona -- Although his size (5-foot-8, 195 pounds) will likely prevent him from developing into an every-down receiver, Thomas has the tools to develop into a productive slot receiver and punt-return man. He is explosive, runs polished routes and catches the ball well.
Kevin Ogletree, Virginia -- Scouts are leery of drafting prospects at any position who have a limited body of work, and Ogletree certainly fits the mold. Though he graduated from Virginia in 2008, he missed the entire 2007 season with a knee injury and had one more year of eligibility left.
Had he returned to school we believe he would have improved his draft stock based on what we saw on film. He is a smooth athlete who has a knack for separating from coverage, and he catches the ball well. It doesn't hurt that he turned in a surprisingly fast 40 time (4.43) at the combine.
Jarett Dillard, Rice -- Although his height/weight/speed ratio is marginal by NFL standards, Dillard makes the most of his natural ability. He's a savvy route-runner who has some of the best hands in this draft class, and he set the NCAA record with 59 career touchdown receptions. We believe that Dillard could develop into an effective slot receiver.
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