- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2011 season. Here's how the wide receivers stacked up.
Talk about a tough position to grade. It's hard to argue against Andre Johnson as the top wide receiver in the NFL right now, but after that, there's a ton of talent at the top of this position, and we could have shuffled this in a number of different ways.
As for how we graded, you have to go on more than size. The shortest wideouts can be a foot shorter than the tallest players at this position. We also have to consider the offense. Wide receivers are so dependent on whoever is distributing them the football. That said, WRs tend to be much more scheme-specific than fans realize. There are many ways to run a route and the skill set needed varies from team to team.
But the elite wideouts fit every team. And wow, are there ever some physical specimens at this position right now with a combination of size, speed, body control, hands -- you name it. That being said, Johnson is our clear leader.
Johnson brings a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. He is a good route runner who has the speed to challenge the secondary down the seam yet can run combination routes with excellent foot quickness, agility and acceleration.
Johnson can get in and out of his breaks with foot quickness and a burst to separate from defenders and has a wide receiving radius that allows him to extend to make difficult catches. He can go up and high point the ball in a crowd and has the strength to overpower most cornerbacks when challenged.
Fitzgerald has quickly risen to arguably the most electric receiver in the NFL. He brings a rare combination of size, speed, athleticism and receiving skills. He is a good route runner who can sink his hips to get in an out of his breaks with good foot quickness and a burst to separate from defenders and has a gear coming out to maintain the separation.
Fitzgerald's biggest asset is his ability to adjust and make acrobatic-type catches. He has good run skills after the catch and can turn a short catch into a long touchdown with just a single missed tackle. He is competitive to the ball when in a crowd and will elevate to high-point the catch.
Johnson has a rare blend of size, strength and athleticism. He can stretch the field on deep routes and out-jump most defenders when the ball is in the air. He can get separation with his length and strength on short and intermediate patterns.
Johnson also has deceptive burst and speed off the line of scrimmage that eat up cushions. He has strong hands to adjust and make the tough catch outside his frame. He is a physical blocker on the perimeter and maintains body position for an extended period of time.
White is a big receiver with legitimate downfield speed and the ability to turn a short catch into a long gain. He has become QB Matt Ryan's go-to receiver that can make tough catches over the middle or run under deep passes.
White will go across the middle and catch the ball in traffic or run under the deep bomb to keep the secondary on their toes. He can sink his hips to get in and out of his breaks with foot quickness and has come a long ways when it comes to running precise routes. He still has the occasional easy drop that you'd like to see eliminated but White is a solid number one receiver that can pretty much do it all.
Jennings is an excellent athlete with average size and deceptive strength. He has become a consistent route-runner and understands how to get separation from defenders.
Jennings has speed and burst off the line of scrimmage to stretch deep zones as well as dangerous run-after-catch ability in the open field. He is a versatile player who can line up in various areas of the formation, and he has the courage and concentration to make touch catches in traffic. He has become a solid perimeter blocker but isn't physical to stay connected.
2dBy Dan Graziano