Something interesting happened at the NFL Combine this year. There was a vast array of big, fast wide receivers there who really surprised a lot of people. We know that guys like Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd are going to go in the first round of the NFL draft and most likely in your rookie draft, too, but what about this vast array of talent below the surface? Let’s face it, not all wide receivers have the potential to be a #1 option on an NFL team. To be “the guy” you need three things that most humans don’t have in abundance:
If you have this “SSA” and you had a great college career, there is no doubt you’ll be a first round pick (notice I didn’t say you’d be successful in the NFL). If you have “SSA,” but you didn’t have a stellar college career, you’re what we like to call a sleeper.
In this rookie pool, there are more sleeper receivers with the potential to be a #1 receiver in the NFL than I’ve ever seen in my 35 years of following the NFL. This is a very deep pool to choose from which can lead you in two directions from a strategy perspective.
First, you can try to get the best of the best, Blackmon or Floyd, figuring it’s better to be safe and take a guy that stands out in a great pool.
Or, you can roll the dice, get a running back or quarterback in the first round and wait for one of the guys we’ll list below to just fall into your lap.
Of course, if you’re really receiver starved, you might want to just combine both strategies and take a bunch of these guys!
Any of these strategies have their risks. Highly-touted college players sometimes bomb and guys with good potential (and short resumes) don’t always live up to the potential that their “SSA” seems to indicate. So how do we separate the wheat from the chafe? Well, I will at least give you my opinions here so that you can make an informed decision come this fall. Mind you, the list below isn’t every second tier rookie receiver on the market, these are just the guys who I feel stand out as having the possibility of developing into a #1 receiver down the road. I’ve listed these guys in order of potential, as I see it.
Keep in mind, nobody on this list is shorter than 6’3”, weighs less than 210 lbs or ran slower than a 4.55 forty. These are simply eight wideouts who have the “SSA” to be a #1 option in the NFL – which ones will you be choosing?
- Alshon Jeffery, WR SC
Late in 2010, Alshon Jeffery was being looked at as a top 10 NFL draft pick. At 6’3” and 216 lbs, he has dominated SEC competition ever since he stepped on the college football field. Fast forward to March 2011 and Alshon Jeffery is an also ran. He’s no longer being considered a first round pick and questions have arisen about his weight and speed. All of this befuddles me because he never has had any character problems, he just had poor quarterbacking and a run heavy offense (I can’t believe I said that about Steve Spurrier) his junior year.He came to the combine weighing 216 lbs, but this is still dismissed because he didn’t do any position drills. There is still some question of his speed, but he certainly has looked fast enough on the field to be a playmaker.
So, here we are, looking at a “second tier” WR with first tier credentials and a bad rap built up by the media with no evidence to support. This is what I call a “value proposition.” If you can get him late in the first round or early second in your rookie draft, take him and don’t look back – you’ll be glad you did.
- Nick Toon, WR WIS
The beef with Nick Toon is his speed. At 6’2” and 215 lbs., he certainly has the build of a #1 receiver. Toon played at Wisconsin which is a run heavy program, so he didn’t put up gaudy stats – he finished with 822 yards and nine touchdowns his senior year. He did well at the combine with a 40 time of 4.54 and beat that at his pro-day, running a 4.43 with a 39” vertical leap. His father was NFL receiver Al Toon, so there is a bloodline there, too. He projects to be a third round pick and while I believe he will take some time to develop, he has all of the tools to be a successful WR in the NFL. If he gets drafted by a good passing team, look for him to contribute and possibly develop into the #1 guy eventually.
- Brian Quick, WR APP ST
Here’s the small school receiver who will not get noticed on draft day by most fantasy drafters. First, he has an awesome name for a WR! Second, at 6’4” and 220 lbs., he is an imposing presence. He ran a 4.55 40 at the combine, which is not blazing. but it’s plenty fast enough to create separation. He dominated the FCS and clearly was the best receiver at that level of play last year. He accounted well for himself at the Senior Bowl and may need some time to develop, but he certainly has the potential to be a #1 guy someday.
- Tommy Streeter, WR MIA
Now we’re into the guys who played at respectable schools, but didn’t have standout careers regardless of having the “SSA” to succeed. Tommy Streeter was overshadowed at the combine by Stephen Hill, but for those paying attention, Streeter also put on a show. At 6’5” and 219 lbs., Streeter ran a ridiculous 4.40 forty, bench pressed 17 times at 225 (the best for a WR was 22) and had a 125” broad jump. He is a terrific athlete who really had only one decent year at the University of Miami, but still possesses a ton of upside. His kind of size and speed does not come around often. If he gets into the right hands in the NFL, he could turn into a monster.
- Greg Childs, WR ARK
Here’s an interesting case. Greg Childs was having a phenomenal junior campaign, posting 48 receptions, 894 yards and seven touchdowns. He then promptly blew out his knee and never regained his college glory as Joe Adams and Jarius Wright became the go to guys. Here’s the thing. Childs came back only six months after his injury to participate in spring practice, without a brace. He was lauded for his toughness, but he was clearly not himself and he had a very poor senior season.Flash forward to his pro-day and Childs is back to his old self running a 4.40 and 4.39 forty at 6’3” and 212 lbs. He stole the show at Arkansas’ pro day and many feel he moved his draft status up into the third round, which is still fertile wide receiver ground for dynasty teams. Keep an eye on where he goes and if he has a good pre-season, he could be a steal on draft day.
- Stephen Hill, WR GT
Ok, here’s where I know I will have some detractors. Stephen Hill lit up the combine and blew the doors off of everyone above him on this list, so how can you possibly rate him so low? Good question – let me answer. Hill did in fact blow the doors off the combine with a blazing 4.36 forty along with top notch scores in the shuttle, vertical leap and broad jump. He’s clearly an awesome athlete and at 6’4” and 215 lbs., he has an awesome “SSA.”So why not higher?
Hill is a Georgia Tech product and he’s an underdeveloped wide receiver. Georgia Tech, if you don’t know, has a triple option run oriented offense that only throws the ball a few times a game. In three years, he caught only 48 balls and was mostly asked to run deep posts and fly patterns. He does not come to the NFL with the ability to create separation against press coverage nor with any type of route running rhythm at all. He is on this list, so I’m not saying he won’t or can’t succeed. What I’m saying is that I think he will take longer to develop than the five guys above him on this list. If and when he does develop, he might well be the best of the bunch, though. That said, I think the hype around him could make him implode if the expectations get too high that he can never reach them.
- Reuben Randle, WR LSU
The LSU product was a top-notch recruit out of high school who really never hit his stride until last season. LSU’s QB play the last few years has left a lot to be desired. He’s a great athlete, despite the lack of production in college and at 6’3” and 210 lbs., and owner of a 4.55 40 at the combine, he has the “SSA” to be successful at the next level. Many believe he could sneak into the first round, but I believe he will be more of a low second to early third rounder. Depending on where he goes, he could be another sneaky pickup in rookie dynasty league drafts.
- Marvin McNutt, WR IOWA
Our final contestant measures in at 6’3” and 216 lbs., and ran a 4.54 40 at the combine. He played at Iowa, not a bastion of a passing game, but managed a stellar senior season with 78 catches and 1,269 yards to go with 12 touchdowns – that’s an awesome year. He’s not the shiftiest guy in the world and he’s not tremendously elusive, but he has the “SSA” to be a great possession receiver to start his career and in the right location, he could be a sleeper #1 WR, too.