Draft's top wide receivers

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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Draft series

NFL.com's 10-part series looks at each position in the draft.

Thursday, April 10: QBs | Rankings
Friday, April 11: RBs | Rankings
Saturday, April 12: TEs | Rankings
Sunday, April 13: OL | Rankings
Monday, April 14: WRs | Rankings
Tuesday, April 15: DEs | Rankings
Wednesday, April 16: DTs | Rankings
Thursday, April 17: LBs | Rankings
Friday, April 18: CBs | Rankings
Saturday, April 19: Safeties | Rankings

Top wide receivers in 2008 NFL Draft:

1. Limas Sweed, Texas

Height: 6-4   Weight: 210
College stats: 124 receptions, 20 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.50 40-yard dash, 4.33 short shuttle, 37 ½-inch vertical

Limas stayed in college for four year and refined his route running and ability to read coverage's. There is a lot less risk with Sweed than many of the other receivers. He had 39 starts in college football as opposed to Devin Thomas with 13 college starts. As he said to me in our discussions, "I know how to get open, I can leap and the best thing I do is adjust to the ball." Sweed will not be in the dark when he lines up against NFL secondary, while some of the other candidates just might be lost. Finally, this guy has excellent character. Draft projection: Round 1.

 Sweed: Combine highlights | Day in the life of | Pro day interview


2. Devin Thomas, Michigan State

Height: 6-2   Weight: 217
College stats: 79 receptions, 8 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.40 40-yard dash, 4.26 short shuttle, 33-inch vertical

Right now, Thomas is the popular choice to be the first receiver selected and he may well be. However, 13 college starts, junior college prior to that and two different high schools works against his great explosiveness. I must say his 1.47 10-yard time is lightning quick and in a simple system he may excel early. Draft projection: Round 1.

 Thomas: Combine highlights


3. James Hardy, Indiana

Height: 6-5   Weight: 217
College stats: 191 receptions, 36 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.49 40-yard dash, 4.22 short shuttle, 37-inch vertical

Hardy had some off-the-field issues two years ago, and some feel he turns it down over the middle. It all may be true, but he has special physical skills and will be a red zone threat from day one. Hardy caught 36 touchdown passes in 32 college starts. He's almost 6-foot-6, with a good vertical leap and long enough arms to get to a ball almost 12 feet high. He is a former Indiana basketball player and a 5-foot-9 corner doesn't have a chance on the jump ball. Draft projection: Round 1.

 Hardy: Combine highlights | Combine interview


4. DeSean Jackson, California

Height: 5-10   Weight: 167
College stats: 162 receptions, 22 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.35 40-yard dash, 4.19 short shuttle, 34 ½-inch vertical

A number of NFL people are uncomfortable about a 167-pound wide receiver. A good press corner will eliminate his release so he has to play off the line of scrimmage, and may ultimately wind up as a third-down slot receiver. Jackson can catch the ball, has return skills, and taking him is about the same risk as selecting Ted Ginn Jr. last year. Draft projection: Round 1.

 Jackson: Combine highlights | Analysis


5. Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma

Height: 6-3   Weight: 224
College stats: 144 receptions, 21 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.68 40-yard dash, 4.24 short shuttle, 32-inch vertical

Kelly swears he has run 4.4 this spring, but NFL clubs have a high 4.6-4.7 time and that scares teams off. Kelly will run again and a faster time puts him back into play for the first round. Draft projection: Round 2.

 Kelly: First Draft


6. Donnie Avery, Houston

Height: 5-11   Weight: 192
College stats: 210 receptions, 19 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.34 40-yard dash, 3.91 short shuttle, 37 ½-inch vertical

Avery can really run, and occasionally flashes Torry Holt skills. Some teams have him downgraded for his inconsistent hands and body-catching habits, but 44 starts and a ton of production make him intriguing. His short shuttle means he can separate on the break or just run by a defender with his 4.3 speed. Draft projection: Round 2.

 Avery: Combine highlights | Senior Bowl highlights, analysis


7. Mario Manningham, Michigan

Height: 5-11   Weight: 183
College stats: 137 receptions, 27 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.38 40-yard dash, 4.38 short shuttle, 35-inch vertical

Manningham has some off-the-field issues concerning marijuana, but he is hoping a letter he sent to every club can help with the damage control. He ran much faster at his pro day than he did at the combine (4.6), which is hard to explain considering the difference. He's confident, but that can work for or against him in different situations. What if his team is losing and he's not getting the ball? That's how one personnel director put it when I asked him about Manningham. Draft projection: Round 2.

 Manningham: Combine highlights


8. Early Doucet, LSU

Height: 6-0   Weight: 203
College stats: 160 receptions, 20 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.59 40-yard dash, 4.45 short shuttle, 34 ½-inch vertical

This kid is this year's Anquan Boldin. Can he overcome the slow 40 times and get teams to just look at the game tapes? Is there enough evidence that he's crafty enough to beat man coverage? I like this guy in a West Coast "shallow crossing route" package. Draft projection: Round 2.


9. Andre Caldwell, Florida

Height: 6-0   Weight: 204
College stats: 185 receptions, 16 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.37 40-yard dash, 4.11 short shuttle, 36 ½-inch vertical

Caldwell has the speed, change of direction and size to be rated higher than this, but he isn't considered a complete receiver. His hands can be inconsistent and blocking isn't his strong suit, but I think he has a chance to have a solid career like his brother Reche Caldwell. Draft projection: Round 3.

 Caldwell: Combine highlights


10. Dexter Jackson, Appalachian State

Height: 5-9   Weight: 182
College stats: 110 receptions, 17 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.37 40-yard dash, 4.15 short shuttle, 30 ½-inch vertical

This kid can fly on a football field. He just looks faster than any of the other guys on the field. He is built for the slot, making the pivot route almost impossible to cover. He can also run away from defenders on the shallow cross. Could be a terrific NFL return man. Draft projection: Round 3.

 Jackson: Combine highlights


11. Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech

Height: 5-9   Weight: 184
College stats: 119 receptions, 12 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.39 40-yard dash, 4.34 short shuttle, 36-inch vertical

Royal has the same package as Dexter Jackson, but he is stronger (24 reps on the bench, tops for wide receivers) and he demonstrated at the Senior Bowl he can get behind a defense. Draft projection: Round 4.

 Royal: Combine highlights


12. Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt

Height: 5-11   Weight: 209
College stats: 236 receptions, 20 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.48 40-yard dash, 4.33 short shuttle, 32-inch vertical

Bennett could be ranked higher by the time the draft. He has a second-round grade by some teams, while others see him as a late third-round selection. His play speed appears average on tape, but he does snatch balls and will fit in a West Coast short-route attack. His 11 yards per reception and just five touchdowns last year were partially due to the quarterback, but it has something to do with his skills as well. Draft projection: Rounds 3-4.

 Bennett: Combine highlights


13. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State

Height: 6-2   Weight: 217
College stats: 206 receptions, 19 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.51 40-yard dash, 4.35 short shuttle, 31-inch vertical

People who watched Nelson play in 2007 believe he's a first-round receiver and are very frustrated about where he sits heading into the draft. He has the size, production and speed to excel in the NFL. He had a few fine moments when I watched him at the Senior bowl practices. He is fast enough to be an effective seam-route runner. His numbers were off the charts last year when he caught 122 passes and got to the end zone 11 times. Three years from now when he's still in the NFL and more productive than some of the above mentioned players, he will get the last laugh. Draft projection: Rounds 3-4.

 Nelson: Combine highlights | Senior Bowl analysis


14. Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina

Height: 6-2   Weight: 199
College stats: 161 receptions, 44 TDs
Vital numbers: 4.48 40-yard dash, 4.52 short shuttle, 41-inch vertical

Simpson is this year's version of Jacoby Jones, who was drafted by the Texans in the third round out of Lane College. Simpson has the hands and arms to snatch a football, and his vertical leap makes him dangerous when it's time to go up after a ball. He is raw and will struggle with releases and coverage recognition early, but he's worth the time and effort. Draft projection: Round 4.

 Simpson: Combine highlights

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