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Next year's top receiver prospects feature a variety of skills

Eric Gay / Associated Press
Texas' Jordan Shipley has dominated every level of competition and he figures to get his shot at the NFL in 2010.


Top college senior rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | G/C | OT | DE | DT | MLB | OLB | S | CB


Editor's note: This is the third in a weekly series detailing the top senior prospects, by position, for the 2010 NFL Draft.

Speed is important at this position, but the ability to run routes (Steve Largent, for example), have a burst (Jerry Rice) and catch the quick slant for a first down to keep the drive alive (Michael Irvin, Cris Carter) are important as well.

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Keyshawn Johnson is one of only two receivers ever selected No. 1 overall. Find out if you know who the other one is as Gil Brandt shares draft trivia about wideouts. More ...

» Brooks: Top 16 NFL prospects

Speed is an important trait for success because it makes it possible to stretch the field. Very seldom can you find a receiver who can run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash after the third round of the draft.

Wide receiver is a position in which players selected after the first round have a chance to play and excel at a high level. Chad Ochocinco, Anquan Boldin, Deion Branch and Chris Chambers were all second-round picks, while Hines Ward, Steve Smith and Terrell Owens went in the third round. Brandon Marshall (fourth round), Donald Driver (seventh round) and Wes Welker (undrafted) weren't even taken that high, if at all.

Since 1999, 332 wide receivers have been drafted -- the most of any position. Since 1998, 496 wide receivers have been invited to the combine -- also the most of any position.

This list only includes players who will have exhausted their eligibility after the 2009 season. USC wide receiver Damian Williams, a transfer from Arkansas, has an extra year of eligibility. For that reason, he was not included on this list, even though he would likely be a top prospect if he chose to enter the 2010 draft.

Here are the 15 senior wide receivers that scouts will be keeping a close eye on this fall, plus change-of-position or non-Division I players who may be drafted.

TOP SENIOR WIDE RECEIVERS
 
1. Brandon LaFell

College: LSU
Height/Weight: 6-2 ½, 207

LaFell is a tall, athletic player, who was an oustanding high school basketball player in the Houston area. He enters his third year as a starter in 2009 and caught 63 passes with eight touchdowns in 2008. He is projected to be a late first-round pick.
 
2. Mardy Gilyard

College: Cincinnati
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 182 pounds

Gilyard is a fifth-year player who missed the entire 2006 season due to academics. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2008 and also caught 81 passes for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was selectd a first-team All-Big East performer and special teams player of the year. He has very good hands and runs a low 4.5 40-yard dash. He is a possible first-round pick.

3. Eric Decker

College: Minnesota
Height/Weight: 6-3, 207

Decker was a two-sport star at Minnesota who was drafted in baseball after the 2007 season. He has caught 151 passes the past two seasons. He has great hands and is an outstanding route runner. He will block, but he's not especially fast.
4. Jordan Shipley

College: Texas
Height/Weight: 5-11 ½, 190

All-time leading high school receiver (264 catches, 5,424 yards and 73 touchdowns) in Texas history. These totals rank second all-time nationally. He has great hands and is an outstanding route runner with quickness. He also returns kicks. He plays a lot like the Patriots' Welker.

 
5. Chris McGaha

College: Arizona State
Height/Weight: 6-1, 199

McGaha is an outstanding athlete, who won the slam dunk championship in high school and anchored the 4x100 meter relay team. As a redshirt freshman he started five games and has caught 96 passes the past two seasons. He has very good hands.
6. Jeremy Williams

College: Tulane
Height/Weight: 6-0 ½, 205

Williams is a fifth-year player who has caught over 100 passes and 12 touchdowns over the past two years. He is a good athlete and looks a lot like Roydell Williams who plays for the Redskins after having spent his first three years with the Titans.

7. Jacoby Ford

College: Clemson
Height/Weight: 5-8 ½, 185

Ford is a fast and explosive receiver. In 2006, he averaged 32.8 yards per kickoff return. He returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and a punt 92 yards for a touchdown. He was the Florida state champion in the 100 and 200-meter races. He has quickness to go along with his speed.
8. Shay Hodge

College: Mississippi
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 205

Hodge tied for the most touchdown catches in the SEC in 2008 with eight. He had 44 catches for 725 yards last season. He was a high school quarterback, who averaged 25 points per game as a high school point guard. He has very good hands and explosion. He may not catch 50 passes this year, though, because the team has so many good receivers.

 
9. Dexter McCluster

College: Mississippi
Height/Weight: 5-7 ¼, 163

McCluster was the Runnin' Rebels' leading running back with 109 carries for 655 yards and tied for the most catches on the team with 44 last year. He plays in a formation as a tailback where he receives the direct snap and he also plays wide receiver. He's very strong for his size and has great quickness. If you want a treat, watch his 40-yard touchdown run vs. Florida last year.
10. Greg Mathews

College: Michigan
Height/Weight: 6-2 ½, 210

Mathews played as a true freshman at Michigan in 2006. He had 35 catches in 2008, despite the top two quarterbacks in Ann Arbor not completing 50 percent of their passes (165 of 337). He also returns punts. His cousin, Ted Ginn Jr., plays for the Dolphins.

 
11. Andre Roberts

College: Citadel
Height/Weight: 5-10 ½, 185

A two-time first-team All-Southern Conference player, Roberts holds the school record for most catches in one season. He ran anchor leg on the school's 400x100 relay team that won a Penn Relays title in 2007. He also returns punts and has very good hands for the position.
 
12. Alric Arnett

College: West Virginia
Height/Weight: 6-1 ½, 190

Arnett was a first-year starter in 2008. He had 35 catches and six touchdowns on a team that passed just 304 times in 13 games. He was injured in 2007 and missed the entire season after playing two years of junior college football. He was a sprinter who has lots of upside for the position. Be sure to check out his one-handed touchdown catch vs. North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

 
13. Riley Cooper

College: Florida
Height/Weight: 6-2, 212

Cooper played in 2006 as a true freshman at Florida, starting against Auburn and Tennessee. He is a big target as a receiver and had 18 catches and three touchdowns in 2008. He played as a gunner on special teams and was drafted in the 2006 Major League Baseball draft. He is a very good athlete.
14. Naaman Roosevelt

College: Buffalo
Height/Weight: 6-foot, 180

Roosevelt had 104 catches and 14 touchdowns in 2008. He caught the Hail Mary pass last yer against Temple that was featured on highlight shows across the nation. He is more quick than fast. He was a high school quarterback.

15. Kerry Meier

College: Kansas
Height/Weight: 6-2, 217

Meier started eight games at quarterback for Kansas in 2006. Last year was his first full season at wide receiver and he finished with 97 catches and eight touchdowns. He plays a lot like Jordy Nelson, a 2007 second-round pick of the Green Bay Packers.
 
16. Armanti Edwards

College: Appalachian State
Height/Weight: 5-11, 180

Edwards plays quarterback, but his best position might be wide receiver. He's an Antwaan Randle El look-alike.

Youngstown's Donald Jones (6-0 ½, 210 pounds), Montana's Marc Mariani (6-0 ½, 180 pounds) and North Alabama's Preston Parker (5-11, 195 pounds) are three non-Bowl subdivision (formerly Division-IA) players to watch.


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