CFB 24/7: Path to the Draft  

 

Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee lead top WR prospects

As we take a look at the prospects who could be available in the 2014 NFL Draft, it's not hard to see why teams with a need at wide receiver might be excited.

We haven't seen more than four wide receivers selected in the first round since the 2009 draft. Will that streak be snapped in '14? It's too soon to say, but an abundance of intriguing talent is working its way up the ranks at the position.

Underclassmen tracker
NFL.com's College Football 24/7 is tracking reports of the intentions of college football underclassmen in anticipation for the 2014 NFL Draft. More ...

The following players are representative of so many wide receivers we'll analyze in the months to come, and plenty more will emerge as we go along. These are the targets who no doubt have the attention of NFL teams:

Clemson's Sammy Watkins

The super-speedy Watkins (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) bounced back from a disappointing 2012 season to make 85 catches for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. A lot can change between now and the draft -- Watkins, a junior, has yet to declare for the draft -- but the talk from NFL circles indicates Watkins is viewed as potentially the best wide receiver in the draft. That debate will intensify as we get closer to the draft, but scouts love his speed and big-play ability. He can be a major factor as a kick returner, too. Every time he touches the ball, it can be a huge play.

USC's Marqise Lee

The thing that impresses me so much about Lee (6-0, 195 pounds) is that he's not just resting on his athletic ability. As long as he continues to work on his craft, he can be anything he wants to be. He has that type of ability. Lee, a junior, battled injuries and his numbers dipped this season after he won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver in 2012, but he does so many things well. He plays well without the ball, will block downfield and is a phenomenal kick returner. When he gets his hands on the ball, it scares defenses to death.

Texas A&M's Mike Evans

Evans' ability to go up and get the ball really stands out. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt sophomore is tough to beat on a jump ball. Now, Missouri CB E.J. Gaines held him to four catches for 8 yards in an Aggies loss last month. So he did show some signs of being human on his way to 65 catches for 1,322 yards and 12 TDs.

2014 Reese's Senior Bowl: Accepted invites
The Reese's Senior Bowl is one of football's premier pre-draft events. NFL Network coverage included Senior Bowl week practices and continued with the game, which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014.

Here is a list of the players who have accepted invitations to participate in the event.

» Official site of the Reese's Senior Bowl

LSU's Odell Beckham Jr.

An explosive playmaker, Beckham Jr. (6-0, 193) has developed as he's gone along. He started out as a kick returner, eventually earned more reps as receiver and this year did it all as a junior, setting an LSU record with 2,222 all-purpose yards. He won the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player.

Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews

Everyone in the SEC knew what Matthews (6-3, 206) could do, and he still will leave as the league's career leader in receptions and receiving yards. He never had the luxury of elite quarterback play but still was prolific. This season he set an SEC single-season record with 107 catches. The senior shows great toughness, the ability to work inside and he can beat a defense over the top. If he runs a good time at the combine, look out. He could rise up draft boards.

Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin

Also a redshirt sophomore, Benjamin (6-5, 234) knows how to use his big body, but he runs well, too. He's a matchup nightmare. Benjamin utilizes his strength and tremendous power to gain an advantage over defensive players. Duke coach David Cutcliffe might have said it best when he called him "a monster."

Penn State's Allen Robinson

Robinson's experience was big for the Nittany Lions this season, as he helped break in a true freshman at quarterback in Christian Hackenberg. He's an excellent route runner, can work inside and outside and is a dangerous kick returner, too. Robinson, a junior, set school single-season records this season for receptions (97) and receiving yards (1,432).

Follow Charles Davis on Twitter @CFD22.

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