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Published: April 15, 2015 at 01:20 p.m.
Updated: April 15, 2015 at 01:55 p.m.

Ranking top receivers from the 2014/2015 draft classes

The 2014 NFL Draft produced one of the best receiver groups the league has ever seen, with three rookies eclipsing 1,000 yards, eight topping 50 catches and nine scoring five-plus touchdowns. But as we approach the 2015 draft, the next crop of wideouts is receiving significant buzz for its top-end talent and depth. This raises an intriguing question:

How do the top receivers from the 2014 and 2015 draft classes stack up against each other?

Well, for the sake of this discussion, let's pretend they're all available in the upcoming draft. How would you arrange these wideouts on a draft board? Obviously, we have more knowledge of the 2014 guys, having just watched them log an NFL campaign. When it comes to the 2015 draftees-to-be, we'll have to rely more on projection. No matter: In scouting, projection's the name of the game.

So, knowing everything that we know today, here's how I would rank the top 10 wide receivers from the 2014/2015 draft classes:

10 Photos Total

  • Simply looking at this guy as a physical specimen, he's an extremely rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and speed (4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). Enticing stuff, to say the least. But of course, Green-Beckham has some major issues when it comes to off-field behavior. <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/recruiting/rankings/rank-2867/0" target="_blank">Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 overall recruit</a> in 2012, the receiver had <a href="http://www.nfl.com/combine/story/0ap3000000470919/article/dorial-greenbeckham-hits-combine-with-major-talentconcerns">multiple run-ins with the police</a> and was kicked off the Missouri football team. In talking to teams around the NFL, I know some have taken him off the board entirely. So it'll be interesting to see where he ends up going in the draft. Nobody questions his ability -- Green-Beckham can be a dominant red-zone player early in his career -- but he's easily the biggest boom-or-bust guy on this list. 10

    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    10) Dorial Green-Beckham -- 2015 draft prospect out of Oklahoma/Missouri

    Simply looking at this guy as a physical specimen, he's an extremely rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and speed (4.49 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine). Enticing stuff, to say the least. But of course, Green-Beckham has some major issues when it comes to off-field behavior. Rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 overall recruit in 2012, the receiver had multiple run-ins with the police and was kicked off the Missouri football team. In talking to teams around the NFL, I know some have taken him off the board entirely. So it'll be interesting to see where he ends up going in the draft. Nobody questions his ability -- Green-Beckham can be a dominant red-zone player early in his career -- but he's easily the biggest boom-or-bust guy on this list.

  • Many of the players on this list jump off the screen with explosive physical traits. Not this guy. Landry has a lot of Anquan Boldin and Hines Ward to him, as a very instinctive, tough, natural football player who offers outstanding hands and pristine route-running. Landry finished second among rookies with 84 catches last season. No. 1? His LSU teammate, Odell Beckham Jr. Not a bad college receiving corps, eh?
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Landry's going to be a very, very good No. 2 receiver in the NFL for years to come. He could eventually become a No. 1, but I think he's ideally suited to be a stellar complementary target; put somebody with a little more speed on the other side and just let Landry do the dirty work. 9

    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    9) Jarvis Landry -- 2014 second-round pick (No. 63 overall) of the Miami Dolphins

    Many of the players on this list jump off the screen with explosive physical traits. Not this guy. Landry has a lot of Anquan Boldin and Hines Ward to him, as a very instinctive, tough, natural football player who offers outstanding hands and pristine route-running. Landry finished second among rookies with 84 catches last season. No. 1? His LSU teammate, Odell Beckham Jr. Not a bad college receiving corps, eh?

    Landry's going to be a very, very good No. 2 receiver in the NFL for years to come. He could eventually become a No. 1, but I think he's ideally suited to be a stellar complementary target; put somebody with a little more speed on the other side and just let Landry do the dirty work.

  • People forget about Cooks because he got injured and only played 10 games last season. But when healthy, the former Oregon State star was dynamic, explosive and just a fun player to watch. People look at his size (5-10, 189) and automatically assume he must be relegated to the slot, but I think Cooks has the skills to do whatever you ask of him. Steve Smith is a receiver who's routinely excelled on the outside without ideal size -- I think Cooks could do the same, if called upon to do so. And it will be interesting to see how the Saints deploy him going forward. Trading Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills speaks to the confidence they have in Cooks as a multi-skilled pass catcher. 8

    Rogelio Solis/Associated Press

    8) Brandin Cooks -- 2014 first-round pick (No. 20) of the New Orleans Saints

    People forget about Cooks because he got injured and only played 10 games last season. But when healthy, the former Oregon State star was dynamic, explosive and just a fun player to watch. People look at his size (5-10, 189) and automatically assume he must be relegated to the slot, but I think Cooks has the skills to do whatever you ask of him. Steve Smith is a receiver who's routinely excelled on the outside without ideal size -- I think Cooks could do the same, if called upon to do so. And it will be interesting to see how the Saints deploy him going forward. Trading Jimmy Graham and Kenny Stills speaks to the confidence they have in Cooks as a multi-skilled pass catcher.

  • This is a raw talent who just knows how to play above the rim. Benjamin is not a polished route runner, but if you simply get him down the field, he's a mismatch at 6-5, 240, with the innate ability to go up and get the football. As a rookie, Benjamin racked up 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. That last figure is instructive -- this is a red-zone nightmare who will put up big touchdown numbers each and every year.
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Benjamin drops some balls he has no business dropping, but he also catches some balls <i>nobody</i> has any business catching. The former Seminole does special things that cannot be taught. The NFL's best secondary is definitely familiar with his talents: In two games vs. the Seahawks (including one in the playoffs), Benjamin totaled 11 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Not too shabby for a first-year player against the "Legion of Boom." 7

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    7) Kelvin Benjamin -- 2014 first-round pick (No. 28) of the Carolina Panthers

    This is a raw talent who just knows how to play above the rim. Benjamin is not a polished route runner, but if you simply get him down the field, he's a mismatch at 6-5, 240, with the innate ability to go up and get the football. As a rookie, Benjamin racked up 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. That last figure is instructive -- this is a red-zone nightmare who will put up big touchdown numbers each and every year.

    Benjamin drops some balls he has no business dropping, but he also catches some balls nobody has any business catching. The former Seminole does special things that cannot be taught. The NFL's best secondary is definitely familiar with his talents: In two games vs. the Seahawks (including one in the playoffs), Benjamin totaled 11 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Not too shabby for a first-year player against the "Legion of Boom."

  • I describe him as a poor man's A.J. Green, and I mean that as a high compliment. (He's not a <i>broke</i> man's A.J. Green.) Parker is tall, silky smooth and boasts unbelievable tracking skills -- his ability to adjust to balls down the field is second to none. He's also sneaky scary after the catch and surprised some evaluators with a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine. This dude's just a smooth operator.
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When it comes to this class of wide receivers, a lot of people have been labeling Kevin White and Amari Cooper as the "Big Two." To me, it's a Big Three. All three of these guys rank among <a href="http://www.nfl.com/top50">the top eight overall players on my big board</a>. Parker is worth a top-10 pick in this draft. 6

    Garry Jones/Associated Press

    6) DeVante Parker -- 2015 draft prospect out of Louisville

    I describe him as a poor man's A.J. Green, and I mean that as a high compliment. (He's not a broke man's A.J. Green.) Parker is tall, silky smooth and boasts unbelievable tracking skills -- his ability to adjust to balls down the field is second to none. He's also sneaky scary after the catch and surprised some evaluators with a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine. This dude's just a smooth operator.

    When it comes to this class of wide receivers, a lot of people have been labeling Kevin White and Amari Cooper as the "Big Two." To me, it's a Big Three. All three of these guys rank among the top eight overall players on my big board. Parker is worth a top-10 pick in this draft.

  • The one word that comes to mind: polished. And a lot of times, when you describe a player as such, he lacks explosion, but that's not the case with Cooper -- he gives you both qualities. Actually, he has a lot of similarities to the breakout superstar of last season, Odell Beckham Jr. Both receivers give defensive backs fits by exploding in and out of the break point. Also, both have a spectacular understanding of the position and top-notch awareness. Beckham's hands are a bit more consistent, as Cooper has concentration drops from time to time.
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Cooper will be ready to produce on Day 1 in the NFL -- he can play inside, he can play outside and he can beat NFL cornerbacks. And like many of the wide receivers who come out of the Alabama program, he can hold his own as a blocker, too. The only thing Cooper lacks is immense size, but at a hair under 6-foot-1, he's certainly no shrimp. 5

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    5) Amari Cooper -- 2015 draft prospect out of Alabama

    The one word that comes to mind: polished. And a lot of times, when you describe a player as such, he lacks explosion, but that's not the case with Cooper -- he gives you both qualities. Actually, he has a lot of similarities to the breakout superstar of last season, Odell Beckham Jr. Both receivers give defensive backs fits by exploding in and out of the break point. Also, both have a spectacular understanding of the position and top-notch awareness. Beckham's hands are a bit more consistent, as Cooper has concentration drops from time to time.

    Cooper will be ready to produce on Day 1 in the NFL -- he can play inside, he can play outside and he can beat NFL cornerbacks. And like many of the wide receivers who come out of the Alabama program, he can hold his own as a blocker, too. The only thing Cooper lacks is immense size, but at a hair under 6-foot-1, he's certainly no shrimp.

  • Checking in at 6-3 and 215 pounds, White's a beast of a man out wide. He's so strong and plays angry -- which I love -- attacking the football and exploding after the catch. Did I mention he posted a 4.35 40 at the combine? White can run past you or he can run through you. I've compared him to Julio Jones. High praise, I know, but it's valid. This is a remarkably gifted athlete.
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White spent two years in junior college and only had one season of big-time production at West Virginia, so he's not as polished as Amari Cooper. White's still developing as a complete route runner, but I don't see any stiffness that would lead me to believe he won't eventually get there. This is a great kid, too -- his work ethic and character are off the charts. He'll continue to work at his craft and get better. 4

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    4) Kevin White -- 2015 draft prospect out of West Virginia

    Checking in at 6-3 and 215 pounds, White's a beast of a man out wide. He's so strong and plays angry -- which I love -- attacking the football and exploding after the catch. Did I mention he posted a 4.35 40 at the combine? White can run past you or he can run through you. I've compared him to Julio Jones. High praise, I know, but it's valid. This is a remarkably gifted athlete.

    White spent two years in junior college and only had one season of big-time production at West Virginia, so he's not as polished as Amari Cooper. White's still developing as a complete route runner, but I don't see any stiffness that would lead me to believe he won't eventually get there. This is a great kid, too -- his work ethic and character are off the charts. He'll continue to work at his craft and get better.

  • A power forward playing football. Evans has the unique ability to box people out and highpoint the football -- it's no fluke that he scored 12 touchdowns last season. He's one of those guys that when he's covered, he's open, just because of his rare ball skills. And don't let his big body fool you -- this 6-5, 231-pounder can move. He clocked an impressive 4.53 40 at the 2014 combine, and his game speed is every bit as fast as that Underwear Olympics figure.
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Considering how inconsistent Tampa Bay's quarterback play was last year, 1,051 yards from a rookie wideout is nothing short of phenomenal. If you're a Buccaneers fan, you have to be salivating over this behemoth's potential production if the team truly hits on one of these QBs with the No. 1 pick at the end of this month. 3

    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    3) Mike Evans -- 2014 first-round pick (No. 7) of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    A power forward playing football. Evans has the unique ability to box people out and highpoint the football -- it's no fluke that he scored 12 touchdowns last season. He's one of those guys that when he's covered, he's open, just because of his rare ball skills. And don't let his big body fool you -- this 6-5, 231-pounder can move. He clocked an impressive 4.53 40 at the 2014 combine, and his game speed is every bit as fast as that Underwear Olympics figure.

    Considering how inconsistent Tampa Bay's quarterback play was last year, 1,051 yards from a rookie wideout is nothing short of phenomenal. If you're a Buccaneers fan, you have to be salivating over this behemoth's potential production if the team truly hits on one of these QBs with the No. 1 pick at the end of this month.

  • Dynamic, powerful, explosive -- there's no shortage of laudatory adjectives to describe his game. Watkins fell just short of the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, and that was largely due to the lackluster quarterback play in Buffalo last season. I think we only saw glimpses of what he can do, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses. Watkins has Pro Bowl ability, and I expect him to establish himself as a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in short order. In fact, I think he has the potential to become a top-five wide receiver in the NFL. Buffalo just needs to provide him with some stability under center. 2

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated P

    2) Sammy Watkins -- 2014 first-round pick (No. 4) of the Buffalo Bills

    Dynamic, powerful, explosive -- there's no shortage of laudatory adjectives to describe his game. Watkins fell just short of the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie, and that was largely due to the lackluster quarterback play in Buffalo last season. I think we only saw glimpses of what he can do, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses. Watkins has Pro Bowl ability, and I expect him to establish himself as a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver in short order. In fact, I think he has the potential to become a top-five wide receiver in the NFL. Buffalo just needs to provide him with some stability under center.

  • When Beckham was entering the NFL, you knew he was explosive, you knew he was a polished route runner -- I didn't know he was capable of being as purely dominant as he was in 2014. I mean, 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs -- <i>in 12 games</i>! I had him ranked as the No. 3 receiver going into the NFL draft, behind Watkins and Evans. No longer. He has a chance to become the No. 1 wideout in the NFL, with his explosiveness, savvy, ability to create separation and rare, rare ball skills. The one thing this guy needs to do is stay healthy -- durability is the only concern. If he can stay on the field, he'll be a perennial Pro Bowler.
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My definition of a No. 1 wide receiver: You know exactly where the ball's going and you can't do anything about it. That's what Beckham brings to the table. Over the last six games of the season, when everyone knew he was the one guy you <i>had</i> to stop on the Giants, the rookie averaged 10 catches for 140 yards and scored nine touchdowns. 1

    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    1) Odell Beckham Jr. -- 2014 first-round pick (No. 12) of the New York Giants

    When Beckham was entering the NFL, you knew he was explosive, you knew he was a polished route runner -- I didn't know he was capable of being as purely dominant as he was in 2014. I mean, 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs -- in 12 games! I had him ranked as the No. 3 receiver going into the NFL draft, behind Watkins and Evans. No longer. He has a chance to become the No. 1 wideout in the NFL, with his explosiveness, savvy, ability to create separation and rare, rare ball skills. The one thing this guy needs to do is stay healthy -- durability is the only concern. If he can stay on the field, he'll be a perennial Pro Bowler.

    My definition of a No. 1 wide receiver: You know exactly where the ball's going and you can't do anything about it. That's what Beckham brings to the table. Over the last six games of the season, when everyone knew he was the one guy you had to stop on the Giants, the rookie averaged 10 catches for 140 yards and scored nine touchdowns.