Wide Receivers

Class Review: Speed is the name of the game with this class, with most of the top prospects being labeled as legitimate deep threats. Last season's draft had 10 wide receivers taken in the Top 52 selections, and 12 total taken on the first day of the draft. This year's class could see similar numbers. There seems to be almost four definite first round talents in Ashley Lelie (Hawaii), Donte' Stallworth, Josh Reed, and Jabar Gaffney. Both Lelie and Stallworth look to be Top 20, if not Top 15 selections, with Reed and Gaffney likely coming in the latter part of the first round. Other players may sneak into the first round which include Antonio Bryant, Javon Walker (Florida State), Andre Davis, and Reche Caldwell. Unlike the past two drafts, teams will probably avoid taking wide receivers in the first because the position is littered with as many first round busts as first round stars. After those eight, the top players are Marquise Walker, Kahlil Hill, Tim Carter (Auburn), Cliff Russell (Utah), Ron Johnson (Minnesota), and Kelly Campbell, who all figure to be drafted on the first day, most of them in the third round. There is a noticeable dropoff heading into the fourth round prospects with Brian Poli-Dixon, Antwaan Randle-El, and Freddie Milons as the headliners. Some other players may move up into the fourth round, but there is not a considerable difference between these players and some of the players that may still be ready in the sixth round. This class is pretty deep, and should exceed last year's totals of first day receivers.



FIRST ROUND


Antonio Bryant
(6'1" 188) Pittsburgh (4.55)

He did not run well in the Combines and questions of his character have been addressed in the past. I believe Bryant is the best talent at wide receiver in this year's class, and is the best receiver to enter the league since Randy Moss. Bryant has good hands and concentration. He only dropped a few passes as a junior after his steadiness was questioned as a sophomore. Was nation's top wideout in 2000 as a sophomore. Was injured in 2001 early, as he went down with an ankle injury early in the season. What defines Bryant best, is that the first time he touched a football in 2001 was on a punt return in the season opener. Bryant returned it for a touchdown, but it was called back by a holding penalty. Bryant hurt his ankle as he entered the endzone. He's a big play receiver who has the skills to dominate in the NFL. Many question his character, which is unwarranted. Although Bryant is no saint, he's definitely not the "head case" that many have labeled him as.

Josh Reed
(5'10" 205) Louisiana State (4.45)

Reed is the best possession receiver in this class. He's got excellent hands, and knows how to get open. Had some big games late this past year. He was the go-to target this past season at LSU. He is built like a third down back, and translates that running ability into making plays after the catch. Does not have pure deep speed, but is not slow. Think of Reed as a Marshall Faulk-type that plays wide receiver instead of running back, and is not as quick as Faulk. He will be a good pro who with a year or two under his belt, should be well adjusted to the pro game. He'll be one of the top possession wideouts in the league five years from now.

Jabar Gaffney
(6' 193) Florida (4.45)

Gaffney has good skills. He has everything you want to be able to be a solid NFL pro. He has good hands, speed, and size. He can stretch the field vertically and make plays underneath and turn them into big gains. But Gaffney's biggest setback will be the system he played in at Florida. Steve Spurrier's "Fun n' Gun" system is very wide receiver friendly, and very few receivers have developed in the NFL. You look at former Gators like Reidel Anthony, drafted with the 16th overall selection, and then Darrell Jackson, the 80th selection, and you can see the discrepancy in players. Gaffney is probably the best of all the top Florida receivers under Spurrier which includes Ike Hilliard, Jackson, and Travis Taylor. So Gaffney's chances of becoming a bust like Anthony are much less. In the right system, he could be great, but in the wrong one, he could only be average. He should be good, but may never live up to his talent.

Donte' Stallworth
(6' 197) Tennessee (4.25)

Stallworth is the premier athlete of this class. Some clocked his 40 at his personal workout at 4.19, which is Olympic fast. But Stallworth does not play to that level. What I don't like about Stallworth is that he never was a dominating receiver on the collegiate level. Injuries were partly the cause, as he was never 100% at any point in his college career. Stallworth has all the talent in the world, with his amazing speed, and his ability to make the toughest catches. But he'll also drop a lot of the easy ones. That plagued Michael Westbrook for most of his early career. One gets a good picture of Stallworth with his performance in this past year's Citrus Bowl. Stallworth had a good game, catching 8 passes for 119 yards, but I believe he fumbled once, and dropped one or two other passes. Stallworth made some big plays, putting the Volunteers on the 1-yard line twice, and making some plays on the ground as a runner and punt returner also. So much talent in Stallworth, but there is a lot of room for improvement in the consistency category before he become a solid pro. His "bust potential" is very high, only exceeded by his upside. Whether he can stay healthy and if he can adjust to the pro game will be the biggest keys to his success. Another note is that he tried to return to school after declaring, but could not. Not sure if that helps or hurts him as a prospect, but it's just interesting.


SECOND ROUND


Marquise Walker
(6'2" 221) Michigan (4.65)

What hurt Walker in the draft is his speed. But he plays faster on the field than his timed speed. Walker has excellent size, which reminds you of past Big Ten wideouts like David Boston and Plaxico Burress, who use their size to their advantage. Walker lived in the shadow of David Terrell in 2000, and is probably not as good as Terrell, but he's still very good. Walker is a playmaker, pure and simple, and despite "lack" of speed, he can make plays downfield. His hands are probably not as great as you'd want in a possession receiver, but he has good hands. He's a borderline first/second round prospect. Certain teams may view him as late first round talent, while others see him as early second.

Reche Caldwell
(6' 196) Florida (4.45)

Maybe as or more athletic than Stallworth. Caldwell is a good player, and is very similar to Gaffney. But I do not think Caldwell is better than Gaffney in any area, except athletically. Although I question Gaffney's ability to go from Gator star to NFL star, I see Caldwell as a bigger question mark. Caldwell does everything Gaffney does, with good hands, size, and speed, and the ability to make plays both downfield and underneath. He's definitely has skills to be a solid pro, but is a step or two below Gaffney, and I'm not so sure how good he will be.

Andre Davis
(6'1" 195) Virginia Tech (4.35)

Davis is a solid playmaker, with excellent deep speed. Davis looked to be the top wide receiver prospect about six months ago, but had a disappointing senior year. Davis was great in 1999, and he and Michael Vick were probably the deadliest QB-WR duo in the nation. Davis has been plagued by injuries throughout his college career. He's a playmaker that is great in the vertical game, but still has much to develop in the other facets of being a pro wide receiver. He will drop many passes and just is not consistent. If I had to guess, Davis would need to be a backup for a few seasons before he was ready to start. Has first round talent, but after two subpar seasons at Virginia Tech, you just can't draft him that early. What will help Davis is that he can be an excellent return man with his track speed.


THIRD ROUND


Kelly Campbell
(5'10" 170) Georgia Tech (4.45)

Campbell is a playmaker with good speed and solid hands. He is a go-to threat. But Campbell's biggest setback is his size. Unless he bulks up he won't be an every-down player. Because of this Campbell has slipped from a late first round to a mid-third round prospect. At only 170 pounds, he really can't be too durable and can't get too much work over the middle for fear of injury. Campbell could work in a system such as Mike Martz's in St. Louis, which would put him in an Az-Zahir Hakim-type role. Until he adds some muscle, he'll only be a #3 wideout.

Kahlil Hill
(6'2" 200) Iowa (4.55)

Hill has good size, and decent speed, but is not a deep threat. He projects well to a West Coast system in the NFL, because he works well on the short and intermediate routes. His hands are solid, if not great. He can make some plays after the catch due to his agility and running ability. But probably does more dancing than he needs to looking for the 80-yard gain, rather than settling for the 20-yarder. He is also a return specialist. His work ethic and character are questionable.


FOURTH ROUND


Freddie Milons
(5'10" 190) Alabama (4.45)

Milons is a good second-tier possession wideout. But what will probably keep him from being taken earlier than the fourth round is his lack of size and great speed. He has nice speed, and can get deep at times, but is much more at home on intermediate routes. His hands are good, but not superb, since he'll drop a few since he's looking to run before he secures the football. He projects well to the NFL, but still has much room to improve.

Brian Poli-Dixon
(6'5" 213) UCLA (4.5)

Poli-Dixon is a great physical specimen to behold. He has great size and can have hands of velcro at times. But at other times, he has hands of stone. Has a lot of talent in his large frame, and the ability to be a top receiver in the NFL. His size will make him a match-up problem, but he won't be too effective until he gains some consistency. Too inconsistent right now to be a first-day selection. Despite size, his durability is a concern, as he was oft-injured at UCLA. Looks too much like J.J. Stokes as a prospect.

Antwaan Randle-El
(5'10" 190) Indiana (4.45)

Randle-El is an option quarterback who will be converted to wide receiver in the NFL. Began the '01 season at wide receiver, since Indiana wanted to go with a more traditional passer, but Randle-El eventually moved back to the starting position he had held since his freshman year. He is an excellent athlete and should convert well to wide receiver. But what will keep him from being a first day selection is his lack of experience at wide receiver. He has shown that his hands are decent and will improve. He is an excellent runner and his immediate impact in the NFL will probably be as a return man. I'm not sure if he'll ever be a starter at wide receiver, but he makes up for it with his playmaking skills and versatility. He can play quarterback, running back, or wide receiver on offense. Randle-El will probably make a career out of what Kordell Stewart did as a rookie.


FIFTH ROUND


Aaron Lockett
(5'7" 157) Kansas State (4.35)

Lockett can best be compared to Steve Smith, now with Carolina. Lockett probably won' do too much as a receiver early on in his career, but can be one of the best return men in the league early on. He is very small, not just small, but very small. He and Troy Walters I would share the honors of the league's smallest players. Lockett is a good receiver, and may be able to do some things in the slot on the next level, but is too small to become a full-time starter. He has amazing speed, and pretty good hands. Lockett could possibly go as early as the third or fourth if a team is desperate for a return man, but otherwise will have to wait until the 5th round before his name is called.

Jason McAddley
(6'1" 203) Alabama (4.4)

McAddley is there physically with excellent size and speed. His hands are not great, but they are solid. He may only be a step or two below Milons as a prospect. Not a magnificent receiver at Alabama, but is a good complementary type. I'm not sure if he'll be a starter in the NFL, but could be an excellent #3 wideout. He's not a burner but he'll make plays downfield. He has a lot of room to grow.


SIXTH ROUND


R.J. English
(6'3" 215) Pittsburgh (4.5)

English emerged this past year after Antonio Bryant's early injury. English became the go-to receiver for much of the first half of Pitt's season. He has excellent size and speed combination. His hands have a ways to improve, but they are decent at times. He'll drop some easy passes. English's best asset may be his skills on special teams coverage. NFL teams are really going to like that, coupled with his upside as a receiver. Not sure he'll be more than a third or fourth receiver, but can contribute off the bench. May remind some of Ed McCaffrey and Patrick Jeffers, but I see more of a Justin Armour than anything.

Todd Elstrom
(6'2" 200) Washington (4.65)

Has good size and decent speed. His hands are good and he projects well to a West Coast system. He's a good all-around prospect and can block. Elstrom is not flashy, but does well in almost all areas. He should be a decent possession receiver, but will probably never be more than a reserve in the NFL. Lacks upside.


SEVENTH ROUND


Herb Haygood
(5'11" 193) Michigan State (4.5)

Haygood has some skills to develop with decent size, good speed, and the ability to make plays. But his hands are questionable in my book. He'll drop a lot of passes. He's tough and can go over the middle. He has some upside, but his hands need to improve a lot before he expects to be anything more than #4 wideout. His return skills are solid, and that's likely where he'll make his biggest impact in the NFL. Had a solid senior year, but it helps when you have a guy like Charles Rogers playing opposite you.

Rodney Wright
(5'8" 185) Fresno State (4.6)

Wright looks to be a good possession wideout. I like him as a reserve. He has nice hands and decent speed. A good intermediate threat. I don't think he needs a whole lot of adjusting when he goes to the pros. He also doesn't have a lot of upside, so he'll never be a starter. His size hurts him also.

Dedrick Dewalt
(5'8" 180) Boston College (4.45)

Has decent hands and good speed. His lack of size hurts him. Not a stand-out prospect, who projects as a average to good reserve, but nothing more. Can add speed to a lineup and can be used as a punt returner. A little too inconsistent to be a legitimate prospect.


UNDRAFTED


Charles Smith
(5'8" 175) Fresno State (4.55)

Smith is similar to Rodney Wright in abilities, but is not as good as Wright. He has nice hands, but average speed. Could be a possession guy, but lacks upside.

Pete Rebstock
(5'8" 187) Colorado State (4.5)

Has decent hands and is small and quick. Not as fast as you want in a player his size. Can be used as a returner, but he won't remind anyone of Tim Dwight in that area. He's a decent prospect, but brings very little to the table except an extra body.

Craig Campbell
(5'11" 185) Iowa State (4.65)

Campbell is an average prospect. He lacks great speed, but has decent intermediate speed. His hands are decent, but not great. He has some skills and could possibly impress as a reserve, but will likely be out of the league in a few years at most.

Dallas Davis
(5'10" 180) Colorado State (4.5)

Davis has decent hands and nice speed, but is nothing special as a prospect. He might have some impact as a #4 or #5 wideout. His best asset will be his ability to return punts and kickoffs. A marginal prospect with some upside.

LaBrone Mitchell
(6'1" 196) Georgia (4.6)

A former quarterback who won't be the next coming of Hines Ward. Mitchell has some skills to develop, but was never a top target at Georgia. He has nice hands and decent speed, so he projects as a decent possession wideout. But he'll have to make his impact on special teams in the NFL, since he won't likely get many chances to excel on offense.

Arnie Powell
(6'4" 214) East Carolina (4.65)

Powell's best asset is his size. He has decent hands and speed, and can block. He was never more than a tertiary option at ECU. His size makes him a possible 7th round selection, but does not have a lot of skills. He is only an average prospect. He'll probably be able to contribute on special teams.

Tavares Bolden
(6'1" 205) Toledo (4.6)

Bolden was a productive starter for the Rockets the past two seasons, but he has little to contribute as a quarterback in the NFL. He has decent arm strength and accuracy. He probably has enough in those areas to get a look or two as a quarterback, but he's still very raw. Too raw, and not special enough to develop as a passer. He's a good runner with good speed, and may be better in the open field than Chester Taylor. For this reason, Bolden should be converted to wide receiver or possibly return specialist.

Andrew Zow
(6'1" 220) Alabama (5.1)

Zow played quarterback at Alabama, but has very little upside at that position. He's a good runner with nice arm strength, but his accuracy is poor. He gets happy feet in the pocket. He projects as a wide receiver or safety in the NFL. His 40 time hurts him, but he's faster on the field. Was the starter at Alabama in 1999 and 2000, but played lost his job in 2001 after a dismal 2000 campaign.


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