By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
7. DeAndre Hopkins CLEMSON
Strengths: He has fantastic ball skills for a fast and relatively thin guy but uses his size and soft hands to out-jump defenders and go get the ball. He makes tough catches on balls thrown low and shows nice elusiveness in the open field.
Weaknesses: His average timed speed may cause him to struggle separating at the next level. Teams may try to take advantage of his thin frame and play press coverage.
The Take Home: Hopkins showed great ability to catch balls with his hands and not his body while hanging on after taking a hit. If he can bulk up his soft hands and great ball skills should mitigate his relative struggle to separate. While not a burner he is a long-strider and can cover ground quickly as well as run routes well enough to get open. He’s not the elite athlete that his teammate Sammy Watkins is, but he has a similar build and shows some real potential and natural ball skills.
8. Stedman Bailey WVU
Strengths: He is very quick with smooth change of direction skills and incredibly elusive and able to shake off defenders. His overall athleticism and agility allow him to run deceptive routes.
Weaknesses: He lacks the height and overall size to beat defenders to the ball in the air and avoid being re-rerouted.
The Take Home: Stedman Bailey shows impressive speed, quickness and ability to cut and accelerate up field. He has an amazing ability to make defenders miss with a variety of moves including spins, jukes and slide steps. He was able to get open against top college corners like Maurice Claiborne several times. He is a big-play threat with slightly less speed than his Mountaineer teammate Austin, but has a better build to hold up and handle the increased physicality he’ll see at the next level. He also matches up better size wise, with cornerbacks. His unbelievable 17.8 yards per touch was even better than Austin’s 15.1, despite being the bigger and (relatively) slower player. All things considered he will hold up better physically yet retains the elite play-making potential that makes him special.
9. Cobi Hamilton ARKANSAS
Strengths: Hamilton has great size and ability to burst up field after making a catch while playing much faster than his timed speed. He demonstrated good body control on the sideline and provided a big play threat for a talentedArkansas wide receiving corps.
Weaknesses: Played behind three 2012 draft picks and therefore lacked ideal production. Some scouts have him timed around 4.54-4.57, which is deceptively average.
The Take Home:Hamilton provided the Razorbacks with several long touchdowns using nice breakaway speed, solid hands and great build. With his height and big play ability he should provide a nice target for Tyler Wilson this year. This projection is based more on potential than actual production, but his numbers should skyrocket with more playing time and look for him to move up draft boards.
10. Cody Hoffman BYU
Strengths: Hoffman has the size and strong hands to make catches outside his frame. He shows great toughness and fights for extra yards.
Weaknesses: He lacks the speed to separate regularly from defenders which also mitigates his deep threat potential.
The Take Home: Hoffman has the long frame and great ball skills that allows him to haul in poorly thrown passes and snatch it away from defenders. He isn’t the fastest receiver, but is fairly athletic for his frame allowing him to return kicks for the Cougars at 6’4. Plus, he already gets two feet in bounds when making sideline catches. Hoffman is certainly no the flashiest player in the world, but is a big and long athlete with the receiving skills to take advantage of his frame. He’s also a tough kid and will break tackles fighting for extra yards.
11. Tavon Austin WVU
Strengths:Austin has truly elite speed, acceleration and COD. He can stop on a dime and explode up-field making him a dynamic playmaker who can line up at WR, RB and as a return man.
Weaknesses: He is incredibly undersized as a WR and durability is a concern. He lacks the ability to successfully compete with defenders for the ball in tight coverage and will get exposed as a blocker.
The Take Home: A creative NFL Offensive Coordinator will love finding areas and creating packages to use Austin in. While undersized he has natural speed and quick feet with the ability to line up at several different positions. A gifted return man and elusive in the open field he is the next in line at WVU’s recent history of speedsters on the offensive side of the ball. Austin averaged a ridiculous 15.1 yards per touch making him a dynamic play-maker. He will probably be most effective in the slot to avoid press coverage, but can bring you that homerun threat at multiple positions and on special teams.
12. Ryan Swope TEXAS A&M
Strengths: Swope is a consistent route runner with the ability to get open. He has good speed and reliable hands and can make tough catches on poorly thrown balls. He was very productive with 89 catches for 1207 yards and 11 TD in 2011.
Weaknesses: He’s not the most physical receiver and has short arms and may not match up well against big, physical press coverage style corners. He could also struggle to block against NFL sized linebackers.
The Take Home: Swope is a Brandon Stokley type who should be able to produce from the slot position. He is a reliable route runner with good hands and catching technique. He is fast but not explosive and uses quickness and nice route running technique to be deceptive and get open. He is able to dart by defenders and stop on a dime with a compact build and low center of gravity, almost like a RB.
His lack of physicality is less of a concern because he is no question a slot receiver at the next level and will given a relatively free release. He’s a consistent, dependable option a QB can rely on to be where he’s supposed to and get open.
13. Keenan Davis IOWA
Strengths avis is big receiver with a strong build and solid athleticism. He can take a hit and is strong enough to play against physical corners. He also shows good hands.
Weaknesses: He is a real deep threat and lacks the elite speed and quickness to stretch defenses.
The Take Home: Davis has the strength and balance to avoid being re-routed by corners and should handle press coverage well. He isn’t a speedster but nfldraftscout.com lists his recorded 40 time as 4.48, which if true would be very encouraging and a great indication of overall athleticism and the potential to improve as a big play threat. A four star recruit who stayed home in Iowa is definitely talented, but hasn’t been as productive on the field as many thought. At the moment his size, strength, frame and ability to pick up tough hands make him a great possession receiver prospect.
14. Aaron Mellette ELON
Strengths: He has the frame to be a height mismatch against most corners. He has great body control and catches the ball away from his body using his long arms. He had great production and dominated FCS competition
Weaknesses: He doesn’t possess breakaway speed or acceleration and could stand to add bulk to his relatively thin frame. He will sometimes drop balls he gets his hands on.
The Take Home: His competition was clearly overmatched as most FCS defenders don’t line up against long 6’4 WRs with the skill level of Mellette. He certainly didn’t avoid contact, but seems to greet it somewhat hesitantly and I see him struggling against the physicality of NFL corners especially in bump and run schemes. The concern is that he will struggle adjusting to such a higher level of competition and I worry the jump in physicality may be too steep.
Some scouts are very high on him and there are plenty of reasons why. To me he looks like a developmental project with the skill-set to be an immediate red zone target and to create mismatches against smaller defenders but may take a while to adjust to the level of NFL play. With his body control and large frame there is considerable upside and he has a valued and proven skill set that makes him valuable.