CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Wide Receivers

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Wide Receivers

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CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Wide Receivers

CFN 2017 NFL Draft Analysis & Rankings: Wide Receivers


From the college football perspective, who are the top wide receivers in the 2017 NFL Draft?


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Don’t invest early.

There are a few nice options up top, but there’s no need to invest in a top target with a deep group in the middle rounds. Mike Williams should be the clear No. 1 guy, and then after that, take your pick from a handful of talents.

There might not be too many physical tough guys, but there’s decent speed and lots and lots of production. The big question for most, though, will be whether or not they’re system receivers or if they can do it all.

So what’s the college football analysis and take on the 2017 NFL Draft wide receiver class? Who can play, and who can’t? It’s this simple – who are the ones who matter, and who are the ones who are just guys who’ll make it if someone gets lucky?

After seeing and covering these guys from recruiting until completion, from the college football perspective …

2017 NFL Draft: Wide Receivers

1. Mike Williams, Clemson

All doubts and concerns about the neck injury he suffered early in the 2015 season are gone after a monster 2016. Unstoppable at times – including by Alabama’s NFL-caliber secondary – the 6-4, 218-pounder is too big with the right physical style and a huge catching radius.

A 4.5 runner, he’s fast enough to make it all work as a true No. 1 receiver. He’s not freakish, and he won’t be a transcendent superstar, but he’ll be a sure-thing starter right away.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

2. Zay Jones, East Carolina

At the flakiest of flaky positions, there’s almost no bust potential on the high-character receiving machine.

Size? 6-2, 200 pounds. Check. Speed? 4.45. Check. Explosion, quickness, hands? Check, check and check. Production? Triple check, catching 158 passes last season for a bad team. He sucks in every throw that comes his way, and a lot that don’t, with great route-running ability. While he might not be a downfield threat, he’ll be a high-volume guy who’ll never take a play off.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

3. Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Overloved, the 6-3, 210-pounder has the size and the production no matter who he went against, but there are some concerns. His 40 times isn’t a total mystery, but he’s not a blazer at around a 4.6 – supposedly – and he’s not the best of deep threats. As a route runner, though, he’s as good as it gets. How’s it going to be when he’s shoved around? He’ll be good, but considering where he’ll probably be drafted, he needs to be special.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

4. Chris Godwin, Penn State

A compact, built target who’s as strong as any receiver in the class, with the ability to outmuscle just about anyone. Throw in the deep ability to blow past corners with his 4.4 speed, and he’s going to be a great value pick outside of the receivers going in the first round.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

5. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

What will he be if he stays in one piece? He’s got the look and the skills of a No. 1 receiver, and he’s got the right attitude and makeup to handle life as a star. Now he has to get past the ticky-tack injuries that kept his from blowing up. Physical – he’s a former defensive back – he might not be a blazer, but he’ll make up for it in want-to for the ball.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

6. Curtis Samuel, Ohio State

A fun toy for some offensive coordinator to play around with, the blazing fast Samuel can be used as a deep threat, a slot receiver, a running back, a return man, or whatever the offense needs. A playmaker whenever he has the ball in his hands, he might not be a true receiver, but who cares? Just get him the damn ball and let him roll.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

7. John Ross, Washington

Yeah, he ran a 4.22 at the combine, and he got hurt. Again, the guy got hurt running a 40-yard dash. When he’s in one piece he’ll be among the most dangerous deep threats in the game. While he’s a fighter who’ll want to be a playmaker, knee problems and the total absence of physicality will be costly. However, for what he does, as long as he can do it, he’ll be fantastic.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 1st Round

8. Ar’Darius Stewart, Alabama

A strong, muscular target who’ll beat up defensive backs, he’s got sub-4.5 speed, too. While he was never really the main man option in the Bama attack, he made his share of plays when needed. While he might not be for everyone, if you’re looking for a strong, statement-making tough guy target, here you go.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 2nd Round

9. Amara Darboh, Michigan

Inexplicably under the radar in the draft process, he’s a 6-2, 215-pounder with sub-4.5 speed and the right frame. He has the look of an NFL target with the toughness to get physical, and he’s got the fluidity for a guy his size to hang with the athletic corners. While he doesn’t do any one thing at a high level, there’s nothing he does all that poorly.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

10. Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech

Not all that physical, he makes up for it with speed and excellent route-running ability. With one hiccup of a move, he’s open and making something happen when he gets the ball in his hands. As a returner, or as a target to keep the chains moving, he’s always producing.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

11. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma

Does he have the raw tools? He was special in the Oklahoma system, but he’s not going to be a physical target in any way at the next level. Can he make things happen deep on a regular basis? He’ll probably have to do it from the slot. He’s going to hit on home runs here and there, but he’s not going to be anywhere near the same sort of blow-up producer he was with the Sooners.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

12. Chad Hansen, Cal

A fighter for the ball, yeah, he’s a system receiver who was helped by working in the Cal attack, he catches everything, fights for everything, and always works himself open. While he might not be a blazer, he’s fast enough and he could turn into an ultra-reliable go-to target. He’ll be a QB’s best friend.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

13. Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M

A tall, thin, ultra-productive No. 1 college target, he’s an interesting relative sleeper in the process. He’s not going to push anyone around, but he attacks the ball and knows how to make things happen deep. In a crowded group of Aggie receivers, he stood out. With the way he works, he’ll have a job for a while.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

NFL Draft: Draft Them. Don’t. Whatever.

14. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington

The scouting world fell deep and hard in love, and then their crush ran a 4.6-plus 40. He’s quick, and he makes lots and lots of catches, but he’s a system guy. He’ll catch everything that comes his way, and he found ways to produce no matter what, but he’ll be a part of a puzzle and not a main man. He’ll be overdrafted.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

15. KD Cannon, Baylor

Not necessarily the next great Baylor receiver, he’s a slight target who’ll get shoved around by a slight breeze. However, he’s a blazer who could grow into a terrific one-trick pony. Line him up outside, let him go deep, and throw it as far as you can.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

16. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech

Extremely athletic, he overcomes his lack of deep speed shaking himself open and working himself free. He’s not going to do too much after the catch, and he might not have the all-around look and tools, but he’s going to be productive. He won’t be anyone’s No. 1, but he’ll be a killer of a second option.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 5th Round

17. Malachi Dupre, LSU

Many were hoping for a bit more timed speed, but the 4.5 was good enough. With a great frame and good size, he makes himself bigger with great leaping ability and a large catching radius. He wasn’t used enough in an offense that worked around the ground game – there’s sleeper upside once he has a real quarterback throwing his way.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

18. Taiwan Taylor, WKU

Extremely quick, he’ll be able to handle himself just fine against any athletic NFL corner when he gets the ball in his hands on the move. An unstoppable playmaker in the Hilltopper offense last year, he caught everything that came his way. While he won’t be physical in any way, he could grow into a devastating No. 3 target.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 3rd Round

19. Shelton Gibson, West Virginia

There’s no physical side to his style and will get shoved around by anyone who gets a hand on him, but it doesn’t matter. His game is about playing fast, and while he’s lightning-quick, his 4.5 at the combine was extremely disappointing. With NFL functional speed, he’ll find a home as a No. 3 target.

Where He’ll Be Drafted: 4th Round

20. Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse

Ultra-productive and unstoppable in the new Syracuse attack, the former Maryland Terrapin blew up with a 94-catch season with 14 scores. Very fast with a tough frame, he’s got a lot of the basics, but he’s not a quick route-runner who’s numbers were a bit inflated by the system. He could blow up in a camp, though. Someone will love to draft him late to find out.

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