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2014 NFL Draft Big Board: Wide Receivers

By Jeff Risdon

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Notes: Polished, silky, dynamic all-around threat capable of stepping right in as a #1 target. Very little he doesn’t do very well, though he’s not the biggest guy (6’, 211 lbs). Elite quickness, open-field speed and body control. Makes the game look easy. Legit top-5 overall talent.

Projection: Will not fall past Detroit at No. 10, you can bet your 401K on it

2. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

Notes: Speedy, long-armed spider web of a receiver accustomed to making difficult catches well away from his body and momentum. Lacks ideal size & strength, might be best in slot but can kill zones & off-man coverage outside. Flashes greatness, must do it more consistently. Adds value as a return specialist. Compares to a less volatile Desean Jackson.

Projection: 15-30 overall

3. Marqise Lee, USC

Notes: Elite burst off the line and short-area quickness, with excellent long speed too. Very dangerous after the catch. Spotty hands at times, and struggled with a knee injury thru ’13 that watered down his stock. Has a chance to be special if his knee gets right, great fit for West Coast passing offense.

Projection: Late 1st-early 2nd round

4. Mike Evans, Texas A&M

Notes: Gigantic (6’4” 231) target with long arms (35”) and big strong hands. Very physical, good at getting open on broken/improv plays. Has not run many routes out of conventional sets and doesn’t come down with as many contested balls or beat press as well as a guy his size should. Big upside, best fit for a team with a scrambling QB like CAR or MIA. High bust factor for where he’ll be drafted.

Projection: Top 10 pick

5. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

Notes: Lightning fast and quick with exceptional feet and burst on his routes. One of the quickest players I’ve ever seen. Consistently catches the ball away from his body, even in traffic. Not very physical or strong, has had ball security issues because of it. A bigger, more polished and “safer” version of Tavon Austin a year ago, though he won’t be drafted as highly.

Projection: 18-35 overall pick

6. Davante Adams, Fresno State

Notes: Prolific, strong target with decent size and sneaky speed. Still developing his route running and adjusting to defenses, but has the strength and hands to contribute as he learns. Best football is ahead of him, but he’ll never blow folks away. Ideal #2 wideout opposite an established #1.

Projection: 30-45 overall

7. Allen Robinson, Penn State

Notes: Smart and physical with good size and length. Not much of a fast-twitch athlete, but has excellent body control and fluidity on the move. Comes from Bill O’Brien’s pro-friendly offense, which carries appeal and makes him a safer option than others with better speed and more upside. Outstanding blocker.

Projection: 2nd round

8. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss

Notes: Impressive size and physicality, often looks dominant. Explosive athlete with massive catch radius. Strong hands, Wildly inconsistent, has some clunker games cloaked with apathy. Compares favorably to Mike Evans vs. common competition not named Alabama. Could be a star if he wants to be.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round

9. Jarvis Landry, LSU

Notes: Jack-of-all trades with very high football IQ and high motor. Very strong hands, can make the tough catch in traffic on poorly thrown balls. Athletically lacking, timed in the high 4.5s and ranked near the bottom in explosive and quickness metrics. Has some Anquan Boldin to his game. NFL-ready contributor that is better football player than athlete.

Projection: 3rd-4th round

10. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

Notes: Outstanding size, bigger than some TEs at 6’5” and 240. Still learning the game, lacks polish and instinctiveness. Can make the difficult clutch catch but also drop the easy one. Not overly quick or fast. Compares to a bigger, less polished Dwayne Bowe.

Projection: Top 45 pick

11. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina

Notes: Undersized, shifty slot receiver who moves like a basketball point guard…which he was at SoCar too. Quick, elusive, polished route runner that can secure the ball away from his body and quickly transition to runner. Not much of a physical presence, has to learn to play better in tight areas. Improved a lot as full-time football player in ’13, offers promise for bright future.

Projection: 3rd-4th round

12. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

Notes: High risk/reward physical specimen with better tape in ’12 than ’13. Giant target at a buffed-up 6’6” and 34” arms, can really extend his frame to create huge catch radius. Long-strider who lacks wiggle and deep speed. Inconsistent effort but when he brings his “A” game he’s every bit as good as Alshon Jeffery.

Projection: Tough call. Could go anywhere from late 2nd to 6th round

13. Robert Herron, Wyoming

Notes: Twitchy, explosive speed demon that can play in the slot or outside. Incredibly adept with the ball in his hands. Lacks bulk and has a tendency to dance at the line instead of attacking the route. Has some Randall Cobb to his game but he’s not as long.

Projection: 3rd-early 4th round

14. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin

Notes: Has flypaper for hands and uses his quickness and subtle fakes to consistently get separation. Not overly fast but has an extra gear with the ball in the air. Good blocker. Smart at working with a scrambling QB. Confident and scrappy overachiever type. Reminds me a great deal of former Browns WR Quincy Morgan.

Projection: 4th-5th round

15. Josh Huff, Oregon

Notes: Consummate football player with great intelligence and effort. Reliable hands, good body control and understands how to set up fakes and use leverage. Not big or overly fast, one-speed route runner. Dangerous after the catch and has experience on special teams, giving him more immediate value. Could outplay several above him here if he refines his game, relatively raw feet at this point.

Projection: 4th-5th round

16. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Notes: Intelligent, productive wideout with slightly above-average metrics across the board. Doesn’t stand out in any one aspect and could struggle to find a role, but that was true of Marvin Jones (Bengals) as well. SEC’s all-time leading receiver.

Projection: Late 2nd-early 4th round

17. Kevin Norwood, Alabama

Notes: Experienced go-to receiver for pro-style, high-pressure offense. Very natural hands and has decent length. Not overly fast or quick but runs precise routes and sets up his moves expertly. Consummate egoless possession receiver a la Jerricho Cotchery.

Projection: 5th round

18. T.J. Jones, Notre Dame

Notes: Great combination of agility and natural slipperiness. Runs routes like he’s Barry Sanders. Has huge hands (10”) for his smallish size (6’, 188 lbs) and it shows in how easily he plucks the ball. Can dance too much and goes down on first contact more often than not. Ideal inside option in 4 WR sets or 3 WR/flex TE.

Projection: 3rd-4th round

19. Martavis Bryant, Clemson

Notes: Physically imposing but raw athletic talent at 6’4” and a sturdy 211 pounds. Explosive speed and can highpoint the jump ball while fighting off defenders. Has very little wiggle as a route runner and is a trap-catcher, though he doesn’t drop it as much as expected for having shaky hands. Not a good blocker or improvisational receiver. High ceiling, but not much more than a red zone/4th WR early on.

Projection: 2nd-3rd round

20. Shaquelle Evans, UCLA

Notes: Long-limbed, tough & confident with good field sense and the ability to quickly defeat the jam. Has a sneaky stutter step move on the outside and tracks the deep ball well. Has only average speed and suffered bouts of the dropsies. Played better vs. better competition but was unimpressive in others. Works best with a scrambling QB.

Projection: 6th-7th round

21. Cody Latimer, Indiana

Notes: Solidly built with quick feet and strong hands. Plays big and tough, thrives at attacking jams and also at blocking. Lacks great speed, only average overall athlete. Doesn’t exude football IQ very often. Hard worker with confidence, could blossom with better QB play.

Projection: 3rd-4th round

22. Ryan Grant, Tulane

Notes: Smooth athlete with big hands and long arms for his 6’ frame. Inconsistently spectacular but has stretches where he disappears, and that describes his Senior Bowl week too. Has decent upside if a coach can coax out his “A” game more often.

Projection: 5th round-7th round

23. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

Notes: Skinny, shifty slot target with great quicks and strong hands. Can get open in a step, plays with high confidence. Plays at under 170 pounds and doesn’t make himself bigger as a target, also has small hands. Has some return specialist ability.

Projection: 5th-6th round

24. Paul Richardson, Colorado

Notes: Blazing straight-line speedster with big-play ability. Has good length and eats cushion quickly. Lacks route refinement and wiggle, but biggest issue is he’s almost 6’1” and plays at maybe 170 pounds and really struggles with contact. Compares to Washington deep threat Aldrick Robinson with a higher ceiling.

Projection: Late 2nd-early 4th round

25. Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest

Notes: Sure-handed demon in the slot, though he’s undersized and lacks both quickness and speed. His quarterback will love him on 3rd down, naturally finds holes and flips from receiver to runner quickly. A poor man’s Wayne Chrebet.

Projection: 6th-7th round

26. Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State

Notes: Big, well-built D-II stud with outstanding strength for the position. Can make the tough catch in traffic and away from his body. Tight in the hips and ankles, very little elusiveness. Good route runner and blocker. Tested more dynamic than he plays.

Projection: 5th-6th round

27. Devin Street, Pittsburgh

Notes: Intelligent, tough long-strider with high productivity in a pro-friendly offense. Big catch radius, can absorb the big hit and hold onto the ball. Lacks lateral agility and struggles to get to speed quickly. Needs to add bulk. Compares to a longer Kevin Walter.

Projection: 6th-7th round

28. Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina

Notes: FCS stud who really impressed during Shrine Week against solid crop of CBs. Changes speeds and uses his strength well to create separation, though he’s an average athlete overall. Very smooth in and out of breaks, has upside to start outside in 4 receiver sets. Strong sleeper candidate.

Projection: 7th round or priority free agent

29. L’Damian Washington, Missouri

Notes: Has outstanding length and great speed for the position, built like Randy Moss and plays like he runs a 4.40 flat. Really struggles to catch the football and obviously lacks confidence in his hands. If that ever clicks for him, he’s an absolute steal. Big if.

Projection: 6th-7th round

30. John Brown, Pittsburgh State

Notes: Flashy, speedy small-school burner (legit 4.34 40 time) with big-play ability. Small frame and even smaller hands at 5’10” and under 180. Has quickness and vision, helps him double as a return specialist. Outside receiver in a slot body, could struggle to find a role other than return man, a la Eric Page.

Projection: 5th-7th round

31. Jeremy Gallon, Michigan

32. Mike Davis, Texas

33. Chandler Jones, San Jose State

34. Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska

35. Kain Colter, Northwestern

36. Eric Ward, Texas Tech

37. Alex Neutz, Buffalo

38. Isaiah Burse, Fresno State

39. Solomon Patton, Florida

40. Cody Hoffman, BYU

41. Allen Hurns, Miami FL

42. Marcus Lucas, Missouri

43. Bernard Reedy, Toledo

44. JeRon Hamm, UL-Monroe

45. Bennie Fowler, Michigan State

46. Seantavious Jones, Valdosta State

47. Erik Lora, Eastern Illinois

48. Corey Brown, Ohio State

49. Travis Labhart, Texas A&M

50. Tevin Reese, Baylor

Team Report: Dallas Cowboys

By Ron Marmalefsky

Dallas Cowboys:                  

2013 RECORD: 8-8  

2012 RECORD: 8-8   

2011 RECORD: 8-8   

2010 RECORD: 6-10   

TEAM OVERVIEW: Hey campers, it’s Groundhog Day! Bill Murray would feel at home in this organization.  Dallas faced another “win and in” game on prime time TV hosting Philly and fell in a close one 24-22. The Cowboys have completed the NFC East trifecta, losing “win and in” finales each of the last three years, once each to rivals Philly, Washington and the NYG. Dallas is the poster child for mediocrity, at 8-8 most recently, and about 136-136 the past 17 years. Amazingly, Jerry Jones has been patient, sticking with “coach” Garrett even though he is clearly not worthy of such a long tenure. Offensive play-calling has been suspect for years, and defensive coaching has been awful. The team appears to have salary cap issues, possibly prohibiting Jerry from making additional unwise free agency moves. There is plenty of talent at the skill positions but whether it’s coaching (yes) or miss-judged talent at other key positions such as OL, DL and in the secondary (also yes), something is preventing these Cowboys from winning a Division that has been there for the taking. What are realistic expectations for ’14?

KEY STATS: Dallas kept their turnover ratio in the plus column (+8) but also kept their record in close games in the minus column. The Cowboys were 1-4 in games decided by 1 or 2 points.  As most football fans know, calling appropriate plays is an adventure with Dallas. Dallas ran 4.5 yards per carry yet only averaged 94 yards per game.  Most of the key indicators were minus. The pass D% was awful at 64.7 percent. Dallas opponents had 63 more 1st downs and 1,187 more total yards. They allowed more yards than any other Cowboy team in history. Opponents had 33 passing TD’s vs. the Cowboys. Want more numbers? They were last by plenty in total defense, tied 25th with 34 defensive sacks, and 30th on run D at 4.7. At least the kick return D was strong and the Cowboys did accrue a +5 figure for defensive and return TD’s. Unfortunately that number is likely not sustainable for ’14. Spread-wise, Dallas dropped to 3-14 if in the role of an underdog in their last game, and went 0-2 as a road favorite (now 19-36). They went 2-0 as a home dog and are now 26-7 in that role.

2013 DRAFT REVIEW: For somewhere between the 16th and 19th time, Jerry Jones felt compelled to make a trade in the 1st round. I liked OC Frederick but not in the 1st round! I panned the early selection of TE Escobar.  Rated 4th, he did NOT fill this team’s more immediate needs!  Considering Murray’s health the choice of RB Randle might be a wise one. Dallas had done worse in the sleeper rounds but I still questioned their overall focus. SIDE NOTE: OLB McGee was so coveted by this team that Dallas offered him $70,000 as a signing bonus, which was more than ANY 7th round choice received in ’12! I disliked all 15 after draft day signings.  Magee (ASU) is currently not on the roster! When this draft ended on Saturday, Jones was as defiant as ever, saying they are “no longer an 8-8 team”. Yes they are! 

1-31, OC Frederick: 16 rookie starts and a good player, but could have been chosen later in round two

2-47, TE Escobar: Slow and weak but a natural WR type sitting behind all-pro Witten. 9 catches 

3-74, WR T Williams: 44-736-5 and unseats Austin as their #2 target 

3-80, FS Wilcox: One year defensive player with major upside!  Athletic, but raw.  38 tackles not bad.

4-114, CB Webb: Smooth and can jump, with PR ability.  Small frame.  16 rookie tackles

5-151, RB Randle: Productive in run and pass game, but low YPC.  Doesn’t change directions well.

6-185, LB Holloman: Nearly rated. Instinctive, with space limitations. Can’t turn. Decent 26-2 rookie year.

2012 DRAFT REVISITED: CB Claiborne did not develop as expected in ’13, with 26 tackles and just one pick in 10 games. I called the draft uninspiring after the initial pick. I questioned Crawford at #81 and rightfully so.  He had 20 rookie tackles but Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day of training camp last summer. LB Wilbur was rated (but low). He contributed 44 tackles in ’13. Safety Matt Johnson has not seen action in the NFL (IR ’13). WR Coale has sure hands but is a #3 target at best. He was waived prior to ’13. TE Hanna now competes with Escobar. He had 12 catches (poor 6.1 average).  

TOP STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS PRIOR TO THE DRAFT: It’s tempting to just say PK is the strongest area, but the pass offense with Bryant, Witten and now Williams is strong and Romo is very accurate. The entire pass defense scheme is poor. We can go with this or just use what was said here in ’13, that being the 4th quarter play calling on O and D being the weak link.

FREE AGENCY ANALYSIS AND STAFF NOTES: Dallas added DL Melton, McClain and Mincey but lost DL Hatcher and Ware making this a net loss. Dallas released WR Austin as expected. Beleaguered QB Weeden is here. Past his prime Defensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin was demoted. Rod Marinelli was promoted. A splash hire would have been better.

2014 DRAFT NEEDS: DL, one impact DB and 2-3 new DB’s overall, WR, OG, OLB, back-up/depth at OT.  Does Dallas have any reliable starter along the DL?  The newly signed Melton could help but the DL still might need a spark not only rushing the passer but also defending the run.  Part of the problem is coaching but the DB’s lack impact. Dez Bryant is in a contract year, Terrance Williams is young and Cole Beasley has a #3 WR ceiling. Dallas is improving along the OL but OG’s Leary and Bernadeau are average at best.  When healthy, Sean Lee is a star. His LB mates run hot and cold and the bench players are poor. There is also no OT talent behind LT Smith and the erratic Doug Free.  

Team Report: Cleveland Browns

By Ron Marmalefsky

Cleveland Browns:          

2013 RECORD: 4-12  

2012 RECORD: 5-11   

2011 RECORD: 4-12   

2010 RECORD: 5-11   

TEAM OVERVIEW: Welcome to stupid! That is what I wrote 25 months ago and what I repeated 12 months ago when beginning to compile the ’13 draft report for the Browns. Going into last year’s draft, I felt that these Browns had a chance to compete in the AFC North, certainly a division in transition. Instead, Cleveland never fully participated in the draft, missing a golden opportunity. Like other “experts”, I questioned the draft team of Banner and Lombardi, two well below standard talent evaluators. Once again they underperformed. Honestly, how did they expect their new coach to win given the opening day roster? Remember, Cleveland did not even have a kicker until 48 hours before the season started! Cleveland begins ’14 with yet another new coach, as beleaguered owner Haslam never gave Rob Chudzinski and his decent coordinators a chance. Cleveland is 26-70 the past six seasons. Can the new regime make the right moves and close the gap in the AFC North?

KEY STATS: Offensively, Cleveland scored 308 points one year after scoring 302, and two years after scoring far less than that (13.5 per game). The run O actually improved without traded RB Richardson (4.0) but was still low at 86.4 per game. They scored just four rush TD’s. Sacks allowed were high at 49, with their collection of QB’s mostly to blame. The “new” Cleveland Browns had their best ever run D figures in their history, at 111-3.9. One area not perfect defensively was the high 44.5 percent conversion rate on 3rd down for their opponents. Overall, however, the Browns' total D (total yards allowed) came in 9th. 

2013 DRAFT REVIEW: Cleveland was without their 2nd round pick as a result of selecting WR Gordon last July (supplemental draft). That sure worked out! I called LB Mingo is boom or bust pick. He has a great motor but just how strong is this rail thin DL/OLB? He deserves credit for a very solid rookie year (42-5). How disinterested were the Browns in this draft? As one source said in ’13, “(The Browns) took the inactivity theme almost to a state of suspended animation, trading for future picks and passing 107 spots before taking a safety who blew out his Achilles in the 3rd game of the season.” As I suspected, GM Lombardi was overmatched in the war room. The Browns failed in EVERY way on day three of this draft.

1-06, LB Mingo: Thin body frame.  Hasn’t played OLB so best role is as a rookie situational sacker.

3-68, CB McFadden: Short, but solid nickel CB with average speed.  19 rookie tackles and two starts.

6-175, SS Slaughter: Kiper’s 60th best safety not much higher for us!  Waived, returned to practice squad.

7-217, DE Bryant: May move to OLB in 3-4.  26.5 sacks with an after draft DUI!  12-2 as a rookie.

7-227, OG Gilkey: Slow, strong OL has a tendency to play too high.  Played in six games, starting one. 

2012 DRAFT REVISITED: In this draft Cleveland panicked all draft long!  They overtraded to move up one spot.  They took a DT rated NR in the 3rd round.  Here’s the draft gem we noted a year ago: The high school coach of DT Hughes wasn’t sure he would be drafted.  Hughes himself planned his family’s draft party for Saturday, not Friday! Of course supplemental draftee WR Gordon was spectacular and may already have reached top five status for WR’s!  As for the rest, RB Richardson is in Indy after failing badly here.  That extra 1st round pick might salvage their four for one trade to get him. QB Weeden didn’t work out (too many turnovers and way too many sacks). OT Schwartz has started 32 games at RT but must cut down his sacks allowed. The aforementioned DT Hughes wasn’t terrible with a 34-1 ledger. WR Benjamin caught 13 and could become a deep threat. He did fine on punt returns. LB’s Johnson and Acho were on other teams in ’13.  OG Miller played once in ’12 but missed ’13 after sustaining an injury while working out. DT Winn (6-205, * rated) has 47 tackles and 11 starts in two seasons. CB Wade and TE Smelley saw minimal action in ’12 and joined others in this draft class by being cut prior to ’13.

TOP STRENGTH AND WEAKNESS PRIOR TO THE DRAFT: The left side of the OL is the on-field strength, but sacks allowed did go up, maybe due to poor QB decision-making. The run D continued to improve in ’13 so based on their now average figures the new area of weakness is pretty evident: QB play.

FREE AGENCY ANALYSIS AND STAFF NOTESOffensively, only Brian Hoyer is left at QB. Ben Tate is an instant upgrade at RB. Jim Dray is a filler type at TE. Troubled WR Davone Bess was released. OG Shawn Lavano left. OL Paul McQuistan was added.  Defensively, Carlos Dansby is a good player but why not just re-sign younger LB D’Qwell Jackson? Adding Donte Whitner does not quite make up for losing solid safety T.J. Ward. Back-up CB Isaiah Trufant is now on the team. Cincy did not match the offer sheet Cleveland gave to average WR Hawkins. Mike Pettine is the new Head Coach. He’s had a successful, though short career as a Defensive Coordinator. Kyle Shanahan and his “less than outstanding” ability to work well with others is the new Defensive Coordinator. Co-conspirator’s Banner and Lombardi were axed early in ’14.  The young and very self-confident Ray Farmer is the sole GM.   

2014 DRAFT NEEDS: QB, RT and RG, #2 WR and WR depth, ILB and LB depth, CB, RB, DE, safety depth.  Cleveland must take a QB early. OL needs are real on the right side. The WR need behind stud Josh Gordon is real but can be addressed later thanks to the deep crop. Even with Dansby, ILB especially looks weak. A replacement for CB Skrine and competition for FS Gipson are the needs at DB. Is Ben Tate going to be the sole RB?  No one else on the current roster can help. There’s some youth and maybe talent along the DL but by no means are players such as Billy Winn, John Hughes and Armonty Bryant sure things.  

Team Report: Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton is the field general of a Bengals team that is as deep as it's ever been thanks to an incredible (for them) run of solid drafts. Almost no position is below the level of average and this team is young and still has upside.

The 'What I Would Do 2014 NFL Mock Draft'

For one time every draft season, we do a different kind of mock draft. Instead of trying to forecast what players are going to what teams at what picks, this one is all about personal preference.

Team Report: Chicago Bears

Marc Trestman used his offensive expertise to transform the Bears into an above average unit, but the defense regressed due to a combination of injuries, coaching changes and key retirements.

2014 NFL Draft Big Board: Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and A.J. McCarron rank one through five on our big board at quarterback.

Team Report: Carolina Panthers

The needs are fairly major for a team that just went 12-4! The Panthers have lost their entire receiver corps, two members of their o-line, as well as carrying over secondary issues.

Team Report: Buffalo Bills

The Bills were as raw as possible at QB and haven't had time to fix years of issues in stopping the run. Team talent is hardly elite, but not all that different from lower level playoff types.