Three of what many consider to be the top five wide receivers in the 2013 draft class happen to be underclassmen, which says something about how quickly players are being developed at the position. California’s Keenan Allen, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson all bring something unique to the table that should make them worthy of a first-round pick in three weeks.
Tavon Austin out of West Virginia and Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton have both seen their stocks rise significantly thanks to strong performances at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, respectively. Neither fits the present day prototype of a big receiver with long arms and sizeable reach advantage over cornerbacks like a Calvin Johnson, but they are playmakers. In summary, this is as varied a group of receivers to come along in a while.
(In Alphabetical Order)
An injury to his left knee cost Keenan Allen the final three games of the Bears’ season and the ability to do any of the drills in Indianapolis at the Combine. He also was unable to run at the school’s Pro Day like he originally intended, so Allen is going to have to hope he put enough on film and did enough during his individual interviews to land high on some team’s draft board. He is an above average route runner and presents himself as a big target to quarterbacks, showing a knack for winning jump balls and is very productive after the catch as a runner. Allen does not have the elite speed of some of the other receivers in his class so creating separation against some of the NFL’s faster cornerbacks will be a concern.
Tavon Austin’s speed, quickness and elusiveness are second to none and he did not disappoint at the Combine, running a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash. His breakout performance against Oklahoma made Austin a YouTube sensation as he tore up the Sooners for 572 all-purpose yards, including 344 on the ground. Of course the biggest question mark about Austin is how his diminutive stature will translate to the next level because today’s cornerbacks and safeties so much taller and bigger than in the past. He’d most likely be limited to the role of slot receiver, but teams could see in him another Percy Harvin or Randall Cobb who can be utilized a number of different ways and that just might warrant Austin going in the first round and perhaps ahead of some of the other blue chip receivers.
Even though his 40-yard dash time (4.57) didn’t raise any eyebrows at the Combine, DeAndre Hopkins has the type of football speed that is appreciated in person or on film. He put up big numbers for the Tigers in the ACC and improved his 40 time at Clemson’s Pro Day by more than half a second, but he’ll need to add some muscle to his frame in order to be able to match up with the physical cornerbacks in the NFL. If there is one area that stands out in Hopkins’ game it’s his nose for the end zone as he set an ACC record with 18 touchdown receptions, eight more than his next closest competitor. He has reliable hands and innate ability to bring the ball in at its highest point.
Cordarrelle Patterson is by far the most intriguing of all of the wide receiver prospects simply because he only played one season at the FBS level. He had to go the JUCO route before getting a shot with the Vols last season and took advantage of the opportunity that arose after Tennessee receiver Da’Rick Rogers was dismissed from the team. Patterson has the speed to get behind defenses, running a 4.42 at the Combine, and his 37-inch vertical leap should translate into winning his fair share of jump balls. Character issues will be the biggest concerns as teams try to delve into what the reasons were behind Patterson’s circuitous route to Tennessee, but if he cane answer those questions honestly, Patterson should be the first receiver off the board.
A very strong week at the Senior Bowl moved Quinton Patton up the ladder and he continues to climb, especially for teams in dire need of a productive Z receiver. He also began his college career at the JUCO level at Coffeyville Community College and made a seamless transition to the FBS level, catching 24 touchdowns in two seasons with the Bulldogs. Patton plays taller than his listed his height and has deceptive speed, especially within his routes, so the 4.53 he ran in Indianapolis is not necessarily representative of what he can do in games. Strength could be a concern, as he only managed eight reps of 225 pounds in the bench press, so Patton will need to hit the weight room right away.
REC 57 / YDS 679
REC 73 / YDS 1,083
REC 91 / YDS 1,244
REC 97 / YDS 1,832
REC 76 / YDS 846