Friday, April 15, 2005

2005 NFL Draft coverage - Wide receivers

Among the projected top ten at this position for the 2005 draft are a guy that hasn't played a competitive football game since January 1, 2004, and a guy who spent four years as a starting quarterback in college.

Top dogs
1. Braylon Edwards, Michigan. Edwards had a remarkable senior season, vaulting himself into top-five status in this draft. He shed the image he was in danger of carrying with him into the draft (that of an inconsistent player) by catching just about everything thrown his way in 2004. Edwards has good size, tremendous speed, and does a good job against press coverage. Edwards has to improve his route-running skills and do a better job against zone coverage, but he has the overall skill to be an immediate contributor in the NFL. Projected: 1st round.

2. Mike Williams, Southern California. Despite sitting out the 2004 season after a failed attempt to enter the NFL Draft locked him out of college football, Williams projects as a top-ten pick and might be the first receiver drafted. Some scouts are concerned he might eat himself into an H-back or tight end role at some point, but he looks to be in good shape heading into the draft. The fact that he hasn't played in over a year is a concern, but his size, hands, and understanding of coverage are among the best in this class. Projected: 1st round.

3. Mark Clayton, Oklahoma. Clayton is the most polished receiver in this class. He has tremendous route-running skills, great hands, and is an adequate blocker. Considering his size, he has an uncanny ability to go get the ball when it's in the air. However, his size is a concern, as it may cause him to be pushed around in the NFL. Clayton was absolutely the best receiver during Senior Bowl week, and only his size will keep him from being drafted among the first twenty picks. Projected: 1st round.

Vincent Jackson, Northern Colorado. Jackson might be the best small-school prospect in the draft. He has good size and solid speed. Jackson possesses very good hands and is a huge threat on fade routes because of his ability to outrun and outmuscle defensive backs. He will have to shed the small-schooler label and prove that he can compete against NFL competition, and he needs time to work on his route-running skills. However, Jackson can be an immediate vertical and red-zone threat because of his size, speed, and strength. Projected: 3rd round.

Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue. Despite his lack of size, Stubblefield projects as a solid contributor in the NFL. He runs solid routes, has great hands, and has an impressive understanding of coverage. Stubblefield was very impressive in Senior Bowl week against some of the best defensive backs in this class, disspelling notions that his size and experience in Purdue's spread offense would hurt him in the NFL. Stubblefield likely won't be drafted on the first day, but he should go early in the second. Projected: 4th or 5th round.

Troy Williamson, South Carolina. Because Williamson played in a run-first offense in college, he enters the draft as the best blocker at his position. He has decent size and great speed, making him an immediate vertical threat. But he needs to improve his work against press coverage. He doesn't have a lot of experience in the short and intermediate routes because of the offense he played in, which mainly asked him to make plays downfield. Williamson has a chance to be a very good player, but he needs a lot of improvement before he will be ready to start and play regularly. Projected: 1st round.

Matt Jones, Arkansas. After a solid four-year career as a quarterback, Jones is making the move to wide receiver. He has great natural skills, with NFL size, NFL speed, and soft hands. However, he has little experience as a wide receiver, as he only had four catches in four years at Arkansas. He has to learn his new position at the highest level in his sport, which is enough of an issue for some, but his work ethic has also been questioned by scouts. He's going to be drafted on the first day, but the talk of him as a potential first-round value is positively laughable. Projected: 2nd round.

Other notables
Roddy White, Alabama-Birmingham - 1st or 2nd round
Reggie Brown, Georgia - 2nd round
Roscoe Parrish, Miami - 2nd or 3rd round
Jerome Mathis, Hampton - 3rd round
Craig Bragg, UCLA - 3rd or 4th round
J.R. Russell, Louisville - 3rd or 4th round
Steve Savoy, Utah - 4th round
Chad Owens, Hawaii - 5th round
Geoff McArthur, California - 5th or 6th round
Lance Moore, Toledo - 6th round
Jamaica Rector, NW Missouri State - 6th or 7th round

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