Apr 122017
 
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Corey Davis, Western Michigan Broncos (December 2, 2016)

Corey Davis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

This is a pretty simple group to label and breakdown. They have one of the league’s top young playmakers in Odell Beckham. He is off to a historic start to his career and while there have been several maturity-based hiccups, one has to think he is going to be here long term. At this time next year, I believe we will be discussing a long term contract between NYG and ODB. Sterling Shepard finished second among rookie WRs in catches, yards, and touchdowns respectively. He gave NYG exactly what was expected and maybe some more. An overly reliable slot presence that can make plays against one on one coverage downfield. The signing of Brandon Marshall was low risk and at two years, short term. The big-bodied, physical pass catcher could have been very useful at several points in 2016. Beyond them, the youngsters such as Tavarres King and Roger Lewis are solid and deserve opportunities should one of the top 3 go down. I have always liked King since his days at Georgia and Lewis looked raw but was effective in bursts. This team is set up well for the long term but there is room for more competition.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Corey Davis – 6’3/209 – Western Michigan – 84

Summary: Four year starter that has almost too-many-to-name accolades for his mantle. Davis is an All-American, MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and a three time 1st Team All Conference receiver. In addition, he is the major college football All Time Leading Receiver with 5,285 career yards. Davis did everything he could to prove he was on another level than his MAC opponents, and that he was. His blend of size and speed in combination with his ball skills and toughness make him a threat to be the first wide receiver selected this April. There are some things he needs to be coached up on but the intangibles are off the chart. He will be successful.

*There is still some up in the air for Davis, as he didn’t workout at the NFL Combine or the WMU pro day because of an ankle surgery he underwent in late January. It’s been reported that the surgery will not prevent him from being ready for team OTA’s. Davis brings so much to the table and I think he still has more “rawness” to him than any of these top WRs. He still has a ways to go in terms if progression and if he reaches his upside, he’ll be a top tier WR in the league. Great kid with a great approach and work ethic. I know NYG won’t be looking WR at #23 but this would be a nice spot for him. Sit and learn for a year, which he will get a lot out of because of his maturity, and be ready to rock in 2018. I think he will end up being a top 15 pick though.

Upside Pro Comparison: Allen Robinson – JAC

2 – Mike Williams – 6’4/218 – Clemson: 83

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. 1st Team all ACC a year after breaking his neck week 1 of 2015 after running in to the goal post on a touchdown. After sitting the rest of the season out, Williams came back and proved he was one of the nations top receivers in the country. His standout traits revolve around what he can do in traffic. Williams can beat anyone in the 50/50 situations with his combination of size, strength, and ball skills. He is an asset to any offense immediately but will need to shore up his route running if he every wants to be a true number one.

*It’s easy to see why Williams is so well liked by everyone. Tall, fast, catches the ball in traffic. Playmaker near the end zone. Good route runner for someone that is long limbed. But what you may not know, or even notice, about his game is how well he does after the catch. Williams breaks tackles of smaller, poor tackling defensive backs with ease. He is hungry for more yards and will show surprising quickness in and out of traffic. Williams has the upside of a true #1 WR. At worst, he is a high quality possession WR that can win in traffic more often than not.

Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Marshall – NYG

3 – Zay Jones – 6’2/201 – East Carolina: 83

Summary: Fourth year senior that has been piling up the catches since day one. The NCAA all time leader in career (399) and single season (158) receptions. The All American and All AAC Conference receiver comes from football blood, with his father, Robert, playing linebacker for the three time Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys and his uncle, Jeff Blake, playing quarterback in the league for 14 seasons. Everyone that has either interacted and/or coached Jones raves about his professionalism and far-along football knowledge. He is not blessed with top end tools but he simply knows how to get the job done in the right role. Maybe never a superstar but he is one of the safest picks in the class.

*Not only do I have Jones pretty high up, but I have him on the same level as Williams and just under Davis. I am a believer. Looking beyond his unreal stat lines (helped very much by the offensive scheme), Jones has most of the traits I look for in receivers. He can get himself open, he has exceptional ball skills, he takes in coaching, and he is tough in traffic. Jones is a favorite of many scouts I have spoken with because of how much he loves the game. He is a practice-all-out kind of kid and we saw at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine that this kid has more than enough talent to be considered this high. While NYG doesn’t need a WR, if he is there on day 2 he would be hard to pass on.

Upside Pro Comparison: Amari Cooper – OAK

4 – Cooper Kupp – 6’2/204 – Eastern Washington: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior that has more accolades and awards than room on his wall. All time leader at the FCS level in career catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns. Kupp comes from a football family with both his father and grandfather having their own careers in the NFL. Kupp is next and may be set up for a career like is grandfather which included multiple pro bowls. The student of the game that is obsessed with details has the makings of an elite slot receiver. He does all the little things right and he is as tough as anyone. If he can get in to the right system, watch out.

*This kid was a secret of mine for 2+ years now but he is out in the public eye now. Kupp is a favorite of many because of how reliable and sure handed he is. I think he is born to play the slot WR in the NFL and at just under 6’2, that can be a problem for the generic NFL nickel corner. He plays strong and exceptionally quick with a next-level IQ. If Kupp is paired with the right QB in the right system, you are talking about a year in, year out 90+ catch player that will make plays with the ball in his hands.

Upside Pro Comparison: Willie Snead – NO

5 – ArDarius Stewart – 5’11/204 – Alabama: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Came to Alabama under the “athlete” category after an elite running back high school career. He made the full time move to wide receiver and progressed his way in to the team’s top receiver in 2016, earning 1st Team All SEC honors. Stewart plays the game like an animal that was just let free from a cage. He has all the talent and hustle to impact the game in multiple ways. Stewart plays hungry for more and now that his skill set is catching up, he has the makings of a potential star. He can be used as a traditional receiver and gimmick playmaker. Get the ball in his hands and watch out.

*Very few players helped themselves this season via their play on the field as much as Stewart. He started to blossom from athlete to skilled receiver although he still has a ways to go. Stewart didn’t measure in the way I was hoping, but he is an explosive, aggressive football player that could make a case for himself as the best receiver on Alabama in 2016. For an outside receiver, he may be a on the small side but if the right offensive mind gets his hands on Stewart, his versatile ability can be showcased in several ways.

Upside Pro Comparison: Randall Cobb – GB

6 – John Ross – 5’10/188 – Washington: 80

Fourth year junior entry. Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Had a top-tier grade as a return specialist coming in to the 2016 season, having already returned 3 for touchdowns. He was considered a two way prospect as well, having started at CB and WR in 2014, proving to be equally effective on both sides of the ball. After missing 2015 with knee injuries, he came back strong in 2016 and proved to be one of the most explosive, exciting players in the nation. He has sub 4.3 speed that’s shows up on tape. His size may limit him in some areas, but Ross has game changing ability and everyone is always looking for the things he can offer.

*While I am not in love with Ross as a WR from a skill set perspective, his world class speed and proven production is worth the risk. This is the kind of player that can change a defensive scheme with his mere presence. Ross, at worst, will be one of the more dangerous return specialists in the league. He can be a DeSean Jackson kind of impact player without the attitude problems. Think about that.

Upside Pro Comparison: TY Hilton – IND

7 – Chad Hansen – 6’2/202 – California: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Began his career at Idaho, the only FBS school to offer him a scholarship, before transferring to California in 2015. Entering this past season, Hansen was not well known. However he finished third in the nation in catches per game and fourth in yards per game. He has plenty of pro-ready traits that could fit in to any NFL system inside and outside. His ball skills are top tier and matched with the size and aggression, he could be an early factor for a team if he is put in to the right spot. He may need some time to expand his knowledge of the route running tree, but the arrow is pointing up for this underrated receiver.

*I was a little late to the scouting game on Hansen but once I got two of his games done, I was very intrigued. After getting the next 3 in, I considered him a borderline first rounder. I always get a little nervous with the guys that have just one year of production from the spread offenses, but Hansen has so many traits I look for. He is almost the same prospect as Cooper Kupp across the board, yet I think he can be had a round or two later. I recently spoke with a scout that has him as his top WR in the class, for what it’s worth.

Upside Pro Comparison: Keenan Allen – LAC

8 – JuJu Smith Schuster – 6’1/213 – USC: 79

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter. After an All American sophomore season in 2015, Smith-Schuster took a step back production wise due to poor quarterback play as a junior. His size and strength make him a tough matchup for anyone at the point of attack and in traffic. When his switch is on, the aggression and power can be dominant traits. The 20 year old is as tough as they come, shown when he broke his hand in 2015 that required surgery two days later, eight inserted screws which did not force him to miss any time. His ability has shown flashes, but his consistency has been very back and forth. High risk, high reward.

*Man, at this time last year I was ready to put this kid at the top of the WR list. He has something special with Kessler last year. The whole process of breaking bones in his hand, getting pins inserted and then never missing a game was something that stood out to me. He is a gamer. However I was disappointed several times this season. I felt like he started to dog it, showing some diva as the USC QB play was suffering early in the year. He proved to be a fairly average athlete as well. All in all, he is still one of the more physical WRs that has come out in the past few years and looks to be a very solid possession receiver type that can make plays after the catch.

Upside Pro Comparison: Anquan Boldin – FA

9 – Dede Westbrook – 6’0/176 – Oklahoma: 78

Summary: Spent two years with the Sooners after two years in junior college. Won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2015 but took things to a new level as a senior. Westbrook took home the Biletnikoff Award and was a unanimous All American. Westbrook’s top tier agility and acceleration combined with his toughness and reliable hands can make him a serious threat from the slot. Once he gets his hands on the ball, watch out. His dominance from October through the end of the season was one of the best stretches we have ever seen at the position. In the right scheme, he is an immediate impact player.

*The question here will be surrounding his ability to adjust to the NFL route tree and complexity of offensive schemes. If that is a smooth transition for him, he can be an immediate factor. Westbrook as the kind of easy burst and agility that makes him a hard guy to touch, let alone cover. I think his upside is through the roof but there is always a concern with me and WRs that are this slight. He may need a specific role and scheme.

Upside Pro Comparison: Emmanuel Sanders – DEN

10 – Josh Reynolds – 6’4/195 – Texas A& M: 77

Summary: Fourth year senior that spent his freshman year at Tyler Junior College. In year one at Texas A& M, he broke on to the scene with 13 touchdown catches, setting a single season school record. Throughout the rest of his career Reynolds proved to be one of the scariest deep threats in the SEC. His downfield speed, body control, and ball skills on the vertical move make him a weapon in any offense right away. His slender body type may not be able to handle NFL hits over the middle, an area he is already weak at, but his vertical presence could be considered elite. If he can shore up some concentration and discipline issues, Reynolds can be one of the best WRs in this class.

*Towards the end of the season, I was asked by Ourlads for an unofficial top 5 at every position to get the ball rolling on the pre-draft process. I put Reynolds at the top of it (the list was seniors-only). He has since been passed by a few guys as the grading process transpired, but I still think there is talent here that could be a major factor in the NFL. His ball skills are top notch in traffic. He drops some easy balls but when he is challenged downfield, few DBs can beat him. Reynolds has such a light frame and is a bit of a long strider, but I still a starting caliber receiver that will pose as a deep threat. He averaged 17 yards per catch and scored 30 TDs over three years and I think the best is ahead. Best part? I think he may be available on day 3.

Upside Pro Comparison: AJ Green – CIN

11 – Amara Darboh – 6’2/214 – Michigan: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior that was forced to redshirt in 2013 because of a foot injury. Darboh has had an unconventional path to the NFL, coming from Africa at the age of 7 before being orphaned. The tools here are what will attract coaches and scouts alike. He is big and tall with all the length and hand size. The mental side of the game began to click for him and he proved he can be a solid all around contributor.

*Athletically, Darboh doesn’t jump off the screen. But at a solid 6’2/214 and combining that with his style, he has reliable possession receiver written all over him. These guys are very valuable in established offenses with dynamic playmakers on the outside. This is a fit that I can very much see happening with NYG if they wait until day 3, where I think he presents solid value.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mohamed Sanu – ATL

12 – Isaiah Ford – 6’1/194 – Virginia Tech: 75

Summary: Junior entry. 1st Team All ACC receiver that has been the go-to guy for the Hokies over the past two years, both of which he finished with over 1,000 yards. Ford is deep threat that combines speed, leaping ability, and ball skills. He makes cornerbacks think twice about getting too close at the point of attack because of his long, track-type speed and explosion. Ford struggles to move with the same fluidity in short space, and may be a bit of a one trick pony at this point. He needs a lot of skill work on the little things, such as getting off press coverage and seeing the ball in to his hands underneath.

*I really thought Ford was going to test better in workouts, but a 4.64 at the combine hurt him a bit. It may not kill him, however, because of how productive he is in traffic. He has great ball skills, leaping ability, and length. He knows how to use all the above and there is just a lot of natural receiver to him. Early day 3 target.

Upside Pro Comparison: Allen Hurns – JAC

13 – Austin Carr – 6’0/200 – Northwestern: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior that began his career as a running back. Wasn’t much of a factor until he exploded on to the scene in 2016, leading the conference cross the board in receiving statistics. The Big 10 Wide Receiver of the Year Award winner truly is a one year wonder but it should be enough for the teams looking to add a slot receiver. He has a lot of pro-ready traits, although limited upside-wise.

*Carr is a favorite of Dan Shonka, director of Ourlads. While the fact he only produced for one year is a red flag, Carr has all the makings of a high level slot receiver. Very smart, quick, and reliable. Has more size to him than some of the other slots. One has to think what his outlook would be if he had gone to a higher-level football program. I bet he out-produces half the receivers taken in front of him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Adam Humphries – TB

14 – Malachi Dupre – 6’2/196 – LSU: 74

Summary: Junior entry. Former blue chip recruit and former triple, long, and high jump state champion. Dupre has deep threat tools dripping off him and showed several glimpses of being a game changer during his career at LSU. Poor quarterback play hampered his consistency and progress, however. He still has some skill work to do and could use more strength on that frame, but the tools are there. High upside prospect.

*One of those guys that jumped off the screen multiple times throughout the year. I never quite saw enough consistency but one has to consider the mess LSU has been dealing with at QB for years. I think Dupre can be a nice deep threat in the league. Long strider that takes a bit to really get moving but he excels at tracking the ball and getting to it at the apex of his jump. Very good leaper.

Upside Pro Comparison: Terrence Williams – DAL

15 – Curtis Samuel – 5’11/197 – Ohio State: 73

Some are labeling Samuel a first rounder. I can see why simply because of the versatility and top shelf speed. Samuel has legit 4.3 speed and I know for a fact some teams are looking at him as a RB and some are looking at him as a WR. Samuel has a ways to go in terms of skill progression and refinement, but he has the kind of baseline anyone would be fortunate to work with. I fear he may be one of those guys that fails to find a true position, however. He is more of an athlete than a football player to me, the kind that have thrived in the Urban Meyer system but not in the NFL.

Upside Pro Comparison: Percy Harvin – FA

BEST OF THE REST

16 – Chris Godwin – 6’1/209 – Penn State: 73
17 – Taywan Taylor – 5’11/203 – Western Kentucky: 73
18 – Stacy Coley – 6’0/195 – Miami: 73
19 – Ryan Switzer – 5’8/181 – North Carolina: 73
20 – Trent Taylor – 5’8/181 – Louisiana Tech: 72
21 – Michael Rector – 6’0/193 – Stanford: 71
22 – Keevan Lucas – Tulsa – 5’9/192: 71
23 – Rodney Adams – 6’1/190 – South Florida: 70
24 – Josh Malone – 6’3/208 – Tennessee: 70
25 – Kendrick Bourne – Eastern Washington – 6’1/203: 69
26 – Fred Ross – 6’1/213 – Mississippi State: 69
27 – Carlos Henderson – 5’11/199 – Louisiana Tech: 69
28 – Speedy Noil – 5’11/199 – Texas A& M: 68
29 – Travis Rudolph – 6’0/189 – Florida State: 68
30 – Kermit Whitfield – 5’8/185 – Florida State: 68

NYG APPROACH

The case can be made there are several needs ahead of the WR group, and I won’t argue against it. However I am not willing to cross off the WRs in this class should a value present itself. 1st round? Most likely not, but after that I think all bets are off. WR can certainly be a spot this team looks to improve. While the top 3 are more than set in stone, one injury separates NYG from being a team in need of more weapons to throw to and in my opinion, that is a spot that can warrant a pick on a new pass catcher. Really what you’re doing is bringing in a body to compete with King, Lewis, and Harris for 5-10 snaps per game and the spot that will replace an injury to one of the top 3. I think you can look at the round 4/5 region and be confident a very good value will be there.

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