by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*NOTE: I lengthened and changed the format of this piece for a few reasons….mainly because this is the deepest WR group I’ve ever seen and NYG needs to bring someone in at the position. There are so many directions they can go with this talented, deep group. A few of you have requested this, and here you go….
Current Wide Receivers on NYG Roster:
Victor Cruz – 28 – Signed through 2018
Rueben Randle – 23 – Signed through 2015
Jerrel Jernigan – 25 – Signed through 2014
Mario Manningham – 28 – Signed through 2014
Trindon Holliday – 28 – Signed through 2014
Julian Talley – 25 – Signed through 2015
Marcus Harris – 25 – Signed through 2015
Kris Adams – 27 – Signed through 2014
Preston Parker – 27 – Signed through 2015
Travis Harvey – 24 – Signed through 2014
Where They Stand:
The loss of Hakeem Nicks to free agency was something I personally didn’t even give a second thought to. He underachieved for the past two seasons and his weekly approach wasn’t something you want on a winning team, plain and simple. With his departure opens up a spot for a lot of targets in the passing game. There are in-house options in Randle and Jernigan, both of whom have at least shown flashes of being productive. They are battle tested to an extent and they will receive the opportunity to be go-to guys for Manning. The signing of Manningham is a hopeful shot in the dark that he could rekindle his level of play now that he is back in a familiar setting. Holliday is almost completely a return specialist that may see some action for trick plays. Beyond that, the rest of those names are bodies for training camp. Could one of them break through and be part of the rotation? Sure. I actually like Talley and/or Parker to potentially make this team. While there are worse groups of WRs in the league, I’m not overly confident that these guys are going to scare anyone. There isn’t a real speed/deep threat, nor is there a guy that will win one-on-one battles against quality corners outside of Cruz. They could really use someone for the outside that can get downfield and catch the ball in traffic.
Top 20 Grades
1 – Sammy Watkins – Clemson – 6’1/211: 85
2 – Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt – 6’3/212: 85
3 – Brandin Cooks – Oregon State – 5’10/189: 83
4 – Odell Beckham – LSU – 5’11/198: 81
5 – Corey Latimer – Indiana – 6’3/215: 79
6 – Martavis Bryant – Clemson – 6’4/211: 79
7 – Mike Evans – Texas A&M – 6’5/231: 78
8 – Marqise Lee – USC – 6’0/192: 78
9 – Kevin Norwood – Alabama – 6’2/198: 77
10 – DaVante Adams – Fresno State – 6’1/212” 75
11 – Josh Huff – Oregon – 5’11/206: 75
12 – Robert Herron – Wyoming – 5’9/193: 75
13 – Jarvis Landry – LSU – 6’0/205: 75
14 – Jared Abbrederis – Wisconsin – 6’1/195: 74
15 – Bruce Ellington – South Carolina – 5’9/197: 74
16 – Allen Robinson – Penn State – 6’3/220: 74
17 – Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State – 6’5/240: 73
18 – Devin Street – Pittsburgh – 6’3/198: 73
19 – Jeremy Gallon – Michigan – 5’8/185: 73
20 – Damian Copeland – Louisville – 5’11/184: 73
Day One Target:
Sammy Watkins – Clemson (85)
Watkins is widely considered the top WR in this draft. He is an explosive playmaker with tremendous ability once he gets the ball in his hands. There isn’t an elite, blue chip receiver in this class but Watkins is pretty close. He lacks the ideal size you look for in a number one guy, but he can’t be considered small by any means. What I like most here is the ability to make things happen after the catch. He looks and moves like a running back, breaking tackles and finding the cutback lanes to gain extra yards. While I would bet he’ll end up in the top 5 overall, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slip a bit. This WR group is so strong and deep which could force teams in to attacking their other needs at the top of the draft. Trading up for Watkins from the #12 slot may be over-aggressive, but he may be worth sending a day three pick over to someone if he falls near the #10 slot.
Runner Up: Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt (85)
I actually started off cold on Matthews, thinking he was a product of easy statistics via a friendly offensive scheme. But the more I watched, the more tools I saw to work with. Matthews has the height and length to go with a thick, strong frame that leads me to believe he’ll be one of the more physical receivers in the game. He too plays with the aggressive style that will make defensive backs alter their game. Matthews is an outstanding route runner that can get himself open no matter where on the route tree he is placed. I love the short area burst and ability to change direction. I realize I have a higher grade on Matthews than most, but I think we are talking about a first round pick here that has a high floor/high ceiling type status. His game will translate very well to the next level.
Runner up #2: Brandin Cooks – Oregon State (83)
I’ve been calling Cooks a first rounder since last September. He was better than Markus Wheaton in 2012 and after a year of gaining some weight while maintaining his elite movement ability, Cooks performed his way in to potential top 15 talk. If you liked Tavon Austin last year, you have to see the high ceiling in Cooks. Where he fits with NYG is the only question, though. I think he works best out of the slot, where Cruz and Jernigan will be playing. He has some very accomplished tape playing on the outside, however. He can run by anyone and he’s a big time competitor in traffic. He’ll come down with more balls than you think. Simply put, the NYG offense needs more athletes that can run themselves open, giving Manning space to work with. There may not be a better WR in this class at doing it than Cooks.
Day Two Target:
Corey Latimer – Indiana (79)
Latimer caught my eye the first time I watched Indiana in October. His size and movement ability are easy to notice, as he can run away from some defensive backs but bull over others. He is a matchup problem for a lot of defenses. In addition, Latimer does a lot of the little things right. He sees the ball in to his hands, rarely using his body to bring the ball in. He runs crisp routes and understands how to use the field to his advantage. Often I would see Latimer be the guy to come to the rescue on broken plays, working towards his quarterback and finding the vacant areas of a defense. On top of all that, Latimer is a high-effort blocker. He is a borderline first round talent that can be had on day two, perhaps even in round 3.
Runner Up: Montavious Bryant – Clemson (79)
Bryant is a high risk/high reward prospect that I gave a really high grade to considering that kind of status. I think he was overshadowed the past two seasons at Clemson because of Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Those two were outstanding receivers for the Tigers, but Bryant may be the best pro of them all. His height and length are assets that every QB wants to have to work with when throwing their receivers the ball. Bryant is a much better mover in space and in short areas than you would think. There is some legit explosion to this kid and I think he could be a big time downfield threat in the league. NYG could really use a receiver like this on the outside. I think there are some raw parts to his game, thus it might take some extra time for him to evolve in to am every down threat. But would be a great value grab in round 3.
Marquis Lee – USC (78)
I’m not sure where to put Lee in relation to where he will actually be drafted. I think he can be a first rounder, but he had a rough 2013 injury-wise and a lot of people will question how well his frame can hold up in the NFL. That said, there is some hidden value here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being the top WR in this class a few years from now. Lee is as explosive as you’ll find in the open field. He is smart, tough, and savvy. He can wear a few hats in the passing game, making him a guy that can exploit matchup problems against every defense in the league. A quality offensive scheme can get him 100+ receptions every year if he can stay on the field. Let’s not forget what he did in 2012 as a WR and return man.
Day Three Target:
Kevin Norwood – Alabama (77)
This kid could be one of the top draft weekend steals because of where you can get him. I wouldn’t classify Norwood as an elite receiver by any means, but a lot of people don’t give him credit for what he is. He is a big, physical receiver that runs great routes and will come down with a lot of balls in traffic. The Alabama offense is so stacked with young receivers and running backs to a point where Norwood was almost being forgotten about. I think his game translates very well to the next level, especially for a team that needs someone for the outside.
Runner Up: Josh Huff – Oregon (75)
It can be easy to lose track of Huff when watching the Oregon offense. That unit was so strong and so diverse with a lot of individual star power. But if you watched closely, Huff was one of the more reliable and consistent parts to that group. He doesn’t have the elite size, nor will be blaze by anyone. But Huff is tougher than nails and can do a lot of the little things for an offense. He somewhat reminds be of a young, undrafted Victor Cruz. He has the short area burst the separate himself from defensive backs and he’ll catch anything near his body. After the catch, Huff has a elite burst and quickness. I think he can be had mid-day 3 and considering everything he can do for a team, that’s a steal.
Jared Abbrederis – Wisconsin (74)
Abbrederis broke out a couple seasons ago when he was the go-to guy for Russell Wilson. He evolved in to a deep threat for him that made a lot of big plays. What intrigues me the most here however, is the ability to get open and consistently catch the ball whenever his hands can get to it. He may have some of the best hands in the draft. His routes are always clean and crisp and there is some underrated movement ability here. His performance against Bradley Roby (Ohio State) was one of the best ones I saw all year. He abused him all over the field despite having less physical ability. I think you are talking about a limited upside prospect here, but one that will be dependable. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Donte Moncrief: Ole Miss (72)
I want to like a WR like Moncrief because of the size and timed speed, but I just can’t get past the lack of ability to get himself open. Moncrief is a poor route runner that takes too long to change direction. The weaknesses in his game are the ones I don’t want to see when scouting receivers. He has trouble locating the ball when running downfield with a defensive back, and he won’t run away from anybody on game day. The size and after-the-catch toughness are intriguing, which is mainly why he still earned a 3rd/4th round grade from me. But round 2 is where I see most projecting him, and I just don’t see it.
Runner Up: Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State (73)
I spoke highly of Benjamin throughout the fall. I even labeled him a potential top 15 pick after watching him in passing. He makes some of the most difficult catches you’ll ever see and there is some ability with the ball in his hands that has to intrigue you. But on closer examination, Benjamin does a lot of little things wrong. His route tree was so limited at FSU and his quick-twitch just isn’t there when trying to get open. Now, a receiver his size doesn’t need to excel at running himself open which is why he still earned a late 3rd/4th grade. I can see and understand the upside, but Benjamin seems to be one of those one-trick ponies that someone will overdraft based on upside. Receivers like this exist in every draft and they rarely work out. I always prefer speed/agility/smarts over size and length. There is more to the position that jump balls in the red zone.
I am very interested to see how NYG will handle this position in the draft. There isn’t a right or wrong way, so let me get that out there. Part of me says, wait a couple rounds because with such a deep group, it’s almost a sure thing that a great value will be around in the middle rounds, allowing them to address other areas with their high picks. The other part of me would really struggle to pass on a Watkins, Matthews, or Cooks. This offense has lost it’s big play ability and there isn’t anyone outside of Cruz that will scare the defense. The quickest way to change that is bringing in a WR that can torch a defense all over field; short, intermediate, and deep. I wouldn’t go in to the weekend restricting myself to taking a WR early, or ignoring the position early. Let the board play out and see what happens. But I would say one of these top 10-15 WRs needs to be brought in. The opportunity will be there.