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Draft King Analysis

August 13, 2011
Lou Pickney,

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At this point last year, there were two top wide receiver prospects who were potentially eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft that were well beyond the rest of the pack: A.J. Green of Georgia and Julio Jones of Alabama. Both lived up to expectations in 2010, and despite Green facing a four-game suspension to start the season for selling the jersey he wore in the 2009 Independence Bowl, he impressed onlookers when he returned.

Green and Jones both declared for early entry into the NFL, and with great pre-draft performances, Green ended up being drafted #4 overall by Cincinnati and Jones went at #6 to Atlanta. How bad did the Falcons want Jones? They gave up two first round picks, a second round pick, and two fourth-round picks to Cleveland to jump from #27 to #6 to select him.

One year later, there are again two wide receiver prospects who stand out above the rest: South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon. Just like Green and Jones, both Jeffery and Blackmon have remaining eligibility beyond this fall. Unlike Green/Jones, where Green was generally regarded as the strongest prospect of the two (save for a brief period of time in early 2011 when Jones had an off-the-charts workout and some prognosticators moved Jones ahead of Green on their board), there is an almost 50/50 split on who belongs in the top spot between Jeffery and Blackmon.

Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina (6'4", 235, 4.56 40) *
I'm giving the nod to Jeffery over Blackmon at this point, but the difference between the two is minimal. Jeffery is physically more impressive, with great height and size. There aren't many guys who are 6'4" and weight 235 pounds who can run the forty yard dash in the mid 4.5 range.

Jeffery is coming off a monster sophomore season where he had 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine TDs. Because of a strong rushing attack with Marcus Lattimore, teams won't be able to necessarily concentrate on shutting down Jeffery, potentially allowing him to post similar numbers in 2011.

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (6'1", 210, 4.54 40) *
This fall, Blackmon will have the opportunity to show that he can be an effective wide receiver without having Dana Holgorsen working as the team's offensive coordinator. Blackmon had a phenomenal season in 2010, pulling in an unreal 111 catches for 1,782 yards. He scored 21 touchdowns last year, 20 receiving and one rushing. Blackmon missed the Kansas State game due to a suspension for a DUI arrest, but it was one of those bullshit situations where just a trace amount of alcohol can get you a DUI if you're under 21 (and Blackmon was only 20 at the time). The cops didn't even give Blackmon a breathalyzer test. The United States has all kinds of terrible laws that unjustly repress the rights of adults in the 18-20 age range, in large part because that demographic has no lobbying power.

That aside, in the 13 games that Blackmon did take part in for Oklahoma State last year, he had 100+ receiving yards in all of them. 13-for-13! That is unreal. That kind of consistent output is why he is so highly regarded by scouts.

Jeff Fuller
Jeff Fuller jumped high to make a catch against Texas last season. (Icon SMI)
Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M (6'3", 215, 4.52 40)
Don't sleep on Texas A&M this year: they have great skill at QB, RB, and WR. Fuller doesn't have the stats of the two players listed above him, but he has been a consistent performer in his three years on the field for A&M. Perhaps most impressive was Fuller posting a seven catch, 83 yard receiving performance against an LSU team that featured top-notch CB (and future top-five pick) Patrick Peterson in the Cotton Bowl.

Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (6'3", 230, 4.54 40)
As much as Jeffery & Blackmon are close to tied for the #1 WR prospect position, the same could be said for Fuller & Floyd for the #3 spot. Compare their stats from last year:

Fuller: 72 receptions, 1,066 yards, 12 TDs
Floyd: 79 receptions, 1,025 yards, 12 TDs

One major problem for Floyd is that he was arrested for a DUI in March. Unlike the Blackmon situation, which was more troublesome because of reckless driving than because of alcohol intake, Floyd was (according to police) well over the .08 limit that the federal government forced all states to establish as its BAC (blood alcohol content) in the past decade; his breathalyzer result came in at .19, more than twice the legal threshold for being presumed intoxicated.

For several months after the incident, Floyd found himself suspended from Notre Dame's football team. Last month, Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly modified the suspension to allow Floyd to participate in off-season workouts, but Kelly insisted that Floyd must meet a set of criteria that he (Kelly) set in order to play for Notre Dame this fall.

Apparently the mystery components of the criteria were met, as Floyd has avoided further trouble and is slated to play in Notre Dame's opener against USF. To be sure, Floyd will receive a great deal of attention from opposing defenses because of his big-play ability. If Floyd can build on his performance from last season with another strong year, and if he can steer clear of further legal trouble, Floyd could be in position to potentially play his way into being a first-round pick in 2012.

Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (5'11", 190, 4.52 40) *
He might not have prototype height for the position, but Broyles has proven to be very consistent and reliable in his time with the Sooners. In 2009, despite QB Sam Bradford missing much of the season with injury, Broyles hauled in 89 receptions for 1,120 yards and 16 total TDs (one came via the run). In 2010, Broyles made 131 catches for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns.

With a strong 2011 season, Broyles has the potential to put himself in the mix to possibly be the third receiver taken in the 2012 Draft (presuming Jeffery and Blackmon both declare for it and go 1-2), though competition with the likes of Fuller and Floyd for that spot will likely be stiff.

Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers (6'2", 220, 4.57 40) *
Sanu makes the list here based mostly on potential -- he has the size and the athleticism to be a productive wide receiver. But he failed to have the kind of sophomore season that many expected from him in 2010, in part because of Rutgers having serious issues with its offense and also because Sanu played through an ankle injury that limited him from playing at 100% for much of the season.

Last year's offensive coordinator for Rutgers, John McNulty, left to become the wide receivers coach for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals. With a new position coach, Sanu may be in a spot to break out with a strong 2011 season.

Juron Criner, Arizona (6'4", 215, 4.62 40)
There is no receiver in this list with a more uncertain status relative to the 2012 NFL Draft than Criner. Reports came out in late June that Criner would be out of action indefinitely because of either a "non-injury medical reason" and/or a "personal family matter" depending on who you believe. Arizona clammed up, issuing a simple "no comment" related to Criner.

This is the sort of thing that Bruce Feldman might have been able to uncover more details about if ESPN hadn't shipped Feldman off to Altair-4 as punishment for co-authoring a book with former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. Feldman had the best read on the story and then ESPN made him disappear, never mind his unquestioned journalistic history and the fact that he had been writing online for ESPN since July 1994 and the primitive ESPNET days of ESPN's online presence.

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops said about Criner, "He had some family issues that were concerning over the summer, and those are personal. We anticipate him being the same player - or a better player - than he was a year ago." If Stoops is right about Criner being better than he was last season, then expect him to do some great things in 2011 for Arizona in the brand new Pac-12 South division.

Greg Childs, Arkansas (6'3", 215, 4.56 40)
One of the top senior wide receiver prospect in college ball, the importance for Childs to succeed for Arkansas grew dramatically with the loss of RB Knile Davis to a fractured left ankle earlier this week. With last year's starting QB Ryan Mallett gone to the NFL and the top two rushing performers of 2010 out for the year (Davis and Broderick Green, who tore the ACL in his left knee in April), Arkansas will be depending on Childs to be a playmaker for them. It will be a long road for Arkansas; the SEC West is absolutely loaded with talent this year, plus Arkansas has a non-conference showdown with Texas A&M slated for October 1.

Dwight Jones, North Carolina (6'4", 220, 4.53 40)
Jones came on strong late in 2010 for the Tar Heels, finishing the season with 62 receptions for 946 yards and four TDs. It's a shame in many ways that the UNC football program ran afoul of the NCAA, as their team last year could have been one of the best in the country. But then the John Blake/Gary Wichard scandal hit, several key players faced NCAA sanctions, and then last month Butch Davis lost his head coaching job. But since student-athletes can't jump to the NFL just because their coach got the ax, Jones is stuck with his present situation at North Carolina.

A top recruit coming out of high school, Jones opted to return to the Tar Heels rather than leave UNC for the NFL. Jones thought that Davis would be coaching North Carolina this fall, but he's stuck with a new regime. Luckily for Jones, he has the physical tools to excel, and he can be explosive, as Virginia found out against the Tar Heels last fall (Jones had two TDs and 188 receiving yards in the first half alone in that game). Jones has NFL-quality height, size, and speed, and if he can show consistency this fall he could be in a good position to move up the ladder in the NFL wide receiver projection list.

Others to watch:

Nick Toon, Wisconsin (6'2", 215, 4.52 40)
Chris Owusu, Stanford (6'-6'2" depending on the source, 185, 4.48 40)
Joshua Adams, North Carolina (6'4", 200, 4.55 40) *
DeVier Posey, Ohio State (6'1", 205, 4.54) [suspended for first five games of 2011]
Jermaine Kearse, Washington (6'1", 210, 4.50 40)
Marquis Maze, Alabama (5'8", 190, 4.49 40)
Russell Shepard, LSU (6', 190, 4.48) *
Duron Carter, Alabama (6'2", 200, 4.58 40) *
Denard Robinson, Michigan (5'11", 195, 4.39 40) * (yes, I know he plays QB at Michigan)
Brian Quick, Appalachian State (6'4", 215, 4.63 40)
Andre Debose, Florida (5'11", 185, 4.38 40) *
Marvin McNutt, Iowa (6'2", 215, 4.52 40)


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