By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
Today College Scout takes a look at the top receivers in the country. Its a strange group in that there is a paucity of great senior receivers. In fact, unless some junior enter the draft, this could be by far the weakest group of senior receivers in a NFL draft in my memory. Things could improve greatly if some of the juniors come out. Its also a unique list in that so many of the receivers are big both height and body wise. Just a big, physical, strong group of receivers. The Patriots have found a couple good, talented, young receivers to work with the past two years in Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price. But as has been a major topic of conversation, Randy Moss’ contract is up after this season. Even Randy himself has openly questioned whether he’ll be back. If he’s not, the Patriots could be looking to add another young, stretch-the-field receiver and they too will be hoping some of these junior prospects come out. So lets take a look at the list as it stands right now:
1.) Julio Jones (right) Alabama: Jones is the best receiver in the country, but only a junior. Nobody can change a game as quickly this 6’4″ 211 game changer can. He is one of those special talents you can do a good job on all day, hold down and boom, one play he scores from 80 yards away. While his numbers were down a bit last year from his phenomenal freshman season, it was mostly due to Alabama running the ball more with their dominating attack on the ground. Jones still led the Tide in receiver in every category. He is as good as they come and would be an amazing replacement for the Patriots for Moss if they went in this direction and if Jones decides to come out after this, his junior year. Watch him against Duke today at 3:30 PM on ABC.
2.) A.J. Green (#8), Georgia: Green has been suspended so far this year who got off to a flying start for Georgia with a great freshman year in 2008. Last year, he struggled with some injuries and missed some time but still had a good year overall. This year, Green is suspended for 4 games for selling his 2009 Independence Bowl jersey to a sports agent he maintains is merely a friend of his. He isn’t eligible to return until the October 2nd game versus Colorado. When he does play, he is a game-breaker type with a great size/speed combination and excellent hands. He is particularly dangerous around the end zone due to his 6’4″ height. It is widely assumed he’ll come out to the NFL after this season, though he has a year left if he wanted to return to Georgia. If he does come out, even as a junior, he’s a surefire 1st round pick. Watch him on his return on October 2nd versus Colorado on Fox Sports Net at 7PM EST.
3.) DeVier Posey (#8), Ohio State: A junior, Posey is a track guy who is off to a good start in 2010 for the Buckeyes. Yet another big receiver as will dominate this list, Posey checks in at 6’2″ 213 and has sprinter speed. He’s shown very early in his career he’s willing to play inside, however, and can take a hit. Put him in space and he’s dangerous both with his speed and elusiveness. Its questionable whether Posey will come out after his Junior year, but given the nice start he’s off to this season, the chances seem to be increasing. Check him out today at Noon when Ohio visits broadcast on The Big 10 Network.
4.) Terrence Toliver (#8), LSU: Tolliver just exudes talent when you watch him play. His smooth, effortless stride, excellent speed, big frame, strong hands all jump out at even the casual watcher of his game. So why has he yet to dominate. A guy this good should be scoring more than the 3 touchdowns receiving he had last year. And he’s off to another slow start this year. Is it the occasionally inconsistent LSU quarterback play? Maybe. But his penchant to drop perfectly thrown balls on occasion has to be considered too. Toliver has as much talent than any of the receivers in this list. And probably as much or more than the vast majority of NFL receivers as well. But he just hasn’t put it together to become dominating yet. And that’s troublesome and bears watching. Its also worth noting Toliver had a minor run in with the law this past spring. You can check out how he’s coming along later in the year when LSU has a big game against Florida on CBS at 3:30 PM EST.
5.) Jon Baldwin (#82), Pittsburgh: At 6’5″ 225 Baldwin is yet another big receiver as most of this top 10 list seems to be. This could turn out to be the draft of the unusually large receiver depending on who comes out. Like Baldwin, most of this top 10 list seems to consist of big, strong, physical and some fast receivers as opposed to smaller burners. Baldwin is definitely the former. Last year Baldwin was All Big-East with over 1,100 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns. With a new, untested quarterback starting for Pitt, his numbers are a bit down early but he still should be looked at as one of the best receivers in the draft. Very athletic, many schools considered him a top basketball prospect as well when he came out. Could possibly translate to tight end if he bulked up enough, but that would probably be a waste and he’s best suited as an outside, big, down the field receiver. Watch him at 7:30 PM next Thursday on ESPN versus Miami.
6.) Leonard Hankerson (#85), Miami: A tall receiver with very good speed, Hankerson broke out a bit last year for Miami with 45 catches for 801 yards which averages out to a nice 17.8 yards per catch. Its not much of a surprise as Hankerson does have good straight line speed to beat corners deep. He also shows up in the running game blocking and while Miami doesn’t use him much inside, he does have the speed and size, plus toughness, to learn how to be an effecive inside receiver. A bit raw, but tons of talent. Watch him next Thursday on ESPN versus Pittsburgh along with Baldwin for Pitt and you can have yourself a little wide receiver scouting party to determine who replaces Randy Moss with the Patriots. The game is at 7:30 PM EST
7.) Greg Little (#8), North Carolina: Another big receiver at 6’3″ 220 lbs., Little fits in more as a possession receiver though he’s fast enough to occasionally get open deep downfield as well. He’s burned plenty of teams that mistake his game for strictly being an inside possession receiver. He’s strong and fearless and makes tough catches over the middle. One weakness of his game is he’s not a big yards after catch receiver. Nor does he have return skills. What he will do is out muscle defensive backs for the ball, take a hit over the middle and hold on and is also smart in finding openings in zones. Just a solid receiver who’ll probably be a 2nd or 3rd round choice by some NFL team next year. Check him out today versus Georgia Tech on ESPN at Noon.
8.) Michael Floyd (#3) Notre Dame: Floyd is yet another junior with intriguing skills. He is very strong physically and knows how to use his body to give himself just enough separation he can grab the ball with his excellent, snatching hands. He put up great numbers in Charlie Weis’ NFL and Patriots style offense, but has gotten off to a slightly slow start in new head coach Brian Kelly’s offense. He’s had some injuries which have held him back so far. An educated guess is he is still a bit raw and adjusting to a new offense and doesn’t come out until 2012 when he could move up to be one of the best receivers in the draft with continued improvement. Watch Floyd on NBC on October 2nd at 3:30 PM when Stanford visits the Golden Domers.
9.) DeAndre Brown (#5), Southern Mississippi: Brown was one of the more highly touted high school prospects to ever pick Southern Miss as his school of choice. Brown has freakish size for a receiver at 6’6″ 240 but despite that, he isn’t slow. He has for the most part lived up to his advanced billing, earning 1st Team All Conference USA honors as a Freshman. As a Sophomore his numbers were down a bit as he recovered from a broken leg early in the year, but he still earned 2nd Team All Conference USA honors. Its not all good news, however. Head Coach Larry Fedora openly questioned Brown’s effort late in a opening night 41-13 loss to South Carolina. While they put on a happy face the last few weeks, that could spell trouble relative to Brown’s character. It also could mean he’ll leave school a year early for the NFL and put himself in the upcoming NFL draft. There is a lot of talent here, he is quick, strong and has good hands. His size and speed combination may make him a candidate to be an NFL h-back where he’d create unique match up problems. Watch him on October 2nd when Marshall visits at 8:00 PM on CBS College Sports.
10.) Niles Paul (#24), Nebraska: Paul is a talented, big kid with good sub 4.50 speed and who plays in a fairly wide open Nebraska offense. He checks in at 6’1″ 220 and has been very effective returning kicks. He is strong and sometimes spectacular. But he has shown bouts of inconsistency and a fumbling problem. Put on top of that a few incidents with the law and it seems Paul has some growing up to do. There is no doubt NFL talent, even talent to be a top flight starting NFL receiver. But he just hasn’t seemed to put the entire package together yet. Watch Paul today versus Washington at 3:30 PM EST on ABC or either ESPN or ESPN2.