BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
The wide receiver position is generally dominated in the draft by underclassmen, but there are plenty intriguing senior wide receiver prospects in the 2014 NFL draft.
Jordan Matthews is the clear No. 1 player of the group, but there are plenty of other prospects who look like solid No. 2 receivers and potential slot guys.
As with all rankings, these are fluid, and wide receiver is a position where names will continue to emerge as the process goes on, especially once underclassmen begin to declare.
1. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt (6’3’’, 206 lbs)
Matthews knows how to get open. He can separate from defenders and does a great job finding zones and sitting in them. He excels at holding defenders in place with hesitation moves, which freezes defenders while allowing Matthews to run away from them to give his quarterback easy reads.
Matthews comes out of his stance very smooth, low and quick. He has great footwork off the line of scrimmage and can accelerate quickly to top speed, which makes him difficult to cover and allows him to get yards after the catch. I have no concerns with his ability to beat press.
Matthews can effectively work all areas of the field. He displays the ability to make plays on short routes including screens. He can work the intermediate area inside and outside the numbers, or get over top of the defense and make plays down the field. He has good hands and can track the ball and snatch it out of the air.
He gives defensive backs fits on deep balls, and generates a lot of pass interference calls as he does a great job of putting his hands out just before the ball arrives and never tipping the ball’s location to his defender.
Matthews is a good run-after-the-catch receiver. He can explode upfield for extra yards after catching the ball. He is very quick and it doesn’t take long for him to get to top speed.
Matthews can play in any system and can line up either outside or in the slot. He has an ideal combination of size, athleticism and production and looks worthy of a first-round selection.
2. Allen Hurns, Miami (6’3’’, 195 lbs)
With an impressive 18.9 yards per reception on 51 catches with 16 touchdowns, bringing his season receiving yardage to 964 through 11 games, Hurns is having a breakout senior season for the Hurricanes. He only had 729 receiving yards for his career entering his senior season.
Hurns operates well within the Hurricanes system and is a very detail-orientated player. He blocks with effort, many times springing his running back for long gains. When they run wide receiver screens to his side, you can count on Hurns eliminating his man from making a play.
Hurns separates well down the field and makes long, explosive plays for his offense. He makes tough, contested catches and works the sidelines well. He has flashed the ability to create yards after the catch and is physical with the ball in his hands as a runner. He has reliable hands and competes well for the football.
Aside from a lack of production going into his senior season, Hurns is a complete prospect without major flaws. He has a good frame and athletic skill set that should have him rising up boards as scouts study his game.
3. Devin Street, Pittsburgh (6’4’’, 195 lbs)
Street has become more productive every year during his career with Pittsburgh, and has set new career highs with seven touchdowns and 16.7 yards per catch through the first 10 games of his senior season. With more than 200 career receptions and nearly 3,000 yards receiving, Street has been a consistent, reliable target for the Panthers.
Street is a cerebral player who consistently goes about his work and contributes. Off the line, he is difficult to jam and gets a very clean release to get into his routes. He is a polished route runner who doesn’t display tremendous upfield burst, but his smooth release and route running allow him to create downfield separation. Street is a very consistent hands catcher who adjusts well to the ball in the air.
Street is better when running routes that break in than out and doesn’t work along the sidelines nearly as well as he works the numbers in. Street is on the lighter side of his 6’4’’ frame and I would like to see him add 10-15 pounds.
Street has the makings of a solid No. 2 receiver in the NFL and should be picked somewhere on Day 2 of the draft.
4. Robert Herron, Wyoming (5’10’’, 187lbs)
Herron began his career at running back but transitioned into a primary receiver in his sophomore year. He has been a versatile weapon for the Cowboys offense throughout this career, and he forces opponents to account for him on every play as he is generally the most explosive player on the field.
Herron is a perfectly suited slot receiver who can do many things extremely well. He can blow the top off a defense and get behind the secondary with his speed, but he can also use his creative after-the-catch skills and explosive upfield burst to turn a short pass into a bigger gain.
When working the intermediate parts of the field, Herron is fearless and goes into traffic and make tough, contested catches. He tracks the ball well and plucks it out of the air with his strong hands. He has excellent balance and body control when making plays.
Herron could be a riser right up until draft day. He has already accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, and strong showings in Mobile and at the combine could elevate him to a Day 2 draft selection.
5. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (6’2’’, 190 lbs)
Abbrederis has been Wisconsin’s leading receiver in each of the past three seasons, and has been a very consistent player over that span. He has had at least 800 yards and five touchdowns in every season since his sophomore year. He has averaged 16.1 yards per reception for his career.
Abbrederis is an excellent route runner who runs very precise routes and has very impressive cuts down the field. He does not round off cuts, which challenges his opponents’ change-of-direction skills and allows him to create good separation down the field. He is a reliable hands catcher when the ball is thrown his way.
The main area that separates Abbrederis from other players in his class is his consistent effort on every snap. Whether Abbrederis is run blocking, blocking on a screen or is the last read for the quarterback, he plays with maximum effort. This is the type of consistency that coaches love and proves to be pesky for opposing defenses.
Abbrederis is competitive at the catch point and is able to high-point the ball and snatch it out of the air. He is not as reliable as he could be, however, catching the ball on short, contested passes.
Abbrederis can also help a team as a solid and productive punt and kickoff returner.
Overall, Abbrederis brings a lot to the table as a prospect. He has good but not great athleticism, which may bring down his stock, but he can help a team in many ways.
See page 2 for the wide receivers Joe ranks 6-20.
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