NFL scouts always like to say receivers in the draft are a dime a dozen.
This year that might mean someone has to cough up 20 cents.
Larry Fitzgerald likely has the best hands and star power of the group. (AP)
"The thing about this draft," one NFC personnel director said, "is that the 10th receiver taken could end up being better than the first. That's how good this draft is at the receiver spot."
By now, everyone knows Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams of Texas, Reggie Williams of Washington and Southern California's Mike Williams are all ranked near the top of most teams list (although Mike Williams has slipped some).
What many don't know is those players ranked in the 20s on some teams receiving boards, guys such as Texas Tech's Carlos Francis and Oregon's Sammie Parker, also have scouts and coaches excited. Those two have both been clocked in the low 4.4s or even better, which is why they have opened some eyes.
But both are small players -- Francis at 5-9½ and Parker at 5-10 -- which is the reason they are not in anybody's top 10.
Remember, though, speed is what all teams want from at least one of their receivers. The threat of the big play helps open up the offense, and having receivers who can run is essential in the modern NFL.
"Certainly the strongest area would be the wide receivers," Houston Texans coach Dom Capers said. "It's pretty obvious."
Francis and Parker are the exceptions to the rule in this year's draft, because they are in a receiver class that features big, strong players. Some of those have the size and the speed of Parker and Francis.
|Our NFL Draft Preview|
|Mock drafts | Profiles | Draft order|
|Draft journals: Russell | Dockett|
|Apr. 5||Prisco: Quarterbacks|
|Apr. 6||Glazer: AFC East|
|Apr. 7||Prisco: Wide Receivers|
|Apr. 8||Glazer: NFC East|
|Apr. 9||Dodd: Offensive Line|
|Apr. 12||Glazer: NFC South|
|Apr. 13||Prisco: Running Backs|
|Apr. 14||Glazer: AFC South|
|Apr. 15||Prisco: Defensive Line|
|Apr. 16||Glazer: NFC West|
|Apr. 16||Glazer: AFC West|
|Apr. 19||Prisco: Linebackers|
|Apr. 20||Glazer: NFC North|
|Apr. 21||Prisco: Secondary|
|Apr. 22||Glazer: AFC North|
|Apr. 23||Draft preview|
Mike Williams (6-5), Jenkins (6-4½) and Reggie Williams (6-3 3/4) are the biggest of the group. Mike Williams, who also weighs 230 pounds when in shape, looks more like a tight end.
"We're getting bigger receivers," Capers said. "And the corners aren't getting any bigger."
"Look at all the receivers coming out in the draft, they're all 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, some of them are 6-4, 6-5," New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "You aren't going to find a corner that's 6-5. You can't find them that are 6-foot."
The league plans to crack down on illegal contact and holding in the secondary, which should help the receivers even more. The bigger players won't get mugged, and the faster receivers will have easier releases.
Couple that with more and more teams spreading out defenses, and that's why having a deep receiver draft is a good thing.
Roy Williams of Texas is battling Fitzgerald to be the first receiver taken. Williams runs better than Fitzgerald, but the scouts who watched Fitzgerald's workout came away raving.
"It was one of those things that you just know he's going to be a heck of a player," one AFC coach said. "He nailed it."
Roy Williams was timed under 4.4 at his workout, which has him atop several team's draft boards. The Raiders, who have the second overall pick, are eying him because Al Davis loves deep speed (remember Warren Wells and Cliff Branch?).
Roy Williams and Fitzgerald should both be gone in the top 10, with Reggie Williams just outside of it. Mike Williams' draft fate is tied to his workout this week in Tampa. If he runs well, he'll be a top-15 pick. If not, he could go at the bottom of the first round.
Clayton, Evans, Woods and Jenkins could all hear their names called by the end of the first round. First round, though, doesn't necessarily mean success.
"There have been a lot of busts taken high at the receiver spot," Haslett said.
In the past 10 drafts, there have been 37 receivers taken in the first round. Of those 37, the only ones to play in a Pro Bowl are Keyshawn Johnson, Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss, Torry Holt, David Boston and Eric Moulds
Drafting receivers in the top 10 has proved to be a risky proposition. Aside from the three listed above, there have been 11 other receivers taken in the top 10 of the draft the past decade. Most have not proved to be worth such a high pick. Among them are: Michael Westbrook (fourth to the Redskins in 1994), Ike Hilliard (seventh to the Giants in 1997); Peter Warrick (fourth to the Bengals in 2000); and David Terrell (eighth to the Bears in 2001).
There has been a receiver selected in the top 10 in each of the past 10 years with the exception of 1998. That also happened to be the year the Vikings took Moss with the 21st pick.
Last year, the Lions took Charles Rogers with the second pick and the Texans took Andre Johnson with the third pick. Both of those players flashed star ability as rookies, but Rogers had his season cut short by injuries.
The best rookie receiver was Anquan Boldin, who was taken by Arizona in the second round and ended up going to the Pro Bowl. He was the sixth receiver taken last year, second on his own team behind Bryant Johnson.
"It can be feast or famine with this position," the personnel director said. "Guys can look so good in college, but then they get to the league and they can't read coverages or they can't run routes. It's much more sophisticated and that takes more than just running by people."
That's why there are failures. And that's why some teams prefer to wait to take their receivers. So, while the top receivers in this year's draft look like potential stars, don't be shocked to see a guy taken in the second or third round end up being even better.
|Prisco's No. 1 Wide Receiver|
|A personal favorite who lit it up when he ran under 4.4 at his workout. Only question is about his hands.|
|Best of the rest|
|2. Larry Fitzgerald||Pittsburgh||6-3||225||Sophomore|
|Answered the only doubts about him with his good time at his Pro Day workout. He's a special kid and player.|
|3. Michael Clayton||LSU||6-3||209||Junior|
|He didn't run as well as some scouts had hoped, but he has got game speed and he is a tough guy.|
|4. Reggie Williams||Washington||6-3||223||Senior|
|A tall, fast receiver who was hurt by poor quarterback play in 2003. His best football is ahead of him.|
|5. Mike Williams||Southern Cal||6-5||230||Sophomore|
|There are too many questions about this kid, including his speed. He should have stayed in school.|
|Player on the rise|
|Southern California's Keary Colbert was expected to be a possession receiver, but his workouts have disputed that. He has run impressive times.|
|Player on the decline|
|Mike Williams. Speed and attitude are major concerns.|
|Mike Williams. If you don't run by corners in the Pac-10, you won't run by them in the NFL.|
|Devery Henderson, LSU. Speed kills, and he has it. Will be more productive in the NFL than he was in college.|
|P.K. Sam, Florida State. A big, strong player who can run. Wasn't always productive as he should have been, but he could be another FSU player who gets better on the next level.|
|Lee Evans, Wisconsin. He looks all the way recovered from a torn ACL, but that still makes him a risky pick. Knee injuries can always be a problem down the road.|