Home > Draft, NFL > An Early Look at the Best Wide Receivers in the 2011 Draft

An Early Look at the Best Wide Receivers in the 2011 Draft

The 2011 NFL Draft class will receive a lot of attention for it’s quarterbacks.  This is because NFL teams, as a group, really need to find more quarterbacks to replace the group of players near retirement.  The same is not true of receivers.  The best receivers in football right now are very, very young as a group.  A lot of teams need receiver help, but the big rush of pass catchers will come via free agency, where some of the very best receivers in the league have expiring contracts.

In a twist of CBA fate, the NFL draft is likely to happen before the beginning of the NFL free agency period for the first time since free agency began.  That means that the market for guys like Sidney Rice, Vincent Jackson, Steve Breaston, Santonio Holmes, and Braylon Edwards will be determined by the 2011 NFL draft, instead of the other way around.  That means that the receivers that can help a team will start to float towards the top of draft boards, negating the need to make a play on a free agent receiver.

The best player in this draft class at the position is Georgia’s A.J. Green.  He’s one of only two prospects in this draft at the receiver position I like in the first round, and the only one I would take in the top ten.  My other first round receiver is Julio Jo Miami’s Leonard Hankerson.  Both Green and Hankerson are walking touchdown machines, exactly what you want in your first round receivers.  On the fringe of the first round between the first and second, I like Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin.  He’s going have to perform well at the combine to bump his stock into the first round, otherwise, he’s a second day type player.

My second round has a couple of names in it.  After Baldwin, I have a pair of shorter, speedier deep threats in San Diego State’s Vincent Brown, and Maryland’s Torrey Smith.  Also in the second round, I like the athletic marvel that is Alabama’s Julio Jones.  He had his best college season in 2010, and moved up from a late rounder to a second rounder in my mind.  Jones is NOT a prolific touchdown scorer, and projects as a no. 2 receiver in the NFL in a multiple WR system.  He’s good value in the second round, but will likely go in the first ahead of his value.

My third round projections are headlined by a pair of scrawny, speedy small school players: Cecil Shorts of D-III Mount Union, and Jerrel Jernigan of Troy.  Before either of them go, I would recommend Boise State’s Austin PettisGreg Little, of North Carolina, is a (very) poor man’s Percy Harvin.  He’s a very end of the second day type player, probably best suited to go early in the fourth round.  Another Boise receiver, Titus Young, makes more sense for most (but not all) NFL rosters than does Little.

On day 3, I like a couple of names, headlined by USC’s Ronald Johnson, Villanova’s Matt Szczur, and Hawaii’s Greg Salas all over Nebraska’s Niles Paul, who I believe profiles, at best, as a no. 3 receiver.  This class is not deep in receiving talent, but very deep in the number of players who can return punts at the next level.  Names such as TCU’s Jeremy Kerley, West Virginia’s Jock Sanders, and Cincinnati’s Armon Binns can all handle the task, among many others.

Teams looking for receiving help in this draft will pretty much have to act in the first four rounds because that is where the value in the class is.  It’s not loaded at the top, and the names get bunched together in rounds 2-4.  After round four, quality players will be few and far between, but special teams help will be readily available.

This WR class isn’t going to break any dreams for top free agents in a year where big names are hitting the market, but the n0n-AQ college conferences are really spitting out some top-level talent, which is the story of this draft group of wide receivers.

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