Talented WR options atop the draft
Let’s assume that the Cleveland Browns don’t trade up in the first round of this month’s NFL Draft — at least not for a quarterback — and hold on to pick Nos. 12 and 19, the first pick their own and the second acquired in last year’s first-round trade that allowed the Buffalo Bills to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
The Browns need their own cornerstone receiver.
Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely, Andrew Hawkins is a really good football player who’s not getting any taller and the two offseason additions — Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline — bolster the receiver’s room, but neither is a No. 1 receiver (or even close) at this point.
The Browns have been studying their options. The year after they didn’t take a receiver at all in what looks to be a very rich receiver draft, there are again plenty of interesting options — and at least a couple who are likely to be selected before No. 12.
It’s not a lock the Browns will use a first-round pick, but there are still a bunch of questions about the top of the draft three weeks from the start, including how many other teams could join the early receiver market.
CERTAIN TO BE AT LEAST CONSIDERING A RECEIVER EARLY: The Raiders at No. 4, the Vikings at No. 11, the Browns, the 49ers at No. 15 and the Chiefs at No. 18
COULD BE LOOKING TO DRAFT A FIRST-ROUND RECEIVER: The Jaguars at No. 3, who got their quarterback of the future in the same spot last season, the Rams at No. 10, the Dolphins at No. 14, the Chargers at No. 17.
All the teams in the first group except the Browns enter the draft thinking they have their quarterback of (at least the near)future. The success of last year’s rookie receiver group could sway their thinking and even lead to one of them trading up if they feel it necessary.
Below is a little on each of the guys at the top of this year’s class, how they stack up and how they might come off the board on April 30.
Kevin White, West Virginia
6’3, 215, 4.35 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
White’s freakish numbers — both measurements and his 109 catches last season — have the NFL’s attention, and his strong showing at the NFL Combine solidified White’s standing near the top of this draft class. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah ranks White as the No. 2 player in his overall top 50, one spot ahead of Amari Cooper, and NFL.com’s Mike Mayock also lists White as his top receiver in this draft. That he was a one-year wonder in college, going from 35 catches as a junior to 109 and 10 touchdowns last fall, gives teams a reason for a second look, but by all indications that second look is as impressive as the first.
Amari Cooper, Alabama
6’2, 211, 4.42
A dominating player in three seasons at Alabama, Cooper doesn’t have the "wow" measurables of some highly drafted receivers of the recent past but has plenty of game tape and production at college football’s highest level that indicate he’s NFL ready. Cooper had 124 catches and 16 touchdowns last season and has the size and speed to be an immediate-impact player in the NFL, too. In a pre-draft period full of uncertainties and guessing, Cooper seems a sure bet to be long gone before No. 12.
DeVante Parker, Louisville
6’3, 209, 4.47
Parker is No. 8 on Jeremiah’s top 50 list and Mayock’s third receiver behind White and Cooper. He essentially lost half his senior season to a foot injury but caught 43 passes for 855 yards and five touchdowns over the final six games and looked the part of top NFL prospect. Parker could have come out last year after lighting up amidst Teddy Bridgewater’s hot streak in mid to late 2013 at Louisville, which is why it’s easy to link Parker to Bridgewater’s Vikings at No. 11. Unless there’s hidden concern about Parker’s injury being an issue, he’s a top-10 talent.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma via Missouri
6’5, 237, 4.49
Yes, he’s that big and that fast. But Green-Beckham was kicked out of Missouri’s program last spring and brings enough baggage to give NFL teams reason to hesitate. He was the top player in his high school class and would be a certain top-10 pick if he’d stayed out of trouble and played his third season at Missouri last fall. Instead he transferrred to Oklahoma, where he was eligible to practice but not play, and is now trying to sell NFL teams that he’s a changed man. For reasons both good and bad, Josh Gordon is a fair comparison. There’s a lot of talent there if he can put his past behind him.
Jeremiah’s top-50 list has Green-Beckham at No. 24 and Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong at No. 28 Mayock lists Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman as his No. 4 receiver, then lists Green-Beckham as tied for No. 5 with USC’s Nelson Agholor, who’s more of a slot receiver type.
The Browns will have options in the second round if they choose to wait. They may need some help — or to make a move — if they want White, Cooper or Parker.