This is the second of an eight-part series previewing the NFL draft on April 25-27.
Today’s installment: wide receivers.
By Mark Gaughan
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
NFL scouts will have to make a good projection into the future when evaluating the most talented receiver in the draft.
The University of Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson is an All-Pro talent in a big body. However, he enters the NFL after just one year of major college football.
“I think he’s taking your breath away with the ability to make plays, especially after he gets the ball in his hands,” said Mike Mayock, NFL Network draft analyst. “He’s a special talent. The problem is he’s got one year of Division I experience after two years at a junior college. That’s a red flag for me, especially at the wide receiver position. There are a bunch of those guys that have failed over the past 20 years.”
Patterson, who just turned 21, is 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds. He posted elite testing numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine by running the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds and going 37 inches in the vertical jump.
He probably is the best option for the Buffalo Bills if they want to take a game-breaking receiver with the eighth overall pick. The Bills have a big need at receiver. However, the Bills have not favored one-year wonders since Buddy Nix took over the scouting operation in 2010.
“Patterson just has enormous talent,” said Mel Kiper, ESPN draft analyst. “Incredible athletic ability. He showcased it in a number of games. He was a little raw coming in.”
Kiper agrees with many other analysts that Patterson will be taken higher in the first round than his on-field production might warrant.
“He gets pushed up because of where he can be two, three years from now,” Kiper said.
Patterson, whose name is pronounced Core-dare-uhl, spent two years producing big numbers for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. He was pushed into a starting role to start the season at Tennessee because Vols wideout Da’Rick Rogers was kicked off the team for failing drug tests.
In the first three games, Patterson had 17 catches for 239 yards, including a strong game against Florida. The next five games he averaged just two catches a game and never topped 31 receiving yards. Then he had a 219-yard outing against a bad Troy defense. He finished the season with 46 catches for 778 yards and five TDs.
Patterson’s highlight tape is impressive. He is explosive after the catch, can get deep down the sideline and makes strong plays on the ball in the air.
As usual, there are a lot of capable receivers in the draft. At least 20 wideouts have been picked in the first five rounds 13 years in a row.
California’s Keenan Allen, the half-brother of former University at Buffalo QB Zach Maynard, is a quality outside receiver and a sure-fire first rounder. No. 8 overall might be a bit high for him.
West Virginia slot receiver Tavon Austin is 5-8 and ran a 4.34-second 40. He will go in the first round.
If the Bills want a receiver with the 42nd overall pick, in the second round, they should have some good options.
Southern Cal’s Robert Woods is a smooth, proven player who is a bit comparable to ex-Bill Peerless Price. Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton is an outside receiver with size who draws some comparisons with NFL star Anquan Boldin. Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins is an athlete with strength and good hands. He doesn’t have great speed. Tennessee’s Justin Hunter is big (6-4) and fast (4.44) and needs to get a bit stronger. Baylor’s Terrance Williams is an outside “No. 2” receiver with good size who comes from the Bears’ limited, spread system. He caught 202 passes for his career and had a big senior season even without Robert Griffin III.
Receivers who could go in the late second or early third rounds include (with their 40-yard times): Oregon State’s 189-pound Markus Wheaton (4.45), Texas A&M slot receiver Ryan Swope (4.34), Marshall’s 6-3 Aaron Dobson (4.44) and Rogers (4.52).
NEXT: Tight ends.
Rk Player, School Ht. Wt.
1. Cordarrelle Patterson*, Tennessee 6-2 216
2. Keenan Allen*, California 6-2 206
3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia 5-8 174
4. Robert Woods*, Southern Cal 6-0 201
5. DeAndre Hopkins*, Clemson 6-1 214
6. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech 6-0 204
7. Terrance Williams, Baylor 6-2 208
8. Justin Hunter*, Tennessee 6-4, 196
9. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State 5-11 189
10. Aaron Dobson, Marshall 6-3 210