2013 NFL Draft- Wide Receiver prospects

The 2012 College Football season has reached November, which means it’s time to start zeroing in on the top performers.  Most teams have at least three games left (plus conference championship games, plus bowl games) so you still have plenty of time to scout these players for yourself before NFL Draft season gets here.  It’s easy to watch highlight reels and get excited; it’s another to watch games as they’re unfolding to see who stands out in the moment.


You’ve probably heard the saying “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  Simply, it’s better to know what we’ve got, than to get googly-eyed about the possibilities.  When looking for college prospects that could dominate in the NFL, you should first look for players that HAVE ALREADY DOMINATED in college football.  Why would you suspect that a ‘toolsy’ player could all the sudden figure it out when the competition is better and the stakes are higher?

The first thing you must understand is that college offenses are very diverse.  Some will throw for 40 touchdowns over a season, some will throw for 20.  We must keep things in perspective relative to the offense in which the player exists.

In evaluating college wide receivers, we need to see which players achieve a ‘hurdle rate’ of production within the context of their offense.  This is the minimum requirement for MAAAYBE sitting at the big boy table.  For us, we want them to have accounted for about 30% of their teams receiving yards and about 30% of their teams touchdowns.  Add them together, that gives you 60%, or just 60, for the sake of simple numbers.  We’ll call this their ‘productivity grade.’  60 is the hurdle.  Higher numbers are better.

Next, we want to see a player that has continually gotten better within the context over their offense across two season, but preferably three.  THIS is where ‘upside’ is relevant.  To see a players production level off over their final two college seasons is so assume they’ve hit their ceiling.  To see their numbers continue to grow means that they’re evolving.  Evolution is good.

Finally, we will check player’s performance within the context of their program and their conference.  If a player meets the above requirements and is also historically dominant within the context of his school or his conference, we might be onto something.

Stay tuned as these rankings evolve over the last month of the season and into combine season, where my model gets even stronger with combine data. Now, for the rankings:

1) Terrance Williams, SR, Baylor  (6’2”  205lbs)

Terrance Williams, Baylor
(photo credit: footballs future)

Draftability Comparison: Justin Blackmon, Mohamed Sanu

81 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of Baylor

#14 in last decade of Big12

improved in 8 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Williams might be the most dominant wide out in college football this year.  He has at least 130 receiving yards in every game but one.  Consider his averages: 8.9 catches–167 yards–1.25 TDs.  To find some historical big12 comparisons, one would have to look at Dez Bryant, Danario Alexander, and Justin Blackmon.  Don’t believe me?  See for yourself when Baylor faces Oklahoma and then Kansas State in the next two weeks.

2) Jordan Matthews, JR, Vanderbilt  (6’3”  205lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Jordy Nelson, Leonard Hankerson

Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
(photo credit: Seattle PI)

95 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of Vanderbilt

#5 in last decade of SEC

improved in 7 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Matthews is on pace to post the fifth highest productive grade in my SEC database, coming in ahead of  SEC greats Robert Meachem, Alshon Jeffery, and AJ Green.  Against the best competition is when JM really shines, posting an average stat line of 8 catches–139 yards–1TD against Florida and South Carolina.  Consistent too, Matthews has posted seven of nine games with at least 75 receiving yards.  Keep an eye on him in the bowl game, because he might be off to the NFL after this season.

3) DeAndre Hopkins, JR, Clemson  (6’1”  200lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Hakeem Nicks, Mike Wallace

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
(photo credit: yahoo sports)

82 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of Clemson

#17 in last decade of ACC

improved in all 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Hopkins’ 1.44 TDs/game is insane.  That ratio trails only Torry Holt’s Junior season (1.45) for most prodigious scoring season from an ACC wide receiver.  He has scored at least one touchdown in every game except Furman (go figure?).  His catches/TD ratio is better than Calvin Johnson’s final season at Georgia Tech.  Hopkins stock is through the roof.

4) Keenan Allen, JR, California  (6’3”  210lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Dwayne Bowe, Rueben Randle

86 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of Cal, 2011 was #2 best

#5 in last decade of Pac12

improved in 4 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Allen is on pace to finish with the fifth highest productivity grade of any Pac12 wide receiver of the past decade.  In 2011 Allen posted the most productive season in Cal’s recent history, topping the likes of Desean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins.  In 2012, Allen has become an even BIGGER focus within the Cal offense.  Unfortunately he injured his PCL a few weeks ago and looks likely to miss the rest of this season before declaring for the NFL draft.

5) Cobi Hamilton, SR, Arkansas  (6’3”  209lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Robert Meachem, Kenny Britt

61 productivity grade

#4 in last decade of Arkansas

#49 in last decade of SEC

Improved in 7 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Hamilton is the first balancing act of these rankings.  He has the prototypical #1 wide receiver size, but his production leaves something to be desired, with a barely-passing grade of 61.  In his last 13 SEC conference games he has just 2 receiving touchdowns, which is lowlighted by ZERO receiving TDs in 2012 conference play.  When looking for a number one guy, you want the size and speed, but you also want the nose for the endzone, which is why Hamilton has slid down the list.

6) Tavon Austin, SR, West Virginia  (5’9”  174lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Desean Jackson, Randall Cobb

66 productivity grade

#4 in last decade of WVU

#33 in last decade of Big 12

Improved in 8 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Austin is tough to project to the next level.  Although his production has trended upward during his time in Morgantown, it has been very subtle, as to suggest that he is near his ceiling.  Given his small stature, you’d like to see him be a burner and make big plays, but that would be discredited by his three year downward trend in yards/catch.  His shiftiness can be helpful in the NFL, but across the middle, he probably has a short shelf life and wouldn’t be worth selecting too high.

7) Alex Amidon, JR, Boston College  (5’11”   186lbs)

Alex Amidon, Boston College
(Photo credit: boston herald)

Draftability Comparison: Randall Cobb, Golden Tate

77 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of BC

#21 in last decade of ACC

improved in all 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

If you would have asked me this morning “Who is Alex Amidon?” I probably would have guessed that he’s the host of a TV show that I don’t watch.  In reality, he’s the ultra-productive wide receiver from Boston College who you should watch VERY closely on Saturday night when the Eagles host Notre Dame.  Amidon has gone for 85+ yards in every game but one.  His 7.44 catches/game is outrageously good but, unlike Campanaro (see below), he is connecting downfield at more than 16 yards per catch.  While he is not dominant within ACC history, they are respectable and compare favorably with Chris Givens, who was selected by the St Louis Rams last year and is the 4th leading receiver among rookies.

 8) Stedman Bailey, JR, West Virginia   (5’10”  188lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin

Stedman Bailey, WVU
(photo credit: jared wickerham)

80 productivity grade

#2 in last decade of WVU

#16 in last decade of Big12

improved in 8 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

As if Geno Smith weren’t already amazing enough, he has two of the ten best wide receiver prospects to work with.  Bailey’s average stat line for the year goes something like: 7.6 catches–103 yards–1.8TDs.  Yes, he’s short, but he’s got a good frame on him.  And with production to rival Big 12 greats like Michael Crabtree, Ryan Broyles, and Jordy Nelson, you should be keeping an eye on him.  Watch for Stedman when West Virginia hosts Oklahoma November 17.

9) Michael Campanaro, JR, Wake Forest  (5’11”  195lbs)

Draftability Comparison:  Steve Breaston, Anthony Gonazlez (Ohio St)

97 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of WF

#8 in last decade of ACC

improved in 8 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Campanero is a curious case.  He profiles to be more of a possession receiver, with around 10 yards per reception and 8.5 catches per game.  For comparison sake, Torry Holt’s Senior season is the only other ACC player I have in my database who is above 8 catches/game.  In four of his seven games this year, he notched at least nine receptions.  However, those ‘possession indicators’ betray his nose for the endzone.  He gets in the endzone at rates similar to Hakeem Nicks and Torrey Smith, with just under 1TD per game.  It will be interesting to watch him face Notre Dame’s elite defense on November 17 in South Bend.

10) Marcus Davis, SR, Virginia Tech  (6’4” 232lbs)

Draftability Comparison: Greg Little, Jonathan Baldwin

63 productivity grade

#3 in last decade of Virginia Tech

#46 in last decade of ACC

Improved in 8 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Davis has the 6’4” 230 frame that you love to see out of an upside draft pick.  The problem is that his productivity is barely serviceable.  He SHOULD BE dominating college cornerbacks, but instead the results are mixed; he’s gone over 80 yards in just four of teams nine games.  While he has #1 WR size, why would you think he could consistently push 100 yards per game in the NFL if he never did it in college?

—Other notables—

11) Emory Blake, SR, Auburn

12 ) AJ Barker, JR, Minnesota

13) Markus Wheaton, SR, Oregon State

Draftability Comparison: Mario Manningham, Stevie Johnson

85 productivity grade

#2 in last decade of Oregon St

#6 in last decade of Pac12

improved in all 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

Wheaton is on pace for the sixth most productive season in my pac12 database.  His average statline: 6.75 catches–98 yards–1TD rivals former USC beasts Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams.  Proof that he comes through when his team needs him most: five touchdown catches in the team’s four road games.  See if that trend will continue as the Beavers play at Stanford this weekend.

14) Kenny Stills, JR, Oklahoma

15)  Jared Abbrederis, JR, Wisconsin

Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
(photo credit: SI)

Draftablity Comparison: Harry Douglass, Greg Salas

102 productivity grade

#2 in last decade of Wisconsin

#4 in last decade of B1G Ten

improved in 8 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

What if I told you that Jared Abbrederis is on pace to have the 4th most productive season of the past decade of B1G Ten wide receivers.

  1. Lee Evans 115
  2. AJ Jenkins 110
  3. Braylon  Edwards 108
  4. Jared Abbrederis 102
  5. Santonio Holmes 97

I kid you not.  After missing most of two games earlier in the season Abbrederis rebounded to post three straight games with at least 6 catches, 100 yards, and one TD.  He is the star of the Wisconsin passing game with productivity that is a blend of Lee Evans and Eric Decker.  Not sexy pick, but a productive pick.

16) Chad Bumphis, SR, Mississippi State

17) Mike Davis, JR, Texas

18) Quinton Patton, SR, Louisiana Tech

Draftability Comparison: Austin Collie, Jerome Simpson

77 productivity grade

#2 in last decade of La Tech, #1 in school in 2011

#13 in last decade of WAC, #5 in WAC in 2011

improved in 5 of 9 metrics from 2011 to 2012

I always love the underdog story.  I always root for the little guy.  Coming from this school and this conference, Quinton Patton is the underdog.  He has posted the two most dominant seasons in La Tech’s recent history and is widely regarded as a solid prospect.  Here’s the snag.  The WAC has an atrocious track record of producing NFL talent: James Jones? Devone Bess?  Titus Young?  I want to like Patton, and he does compare favorably to Jones and Bess, but the conference factor is working against him, and his numbers are already regressing from 2011 instead of improving like you’d want to see.  If there is one silver lining it’s that in La Tech’s three games against BCS conference teams (@Ill, @UVA, TAMU) Patton has hauled in 35 catches for 494 yards and 6TDs.

19) Marcus Sales, SR, Syracuse

20) Da’Rick Rogers, JR, Tennessee Tech (formerly of Tennessee)

***Were you looking for?***

The Underclassmen who WOULD BE the #1 Wide Receiver on my board, if eligible:

Marqise Lee, SO, USC  (6’1” 195lbs)

Marqise Lee, USC
(photo credit: orlando sentinel)

Draftability Comparisons: Dez Bryant, Julio Jones

84 productivity grade

#1 in last decade of USC

#7 in last decade of Pac12

improved in 7 of 9 from 2011 to 2012

Okay, so he’s just a sophomore and won’t be draft eligible for another year, but Lee is a stud.  In fact, in trying to convey his prowess to you, there’s almost nobody to compare him to in Pac12 history.  In my Pac12 database, Marquise Lee’s 2012 season ranks #1 in catches/game, yards/game, and TDs/game.  HUH?!?  Read that again.  #1 in every per game category.  Expect Lee to contend for a Heisman this year and next, before being a round 1 pick in the 2014 draft.

Miss the productivity cutoff of 60:

Robert Woods, USC

Josh Boyce, TCU

Justin Hunter, Tennessee

Eric Ward, TT

Conner Vernon, Duke

Ryan Swope, Texas A&M

Marquess Wilson, Washington State