2012 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Prospects

By Eric Caldwell

1. Justin Blackmon, Junior - Oklahoma St.

- The receiver class of 2011 is overflowing with raw athletes, but none with as much potential as Justin Blackmon. The 2010 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year possesses elite speed and is more than capable of shredding defenses after the catch at the next level. His soft hands and enormous vertical make him dangerous in the deep passing game as well, creating mismatches with corners that don't have the physical tools to take him one-on-one.

Blackmon isn't afraid to get physical either. His aggressive blocking and determination to gain yards after contact only make him more complete as a football player. However, at only 6'1", the two-time Biletnikoff Award recipient isn't exactly an imposing redzone threat. Character issues have also plagued Blackmon, as he has made a name for himself as a show boater, occasionally costing the Cowboys points with his arrogant attitude.

2. Michael Floyd, Senior - Notre Dame

- A graduate of famed Cretin-Derham Hall HS in Minnesota, Floyd has been an impact player for the Irish since arriving on campus in 2008. By his Senior year, Notre Dame's offense was revolving around the imposing 6'3, 225lb receiver as he caught a career high 100 balls for 1,147 yards and 9 scores, without the help of consistent quarterback play. Floyd demonstrated excellent body control and a nearly un-defendable leap in jump ball situations. His physicality prevents him from being effectively jammed at the line and his sharp route running kept him from being neutralized during the 2011 season.

On the flip side, Floyd doesn't possess the elite speed that you see in most #1 receivers at the next level and could stand to drop a few pounds. The Irish's personal pot of gold came with a fair number of liabilities. Games missed on and off during the 2009 and 2010 seasons and three misdemeanors during his collegiate stay have addd a few red flags to his resume and will likely prevent him from being a top-15 pick. I like San Diego and Chicago as two potential landing spots for this immense talent.

3. Mohamed Sanu, Junior - Rutgers

- The hometown kid from New Brunswick has been all the Scarlet Knights could've asked for, and then some. Leading the Big East with 115 catches, Sanu showed that size matters as he consistently out-worked opposing cornerbacks and dashed through zone coverage for easy gains.

Sanu's 6'2, 215lb frame makes him extremely difficult to tackle and he packs a destructive stiff arm that's a testament to his ample upper-body strength. Also a demonstrative blocker, the Big East's all-time receptions leader has the potential to be a contributor on every play at the next level. Very few weaknesses outside of not possessing blazing straight-line speed are apparent, making Sanu perhaps the most complete wideout in this class.

4. Alshon Jeffery, Junior - South Carolina

- I'm going to have to downplay one of the most well-known players in the class of 2011 for two simple reasons:

Justin Blackmon
Cowboys receiver Justin Blackmon signals to the fans after scoring a touchdown. Pistols firing. The number 3 BCS ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys of the Big 12 conference defeated the number 14 BCS ranked Kansas State Wildcats also of the Big 12 conference 52 to 45 in an exciting game at Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma.
  1. He's slower than the South Carolina media circuit outside of football season. Rumor has it he's eclipsed 240lbs (wow) and is recording a 40-time that even Tom Brady and Andre Smith would find humorous.

  2. Jeffery is a dull and indecisive route runner. His cuts are heavily rounded and could be predicted from the nose-bleed section and he doesn't have the separation speed to turn short completions into big, or even moderate gains.

On the positive side, Alshon is dominant in fade and jump-ball situations, displaying phenomenal body control and hand-eye coordination while often reeling in balls that Elastic Man would have a tough time with. His intimidating 6'4" frame makes him a scary redzone target as well, capable of outworking undersized DBs for easy scores.

5. Kendall Wright, Senior - Baylor

- A dynamic Senior year, decorated with eye-popping numbers, has had Kendall Wright's stock soaring since December - but is he really all that the "experts" are making him out to be?

Wright made 108 receptions for 1,663 yards in 2011, collaborating with RG3 to form one of the most exciting offensive shows in the country. However, his lack of physicality, unwillingness to block, and limited production outside the numbers make him a rather one-dimensional threat at the next level. His quickness and agility are reminiscent of DeSean Jackson, but most offenses limit this kind of speed-oriented deep-threat to life in the slot, diminishing his value significantly.

As a return specialist, Wright provides a lot of intrigue. The DeSean comparisons just keep coming as the Biletnikoff Award finalist demonstrated the cunning ability to disguise his speed and turn on the jets when he hits the open field. Wright will likely be a late first-early second round pick, but I wouldn't expect a world of production out of him in 2012.

Dwight Jones
Dwight Jones of North Carolina during the Senior Bowl's South Team Practice at the Fairhope Municipal Stadium in Fairhope, Alabama.

6. Dwight Jones, Senior - North Carolina

- One of the biggest sleepers in the class of 2012, I feel that Dwight Jones is capable of being a Pro Bowl receiver in the NFL if he can learn to attack the ball while it's in the air. At 6'4" and 225lbs, Jones has the physical tools of an elite #1 wideout, with the strength and athleticism to match. After being a lavish contributor to the Tar Heels' offense throughout 2010 and 2011 with 147 receptions for over 2,200 yards, Jones saw his stock take a drastic jump, even earning first round consideration from some teams.

Jones's speed is nothing out of the ordinary, but that doesn't mean he can't be an impact player at the next level. His route-running is crisp and his superior size will make him a dangerous redzone playmaker. Combine all this with an unwillingness to go down at first contact and you've got the recipe for a big steal come April.

7. Stephen Hill, Junior - Georgia Tech

- Here's a guy whose production surely isn't representative of his obvious talent. Stephen Hill managed only 28 receptions during 2011, which isn't shocking considering Georgia Tech's devotion to the option offense. Yet Hill still managed to amass 820 yards receiving, and for those of you who aren't close to a calculator, that's just under 30 yards per catch.

At 6'5" and 205lbs, Hill possesses the tall, lanky physique of a deep-threat receiver, with the surprising agility and straight-line speed to assist his body type. He's an adequate blocker with the muscle structure to take your average cornerbacks where he wants them to go, though sizeable DBs like Darrelle Revis will give him trouble. Hill's skillset will allow him to be a full-time contributor at the next level and I see him going in the late second-early third round range.

8. Ryan Broyles, Senior - Oklahoma

- I'm going to start off by saying that this guy would probably be a first rounder if he weren't coming off a painstaking knee surgery. Broyles's incendiary speed and torso-twisting cuts are enough to leave defenders grasping at empty space, while even those lucky enough to lay their hands on him aren't guaranteed a tackle by any means. The vision he displays in the screen game alone is usually enough to propel him into the open field, where he's most dangerous. Broyles reminds me a lot of Percy Harvin and will play the same type of role at the next level, a slot receiver with the slippery ability to get open, resulting in lots of touches.

9. A.J. Jenkins, Senior - Illinois

- One of the best possession receiver options in this class, the Senior from Jacksonville demonstrated steady hands and precise routes during his 4 letterman seasons at Illinois. At 6'0", 190lbs, Jenkins isn't the ideal specimen, but his devoted effort-play and commendable practice habits, combined with respectable quickness and ups, make him a rather complete package with upside for the ages. Jenkins is a proven leader, catching 90 passes for 1,276 yards in 2011 alone and earning respect from his conference peers when he was named First Team All-Big 10.

10. Marvin McNutt, Junior - Iowa

- The Big 10's leading receiver in 2011 impresses with his exemplary height and athleticism. Marvin McNutt is one of those kids who just has a knack for racking up yardage and maneuvering over, around, and through anyone who tries to get in his way. His powerful arms and long strides are ideal for creating separation against man coverage and his size alone will earn him redzone targets galore. However, McNutt lacks the ability to change gears mid-way through his routes, which are visibly half-hearted as well. The Hawk-Eye's star also struggled mightily against the upper-echelon of cornerbacks he was matched up against, amassing only 136 receiving yards in losses against Leonard Johnson, Alfonso Dennard, and Jamell Fleming.

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