WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT WR
Mike Evans, the Buccaneers’ first-round pick from a year ago, had a sensational rookie season with over 1,000 yards and a franchise-record 12 touchdowns, and will enter his second season as Tampa Bay’s number one receiver. Opposite him will be veteran target Vincent Jackson, who didn’t meet statistical expectations last year but did top 1,000 yards and is still a very reliable target for whoever is playing quarterback for the team next season. The Buccaneers signed veteran receiver Louis Murphy to a contract extension last year, and he figures to factor in as a third or fourth receiver. Russell Shepard made the team out of training camp last season and was the Buccaneers’ special teams ace throughout the 2014 season. Also on the roster is 2014 draft selection Robert Herron, who disappointed during training camp last year. Herron will be fighting for a roster spot with Tavarres King, Chandler Jones and Solomon Patton, who are inexperienced receivers that offer speed to Tampa Bay’s offense.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT WR
With Evans and Jackson teaming up outside the numbers, the Bucs have their starters locked in for 2015. However, they are still looking for a dynamic playmaker to handle slot receiver duties as well as someone who could provide value as a kick returner. Bringing in a speedy, sure-handed target to compete with Murphy and Herron should be something that Tampa Bay look long and hard at when the draft begins later this month. With the receiver position as loaded as last year’s class was, a stud pass-catcher could slide into the later rounds, where the Buccaneers could be in position to help bolster their passing attack.
BUCS BEST BET AT WR (EARLY 1-3) WR Tyler Lockett – Kansas State – Senior – 5-10, 182 – 4.40
Lockett would bring speed and play-making ability to a Bucs offense that lacked production from their third receiver in 2014. The Kansas State product is an excellent route-runner and plays bigger than his size would suggest. His ability to work the intermediate area of the field would help Tampa Bay’s passing attack greatly, and his polish would allow him to see NFL action right away. Lockett would be an ideal fit for the Bucs as a slot receiver in between Jackson and Evans.
BUCS BEST BET AT WR (LATE 1-3) WR Jamison Crowder – Duke – Senior – 5-8, 185 – 4.56
Like Lockett, Crowder is a smaller, quick receiver that can make plays with the ball in his hands. Crowder has tremdendous quickness, which made it very tough for defenders to cover him at the collegiate level. His suddeness and route-running ability were both on display at the Senior Bowl, where he excelled throughout the week. The fact that he is undersized and didn’t blaze the 40-yard dash will likely limit his draft stock to day three of the draft, but Crowder is a great fit for what the Bucs need out of their third receiver in the fourth or fifth round. Crowder’s value is also boosted because of his potential as a kick returner.
TOP TEN WIDE RECEIVERS 1. WR Amari Cooper – Alabama – Junior – 6-1, 211 – 4.42
Cooper is the most pro-ready wide receiver in the class and has an extremely high floor. As a junior in 2014, the Biletnikoff Award winner caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns despite being double and sometimes triple covered during games. The Alabama product does a fantastic job of working the middle of the field and has a great feel for zone coverage. Cooper’s excellent route running will have NFL wide receivers coaches foaming at the mouth. Cooper is just 6-foot-1, but he flashes the ability to go up and get the football at it’s highest point. The only area of Cooper’s game that is concerning is the fact that he drops passes due to a lack of focus, but that shouldn’t hold the junior receiver back from being a top-10 draft selection.
2. WR Kevin White – West Virginia – Senior – 6-3, 215 – 4.35
White had a breakout season as a senior, where he totaled 109 catches, 1,447 receiving yards and 10 scores. After blowing up the NFL Scouting Combine in February, White has pushed his draft stock into the top half of the first round. White blew away scouts and talent evaluators by running a blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.35. That clocked time is excellent, but White doesn’t play up to that speed in game situations consistently. The West Virginia product has tremendous upside and is the type of receiver that the NFL has fallen in love with in recent years. His ability to win in contested situations and in traffic should allow him to have an immediate impact on whatever team drafts him. Like Cooper, he’s a top-10 pick.
3. WR DeVante Parker – Louisville – Senior – 6-3, 209 – 4.45
Parker rounds out the “big three” of the 2015 wide receiver class. The Louisville product has tremendous hands and is phenomenal at contorting his body to make catches in awkward situations. The 6-foot-3, 209 pound receiver ran a very fast 4.45 at the Combine and that speed shows up on tape consistently. The former Cardinal amassed 156 catches for 2,775 yards and 33 touchdowns over the course of his four-year collegiate career. Parker needs to develop his route-running more to reach his full potential, but he has the game to contribute right away as a rookie. Carrying A.J. Green-like upside, Parker has the potential to be a game-changing wide receiver and should end up a top-20 selection on draft day.
4. WR Dorial Green-Beckham – Oklahoma – Junior – 6-5, 237 – 4.49
Green-Beckham is a rare breed of athlete. At 6-foot-5, 237 pounds, the former Missouri Tiger ran a very good time of 4.49 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine in February. He makes big plays down the field by using his length and catch radius to win in contested situations. The big receiver could go anywhere from the first round all the way to the fourth round because of lingering concerns about his character and work ethic. He was suspended twice by Missouri and arrested twice for incidents related to marijuana. Then in 2014, he was kicked off the team because he allegedly played a role in a burglary. There’s no denying that Green-Beckham has the tools to be an outstanding NFL receiver, but it might be very hard for a general manager to pull the trigger on the troubled young prospect in the first round.
5. WR Jaelen Strong – Arizona State – Junior – 6-2, 217 – 4.44
The former Sun Devil put up back-to-back 1,100 yard seasons as a sophomore and junior before declaring for the draft. Strong does a great job of going up and getting the football in contested situations, which was likely helped by his background in basketball. The Arizona State product is strong after the catch and ran a very good time of 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. Strong needs to work on his route-running but he has the necessary tools need to excel in the NFL. Look for strong to be a first or second-round pick.
6. WR Nelson Agholor – USC – Junior – 6-0, 198 – 4.42
Agholor put up big numbers for the Trojans as a junior, totaling 104 catches for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 6-foot-190 pound receiver doesn’t have great height or weight numbers, but he’s an extremely quick receiver that knows how to get open. His route-running ability is up there with the best in the 2015 draft class and quickness helped him become a serious threat as a punt returner. Ideally, Agholor fits best as a slot receiver that can work the middle of the field but he also could thrive on the outside if he can play with more physicality. The USC product should hear his name called in the second round.
7. WR Devin Funchess – Michigan – Junior – 6-4, 232 – 4.70
At 6-foot-4, 232 pounds, Funchess is a physically imposing receiver that is at his best in contested situations. For his size, Funchess is a fluid athlete that shows easy-moving hips and ankle flexibility. During his three years at the University of Michigan, Funchess amassed 126 catches for 1,715 yards and 15 touchdowns. His 40-yard dash time of 4.7 is quite concerning in regards to creating separation against NFL defensive backs, and that will likely knock his stock into the second or third round.
8. WR Breshad Perriman – Central Florida – Junior – 6-2, 212 – 4.24
One of the fastest risers this offseason has been wide receiver Breshad Perriman from UCF, who ran an incredible 40-yard dash time of 4.24 at his pro day. The 6-foot-2, 212 pound receiver hauled in 50 catches for 1,044 yards and 9 touchdowns before declaring for the draft as a junior. Like many of the top-rated receivers this year, Perriman is excellent at making difficult catches in contested situations, but he can also get the job done in the intermediate areas of the field. Perriman is very raw in terms of route-running and that will have to change, but the tools he offers should get a team to call in his name in the late first or early second round.
9. WR Sammie Coates – Auburn – Junior – 6-1, 212 – 4.43
Coates is a physical specimen at the wide receiver position. He ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, bench pressed 23 reps, recorded a vertical leap of 41 inches, and chalked up a broad jump of 131 inches. The Auburn product is a big-play threat that averaged 54.1 yards per touchdown reception. Coates isn’t a great route-runner, but he has some nice footwork on dig routes and out routes at the Senior Bowl. With a drop rate of 19.1 percent, Coates simply drops way too many passes to be a high draft pick, but his tools should get him drafted in the second round.
10. WR Devin Smith – Ohio State – Senior – 6-0, 196 – 4.42
Smith is the definition of a burner at the wide receiver position. Few receivers can explode off the ball as fast as Smith can, which allows him to create separation quickly and make big plays for the offense. Despite being labeled as a deep threat, Smith isn’t a bad route-runner, as he can gain separation on intermediate and crossing routes with ease. A slender frame and shaky hands are two of the Ohio State product’s most glaring flaws, but neither of which should knock him out of the second round of the draft. Smith chalked up 931 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior in 2014 while averaging over 20 yards per catch.
BEST OF THE REST 11. WR Tyler Lockett – Kansas State – Senior – 5-10, 182 – 4.40
Lockett is a speedy and technically sound receiver that has a knack for making big plays. As a junior in 2013, the former Wildcat racked up 81 catches for 1,262 yards and 11 scores, and followed that up with a performance of 106 catches for 1,515 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior. Lockett is a fantastic route-runner and has top-notch quickness, which makes him very difficult to cover one-on-one. Lockett’s slender frame is somewhat of a concern for durability reasons, which will likely limit his draft stock the third round.
12. WR Phillip Dorsett – Miami – Senior – 5-10, 185 – 4.33
Dorsett was excellent at the Senior Bowl and his steadily made his way up draft boards this offseason. The former Miami Hurricane is incredibly fast and was one of the most dangerous deep threats in college football in 2014. Dorsett ran a ridiculous 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine and followed that up with even more ridiculous pro day times of 4.29 and 4.27. Dorsett isn’t just a one-trick pony, as he is a strong route-runner and shows excellent body control. He’ll likely be drafted in Round 3.
13. WR Rashad Greene – Florida State – Senior – 5-11, 182 – 4.53
Greene was extremely productive over the course of his four-year collegiate career with the Seminoles, racking up a whopping 270 catches for 3,820 yards and 29 touchdowns. The former Seminole is a smooth route-runner that is excellent in the intermediate area of the field. However, his game lacks physicality and his slight frame might relegate him to slot duties at the next level, which would likely cap his draft stock around the third round.
14. WR Justin Hardy – East Carolina – Senior – 5-10, 192 – 4.56
Hardy has been one of the most productive players in college football since joining the Pirates in 2011. The 5-foot-10, 190 pound receiver amassed an astounding 387 catches for 4,541 yards and 35 touchdowns over the course of his four year career at ECU. Hardy is an instinctive slot receiver with great hands. Hardy didn’t flash as much at the Senior Bowl compared to the other slot receivers but he was solid throughout the week. The former Pirate doesn’t stand out in many areas, but he also doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. He’s a solid player that looks like a third- or fourth-round pick.
15. WR Stefon Diggs – Maryland – Junior – 6-0, 195 – 4.46
Diggs is a playmaking receiver that looks like he will be a better pro than college player. The Maryland product is extremely instinctive with the ball in his hands and has a chance to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. Diggs (6-0, 198) also has fantastic hands and has flashed the ability to win in contested situations. Diggs like an ideal candidate for slot receiver duties at next level, but he will also add value to whatever team drafts him as a punt and kick returner. He’s likely a fourth-round prospect.
16. WR Jamison Crowder – Duke – Senior – 5-8, 185 – 4.56
Crowder has been one of the most productive receivers in the ACC over the past three years, finishing each of the past three seasons with more than 76 catches, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. The small, but speedy, receiver has incredible quickness and ability to accelerate, which was confirmed at the Senior Bowl during one-on-one sessions and individual drills. The former Blue Devil is a strong route-runner and could be a potential punt returner. Crowder ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, but he improved his times at his pro day, where he ran a 4.46 and a 4.48. He’s likely a fourth- or fifth-round candidate.
17. WR Tre McBride – William & Mary – Senior – 6-0, 210 – 4.41
McBride is simply fantastic at bringing down the ball in contested situations, as he can contort his body to make catches in awkward situations. The William and Mary Product showed at the combine that he has great speed, as he ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle drill. He can also return kicks, which adds to his overall value. His weakness is his lack of polished route-running skills, but his combination of size (6-0, 210), speed and hand will help him get drafted, perhaps in the fifth round.
18. WR Titus Davis – Central Michigan – Senior – 6-1, 196 – 4.51
Davis is a tremendous route-runner that wins with his technique rather than his athleticism. The Central Michigan product totaled 60 catches for 980 yards and 13 scores as a senior, one year removed from his junior season where he caught 61 balls for 1,109 yards and 8 touchdowns. Davis offers a well-rounded game that should make him at least a quality third receiver at the NFL. PewterReport.com believes that Davis is currently being underrated and is worthy of a fourth-round pick, but he’ll likely go in the fifth.
19. WR Darren Waller – Georgia Tech – Senior – 6-6, 238 – 4.46
Waller was one of the standout players at the East-West Shrine Game back in January. At 6-foot-6, 238 pounds, the former Yellow Jacket looks more like a power forward than a receiver. Waller’s game resembles Kelvin Benjamin’s of the Carolina Panthers, as he doesn’t get much separation but manages to come down with the ball in traffic. Georgia Tech’s offense didn’t make him run many routes, making him a project at the next level, but Waller has a fantastic array of tools that should get him selected in the fifth or sixth rounds.
20. WR DeAndre Smelter – Georgia Tech – Senior – 6-2, 226 – 4.52
Smelter is currently flying under the radar because of an ACL injury that he suffered late in the 2015 season, but he has a chance to be a real steal for a team late in the draft or as an undrafted free agent. Smelter stands 6-foot-2, 226 pounds and has massive 11-inch hands. The former Yellow Jacket seemed to come down with the ball every time that it was up for grabs thanks to his ability to be physical and box out defenders. He could come off the board in the sixth round.