Pewter Report begins its annual draft preview listing the top players at each position and also offers up two Bucs’ Best Bets, one in the early rounds and one in the late rounds. See where Pewter Report ranks the players and who they think makes the most sense for the Buccaneers. Up next are the wide receivers.
WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT WIDE RECEIVER
With the trading of troubled wideout Mike Williams to Buffalo in April, the Bucs have just one proven starter in Vincent Jackson, who has averaged 75 catches for 1,304 yards and 7.5 touchdowns in his two seasons in Tampa Bay. At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Jackson has tremendous size, but at age 31 he’s slowing down and doesn’t have the separation he once had in his youth. The Bucs added some speed to the team in veteran journeyman Louis Murphy to the receiver corps this offseason, but he’s better suited to be a third receiver than a starter. Holdovers Chris Owusu, Eric Page and Skye Dawson have the quickness and speed Jeff Tedford’s offense craves, but lack playing time experience. That trio will compete with newcomers Tommy Streeter and Lavelle Hawkins for roster spots in 2014.
WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT WIDE RECEIVER
Tampa Bay needs a starting-caliber wide receiver in the 2014 NFL Draft and to continue to upgrade the speed at the position. The Bucs do like bigger starting wide receivers, which puts players like Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief, who is 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, who is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and Clemson’s Martavis Bryant, who is 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, are on Tampa Bay’s target list in the second or third round. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs double up at the receiver position and get a speed merchant like Colorado’s Paul Richardson, Kent State’s Dri Archer or Pittsburg State’s John Brown in the middle rounds.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT WR (EARLY 1-3) – Ole Miss WR Donte MoncriefThe Bucs covet Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, who likely won’t be available when they are on the clock with the seventh overall pick. Because the draft is deep at wide receiver, Tampa Bay may elect to pass up Texas A&M’s Mike Evans in the first round and pick one up in the second round. That player could be Moncrief, who is a big receiver at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, but as been timed at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash and has run-after-the-catch ability along with a 39.5-inch vertical leap. Moncrief has excelled against top SEC competition with 100-yard games against LSU (twice), Mississippi State, Auburn, Arkansas and also Texas over the last two years. He would be an ideal starter opposite Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay.
BUCS’ BEST BET AT WR (LATE 4-7) – Pittsburg State WR John Brown
Tampa Bay is one of the growing numbers of teams that have become quite fond of the unheralded star from Pittsburg State, which is in Kansas. Brown, who hails from Homestead, Fla., was extremely productive as a receiver and a return specialist for the Gorillas. He had five career touchdowns on returns (three punt returns, two kick returns), averaging 13.6 yards returning punts and 26.9 yards returning kicks. Brown, a three-year captain, left Pittsburg State as the career leader with 185 catches for 3,300 yards and 32 receiving touchdowns, in addition to six rushing touchdowns. Brown, who has a 34.5-inch vertical leap, would be an ideal slot receiver and return specialist for the Buccaneers.
TOP 10 WIDE RECEIVERS
1. WR Sammy Watkins – Clemson – Junior – 6-1, 211 – 4.43
The electric Watkins ended his Clemson career in grand fashion with a school and Orange Bowl record 16 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 40-35 win over Ohio State. That capped off a 101-catch, 1,464-yard, 12-touchdown effort in 2013 – all school records and part of a Tigers career that saw him catch 240 passes for 3,391 yards and 27 TDs. Watkins has blazing speed, instant acceleration and tackle-breaking ability, making him the clear-cut No. 1 receiver this year and a surefire top 5 pick.
2. WR Mike Evans – Texas A&M – Sophomore – 6-5, 231 – 4.52
In two years at Texas A&M Evans totaled 151 catches for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns, including a monster redshirt sophomore season in 2013 when he hauled in 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns from Johnny Manziel. Evans is a beast of a wide receiver that typically outleaps and outmuscles the competition for jump balls. While not a burner, Evans has sneaky deep speed and good run-after-catch ability that will appeal to virtually any NFL offense. His draft stock has risen to the top 10.
3. WR Brandin Cooks – Oregon State – Junior – 5-10, 189 – 4.33
Perhaps no other receiver helped his stock more at the NFL Scouting Combine than Cooks, who was the fastest participant, running a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. But Cooks is not a track star, he’s a football player, evidenced by a breakout sophomore season in which he caught 67 passes for 1,151 yards (17.2 avg.) and five touchdowns. That set him up for a sensational junior campaign in which he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards (13.5 avg.) and 16 touchdowns. Cooks is more than just a slot receiver. He has the talent to play outside in the NFL, too, despite his smallish stature.
4. WR Odell Beckham Jr. – LSU – Junior – 5-11, 198 – 4.43Beckham is a fast-rising receiver that could get drafted as high as the middle of the first round thanks to an eye-opening junior season, in which he caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards (19.5 avg.) and six touchdowns. Beckham has gotten better each year and caught 143 passes for 2,340 yards and 12 touchdowns in his LSU career. He has a dynamic, electric running style that has also allowed him to have success as a punt returner (two touchdowns) and a kick returner (26.4 avg.).
5. WR Marqise Lee – USC – Junior – 6-0, 192 – 4.52
A knee injury in 2013 and poor quarterback play held Lee to 57 catches for 791 yards and four touchdowns, but the USC star had a huge sophomore season with 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs catching passes from Matt Barkley. And that was after a breakthrough freshman season with 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 scores in 2011. Despite not having sub-4.5 speed, Lee is a blur with the ball in his hands and is also a dangerous kick returner with two touchdowns in his Trojans career. Lee’s run-after-catch ability and elusiveness will likely make him a sought-after, first-round prospect.
6. WR Donte Moncrief – Ole Miss – Junior – 6-2, 221 – 4.40
Moncrief is a big-bodied receiver with the ability to separate on deep routes and also on yard-after-catch opportunities on slant passes and bubble screens. With a 39.5-inch vertical, Moncrief has the size and leaping ability to win jump-ball opportunities over cornerbacks. He had 59 catches for 938 yards and six touchdowns in 2013 and has 156 receptions for 2,371 yards and 20 TDs in his career. Moncrief’s stock is on the rise after a sensational combine showing where he ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash.
7. WR Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State – Sophomore – 6-5, 240 – 4.61
Benjamin is the biggest receiver in the 2013 NFL Draft, but many NFL scouts feel he is too heavy, evidenced by his 4.61 time in the 40-yard dash. His size makes him hard to tackle one-on-one and his tackle-breaking ability is how he gets most of his yards after catch. Benjamin needs to be more consistent catching the football, but hauled in 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns during his sophomore year, including the game-winner against Auburn to give Florida State the national championship. Benjamin has NFL size, but could have used another year of experience in college.
8. WR Allen Robinson – Penn State – Junior – 6-3, 220 – 4.47
Robinson is a highly productive receiver who caught 77 passes for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns during a breakout sophomore season, and followed that up with 97 catches for 1,432 yards and six scores as a junior. With an NFL-sized frame, decent speed and good leaping ability, Robinson has the potential to be a starting possession receiver right away and an immediate red zone threat, but his hands could be more consistent. He could be drafted as high as the second round.
9. WR Davante Adams – Fresno State – Sophomore – 6-1, 212 – 4.47
Adams was the most prolific receiver in college football in 2013, catching 131 passes for 1,718 yards and 24 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. In two seasons at Fresno State, the athletic Adams caught 233 passes for 3,030 yards and 38 touchdowns and is a versatile receiver that can make defenders miss on quick slants and bubble screens and win jump balls in the end zone against smaller defensive backs. Adams has a nice size-speed combination. At just 20 years old he has a ton of potential and upside at the next level.
10. WR Martavis Bryant – Clemson – Junior – 6-4, 211 – 4.42
After playing alongside DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins at Clemson, the coaches feel like Bryant has the most upside over those two star receivers. Bryant has great size, leaping ability and speed despite good, but not great production. He caught 42 passes for 828 yards and seven touchdowns as the Tigers’ No. 2 receiver opposite Watkins in 2013, and has 61 catches for 1,354 yards and 13 scores in three years at Clemson. Bryant’s size and 41-inch vertical leap make him an outstanding red zone threat and likely a third-round pick.
BEST OF THE REST
11. WR Cody Latimer – Indiana – Junior – 6-3, 215 – 4.44
Due to a combination of great size and speed Latimer’s draft stock is soaring into the third round. He had a breakout campaign in 2013 with 72 catches for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns, and has 135 receptions for 2,042 yards and 17 career touchdowns.
12. WR Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt – Senior – 6-3, 212 – 4.46
A very cerebral receiver with a tremendous work ethic, Matthews took the SEC by storm with 262 career catches for 3,759 yards and 24 touchdowns. He caught 112 passes for 1,477 yards and seven scores as a senior. Has good deep speed, but lacks an initial burst off the line, which will confine him to the third round.
13. WR Paul Richardson – Colorado – Junior – 6-0, 175 – 4.40
Richardson began his junior season weighing 159 pounds and putting on weight has been a challenge. An absolute flyer with tremendous deep speed, Richardson caught 83 passes for 1,343 yards and 10 TDs after missing 2012 with a torn ACL. Richardson’s speed will likely place him in the third round.
14. WR Dri Archer – Kent State – Senior – 5-8, 173 – 4.27
Speedy weapon was used as a running back in 2012 when he rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 39 passes for 561 yards and four scores. Injuries in 2013 cut into production. Will move to slot receiver in the NFL and return kicks (four TDs) and is likely a third-round pick.
15. WR Bruce Ellington – South Carolina – Junior– 5-9, 197 – 4.45
Built like a running back, Ellington is good after the catch, and has 106 receptions for 1,586 yards and 16 TDs in his Gamecocks career. Ellington has good speed and the ability to get behind cornerbacks down field and make big plays, in addition to returning kicks.
16. WR Jared Abberderis – Wisconsin – Senior – 6-1, 195 – 4.50
Very productive for the Badgers with 202 catches for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns in his career. Elusive receiver finds open holes in the defense. Caught 78 passes for 1,081 yards and seven scores in 2013.
17. WR Robert Herron – Wyoming – Senior – 5-9, 193 – 4.48
Short, shifty receiver had 72 catches for 937 yards and nine scores as a senior at Wyoming. Had a nice showing at the Senior Bowl, which helped his stock. Herron is an ideal slot receiver in the NFL due to his quickness off the line.
18. WR Kevin Norwood – Alabama – Senior – 6-2, 198 – 4.48
Steady playmaker helped the Crimson Tide win multiple national titles. Had 81 catches for 1,275 yards as 12 TDs in his career with 38 catches for 568 yards and seven scores as a senior possession receiver.
19. WR John Brown – Pittsburg State – Senior – 5-10, 179 – 4.34
Brown, who caught 61 passes for 1,198 yards (19.6 avg.) and 14 touchdowns as a senior, burst onto the scene at the NFL Scouting Combine by running a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash.
20. WR Jarvis Landry – LSU – Junior – 6-0, 205 – 4.67
Landry hurt his stock significantly at the combine, running a 4.77 in the 40-yard dash while straining his hamstring. Improved his time at his pro day and was productive in 2013 with 77 catches for 1,193 yards and 10 TDs.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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