Wide receiver class has question marks

A look at the talented, yet problematic, 2010 wide receiver class:

Character concerns

Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (6-2, 215)

Based on tape alone, you could make the argument that Dez Bryant is the most talented wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson. His combination of size, power and body control is second to none in this year’s class, and he has the ability to cleanly change directions as a route runner and consistently make plays on the football away from his frame. However, immaturity, passion and posse are all concerns that I’ve heard thrown around, which cost him most of his junior season. From a talent perspective, the guy is as good as they come and has legitimate No. 1-type potential in the NFL. But the team that drafts him will have to do extensive research on his willingness to stay focused and put in the time to be great at the next level.

Mike Williams, Syracuse (6-2, 205)

The first time I popped in a tape of Syracuse wideout Mike Williams, I thought he might be the best wide receiver prospect in the country. He’s tall and explosive with electrifying leaping ability, and he possesses the body control and balance to cleanly separate from cornerbacks as a route runner. There were some raw spots to his game, like any college receiver, but his ability to go up and get the ball was second (in my opinion) only to Larry Fitzgerald as a college prospect that I have evaluated. However, any way you look at it, Williams was not on the Syracuse football team at the end of the season after a falling out with head coach Doug Marrone and missed the 2008 season because of academic issues. Much like Bryant, the talent is there for this guy to be as good as he wants to be. The only issue is whether he’s learned from his past and is ready to take on the challenges and responsibilities of being a professional football player.

Can you run it, run it?

Brandon LaFell, LSU (6-3, 209)

I knew from watching Brandon LaFell on tape that he wasn’t an out-and-out down-the-field type of burner, but his time of 4.58 in the 40 at the NFL Combine did little to help his draft stock. Pair that with his knack for putting the ball on the ground throughout his career and there are some causes for concern. Looking at LaFell as a whole, I like him. He’s a big, physical route runner who has the balance to cleanly separate on all levels of the field and showcases a second gear to run away from defenders when being chased. He’s definitely not someone who can be judged solely on his 40 time, but either way, it will likely keep him out of the first round.

Eric Decker, Minnesota (6-3, 217)

Eric Decker is another wideout I really like and think has the makings of a solid No. 2-type possession guy in the NFL. However, he also lacks ideal top-end speed, but unlike LaFell, he’s been unable to give NFL teams an actual time in the 40 because of a foot injury that has kept him inactive since the end of October. Decker does have a lot of things going for him: He’s been ultra-productive over the course of his career; he’s a big, physical kid who can go get the football; and he has the type of intangibles that NFL teams love. Even so, I think he’ll end up falling a bit on draft day because of concerns about his top-end speed.

Got to beat press

Jordan Shipley, Texas (6-0, 190)

I get the Wes Welker comparisons with Jordan Shipley; I just don’t agree with them. Welker is an ultra-quick wideout who has the ability to change directions on a dime and accelerate away from corners off the line in either direction. Shipley is not the kind of quick-twitch athlete Welker is and struggles to beat press coverage off the line, especially when lined up on the outside. Do I think there’s a place for Shipley in the NFL? Absolutely. However, I see him more as a Brandon Stokley type who has a slight second gear down the field once he gets going but will rely more on his savvy and crispness as a route runner to separate at the next level.

Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati (6-0, 187)

There’s no denying Mardy Gilyard’s production and ability to create separation for himself when lined up off the line or in the slot. However, Gilyard isn’t overly physical and lacks the type of straight-line speed (4.61 40 at the combine) to outrun defenders down the field once he finally frees himself from the bump. When matched up with the likes of a superior athlete in Florida’s Joe Haden, Gilyard really struggled to create any kind of separation vs. press man. Now, I think he has the ability to create after the catch and can help out on special teams at the next level, but I’m not drafting a guy like Gilyard thinking he can consistently make plays on the outside. Like Shipley, I see him more as a better fit for the slot.

Production vs. upside

Carlton Mitchell, South Florida (6-3, 215)

At 6-3, 215 pounds, South Florida’s Carlton Mitchell has the quintessential frame for the position, and paired with his 4.4 speed, he looks like one of the draft’s elite size/speed prospects. However, for someone as physically gifted as he is, Mitchell has never really put it all together. He never had more than 800 yards receiving in a single season at the college level, never had more than five receiving touchdowns in a season and quite simply is still a work in progress. There’s no denying the talent is there, and he may have more upside than any other receiver in this class, but overall, he’s pretty raw and will need time to mature in order to maximize his potential.

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