This is the sixth in a series of position-by-position stories on the 2011 NFL Draft bynewyorkjets.com.
The Jets have assembled a talented cast of wideouts and they'd like to keep their core intact next season. It's also highly unlikely the Green & White will grab a receiver early in the 2011 draft considering they own the 30th overall selection in the first round and their second-round pick went to San Diego in exchange for CB Antonio Cromartie.
Now if either Georgia's A.J. Green or Alabama's Julio Jones somehow slipped, then all bets are off.
Jones caught everyone's attention with his timed speed at the Indianapolis combine, turning in a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash — with a stress fracture in his left foot. A 6'3", 220-pound early entry, Jones was not thought of as a burner, although he should do a lot of damage in the YAC category in the NFL. While he battled various injuries at 'Bama, Jones brings a physical nature to the outside and is an adept and willing downfield blocker. Last season he set UA single-season records for receptions (78) and receiving yards (1,133) and he totaled 179 catches for 2,653 yards and 15 TDs in his career.
You don't hear the word "special" often floated about in scouting circles, but Green has earned the tag from more than a few. He should soon become the highest selected 'Dawg receiver ever (Lindsay Scott, 1982 draft, 13th overall, New Orleans Saints) because nobody is predicting he'll be available when the Motor City Lions select at No. 13.
Green is considered the total package because he has great hands, runs precise routes, moves well after the catch and makes the acrobatic reception appear easy. After missing the first four games last season due to an NCAA suspension for selling a jersey, Green still caught 57 balls for 848 yards with nine receiving touchdowns. He was an instant star in Athens, Ga., hauling in 56 receptions for 963 yards and eight scores as a freshman. Don't be surprised if Green goes No. 4 to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Once Green and Jones are off the board, you might have to wait until Friday for another receiver to get selected. But there should be a steady run of targets in both Rounds 2 and 3.
Teams love versatile prospects and Kentucky's Randall Cobb is a young man not lacking for skill. The 5'10", 191-pound Cobb might not ever be a prototypical No. 1 receiver, but he is a player who will catch a lot of balls, run the show periodically from the Wildcat QB position, take over as a return man and also has the ability to hold on field goals. Cobb ran a solid 4.46 in the 40 in Indy and that followed a most impressive three-year run in Lexington, Ky.
Last season Cobb broke the SEC record for all-purpose yards with 2,396 while becoming the only player in the nation to rank first or second on his team in receiving (1,017), rushing (424) and passing. He somehow managed to score eight different ways in 2010 — punt return TD, rushing, receiving and passing for scores, throwing a TD on a fake field goal, and converting two-point conversions via rushing, passing and receiving. Cobb is a quality football player and don't bet against him continuing his success in the NFL.
Another Passel of Playmakers
After excelling as a returner, Maryland's Torrey Smith broke out as a receiver in College Park last year as he amassed 1,055 yards on his 67 catches and his 12 receiving TDs set the Terps single-season record. His 5,183 career all-purpose yards also established a Maryland mark and averaged 126.7 all-purpose yards in 2010. Still considered a work in progress at WR, Smith is a polished returner who averaged 25.7 yards as a KR with two TDs in '09 and he's been graded highly in the character department.
Boise State's Titus Young is just 5'11 and 174 pounds, but he has big-play explosion written all over him. He became the first Bronco to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark twice (2009 and '10) and had two kickoff returns for scores in his career.
"This kid, you could tell, is a natural pass catcher, and he reminds you a lot of Eagles WR DeSean Jackson, except probably without the kick-return ability," said NFL.com's Gil Brandt after Young's pro day.
"The U" has produced its fair share of quality receivers over the years, so you can't ignore Leonhard Hankerson's production. His 13 receiving touchdowns set a 'Canes single-season mark last season and he's the only Miami WR to have 2,000 yards receiving in his career and 1,000 in a season. The 6'2", 209-pounder was timed at 4.4 in the 40-yard dash, but some experts don't think he plays all that fast.
Troy burner Jerrel Jernigan is a playmaker. Jernigan (5'9", 185) was a three-time Sun Belt Conference selection as a receiver and a two-time pick at returner. His 262 receptions, 3,128 receiving yards and 5,971 all-purpose yards rank tops in Sun Belt annals. Last season Jernigan hauled in a Troy-record 84 receptions, and he also rushed for 322 yards and three touchdowns and scored on kickoff and punt returns. Teams may elect to use him at Wildcat quarterback because Jernigan is deadly with the rock in his hands.
Jonathan Baldwin might not be a jitterbug, but he's got great size at 6'4", 224 pounds. A Pitt product, Baldwin attended Aliquippa HS and followed the paths of Mike Ditka, Ty Law and of course Darrelle Revis. Baldwin may have suffered from suspect quarterback play last season as his yards-per-catch average dipped from 19.5 in 2009 to 15.6 in 2010.
The Tight Crop
There might not be a tight end selected on day one of the draft, but Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph doesn't figure to last beyond the middle of the second round. The 6'6", 259-pound Rudolph missed the final seven games of his collegiate career with a torn right hamstring after catching 28 balls for 328 yards and three touchdowns. He has good hands and the ability to stretch the defense.
Wisconsin TE Lance Kendrickshad a solid pro day (posting a high 4.5 in the 40) and is coming off a senior season in which saw him haul in 43 receptions for 661 yards and five touchdowns. The 6'3", 243-pound Kendricks was considered a top wide receiver prospect out of high school and then transitioned to tight end for the Badgers. He can run, possesses good hands and is a willing blocker.
Luke Stockercaught a pass in every Tennessee game in 2010 and he has favorable size at 6'5" and 258 pounds. Although he won't stretch the field and isn't an accomplished blocker, Stocker has very good hands and is coming off a 39-catch season.
Some draft experts think Nevada's Virgil Green might be best suited for H-back on the next level. Green (6'3", 249) is an excellent athlete who could find his way into the third round. Then you've got the interesting story of USC TE Jordan Cameron, a basketball player at BYU who transferred and started out as a receiver for the Trojans. **Apparently Los Angeles Clippers star forward Blake Griffin (aka Mars BlakeMan) is a big fan.** Cameron can jump out of the gym and possesses uncanny athleticism, but he had just 16 career receptions.
Vincent Brown, WR, San Diego State; Tadon Doss, WR, Indiana; Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian; Greg Little, WR, North Carolina; Niles Paul, WR, Nebraska; D.J. Williams, TE, Arkansas.