Newyorkjets.com's coverage of the 2013 draft includes breakdowns of each position group, the Jets' needs at the spot, and the top players expected to be selected at the position from April 25-27. Today's first in the series: Wide Receivers.
The Jets receiving corps was up and down in 2012. Before a season-ending foot injury in Week 4, Santonio Holmes was on pace for an 80-catch, 1,088-yard season (he had a 147-yard receiving game against Miami). Stephen Hill, in his NFL debut, caught five passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns as the Green & White dominated Buffalo, 48-28. Jeremy Kerley posted career highs of seven receptions and 120 yards against the New England secondary in Week 7.
Yet the one element the unit lacked throughout: consistency.
Will the franchise look to draft a receiver for the third straight year? It's hard to say. Braylon Edwards and Chaz Schilens are both unrestricted free agents, while Holmes, Hill, Kerley, Clyde Gates and Jordan White are all set to return.
The unit will surely receive a boost with Holmes back in full form. Hill also should be improved and ready to go after being placed on IR Dec. 19 with a sprained knee. With offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg installing his West Coast offense, a few of these 2013 WR draft prospects come from backgrounds that, if selected, should allow them to transition smoothly into the system.
One-Two Punch: Patterson, Austin
In just one season in Knoxville, Cordarrelle Patterson set a new Tennessee record with 1,858 all-purpose yards. The All-SEC first-team selection also led the Vols with 10 touchdowns and was the first NCAA player since 2008 to score at least one touchdown in a season via reception, rush, kick return and punt return.
Prior to UT, Patterson was a two-time NJCAA All-American at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he set 13 program records. CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler says of Patterson: "He's a fluid athlete with good initial burst and strength to release to the inside and gain separation in single coverage."
And from a talent perspective, said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, Patterson might be the best physical specimen in the class. Yet he isn't impressed with the receiver only having one year of Division I experience.
"That's a red flag for me," Mayock said, "especially at the wide receiver position. There are a bunch of those guys that have failed over the past 20 years."
NFLDraftScout.com predicts the San Diego Chargers will select Patterson will the 11th overall selection. Former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum did a top-10 mock draft recently on NFL Network in which he sent Patterson to the Green & White.
In January, West Virginia's Tavon Austin won the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player. He showcased his speed and athleticism at the NFL Combine when he produced a 4.34-second 40 time.
Throughout his four years in Morgantown, Austin displayed his arsenal as a receiver, running back and kickoff return specialist. As a senior he led the Big 12 and ranked second nationally with 2,910 all-purpose yards. Recruited out of high school as a running back, he converted into a wide receiver as a freshman in 2009. Besides the Hornung, the 5'9" 174-pounder set an Orange Bowl record his junior year with four touchdown receptions.
You can't make all the moves like Tavon does in the open field without the great field vision and body control.
"It's hard to say just how tough he is because he never gets hit," WVU offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson told CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman. "I know he has no fear. His two greatest attributes are his field vision and his body control. You can't make all the moves like he does in the open field without the great field vision and body control."
Rob Rang of The Sports Xchange anticipates Chicago will select Austin with the 20th pick.
Hopkins Making Strides
Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins had one of the top receiving seasons in ACC history in 2012. He caught 82 receptions for a conference-best 1,405 yards, was second in the nation with 18 touchdowns, and earned All-ACC first-team honors. The junior elected to forgo his senior season and enters the pros with three Clemson records to his name — receiving yards (3,020), 100-yard receiving performances (12) and career touchdown receptions (27).
After clocking a 4.57 40-yard-dash time at the combine, Hopkins improved his time at Clemson's pro day when he ran in the 4.4s and low 4.5s.
"Big improvement from 4.57," the Tigers WR said after his workout. "I've been making big strides to improve."
Hopkins is likely to be taken in the late first or early second round.
California's Keenan Allen is clearly a top prospect in this class, yet he missed the combine after tearing the PCL in his left knee back on Oct. 27. His injury kept him out of the Golden Bears' final three games and nothing seemed to disappoint him more than having to miss out on participating in the 40 at the combine.
"I definitely wanted to come out here and show everybody that I could run," he said. "I'm definitely looking forward to running a 4.4 as my times are getting closer to clocking that."
While Allen's not a top-10 prospect, scouts list his size, physicality and route-running as the three traits that are intriguing numerous teams. If the 6'3", 206-pounder recovers from his knee injury without trouble, then expect him to flourish at the professional level. He is scheduled to have a private workout in his hometown of Greensboro, N.C., on April 9.
"Here's the deal with Keenan Allen:" Mayock said, "If you like him on tape, he's Anquan Boldin. If you don't like him, he's speed-deficient."
More Great Wideout Producers
A year ago, Robert Woods of Southern Cal was projected as a top-five draft selection. His stock declined in 2012 with the continued rise of WR teammate Marqise Lee. Yet the Gardena, Calif., native still put together a stellar three-year career for the Trojans that began with him being recognized as the 2010 Pac 10 Freshman of the Year and ended with 252 catches for 2,930 yards and 32 touchdowns. Woods has been regarded as a strong practice player who displays a great work ethic. His drive and natural talent should solidify him as a second-round pick.
Despite attending a lower-tier Division I school, Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton appears worthy of a second-round selection. He impressed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his great hands and level of concentration. As a senior, Patton caught 104 passes for 1,392 yards and 13 scores as LA Tech led the nation with 51.5 points per game. In an Oct. 13 loss against Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M, Patton was unstoppable with 21 receptions for 233 yards and four TDs.
Dave Richard of CBSSports.com classified Baylor's Terrance Williams as the best receiver at the Senior Bowl, considering his size and skills. As a senior, Williams hauled in 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best performance came in a Sept. 29 loss at West Virginia, when the 6'2" 201-pounder finished with 17 receptions for 314 yards and two TDs. The one thing analysts have questioned with Williams is his toughness.
Oregon State's Markus Wheaton has great speed off the snap and is very experienced against press coverage. Despite weighing only 190 pounds, the 22-year-old was an All-Pac 12 first-team selection last season, hauling in 91 balls for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns. The cousin of former Cowboys DB Kenny Wheaton exits Corvallis as the school's all-time leader with 227 receptions.
In the 2009 preseason, Marshall's Aaron Dobson clocked a 4.3 40-time. That speed will certainly catch the attention of several teams. The 6'3" 203-pounder was the Thundering Herd's top receiver in two of his four years and could be a second-round choice.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee; Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech; Marquise Goodwin, Texas; Tavarres King, Georgia; Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Friday: Tight Ends