Picking a wide receiver in the first round can be risky. But if you get the right guy, your chances of beating the NFL odds go up significantly. Here’s our look at the Top 5 receivers available this spring.
Of all the “skill” players on the football field, the wide receiver might be the most overvalued. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer to play this position. Fast, definitely. Durable, ideally. But unless a college prospect has preternatural physical gifts, spending a first-round pick on a receiver is a bit of a waste. Better to stockpile a bunch of late picks and see which ones you can mold into useful players.
And yet the NFL keeps drafting wide receivers early and often. More wideouts get taken than any other position on offense, including in the first round – although quarterbacks usually get taken earlier. Not every coach is happy about it, either. One of the reported reasons why Doug Marrone left the Buffalo Bills was his displeasure over the team trading up to take Sammy Watkins at No. 5 last year. So who will roll the dice this year? Let’s look at the Top 5 WR prospects on the board and see if they’ll help or hurt your NFL picks in 2015.
1. Amari Cooper, Alabama
If anyone’s going to break through and be a star in this year’s group, it’s probably going to be Cooper (6-foot-1, 205 pounds). He had a tremendous 2014 campaign for the Crimson Tide, leading the entire FBS with 124 receptions and finishing second with 16 touchdown catches. Cooper’s not as tall as you’d like, and his focus wavers sometimes, but he’s fast, he’s a hard worker, and he can make catches that most players can’t make. The Oakland Raiders (3-12 SU, 8-8 ATS) are Cooper’s most likely destination at No. 4 overall. They could use him.
2. Devante Parker, Louisville
Things already get sketchy at this point. Parker (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) doesn’t share the same physical gifts as Cooper, although he’s above average across the board and has a good attitude – he majored in education at Louisville. Parker also missed half the 2014 season with a broken foot. He’s worth a shot late in the first round or early in the second, but this being the NFL, we expect Parker to go much earlier. The Minnesota Vikings (7-9 SU, 10-6 ATS) are a good fit at No. 11.
3. Kevin White, West Virginia
It’s entirely possible that White (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) ends up getting taken ahead of Parker at No. 10 by the St. Louis Rams (6-10 SU, 7-9 ATS). They’ve got more pressing needs on the offensive line, and perhaps at quarterback given Sam Bradford’s fragility. But at this spot in the draft, White might be the “safe” pick. He’s coming off an outstanding 2014 season (third in the FBS with 109 catches) and should be able to play at the NFL level right out of the box. If St. Louis passes, the San Francisco 49ers (8-8 SU, 6-9-1 ATS) are waiting at No. 15.
4. Devin Funchess, Michigan
We’re putting Funchess (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) here even though his value is primarily as a tight end. He doesn’t have the speed or the soft hands to be an elite wideout, but Funchess has the size and the all-around game to make an impact at tight end in the pros. The Baltimore Ravens (10-6 SU, 7-8-1 ATS) would be an excellent landing spot at No. 26.
5. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
There’s a ton of wideouts who project to go late in the first round, including Devin Smith, Dorial Green-Beckham and Sammie Coates. We’re running with Strong (6-foot-3, 250 pounds). He’s a little slow, but he’s a playmaker with long arms and sticky hands. If you like one-armed catches, you’ll love Jaelen Strong. He could even wind up with Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts (11-5 SU, 10-5-1 ATS) at No. 29. Intriguing.