Fans will gather inside the Auditorium Theatre (Chicago, Ill.) for the 2015 NFL Draft on Apr.30-May 2, 2015. NFL owners, general managers and coaches descended upon Lucas Oil Stadium last week, scoping out collegiate talent in the 2015 NFL scouting combine.
Much conversation was geared toward quarterbacks, but this year’s draft features a lot of depth at wide receiver. Some wowed NFL scouts with pure speed, while others showed solid route running skills and leaping abilities. Here are the top 10 best receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft.
10. Dorial Green-Beckham, 6-5/237, Oklahoma
Summary: Beckham’s off-field issues kept him from blossoming into a game-changing receiver in college. He was showcasing potential at Missouri, prior to being dismissed. Beckham totaled 395 yards and five touchdowns on 28 catches as a freshman in 2012.
He earned freshman All-American honors by numerous sites. His 59 receptions in 2013 were a team high, accounting for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. Beckham earned second-team All-SEC honors in 2013, but it was the last time he would suit up in college.
Beckham transferred to Oklahoma in April 2014, yet couldn’t play immediately because his waiver was denied. He relinquished his final year of eligibility to pursue the NFL Draft.
His size and athleticism make him very difficult to guard. Bechkam was clocked at a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and displayed a 33.5-inch vertical. If he can put his troubled past behind him, Beckham will be a productive receiver in the National Football League.
9. Jaelen Strong, 6-2/217, Arizona State
Summary: It pays to be a receiver in the Pac-12. Jaelen Strong got the full gist of it being Taylor Kelly’s primary target at Arizona State. He spent two seasons at Pierce College in Los Angeles, Calif., before emerging as a star receiver in 2013 at Arizona State.
Strong caught 75 passes for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore, earning him second-team All-Pac 12 honors. He put in a solid junior campaign, totaling 82 receptions (team-high) for 1,165 yards and 10 touchdowns. Strong achieved first-team All-Pac 12 honors in 2014.
He was clocked at a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash. Strong chimed in with a 42-inch vertical and a broad jump of 123.0 inches. He has size, leaping abilities and hands, but Strong needs to improve his route running. Creating separation is an area of concern for him. Strong can catch balls in traffic, yet struggles fighting off jams in press coverage.
His top-end speed isn’t impressive, but Strong is deceptively fast. He has dealt with nagging injuries (knee, concussion) in his career. If he can stay healthy, Strong will be an asset for an NFL team.
8. Tyler Lockett, 5-10/182, Kansas State
Summary: Kansas State isn’t known for having talented quarterbacks, but Tyler Lockett took a lot of pressure of Jake Waters. Lockett made an immediate impact as a true freshman in 2011. He caught 18 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. Lockett averaged 35.2 yards per return on kickoffs, totaling 563 yards and two scores.
He became a full-time receiver as a sophomore in 2012. His 44 receptions were good for second on the team. Lockett collected 687 yards and four touchdowns. He maintained his niche on special teams, accounting for 688 yards and two scores on 21 returns. Lockett earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors in 2012.
He led Kansas State in receptions in 2013 (81) and 2014 (106). Lockett recorded 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. He put in 1,515 yards and 11 scores as a senior. Lockett became Kansas State’s 11th consensus All-American in school history in 2014.
Lockett excelled at the NFL combine. He ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash and displayed a 35.5-inch vertical. Lockett finished among the top performers in the 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. His time of 4.07 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle placed him third among receivers. Lockett finished first in the 60-yard shuttle, posting a time of 11.14 seconds.
Lockett’s speed is top notch and he is deadly with double moves. He is a crisp route runner that is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Lockett is an exceptional return specialist. He has experience as a deep ball threat and a slot receiver.
Lockett needs to bulk up more and look the ball into his hands. He tends to run before securing a catch. Lockett must avoid injuries. He dealt with kidney and hamstring issues at Kansas State.
7. Sammie Coates, 6-2/212, Auburn
Summary: Auburn’s head coach Gus Malzahn created a run based offense at Auburn, but Sammie Coates shared his two cents in 2013 and 2014. He caught 34 passes for 741 yards and four touchdowns last season. Coates put in 42 receptions for 902 yards and seven scores in 2013.
He averaged 20+ yards per catch in both seasons. Coates is a freak athlete that plays above his size. He has huge hands and solid leaping abilities. Auburn’s ground game has helped Coates become an efficient blocker. Route running and consistent pass catching are his weaknesses.
Coates doesn’t explode of the ball, and struggles with working back to the quarterback on certain routes. He was targeted on vertical routes, slants and quick passes toward the sidelines.
Coates put in a solid workout at the combine. He tied for first among receivers in the bench press, accounting for 23 reps of 225 pounds. Coates was clocked at a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash. He chimed in with a 41-inch vertical and a 10’11” broad jump. Coates was among the top performers in the 20-yard shuttle (4.06 seconds, 2nd) and 60-yard shuttle (11.81 seconds, 15th).
6. Devin Smith, 6-0/196, Ohio State
Summary: Alabama saw it first hand in the 2015 Sugar Bowl, but Devin Smith has been a consistent deep ball target at Ohio State. He was successful in 2012 and 2013, but really broke out last season. Smith collected 33 passes for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
He has the ability to make long, vertical strides downfield and pick up speed. Smith excels at making strong cuts, creating separation from defenders. His top-end speed has helped him burn cornerbacks and safeties deep for touchdowns throughout his career.
Smith is an unproven route runner, despite his deep threat tendencies. He struggles with changing speeds and needs more weight on his frame.
Smith did impress NFL scouts at the combine. His 40-time of 4.42 seconds was tied for seventh among receivers. Smith displayed a 39-inch vertical and a 10’2” broad jump.
5. DeVante Parker, 6-3/209, Louisville
Summary: DeVante Parker was one of the most explosive receivers in 2014. He totaled 800+ yards receiving in two seasons (2013, 2014). Parker finished last season with 855 yards and five touchdowns on 43 receptions. He’s totaled 2,775 yards and 33 scores in his career.
Parker has the ideal size for a receiver, but needs to add more muscle. He explodes off the ball and can change gears instantly. Parker’s competitive and is not easily brought down by one defender.
He needs improvement on his footwork, blocking techniques and coverage reading skills. Parker’s footwork is decent, but could be better. He’s a willing blocking, but needs to lock up tighter. Parker tends to run similar routes on certain plays. Being able to decipher coverage schemes and pick his spots will help him in the NFL.
Parker was clocked at a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash. His 17 reps on the bench press tied him for fifth among receivers. He put in a 36.5-inch vertical and a broad jump of 125.0 inches.
4. Chris Conley, 6-2/213, Georgia
Summary: Former Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason found a primary target in Chris Conley last season. He registered 657 yards and eight touchdowns on 36 catches. Conley finished his career with 1,938 yards and 20 touchdowns on 117 receptions.
He entered the 2015 NFL combine under the radar, but Conley left scouts drooling. He showed speed in the 40-yard dash (4.35); however, it was Conley’s leaping abilities that dropped jaws. He finished first among receivers in the vertical (45.0 inches) and broad jump (11’7”).
Conley has a rare combination of speed and body control. His balance allows him to make catches along the sidelines. Conley can catch passes in traffic and be used as a deep ball threat.
3. Phillip Dorsett, 5-10/183, Miami (FL)
Summary: Phillip Dorsett led Miami in receiving last season. He caught 36 passes for 871 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dorsett ended his tenure with 2,132 yards and 17 touchdowns on 121 catches.
He has first-class speed and possesses body control. He’s an exceptional route runner that makes huge plays with the ball in his hands. His vision and explosiveness will be important on special teams. Dorsett lacks size and the ability to create separation.
He ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard and put in a 37-inch vertical jump. Dorsett’s time of 6.70 seconds in the 3-cone drill was good for 4th among receivers at the combine. He was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle, posting a time of 4.11 seconds.
2. Kevin White, 6-3/215, West Virginia
Summary: Kevin White gave Alabama fans a headache in the Crimson Tide’s 2014 season opener against West Virginia. He caught nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. White finished 2014 with 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns on 109 receptions. His career ends at 1,954 yards and 15 touchdowns on 144 catches.
White’s size and muscle make him ideal for winning 50/50 balls. He has large hands and solid footwork. White’s leaping abilities help him adjust to the football. He’s a capable chain-moving receiver on third down and enjoys getting yards after contact.
He is athletic, but White doesn’t have elite speed. He struggles with making plays in space. He’s a good route runner, but not fully polished. White tends to attract holding penalties in his attempts to block.
NFL scouts witnessed White’s potential at the combine. He was clocked at a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. White tied for first among receivers in the bench press, netting 23 reps of 225 pounds. He had a 36.5-inch vertical and a 10’3” broad jump. White finished among the top performers in the 20-yard shuttle (4.14 seconds, 12th) and 60-yard shuttle (11.52 seconds, 6th).
1. Amari Cooper, 6-1/211, Alabama
Summary: Amari Cooper was all that and then some for Alabama. He exploded onto the scene as a freshman in 2012, but became a leader in 2014. A sure-handed target, Cooper built confidence in former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims.
He caught 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Cooper exits Alabama as its all-time leading receiver, totaling 228 catches for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns. He was the recipient of the 2014 Fred Biletnikoff Award and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Cooper excels at creating separation against press coverage. He has dynamic footwork and can make plays in space. His route running is exceptional, despite freelancing tendencies. Cooper’s hands are reliable, but he will drop a pass occasionally. He possesses speed and balance to generate a free release off the line of scrimmage.
Cooper looks to be the first receiver selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. He made his presence felt at the combine. His 40-time was solid at 4.42 seconds. He had a 33-inch vertical and a 10’0” broad jump. Cooper’s time of 3.98 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle was the fastest among receivers.