Top level receivers will always be a commodity in the modern NFL. Having the ability to break down a defense and score quickly energizes a team while, at the same time, crushing the will of the opponent. 2018 looks like it will be better than recent years for receivers with as many as 6 pass catchers getting first round consideration.
1: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M - Though he lacks ideal size Kirk is the best prospect of this group. He has elite size and athleticism, displays good hands, and play runs excellent routes. Were he 3 inches taller he’d be a top 5 selection. I still expect him to go in the first half of round 1.
2: Cameron Sutton SMU - If Kirk is the polished prospect with sky high potential then Cameron Sutton is the diamond in the rough. Sutton is 6’5” and possess great leaping ability and speed. His games needs some overall refinement, and the step up in competition will involve a learning curve, but Sutton looks to be a highly coveted prospect. Like Kirk, he should go in the top half of round 1.
3: Deon Cain Clemson - Cain is possibly the next great Clemson receiver as well as a guy that has impressed consistently this season. Cain doesn’t excel at any one thing but he is an exciting, if raw, prospect that has big play potential as well as consistency to his game. He probably won’t be the third receiver taken but, based on my film work this year, he should be.
4: Calvin Ridley Alabama - Ridley is a solid, if not spectacular, prospect that is probably benefiting from playing at Alabama. He might not have the elite quickness, speed, and athleticism to separate and win contested balls at the NFL level so he is somewhat of a project. He does have good upside though and could sneak into the end of the first round.
5: Austin Pettis Washington - Pettis is an exciting deep threat who also offers potential as a return specialist. Unlike the players above him, Pettis isn’t a traditional number one receiver but should find a home as a deep threat, or possibly slot receiver, who also returns kicks. Unfortunately for Pettis his game film against Alabama in 2016 was horrendous. THat will likely be something he has to answer for when he speaks with NFL teams.
6: James Washington Oklahoma State - Washington is a highly over valued prospect by the draft analyst community. He is a deep threat who lacks elite speed, is less than 6 feet tall, and top heavy. His productivity is impressive and he can certainly play in the NFL but he looks like a #3 or #4 receiver to me on film, and his live performance wasn’t much better. I expect him to fall to the third or fourth round.
Iowa State receiver, Allen Lazard has been impressing scouts this off season. While he was rated highly by some in the scouting community he has played well enough for all the other scouts to take notice of his game. He could conceivably rise into the first round and pass some of the receivers currently listed above him. He lacks speed and elite athleticism but he understands how to best use his 6’4” frame to his advantage and fights hard for contested receptions.