2015 NFL Draft Position Review: Wide Receivers

Charlie lays out an overview at the top players from each position for the 2015 NFL Draft. For further information, check out our in-depth analysis of 2015 NFL Draft Prospects by Position.

By Charlie Campbell.
Send Charlie an e-mail here: draftcampbell@gmail.com
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This page was last updated March 20, 2015. Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

Position Review: Wide Receivers

Wide Receiver Class
Early-round talent: A-
Mid-round: B+
Late-round: B+
Overall grade: A-

2015 prospects vs 2014
Amari Cooper < Sammy Watkins
Kevin White = Mike Evans
DeVante Parker < Odell Beckham Jr.
Jaelen Strong < Brandin Cooks
Devin Smith < Kelvin Benjamin
Phillip Dorsett = Marqise Lee
Sammie Coates < Jordan Matthews
Nelson Agholor < Paul Richardson

Last year, I gave the wide receiver class the grades of A+ for the early rounds, A- for the mid-rounds and B+ for the late rounds with an overall grade of an A. It didn't disappoint as Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin were all play-makers as rookies. There were other good wideouts from the late rounds and undrafted ranks as well. The 2014 class could be a historically great year for receivers going to the NFL. This year has a strong class of receivers who would look very good in any given year, but compared to the 2014 NFL Draft, this class just isn't as talented.

If you were to merge the two classes, Cooper and White are about equal to Evans and Beckham as prospects, but would be behind Watkins. Parker, Strong, Smith and Dorsett are about equal to Lee as early second-round talents. Coates and Agholor would go behind Matthews and Richardson.

Safest Pick: Amari Cooper, Alabama
This was an easy decision as Cooper was a consistent producer in the SEC with a dominant 2014 season. Cooper has a good combination of size and speed with great route-running, hands, run-after-the-catch ability and skills to fight for 50-50 balls. He looks very safe to turn into a good NFL receiver.

Previous Picks:
2014: Sammy Watkins
2013: DeAndre Hopkins

Biggest Bust Potential: Devin Funchess, Michigan
I almost did a tie with Dorial Green-Beckham. There is no doubt that Green-Beckham has talent, but he as major off-the-field issues and teams are skeptical about him. The Eagles and Texans for example, have removed Green-Beckham from their draft boards. I think he will be a quality NFL wideout if he can stay out of trouble.

I think Funchess could definitely be a bust. He struggles to get separation from defensive backs while dropping a fair amount of passes and not showing an ability to win some 50-50 passes (see Michigan State tape). Funchess also doesn't have teams convinced that he can block as a tight end, and some teams were unimpressed in their Combine interview. Funchess looks like a tweener for the NFL.

Previous Picks:
2014: Kelvin Benjamin
2013: Cordarrelle Patterson

Wide Receiver Rankings by Attributes

NFL prototype: Calvin Johnson, Lions
  1. Amari Cooper
  2. Kevin White
  3. Phillip Dorsett
  4. Devin Smith
  5. Sammie Coates
  6. Nelson Agholor
  7. DeVante Parker
  8. Jaelen Strong

Recap: A few wide receivers coaches told me that the ability to separate from coverage is the first trait they looked for in scouting draft prospects. Cooper is the best in this draft class at getting space from defensive backs. He does it with speed and suddenness out of his breaks, but also has strength to fight them off. Cooper's separation skills are NFL-ready.

White and Dorsett aren't all that far behind. They are both fast receivers who can burn defensive backs with their deep speed and get wide open running down the field. Dorsett could have issues with getting off jams at the line of scrimmage in the NFL.

Smith consistently gained separation via quickness running vertical routes down the field, but he isn't as polished in his variety of routes as the top three. Coates is similar to Smith as both of them were deep threats who need to improve their overall route-running. Coates is fast while running down the field and gets open, but he is more of a long-strider and isn't as sudden as the top three.

Agholor is a polished wideout who has speed and suddenness out of his breaks. He is kind of like a poor man's Cooper.

The big question around Parker and Strong is the ability to get separation from NFL defensive backs. They both helped their cause by running fast times at the Combine. Parker and Strong can get open on possession-receiver-type routes, but may not get open that often with vertical speed against NFL corners.

NFL prototype: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
  1. DeVante Parker
  2. Kevin White
  3. Jaelen Strong
  4. Phillip Dorsett
  5. Devin Smith
  6. Amari Cooper
  7. Nelson Agholor
  8. Sammie Coates

Recap: This is a nice crop of sure-handed receivers. The top trio is basically tied. All three of those big receivers are very reliable at catching passes. I like how Parker attacks the football with his hands and doesn't wait for it to come to him. White and Strong do that as well.

Dorsett and Smith both have reliable hands, and they've shown an impressive ability to track the ball and reel it in while running go routes down the field. Many speed receivers seem to get overeager, but Dorsett and Smith seldom let a ball go through their hands.

Cooper and Agholor don't have bad hands, but each one of them can be prone to have a stretch where they will drop passes in bunches. They might go three games with out a drop and then have three in the first half of a game.

Coates doesn't drop too many passes, but it happens. He should develop his skills to have more steady hands in the NFL.

Another player with great hands in the 2015 NFL Draft, but who didn't make this list, is Florida State's Rashad Greene.

Deep Speed:
NFL prototype: Mike Wallace, Vikings
  1. Phillip Dorsett
  2. Devin Smith
  3. Kevin White
  4. Sammie Coates
  5. Amari Cooper
  6. Nelson Agholor
  7. DeVante Parker
  8. Jaelen Strong

Recap: There a number of receivers in this group who have the ability to stretch the field vertically. Dorsett is the most explosive wideout available and is a threat to burn double-coverage on any route. He has the speed to beat double-teams over the top and is a threat to score on any reception. Defenses have to account for him in the deep part of the field.

Smith is a big-play threat as a well. He is explosive out of his release and had a ton of success as a home-run hitter for the Buckeyes. Smith can go up to make receptions over defensive backs even when the defenders have good coverage.

In 2014, White was a vertical play-maker for the Mountaineers. He also has a second gear in the open field to pull away from the defenders.

Coates and Cooper are also dangerous deep receivers. Coates is a fast vertical threat, but if defenses are ready for him, he doesn't always get himself open. Cooper can stretch a defense vertically and is fast enough to beat defenses over the top.

The last two aren't liabilities in terms of running downfield routes. Parker and Strong have some quickness to make receptions downfield, but they aren't true burners. What they do is use their size to make up for for a lack of speed and are good on back-shoulder or jump balls along the sideline. That being said neither is going to toast NFL corners while running straight go routes down the field.

NFL prototype: Julio Jones, Falcons
  1. Amari Cooper
  2. Kevin White
  3. Nelson Agholor
  4. Phillip Dorsett
  5. Jaelen Strong
  6. DeVante Parker
  7. Devin Smith
  8. Sammie Coates

Recap: Route-running is a critical part of gaining separation in the NFL. Receivers who get sloppy in their routes have a hard time getting open. Extra steps allow defensive backs to maintain coverage or more time to recover. In my opinion, the likely best route-runner in this draft class is Cooper.

Cooper is a superb route-runner. He is sudden in and out of his breaks with quickness. He does well in all levels of the field, and his route-running often produces separation from cornerbacks. Entering the NFL, Cooper's route-running is top-notch.

White really developed his route-running as a senior. He showed the ability get open coming out of his cuts and has more upside to develop there.

Agholor fits with other recent USC receivers like Marqise Lee and Robert Woods as players who are good route-runners coming out of college. As a junior, Agholor did a nice job of getting open in the short to intermediate part of the field. Dorsett isn't just a sprinter; he is a good route-runner who uses his along with suddenness to consistently get open. Dorsett is very tough for cornerbacks to cover.

Strong worked on his route-running before his junior year, and it paid off in 2014 as he showed a big improvement over where he was as a sophomore. Over time, Strong should continue to get better.

Parker, Smith and Coates could all stand to improve their route-running. Those three ran basically the same routes all the time in college, so they are going to need development in running other routes in the NFL.

Yards After the Catch:
NFL prototype: Dez Bryant, Cowboys
  1. Amari Cooper
  2. Kevin White
  3. Devin Smith
  4. Sammie Coates
  5. Phillip Dorsett
  6. Nelson Agholor
  7. DeVante Parker
  8. Jaelen Strong

Recap: The ability to turn a short reception into a big gain can make a receiver elite. Among the eight receivers above, all of them have nice run-after-the-catch ability and I wouldn't say there is one who underachieves.

That being said, there is no doubt that Cooper and White are the best yards-after-the-catch receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft. They are electric in the open field. Cooper has the speed and explosion to run by defenders while also having serious elusiveness. White is tough for defensive backs to chase down and bring down once he makes a catch.

Smith, Coates and Dorsett are very good after the catch. They are elusive in the open field with the speed to run away from defenders. When they burn coverage they can take any reception the distance. All three should be very dangerous in the NFL to break off big gains whenever they make a reception.

Both Agholor and Parker are very good with the ball in their hands. They have enough quickness to move. Parker can be tough for defensive backs to bring down. Both Agholor and Parker have proven they can fight off tacklers and extend gains.

Strong is a physical runner who can pick up yards after making a catch, but his run-after-the-reception skills could be diminished with the speed of NFL defensive backs.

Red Zone:
NFL prototype: Calvin Johnson, Lions
  1. Jaelen Strong
  2. Kevin White
  3. DeVante Parker
  4. Amari Cooper
  5. Sammie Coates
  6. Nelson Agholor
  7. Devin Smith
  8. Phillip Dorsett

Recap: This was a tough category to rank because so many of the receivers were excellent point producers in college. That being said, Strong was tremendous in the red zone with his ability to make catches in traffic and leap over defenders. He is a phenomenal weapon on fade passes and should be able to contribute immediately in the NFL.

White makes it safe for quarterbacks to throw high for him as it will either be a touchdown or an incompletion. Parker is very similar to White, which explains why Parker is third.

Cooper and Coates both have size to them with the ability to make contested catches. Beyond Cooper's speed and route-running, he is also very adept at getting open in the condensed part of the field.

Agholor, Smith and Dorsett aren't big physical receivers, but they are better in the red zone than one would think. Smith is great at out-jumping defensive backs for passes while Agholor and Dorsett used their sudden quickness to get open.

Contested Catches:
NFL prototype: A.J. Green, Bengals
  1. Kevin White
  2. Jaelen Strong
  3. DeVante Parker
  4. Amari Cooper
  5. Devin Smith
  6. Sammie Coates
  7. Nelson Agholor
  8. Phillip Dorsett

Recap: Throwing windows in the NFL are very small, and receivers have to be trusted to out-battle defensive backs for the ball. Lacking the ability to win contested catches results in more interceptions.

This was really hard to rank because the top-four wideouts are all excellent at going up and outfighting defensive backs for the ball. In terms of projecting the transition to the NFL, White (6-3, 215) stands out as he is taller than the others and has a strong frame. Both Parker (6-3, 209) and Strong (6-2, 217) are tall, well-built receivers who will use those skills to beat defensive backs. Both of them had a lot of success in college outfighting defenders on 50-50 balls. I put Parker third because he has a tendency to push off corners and that could get called more in the NFL.

Cooper (6-1, 210) isn't the biggest receiver, but he is rarely ever beaten on 50-50 passes. He is physical and has enough height and leaping ability to make contested catches. Early in the 2014, Cooper showed an ability to do that against elite competition in Florida's Vernon Hargreaves, the season's best cover corner and a likely top-10 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

When running deep routes along the sideline, Smith (6-0, 196) consistently went up and attacked the football to make receptions over coverage. He has a knack for making contested catches. Coates (6-1, 212) would flash the ability, but he wasn't as consistent as the players ranked ahead of him.

Agholor (6-0, 198) was similar where sometimes he wins, but he can be beaten as well. Dorsett (5-9, 185) isn't big, but he isn't bad at contested catches. His time at the Senior Bowl demonstrated his skills to outfight defenders for the ball, so while he won't out-muscle NFL defensive backs, he isn't inept when it comes to 50-50 balls.

NFL prototype: Reggie Wayne, Colts
  1. Kevin White
  2. Amari Cooper
  3. Jaelen Strong
  4. DeVante Parker
  5. Sammie Coates
  6. Devin Smith
  7. Nelson Agholor
  8. Phillip Dorsett

Recap: Coaches love receivers who give a big effort as blockers. Almost every long touchdown run in the NFL has a receiver making a block to prevent the ball-carrier from being chased down. Some receivers are more aggressive about it than others though. Willing blockers seek out defenders to hit blocks when a fellow wide-out catches a pass. There are also receivers who are lazy when it comes to blocking. Coaches hate that, which hurts a player's ability to be on the field in the red zone.

The best blocker in this 2015 NFL Draft is White. He is a tough blocker who can push defenders around and never hesitates to get physical. Cooper is a good blocker, too. He does well doing the dirty work.

Strong and Parker both have blocking potential. Of the two, Strong is better, and he uses his strength well. Parker should still be a quality blocker at the next level. Coates comes from a running offense and can contribute as a blocker.

Even though Smith isn't that big, he can get physical. He really fights for his blocks. Agholor and Dorsett can display a willing attitude and do pretty well, but blocking won't be either receiver's calling card in the NFL by any means.


NFL Picks - Oct. 24

2022 NFL Mock Draft - Oct. 20

NFL Power Rankings - Oct. 19

Fantasy Football Rankings - Sept. 8



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