With NFL Combine fast approaching on Tuesday in Indianapolis, NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah recently broke down his top five wide receivers to watch — and the player at the top of his countdown bucked the recent trend.
Despite winning the Fred Biletnikoff Award after a sensational senior season, Alabama’s Amari Cooper ranked second on his list. With 1,727 receiving yards on 124 receptions with 16 touchdowns, most experts have tabbed Cooper as the best all-around receiver in this year’s draft class.
Even though Cooper has the hardware to back up his on-field play, Jeremiah chose West Virginia’s Kevin White as his top receiver entering the combine.
“You saw [White] play Week 1 against Alabama and I thought he out-played Cooper in that game,” Jeremiah said.
Check out these photos of Amari Cooper, a hard-working and big-play capable wide receiver from the University of Alabama.
In the Crimson Tide’s 33-23 win over the Mountaineers inside the Georgia Dome on college football’s opening weekend, Cooper racked up 130 yards on 12 receptions while White responded with nine receptions, 143 yards and a touchdown of his own.
Throughout the season, the duo posted similar stats – White finished with 1,447 receiving yards on 109 receptions with 10 touchdowns – but Jeremiah views the big-bodied West Virginia-product as the more complete receiver.
“When you watch him throughout the season,” Jeremiah said, “you see somebody who’s 6-3, 210-pounds, that can jump, that can go up and get the football in the redzone, and you see somebody between the 20s that, after the catch, he’s so physical and strong and can run away from you.”
Even though Cooper led the NCAA in receptions, the NFL.com expert says he’s getting the feeling that people don’t respect the Alabama product's hands after he dropped three passes against LSU this past season. And while Jeremiah doesn’t see that as much of an issue, he admits that Cooper’s route-running is top-knotch.
“He is the best route-runner in this draft class,” he said. “You can play him inside, you can play him outside. He’s not the biggest guy in the world – he’s going to be about 6-1 – but he’s so smooth, so efficient at getting and out of his breaks.”
Ranked fourth on Jeremiah’s list is who he believes is a receiver that possesses the most raw talent in the class. Dorial Green-Beckham, who hasn’t seen the game-field in since 2013 with University of Missouri, has spent the past season with the Oklahoma Sooners, but was only able to play on the team’s practice squad.
In his last season before being dismissed from the Tigers, the 6-6, 225-pound receiver hauled in 59 receptions for 883 yards (15.0 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns. As long as he can prove to the NFL at the combine that his off-field antics are a thing of the past, Jeremiah said, Green-Beckham is first-round material.
“Dorial Green-Beckham might be the most talented receiver in this entire draft class,” he said. “When you watch him on tape from the year before at Missouri, he’s somebody that’s 6-5-plus, 230-pounds, can go up and get the football. … This guy is definitely a first-round pick and I’m anxious to see him in person.”
Check out these photos of DeVante Parker, a lengthy receiver with good hands from the University of Louisville.
Sandwiched in the middle of the group at number three is Louisville’s DeVante Parker. Despite missing the Cardinals’ first seven games with an injury, Parker totaled 43 receptions for 855 yards on five touchdowns, which put him on a pace to nearly double his receptions and yardage totals from his junior year.
As Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to guy before the quarterback headed for the NFL in 2014, Parker recorded 95 receptions for 1,692 yards and 22 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons combined.
And while it was ankle injury that curtailed his senior season, Jeremiah doesn’t believe that will slow him down in Indianapolis, nor does he think teams will shy away from taking a chance on the 6-3, 208-pound receiver.
“When you watch him, he’s kind of a long strider, so you don’t necessarily think he’s that fast, but I’ve been told he’s going to run in the high-4.3, low-4.4,” Jeremiah said. “He can jump. He’s going to jump close to 40-inches. He’s somebody, I think, that’s worthy of a top-15 pick.”
To round out his top five, Jeremiah selected the Ohio States Devin Smith. Fresh off a National Championship victory, Jeremiah expects the former Buckeye to be electrifying at the combine after the Massillon, Ohio, native recorded 931 yards on 33 receptions (28.2 yards-per-catch) with 12 touchdowns.
“It’s really close for that fifth receiver spot, but Devin Smith – a true vertical threat – he’s somebody that I think will put on a show in Indianapolis,” Jeremiah said. “I can’t wait to see him.”