2008 NFL Draft - Ranking The Receivers

Posted Apr 9, 2008

The 2008 class of NFL receiver prospects is very deep, but it's not top heavy. Who's really the best prospect? Cal's DeSean Jackson? Indiana's James Hardy? Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly? CFN ranks the top 50 prospects with the deep sleeper and most overrated and underrated players.

2008 NFL Draft Position Rankings
The Wide Receivers

Rankings & Breakdowns
Top 50 Players - 1 to 25 |
Top 50 Players - 26 to 50 | Quarterbacks
Running Backs |
Wide Receivers | Tight Ends | Offensive Tackles  
Offensive Guards |
Centers | Defensive Ends | Defensive Tackles    
Linebackers |
Safeties | Cornerbacks | Punters & Kickers  

By Pete Fiutak

The Class Is ... Loaded with No. 2s, weak on No. 1s. There's almost no difference between the top 10-to-12 prospects. There's no Braylon Edwards, Larry Fitzgerald of Calvin Johnson to revolve an entire passing game around, but there are a ton of excellent secondary targets who'll flourish next to a star.

The Best Value Pick Will Be ... James Hardy, Indiana

Most Underrated ... Andre Caldwell, Florida

Most Overrated ... Limas Sweed, Texas

The Deep, Deep Sleeper Is .. Pierre Garcon, Mt. Union


1. Malcolm Kelly, WR Oklahoma
While Kelly has the look of a No. 1 receiver and he should grow into the role, he has a ceiling. A hard one. Without the high-end speed needed to be a star, he'll have to use his great size to be a physical target who outjumps and outmuscles his way for the ball. He's tough, isn't afraid to take a shot or two, and can make some moves in the open field, but he could potentially be shut down cold by the fastest NFL corners. He still needs a little bit of coaching to improve his technique and there's a knee injury that's a bit of a concern, but if someone can light the fire, he'll be the steadiest, surest receiver prospect. He just might not be the most spectacular.
CFN Projection: Late First Round

2. James Hardy, WR Indiana
The receiver call of the draft. A total mellonhead at times in his Indiana career, he had a variety of off-the-field issues early in his career, and while he's supposedly a changed man, there will always be that question mark. However, most star NFL receivers haven't exactly been choir boys. Hardy isn't going to blaze past anyone and will have problems when matched up against a physical lock-down corner, but at 6-6 and 215 pounds with tremendous leaping skills and a nose for the end zone, he could be a killer goal line option on jump ball. More than anything else, he made plays. There's no projecting on what his could do, like a Limas Sweed; Hardy produced.
CFN Projection:
Second Round


3. Devin Thomas, WR Michigan State
One of the biggest boom-or-bust picks of the draft, Thomas only produced for one year after coming to MSU from the JUCO ranks. He has decent size, excellent speed, and great moves in the open field. In a draft full of NFL No. 2 receivers, Thomas is the one who could be a No. 1 if everything works out. He has the make-up, the deep speed, and the toughness to revolve a passing game around. However, and it's a huge however, he needs the right coaching and a lot of breaking in. He might not be ready to star right away, he'll need some polish to his route running and he needs to prove he can handle the responsibility of being the guy, but the sky's the limit.
CFN Projection: Late First To Second Round

4. Jordy Nelson, WR Kansas State
Ultra-productive in his senior year no matter who covered him or what any defense tried to do, Nelson blew up into an unstoppable machine any time he touched the ball. While he's not going to blow past anyone and he's not as physical as his size might show, but he has functional speed and can separate when needed. Outside of a serious injury, there's no bust potential whatsoever. He plays hurt, has nice hands, and can be used in a variety of ways. He'll have a ten-year career as a complimentary receiver. If he goes to a team with a star No. 1, he'll be outstanding.

CFN Projection:
Second To Third Round

5. Mario Manningham, WR Michigan
While he hasn't timed like an elite blazer, he's been more than fast enough, hovering just under the 4.5 range, to be called a speed receiver. He's certainly not a physical one. Extremely thin, he can be bounced around a big and he isn't going to push anyone around. While he needs more work than many might believe as a route runner and in some basic techniques, he's ready to contribute right away if he's not forced to be a No. 1 target. He's a big play, big game receiver who never shied away from the big moment, and while he's a bit of a diva, the great NFL receivers usually are.

CFN Projection: Late First To Early Second Round

6. Andre Caldwell, WR Florida
One of the toughest calls among the receivers, Bubba has good size, phenomenal speed, and was a dynamic playmaker at times throughout his record-setting Florida career. How much are scouts scared off by the broken leg suffered a few years ago? He might not have the elite skills to blossom into a star of any sort, but he's tough, isn't going to worry about taking a hit, and he can flat-out move either on deep balls or on short routes to rack up big yards after the catch.

CFN Projection: Second Round

Limas Sweed, WR Texas
Outside of the wrist injury that cost him most of last year, he has it all. Tremendous size, good enough speed, and fantastic athleticism, he looks the part of a receiver to build a passing game around. He's not a receiver to build a passing game around. Too streaky and not a dominant player at any time at the collegiate level, he was simply above-average, never special. To compare him to a similar sized Longhorn receiver, Sweed isn't as fast as Roy Williams and isn't even in the same league when it comes to home run hitting potential. He'll work his tail off and will be a very productive ten-year pro, but while there's no real downside, it'll take a special set of circumstances to be a star.
CFN Projection: Late First To Second Round

8. DeSean Jackson, WR California
If you're asking Jackson to be a star target to revolve an NFL offense around, he's not going to be it. If you're asking him to go deep five times a game to clear out the safeties and have a gaudy yard-per-catch average, he's your guy. Make him a No. 2 or No. 3 target against a relatively slow defensive back and he'll hit home run after home run. The problem is his size. He's never going to be big, he's always going to be too thin, and he's not going to be a smallish physical receiver, like a Steve Smith. Banged up at times, he was a major disappointment in 2007; he didn't make the Cal offense better. Still, his blinding speed and electrifying return skills make him a fun weapon to have in the arsenal.

CFN Projection: Late First To Second Round

9. Earl Bennett, WR Vanderbilt
Bennett faced the best of the best defensive backs in the SEC and still produced becoming the league's all-time leading receiver in fewer than three years. While he was great with Jay Cutler throwing to him, he put up even better numbers working with far less talented passers. Not a blazer, he's more quick than fast with great hands that snags everything that comes his way; he made his Vanderbilt quarterbacks better, including Cutler. He'll be erased at times by the speedier NFL corners, but he'll flourish as a complementary target.

CFN Projection: Mid-Second To Third Round

Dexter Jackson, WR Appalachian State
Unreal speed, he cranked out a 4.36 to build on the brewing buzz building after the Michigan win. Stronger and more physical than his size, he won't be afraid to take a hit and is more than quick enough to avoid tacklers on the move. Just get him the ball in a variety of ways and let him go to work. The problem will be his size at 5-9 and 182 pounds. He's not going to block anyone and he'll get shoved around by the stronger NFL corners. Even so, he'll be a killer slot receiver if he's not the focal point of a passing game.
CFN Projection: Mid-Second To Third Round

11. Early Doucet, WR LSU
Before his senior season he was considered to be in the running for the honor of being the top receiver taken in the draft. While he was fine, he didn't take the next step up needed to show he could be a major NFL producer. While he's compact and strong, and he's not afraid to block or do the dirty work, he's not a deep threat and will disappear for long stretches at the next level. He'll never be a prime target and he can't change anyone's passing game by himself, but he could be a whale of an inside possession receiver if used correctly. He's the type of unselfish receiver you want to have as a No. 3, but he lacks the superstar streak the truly great ones possess.

CFN Projection: Mid-Second To Third Round

12. William Franklin, WR Missouri
Lost a bit in the overall receiver shuffle because he didn't put up huge scoring numbers at Mizzou, that wasn't his role. He was a deep threat while the Tigers liked to throw to the tight ends, and he did his job very well. Wit sub-4.4 wheels and great athleticism, he'll look the part of a star from time to time, but he'll get beaten up by the stronger corners and he needs a lot of work to be anything more than a fly pattern receiver. He is what he is. Send him deep and hope for a big play or two a game.

CFN Projection: Mid-Third To Fourth Round

13. Donnie Avery, WR Houston
A slight disappointment at the Combine, he was fast, but he didn't put up the blazing sub-4.4 time expected. That could be seen as a slight positive; that means he just played really, really fast. He's a gamebreaker and a polished deep runner who can blow by any corner who doesn't get a jam right away. He'll have to work on some basic mechanics and his hands are questionable, but he's not pretending to be the next Wes Welker; he's a long-ball hitter.

CFN Projection: Mid-Second To Third Round

14. Eddie Royal, WR Virginia Tech
An attractive prospect because of his return ability as much as his receiving skills, he never really blew up as a college target, but that was because Virginia Tech wasn't exactly Texas Tech when it came to throwing the ball. He has good speed, but not elite wheels, and he's not big enough to take any sort of a pounding across the middle. He'll bust his tail to find a role somewhere and could eventually become a nice option in the slot. He'll be an underwhelming No. 2 but a great No. 3

CFN Projection: Mid-Third To Fourth Round

15. Jerome Simpson, WR Coastal Carolina
With great hands, good enough size, and O.K. speed, he looks the part of a regular starting NFL receiver. A little too thin and not a polished or disciplined route runner, he's hardly a sure-thing and he'll need a lot of coaching and work. However, there's upside. He'll work to be better and he'll make plays with the ball in his hands, but he's not going to be a deep threat and he's not going to carry anyone's passing game. He'll be a sure-handed third down target who could quickly become a quarterback's best friend.

CFN Projection: Mid-Third To Fourth Round

Josh Morgan, WR Virginia Tech
With a great size/speed combination he has the tools to become a sleeper who comes up with a productive ten-year career as a third or fourth receiver. He was never used enough at Virginia Tech, but he didn't always do well when he was forgotten about and disappeared at times. Basically, he went to the wrong school. Had he been a featured No. 1 receiver with all the attention that comes with it, he would've been a college superstar. While his numbers improved over his career, he never made the jump from good to fantastic. That could quickly change in the pros.
CFN Projection: Mid-Third To Fourth Round

17. Marcus Smith, WR New Mexico
With a good combination of size and speed, he's a nice all-around prospect who can make plays deep and also make things happen on short to intermediate routes. While he wasn't quite the deep threat as a senior he was as a junior, he was more reliable, caught 38 more passes, and produced against the better defensive backs when he had a shot. He'll need to be in the right system and in the right situation to stick around, but there's a good chance he could grow into a special teams/third receiver role.

CFN Projection: Fifth Round

18. Anthony Alridge, WR Houston
The former running back is smaller than your kid, but he's the ultimate gamebreaker. A flashy running back who averaged over ten yards per carry as a junior and 6.2 yards per pop as a senior, he can be used in a variety of ways including return specialist and as a part time running back. He'll be a novelty as a wide receiver and will have to carve out a niche, but his speed will always get him a long look from several teams.

CFN Projection: Fifth Round

Kenneth Moore, WR Wake Forest
The former running back turned into an ultra-productive receiver in a non-passing offense. Despite being the focus of every secondary, he still caught 98 passes for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns with a few monster games when he caught everything in sight. He still needs some work to be a pro level route runner and he could use some overall fine-tuning, but he could become a very nice possession receiver who keeps the chains moving.
CFN Projection: Fourth Round


20. D.J. Hall, WR Alabama
An ultra-productive college player who never got his national due, he should be a productive pro in a rotation. Tall, thin, and not as fast as he played at Alabama, he doesn't really fit. He's not fast enough to be a speed receiver on the outside, and he's not physical enough to be a star on the inside. However, he produced in the SEC on a regular basis. He's just a player, even if he doesn't appear to be the prototype.

CFN Projection: Fourth Round To Fifth Round

21. Davone Bess, WR Hawaii
One of the stars of the Hawaii passing show, former head coach June Jones once called Bess the best receiver he ever coached. With fantastic hands and tremendous quickness, he'll fit in for anyone looking for a short to midrange possession receiver. His problem will be the measurables. He's only 5-9 and 194 pounds and was timed at a painfully slow 4.76.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round

22. Mario Urrutia, WR Louisville
A disappointment considering what he could've been, the 6-5, 229 pounder cranked out 21.5 yards per catch and seven scores as a freshman and had Brian Brohm throwing to him. He was fine as a sophomore, but couldn't endear himself to the new coaching staff as a junior. He needed to stay for another year to boost his stock.

CFN Projection: Fifth Round To Sixth Round

23. Adarius Bowman, WR Oklahoma State
Extremely physical at 6-3 and 223 pounds, he should be a fantastic H-Back or a smallish second tight end. He's just too slow to be a regular wide receiver, but he's strong enough and tough enough to make the tough catches as a good third option. While he was productive over his last two years at OSU, after transferring from North Carolina, reputation-wise he's living off one monster half against Kansas in 2006.

CFN Projection: Fourth Round

24. Lavelle Hawkins, WR California
He needed to time off the charts, and he barely ran under 4.6. He picked up the slack at times when DeSean Jackson was underachieving, but he was most effective as a number two target in the slot. He's not a good enough athlete, and he's not big enough, to be a regular, but he could stick as a kick returner and a fourth receiving option.

CFN Projection: Fifth Round To Sixth Round

25. Pierre Garcon, WR Mount Union
At around 6-0 and 210 pounds with 4.4 speed, he has the measureables to merit a long look. He's tough, plays fast, and isn't afraid to block. While he'll need work to become an NFL receiver, and only produced against D-III competition, he might be worth the time and effort. However, he's at least two years from playing on offense; he needs to make an early mark on special teams.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round

26. Harry Douglas, WR Louisville
It's all about his return ability. While he's very tough and he proved he could be a No. 1 receiver at the collegiate level, he's not big enough or fast enough to be more than a No. 3 on anyone's offense. However, he could blossom as a kick and punt returner. Even though he's tough as nails, he'll get beaten up by NFL defensive backs

CFN Projection: Sixth Round

27. Keenan Burton, WR Kentucky
Tall, fast, and productive, he showed flashes of big-play talent throughout his college career, Durability is an issue and he doesn't use his speed well enough; he plays slower than he actually is. However, if he's in the right system and he's asked to be a backup, occasional No. 3, and emergency No. 2, he could hang around the league for a little while.

CFN Projection: Sixth Round

28. Adrian Arrington, WR Michigan
At 6-2 and 202 pounds with 4.58 speed, he has a good size/speed ratio and he looks the part of an NFL receiver. Very physical, he'll block, make catches in traffic, and will beat up smaller defensive backs. However, he's not a natural receiver and he doesn't use his speed to his advantage. He also has off-the-field character issues to get past.

CFN Projection: Fifth Round To Sixth Round

Jabari Arthur, WR Akron
The former quarterback turned into one of the MAC's best receivers. Huge at 6-3 and 227 pounds with decent 4.6 speed, he's an intriguing prospect who could be the deep sleeper of the receiver class. While he's not a great blocker, he uses his size to outmuscle defensive backs. For some reason he's not on the radar, but he has the upside to potentially be a nice No. 3 receiver.
CFN Projection:
Sixth Round To Free Agent

30. Paul Hubbard, WR Wisconsin
He looks the part and he should've been a major factor in the Badger offense, but he wasn't. An elite all-around athlete with sub-4.6 speed in a 6-3, 221-pound frame, he was a track star for Wisconsin excelling mostly at the triple jump and the long jump. He's not a natural receiver, but if someone wants to put in the time and the investment and work on him for a year, he has the tools to be a nightmare of a mismatch for most defensive backs.

CFN Projection:
Sixth Round To Free Agent

31. Arman Shields, WR Richmond
Eyes open up when you run a 4.41. One of the quickest most productive prospects at the Combine, he showed he could cut on a dime, run as well as anyone, and put up the kind of numbers many of the top ten receiver prospects would love to have. He hurt his knee in college and we never an ultra-productive player, even at the lower level. He'll have to find a niche on special teams and he'll have to something special early in training camp to stick around.

CFN Projection:
Sixth Round

32. Darius Reynaud, WR West Virginia
While he would've benefited from a senior season, no one was shocked that he came out early. Undersized, his game is all about quickness and being elusive. For his size, he's a tough target who'll block and will get down and dirty; he's not just a home run hitter. He's not a pro-caliber receiver in terms of skills and technique, and he'll need coaching and development which he likely won't get unless he does something special early in practices.

CFN Projection:
Sixth Round To Free Agent

33. Kevin Robinson, WR Utah State
A return man. One of the great returners in the history of college football, Robinson was the lone bright spot on some woeful Utah State teams. At just under six feet and 200 pounds, he has decent size, but he's slowwwwww. Like around 4.8 slow, mainly because he bulked up before the off-season workouts. He can be used as a slot receiver, but he'll have to make it on special teams.

CFN Projection:
Sixth Round To Free Agent

34. Dorien Bryant, WR Purdue
One of the Big Ten's all-time great all-around producers, even if no one knows who he is, Bryant was a reception machine who'll need to become a returner to make it in the NFL. He's very quick and could be a good slot receiver if he becomes better at hanging on to the ball, but he's not a gamebreaker and he isn't a scorer. Again, his career will be made or broken on special teams.

CFN Projection:
Sixth Round To Free Agent


Maurice Purify, WR Nebraska
36. Marcus Henry, WR Kansas
37. Mark Bradford, WR Stanford
38. Ryan Grice-Mullen, WR Hawaii
39. Chaz Schillens, WR San Diego State
40. Darnell Jenkins, WR Miami
41. Marcus Monk, WR Arkansas
42. Brandon Breazell, WR UCLA
43. Marcell Reece, WR Washington
44. Todd Blythe, WR Iowa State
45. Steve Johnson, WR Kentucky
46. Travis Brown, WR New Mexico
47. Lance Leggett, WR Miami
48. Ed Williams, WR Lane
49. Keith Brown, WR Alabama
50. Taj Smith, WR Syracuse