With the NFL on the precipice of what could be the decade of the pass, it's not a surprise that quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are garnering the bulk of the draft headlines.
Quarterbacks can't make it happen without pass-catchers, however, so let's take a closer look at what the metrics have to say about the top 10 wide receivers in this year's draft.
Each wideout was ranked in the following categories: age, height, weight, 40-yard dash time, overall yards per attempt (YPA), short pass yards per attempt (SYPA), vertical yards per attempt (VYPA) and stretch vertical yards per attempt (SVYPA). (Note: Short passes are aerials thrown 10 yards or less downfield; vertical passes travel 11 or more yards; stretch verticals are thrown 20 or more yards. Each player's metrics are based on a tape review of a minimum of nine 2011 contests against BCS conference-caliber opponents.)
The players' rankings in each category were then tabulated on a 1-10 scale with the best score getting a rating of 1. The category rankings were then added up and are listed under the ranking points heading (with a lower score being better).
Now that we have the prelims out of the way, let's take a look at how the rankings turned out.
1. Stephen Hill
Birth date: May 1, 1990 (21 years old) Height/weight: 6-foot-4, 215 pounds 40-yard dash time: 4.36 YPA: 12.0 (43 targets) SYPA: 4.0 (13 targets) VYPA: 15.5 (30 targets) SVYPA: 17.2 (22 targets)
Ranking points: 27
Hill is highly rated on many draft boards, but a combination of factors puts him at the top of this ranking chart, factors including his showings in YPA (first), VYPA (second), height (first), 40 time (first) and birth date (third). There is every reason to think he could be just as explosive in the NFL as Georgia Tech predecessor Demaryius Thomas has been, but without the nagging injury issues that have held Thomas back.
2. Rueben Randle
Birth date: May 7, 1991 (20 years old) Height/weight: 6-3, 210 40-yard dash: 4.55 YPA: 10.7 (70 targets) SYPA: 7.2 (38 targets) VYPA: 14.7 (32 targets) SVYPA: 18.6 (17 targets)
Ranking points: 31
Randle ranked in the top four in every YPA category and did so in an offense piloted by Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson, two quarterbacks who were so limited that the LSU offensive coaching brain trust never did let them cut loose in the passing game. He also posted these numbers against SEC-caliber competition. Randle is also the second-tallest wideout of this group and is easily the youngest (no other player was born in 1991).
3. Jarius Wright
Birth date: Nov. 25, 1989 (22 years old) Height/weight: 5-10, 182 40-yard dash: 4.42 YPA: 10.9 (88 targets) SYPA: 6.5 (50 targets) VYPA: 16.7 (38 targets) SVYPA: 19.0 (23 targets)
Ranking points: 38
Wright's speed (he ranked third in the 40-yard dash category) was the primary reason he topped this group in VYPA and was third in SVYPA. He does have some potential roadblocks in that he is the second-lightest and fourth-shortest wide receiver in this comparison, but he did post these figures against SEC-caliber competition, so the positives well outweigh the negatives.
4 (tie). A.J. Jenkins
Birth date: Nov. 8, 1990 (21 years old) Height/weight: 6-0, 190 pounds 40-yard dash: 4.39 YPA: 9.4 (102 targets) SYPA: 6.0 (60 targets) VYPA: 14.3 (42 targets) SVYPA: 16.3 (27 targets)
Ranking points: 44
The main issue in Jenkins' relatively low-ranking points total is that he's here because he ranked second in both the 40-yard dash and age categories. He ranked no higher than fifth in any of the YPA categories, and those numbers were actually skewed by the 90 yards he gained against blown coverages last year. Jenkins is also the third-shortest and third-lightest wideout in this analysis. Put it all together and he might not be as good as the overall points suggest.
4 (tie). Kendall Wright
Birth date: Nov. 12, 1989 (22 years old) Height/weight: 5-10, 196 40-yard dash: 4.61 YPA: 11.4 (100 targets) SYPA: 8.1 (55 targets) VYPA: 15.4 (45 targets) SVYPA: 20.7 (19 targets)
Ranking points: 44
Wright ranked third or higher in every YPA category but still has a few concerns. A review of Griffin's numbers showed that his vertical metrics were actually better on passes to other Baylor receivers than they were on passes to Wright, so Wright may have benefited more from RG3 than vice versa. Wright is also the shortest and slowest wideout of this group (though he plays faster than his 40 time), as well as the second-oldest and fourth-lightest.
6 (tie). Justin Blackmon
Birth date: Jan. 9, 1990 (22 years old) Height/weight: 6-1, 207 40-yard dash time: 4.46 YPA: 9.0 (139 targets) SYPA: 8.1 (85 targets) VYPA: 10.6 (54 targets) SVYPA: 8.9 (20 targets)
Ranking points: 47
Blackmon is rated first on nearly every wide receiver draft list, but check out his multitude of negatives. He ranked seventh in YPA, eighth in VYPA and dead last in SVYPA of this group. He is in the middle of the pack in height and weight (sixth in both categories), and his 40-yard dash time ranked fourth.
Blackmon's 2011 totals were much worse than his 2010 totals, and the rest of the Oklahoma State pass-catchers had numbers that were roughly equal to Blackmon's this past year. He was kept in check when covered by Texas Longhorns star cornerback Carrington Byndom this past season and, as good as Byndom is, the NFL will give Blackmon that caliber of competition in nearly every game.
6 (tie). Michael Floyd
Birth date: Nov. 27, 1989 (22 years old) Height/weight: 6-3, 220 40-yard dash: 4.47 YPA: 7.3 (136 targets) SYPA: 7.1 (87 targets) VYPA: 7.8 (49 targets) SVYPA: 9.6 (30 targets)
Ranking points: 47
Floyd, in many ways, had by far the most disappointing set of numbers in this entire analysis. He ranked dead last in YPA and VYPA and was next to last in SVYPA. The only saving graces for him were his showings in height (ranked second) and weight (ranked first). When his incredibly low on-field production levels are added to the multiple off-field issues he had in his Notre Dame career, it means he brings a ton of risk to whatever team ends up drafting him.
6 (tie). Marvin McNutt
Birth date: July 4, 1989 (22 years old) Height/weight: 6-3, 216 40-yard dash: 4.54 YPA: 9.5 (99 targets) SYPA: 6.3 (55 targets) VYPA: 13.5 (44 targets) SVYPA: 9.8 (16 targets)
Ranking points: 47
The quandary in analyzing McNutt is that there really wasn't an area he excelled in. His best ranking in the YPA totals was fifth and his rankings got worse the further downfield the passes were thrown (seventh in VYPA, eighth in SVYPA). He has favorable height and weight (second in both categories), but he ranked seventh in the 40-yard dash and is the oldest wideout in this comparison.
9. Alshon Jeffery
Birth date: Feb. 14, 1990 (22 years old) Height/weight: 6-3, 216 40-yard dash: 4.51 YPA: 7.9 (69 targets) SYPA: 5.6 (29 targets) VYPA: 9.5 (40 targets) SVYPA: 12.6 (23 targets)
Ranking points: 48
Jeffery's backers might point out that his low rankings in the YPA totals (ninth in three categories) were a direct result of the quarterbacking woes that beset the South Carolina offense this past season.
The problem in taking that tack is that the Gamecocks' four leading underclassmen pass-catchers last season tallied a composite 9.8 YPA that was nearly two yards higher than Jeffery's. South Carolina's field generals certainly didn't help Jeffery, but if he was truly an elite receiver he would have posted better totals.
10. Joe Adams
Birth date: Nov. 22, 1989 (22 years old) Height/weight: 5-11, 179 40-yard dash: 4.55 YPA: 8.5 (52 targets) SYPA: 5.7 (35 targets) VYPA: 14.2 (17 targets) SVYPA: 21.1 (7 targets)
Ranking points: 59
Adams' No. 1 ranking in SVYPA is more than offset by his subpar performance in overall YPA (ranked eighth), SYPA (eighth), height (ninth), weight (10th), 40-yard dash time (ninth) and age (ninth).
[ Edited by kronik on Apr 3, 2012 at 3:23 PM ]