Casual fans tend to turn off the NFL draft after the first round; some will stick around for the rest of the first day, but by Day Two the draft viewership is strictly hardcore fans. But there are plenty of diamonds in the rough as scouts and GMs mine for the next Tom Brady or Marques Colston.
Here are a few wide receivers expected to hear their name called on the second day of the draft but who have the potential to make the team that selects them look very smart for doing so.
Only two footballers had left Brigham Young early for the NFL prior to Austin Collie’s decision to do so following his junior campaign. Even though he had eligibility remaining, at 24 Collie will be old for a rookie due to two years spent on a Mormon mission. Collie’s game is certainly ready for prime time; he has good size at 6-1 and 200 pounds and is as savvy a route runner as there is in this year’s draft. He also has excellent hands and experience as a kick returner.
So why is Collie a Day Two prospect? Because he’s not a burner, with a 40 clocking in the mid 4.5s—though his game speed outshines his timed speed. Some scouts might also fear his advanced age, or worry that his productivity came in a spread offense and therefore is inflated. Maybe that means Collie settles into a role as a possession receiver, possibly working out of the slot. Plenty of receivers have made a career out of similar attributes, and Collie appears capable of stepping into the NFL and contributing from the outset.
Mike Thomas is another productive college receiver—during his stay at Arizona he set the Pac-10 career record for receptions—bumped to second-day consideration. Thomas is plenty fast (4.31 in the 40), but at 5-8 the NFL won’t look at him as anything more than a slot receiver and kick returner. No problem; those are two things Thomas does extremely well.
For starters, Thomas is a solid 5-8, 195 pounds and unafraid to go into traffic to make a catch. And as his success in the return game suggests, he has plenty of quickness and elusiveness to make something happen once he has the ball in his hands. Like Collie, Thomas should step immediately into a slot role in the NFL, with a significant upside to his potential productivity.
At the opposite end of the size spectrum is Ramses Barden, who at 6-6 and 229 pounds will be a load for any defensive back he encounters. Barden beat up lesser competition at Cal Poly, where he scored a touchdown in 20 straight games to break the record of another small school legend you may have heard of: Jerry Rice. Barden’s size has scouts looking to everyone from Sterling Sharpe to Vincent Jackson for comparisons, but while he wasn’t overmatched at postseason all-star games he didn’t separate himself from the pack, either.
Barden doesn’t have elite speed, though at his recent pro day he lowered his 40 time below 4.5 on many stopwatches. What he does offer is a big target, good hands, and a physical downfield blocker—a trait that, while it may not show up on fantasy score sheets, will definitely get him onto the field sooner and allow him to stay there in most situations.
Johnny Knox combines the small-school elements of Barden with the undersized-slot receiver pigeonholing of Thomas. However, the Abeline Christian product brings a blazing set of wheels to the table (4.29 in the 40 at the Combine) and could receive NFL looks as a deep threat. He also brings decent strength (at 5-11 and 185) and return skills to the table; moreover, he’s proven to be a willing and capable downfield blocker. In other words, he could stick on an NFL roster playing special teams while his offensive coordinator finds ways to put his speed to good use.
Thanks to his performance at the Combine as well as the Texas vs. the Nation postseason all-star game, Knox has moved from late-round afterthought to early Day Two consideration. His speed got him noticed, and his quickness and hands could allow him to contribute early on as a third or fourth receiver and special teams player.
Brandon Gibson nearly left Washington State for the NFL following his junior campaign; instead, he returned to the Cougars and suffered through a revolving door situation at quarterback and a 2-11 season as his stock fell from first-day prospect to Day Two afterthought. However, Gibson still appears to be on plenty of NFL radars; after suffering a hamstring injury at the Senior Bowl and not running at either the Combine or Washington State’s pro day, 15 scouts showed up for Gibson’s private workout a couple weeks ago.
It’s unlikely scouts saw anything they weren’t already aware of. Gibson doesn’t have blazing speed, but at 6-0 and 206 pounds he has the size to hold up to NFL defenders. He also has good hands, decent strength, experience in the return game, the toughness to go across the middle, and a willingness to block. In short, he’s a prototypical NFL possession receiver. While that may not be a sexy definition, nearly every team has one and if Gibson lands in the right situation he has the skills to turn such a role into a decent fantasy contributor.
Virginia’s Kevin Ogletree is both a college graduate and an early entry into the 2009 NFL Draft; he missed the 2007 season following a torn ACL and left an extra year of eligibility on the table to enter the draft. Not that his final year with the Cavaliers was extraordinary, though his 58 catches for 723 yards and five touchdowns surpassed his coming-out party of a sophomore season (52-582-4). But following the knee injury, as well as wrist surgery the previous year, and with a college degree in hand Ogletree was ready to get to the next level.
Ogletree has good size (6-1, 195 pounds) and familiarity with a pro style offense, something that’s becoming increasingly rare with the proliferation of spread offenses in college football. He has good hands, decent speed, and reads coverages well—which, along with football smarts and a solid work ethic, is sure to endear him to quarterbacks and allow him to carve out some playing time on Sundays.