2018 Draft: Pre-Combine, Top 10 Wide Receivers

My thoughts on the Raiders’ team needs, ranked, can be found below:

If you skimmed through the “team needs” piece above either now, or beforehand, you’ll notice that “wide receiver” is missing.

We can chalk that up to pure oversight on my end, in a sense, as I firmly believe that wide receiver is a need going into the 2018 offseason. In my defense, I shared my thoughts on the roster before then-head coach Jack Del Rio’s departure, and before the Jon Gruden buzz really picked up.

Whenever a new head coach is brought in, there is turnover. It’s just what happens. In this case, it’s somewhat “different” as Reggie McKenzie is still in the front office and retaining the general manager title. This roster was built by him, so it’ll be interesting to see where the lines are drawn, and what pieces they (the duo of McKenzie/Gruden) look to either move on from and upgrade, or keep around.

It goes without saying that Jon Gruden is an offensive-minded coach. Part of the attraction of returning to football, and the Raiders particular, was their young signal-caller Derek Carr.

Amari Cooper had an underwhelming season last year (injuries played a part we’re told, after the fact; funny how that works), and we’re not sure what’s going to happen with Michael Crabtree (does he want to be here, will his personality mesh with Gruden; these are all relevant questions). Outside of those two names, it’s bleak.

My hunch is that the new head coach is going to want to surround his $125 million dollar quarterback with as many weapons as possible going forward. There are options in free agency, but we could see another early wide receiver off the board with Gruden in charge.

Admittedly, I’ve struggled a bit with evaluating this 2018 wide receiver class. Outside of a couple of the options at the “top” that I keep revisiting, it’s very hard for me to clearly separate the talent in the middle. I shared some pre-Combine rankings a couple weeks ago at this point, and this list below is already going to look a lot different. I expect this same list to be jumbled around a bit more after Indianapolis, where we’ll surely have a handful of names slide up and down once the testing concludes.

I wish I had more confidence in these rankings at the moment, but here’s a rough idea of where my head is at:

1) D.J. Moore, Maryland

Age, and breakout age, phenom who checks boxes. One of the better wideout’s with the ball in his hands that I can remember in recent memory. Expect him to continue coasting through the Combine as well, with some solid scores.

I mean, if we’re being honest, he could probably make the jump to running back a la Ty Montgomery:

2) James Washington, Oklahoma State

Production during his time at Stillwater was nutty. I think his build is somewhat off-putting to folks, as it’s not what we’re used to seeing a wide receiver look like, let alone such a dynamic field-stretcher. He needs a big weekend in Indianapolis to ease a lot of concerns; Justis isn’t the only person asking these questions of him at the moment, right or wrong.

3) Dante Pettis, Washington

I’m not sure why Dante Pettis isn’t getting more buzz.

At the Husky Combine in 2016, he clocked a 4.39 forty with a 41″ vertical. Those numbers didn’t look quite the same in 2017 (4.4’s and a 39″ jump), but nobody should be questioning his athleticism. Rather, they should be taking notice, and driving him up boards where he belongs. All this will change after the Combine.

He’s good all over the field, at different levels, with the footwork to match. Impacts the game on special teams as well. He’s easily a top five receiver in this class (and one of the names I feel “good” about).

4) Auden Tate, Florida State

Gotta tout one big wideout, right? Kinda my thing.

Auden Tate might be this year’s premiere red zone target; natural hands-catcher who’s body control is elite. Played through a shoulder injury last season (you could see him laboring after some grabs), so you like the toughness. Once he gets going, you can just throw it up to him, but there are questions regarding just how quickly he can do that whole “get going” thing.

5) Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

He’s “just a slot receiver” to many, so he’s being largely ignored.

Former top recruit who loves the game from all that I’ve read and been told. Like Pettis, Kirk factors in on special teams as well where he’s electric at times. And like Moore, I like the Aggie a lot with the ball in his hands. “Quicker than fast”, per Lance Zierlein, and many share that same sentiment regarding Kirk’s general speed and athleticism. I expect him to make some money next week, personally.

6) Courtland Sutton, Southern Methodist

I was high, like the majority, on Courtland Sutton entering the season. He’s dropped from the top spot, but I think I can place him anywhere inside or just outside the top five and feel fine about it.

Hovering around 6’3″, 215, he’s another big (bigger) wide receiver that gets it done in the red zone. Coming off of back-to-back 1000 yard, double-digit touchdown seasons, the production was there.

In 2017, interestingly enough, it was Sutton’s teammate who had the slightly more productive campaign, causing some to question or even overlook the former’s body of work.

Seems to struggle off the line at times, and I’m not sure how fast he’ll run. That’s not really his game, but a productive weekend at the Combine will have many back onboard.

7) Korey Robertson, Southern Mississippi

One of the bigger risers on my (messy) board. Mr. Fusue Vue had it first, and KP’s got the co-sign now. Once I saw that, I had to circle back around myself. He feels like this year’s Kenny Golladay in terms of the “rise”. Play-styles are somewhat similar, too (albeit Golladay has a couple inches on Robertson).

With the Southern Mississippi prospect, what I keep coming back to his is strength; both when the ball is in the air, and in his hands. His work after the catch is up there with guys like D.J. Moore and Christian Kirk in this year’s class. Expect him to keep climbing.

8) Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Age matters, so I think it’s a little shortsighted not to take Calvin Ridley’s into account (as we did with Josh Doctson, and others). Older prospects may already be maxed out. They may already be producing at their ceilings. These are the basic arguments against older players, especially if they’re garnering early-round attention.

With that said, and in this class in particular, it’s also not fair to ignore Ridley’s body of work during his time at Alabama. He’s obviously polished at the line, and his route work is what you’d expect. He’s certainly not Amari Cooper coming out, but if you watch his feet, you’ll understand where that talk comes from.

Outside of age, I think there are concerns about his frame and strength at the catch-point, but not something that should keep him outside of the top ten.

9) DaeSean Hamilton, Pennsylvania State

Was there a wide receiver who made himself more cash at Mobile?

That’s what those events are all about, and it’s really cool to see players make names for themselves annually.

I, stubbornly enough, managed to ignore and even write-off Hamilton early on in the season. That was a mistake, as I think Skeeter Mills’ route-running ability may be the best this class has to offer (and I may still be too low on him at 9 as such).

10) Michael Gallup, Colorado State

He’s slid down the board over the past month or so. Much like Courtland Sutton, I’m not sure that’s necessarily an indictment on him, but rather, just how tight this group is talent-wise (especially as we move through the prospects outside of the top two or three).

What I like about Gallup is just how natural he is. Consistent threat, which was apparent when you checked the box scores and saw what we did out in the Mountain West. I’ve likened him to Anquan Boldin. PFF likes him a lot, for what that is worth:

Some of the more “notable” omissions are (in no particular order): Tre’Quan Smith, D.J. Chark, Equanimeous St. Brown, Jordan Lasley, J’Mon Moore, Deontay Burnett (and to a lesser extent, Cedrick Wilson, Marcell Ateman, and Javon Wims).

Catch me on Twitter: @StillRyanFive


1 thought on “2018 Draft: Pre-Combine, Top 10 Wide Receivers

  1. James Washington
    Michael Gallup
    TO me as a “OAKLAND RAIDERS” Fan, these are the (2) Best standouts in the draft. If we could get (1) out (2) would definitely be a (+)Plus for Jon Gruden and DC. But we need DB’s because the ones that we have now undoubtedly “SUCK”!!! But again, to acquire either one of these WIDE RECIEVERS would be in no doubt a Boost in the right direction for an “EXPLOSIVE” offensive and besides, this will take a lot of pressure off of A. Cooper!!

Comments are closed.