The wide receiver crop in this year’s draft may be the most interesting position to keep an eye on. The consensus No. 1 is Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, but beyond him each team is sure to have a different ranking for the rest of the top-tier prospects.
One of the players that’ll be in the mix for No. 2, and should be one of the top 10 receivers off the board, is Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-3, 209-pounder boasts 10.5-inch hands, which more than likely played a role in his 19 yards per catch average during his senior campaign. The cousin of Jerry Rice, Matthews is touted for his size, hand-eye coordination, and his ability to haul in tough catches.
NFL.com draft analyst Charles Smith points out that Matthews excelled in the SEC, was a critical part of Vanderbilt’s resurrection, and more often than not, the receiver didn’t get the recognition he was probably due. Matthews finished fourth among FBS-qualifying receivers in terms of yardage (1,477), which was better than the aforementioned Watkins, and did so without the help of an elite quarterback throwing him passes.
Matthews was lined up in numerous spots on the field because of the mismatches he created, and some scouts believe he will be ready to contribute right away as a rookie. He’s drawn comparisons to Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts, as well as Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos.
But other scouts remain skeptical about whether Matthews’ skill-set will transition to the professional ranks. CBS Sports draft analyst Rob Rang called Matthews a better football player than athlete due to concerns about his speed and route-running ability, and how that’ll affect his ability to line up against NFL defensive backs.
Matthews is the fifth-rated wideout by Sports Illustrated, the eighth by CBS Sports, and ninth by ESPN. For the most part, he’s expected to land sometime in the second round.
Teams in need of help at wideout include the Washington Redskins (No. 34), Oakland Raiders (No. 36), Minnesota Vikings (No. 40), Buffalo Bills (No. 41), Detroit Lions (No. 45), New York Jets (No. 49), San Francisco 49ers (No. 56) and Carolina Panthers (No. 60).
The Skins need another receiving threat opposite of Pierre Garcon, while Oakland needs help period. Vikings’ rookie Cordarrelle Patterson emerged onto the scene late, but if they’re going to groom a new quarterback, he’ll need more capable weapons. The Bills drafted Robert Woods last year, but it can’t hurt to give E.J. Manuel more tools. The Lions need to find more talent around Calvin Johnson. The Jets may be parting ways with Santonio Holmes and former first-rounder Stephen Hill hasn’t developed as expected. Contenders San Fran and Carolina both need to add weapons for their young, talented quarterbacks.