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Williams tops strong WR class

4/14/2004

Here is how ESPN.com rates the top 12 wide receiver prospects in the draft:

  • Roy Williams (Texas)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-2½, 212 pounds, 4.44 in the 40, and 39 ½-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Played in 48 games and started 40, finishing his career with 241 catches for 3,866 yards and 36 touchdowns. Set school and conference records with 17 outings with 100 yards or more. Had NCAA-record streak of 47 straight games with at least one reception and had four or more catches in a game 39 times.
    Upside: Incredible combination of size, speed and playmaking skills. With exception of some questions about durability, has everything you want in the New Age wide receiver. Fluid route runner and explodes out of cuts to gain separation. Can use his frame to ward off defenders trying to come through him. Will drive back corners and then naturally work back to the ball. Good change of direction skills, doesn't have to throttle down to make cuts, can hurdle would-be tacklers. Will extend himself and lay out for the tough catch. Huge target and will take the ball at its apex. Simply an explosive player with the ability to turn games around from any point on the field.
    Downside: So good that things come easily and he will allow his concentration to lapse at times. A willing blocker but has to stay with plays and remain engaged with defenders at the second level. For a guy who loves to run the "post," not as good in general coming over the middle.
    The dish: Might have been the top wideout in the 2003 draft had he opted to leave school but he'll still get his reward. Not quite the second coming of Randy Moss, but a big-time player who should make a fairly quick impact.

  • Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-2 7/8, 225 pounds, 4.48 in the 40, and 35-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Won the Walter Camp Player of the Year award in 2003 along with the Biletnikoff Award, and was named a unanimous All-American choice. Despite playing only two seasons for the Panthers, ranks third in school history for receptions and his 34 touchdown catches are a Pitt record. The only player in school history to record a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and his 14 games with 100-plus yards are also a record. Posted 161 receptions for 2,677 yards and 34 touchdowns. Had at least one touchdown catch in an NCAA-record 18 straight contests. Started in 24 of 26 appearances.
    Upside: Exceptional hand-eye coordination and body control, makes even the tough adjustment to the ball seem natural, and acrobatic catches are routine. Long arms and huge hands, will go up and just snatch the ball away from defenders, wins just about every jump-ball in which he is involved. Attacks corners and pushes them off with good initial burst, makes sharp cuts, always comes back to the ball. Tremendous economy of motion and won't make any missteps. Big frame and knows how to uncover and sink to present quarterback with optimum target. Just seems to get natural separation, especially in the "red zone," where he loves to run the corner route. Changes direction well and a strong runner after the catch. Superb on double-move routes and knows how to set up a defender. Lots of football knowledge from having been around the Minnesota Vikings as a ball boy and being befriended by wideouts Cris Carter and Randy Moss. Great character and work ethic.
    Downside: Lacks top-end speed and not elusive after the catch. Will sometimes allow the corner to get up underneath him coming off the line and will have to refine his release on some of his routes.
    The dish: Might not have elite speed but catches everything near him. A bigger version of Cris Carter and should be a top five selection.

  • Mike Williams (Southern California)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4 5/8, 228 pounds, 4.55 in the 40, and 37-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Played only two college seasons and appeared in 26 games with 15 starts. Had 176 catches for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdown grabs. Despite short tenure, ranks second in Pac 10 history for touchdown catches. Rushed five times for 35 yards and completed all three pass attempts for 57 yards and one touchdown. Took advantage of the Maurice Clarett court decision to enter draft after NFL extended eligibility deadline.
    Upside: Physical specimen who can muscle himself to a spot on the field, plant in the open area, and keep defenders away from his body. Opens himself up as a nice target. Very nice "late" hands to snatch the ball and has the kind of finishing burst that creates separation at the critical part of the route. Has really improved footwork over the past year, dramatically shortened his stride, and routes are much sharper now. Jumps well and his size creates plenty of mismatches anyway. Good power and balance and tough runner after the catch. Can make the one-handed snag.
    Downside: Still occasionally falls into the habit of rounding off his breaks. Does not have great deep speed, more effective working up the seam than the sideline, and won't get a lot of separation on the "nine" route. A bit of a "body catcher" who gets lazy and allows the ball to get too close to him instead of grabbing it out in front. Weight has been a big concern in the past and some teams fret he may grow into a tight end in two years.
    The dish: The skeptics point to a fairly mundane 40-time, but how fast did they expect a guy this big to run, really? There are scenarios that could drop him toward the middle of the first round but almost certainly the third wide receiver off the board.

  • Rashaun Woods (Oklahoma State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-2 1/8, 202 pounds, 4.51 in the 40, and 39-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Four-year starter who resisted the temptation last spring to forego his final season of eligibility. Started in 44 of his 48 appearances and had 293 receptions for 4,414 yards and 42 touchdowns. Holds virtually every school and conference receiving record. Only player in school history to record three seasons with 1,000 receiving yards. Set an NCAA record with seven touchdown catches in one game. Returned 29 punts for 329 yards and a touchdown.
    Upside: Four-year starter with rare experience, seems to have picked up some nuance of the game every year, consistently productive over course of career. Nice frame, looks like a prototypical West Coast-style wideout, strong through the shoulders and enough power to force himself through most "press" coverages. Spatially aware and seems to understand where everyone is on the field and where the voids exist in the secondary. Plays with the kind of vision usually inherent to tailbacks. Good runner after the catch. Superior leaper and not afraid of a crowd. Very willing blocker who seems to enjoy contact.
    Downside: Doesn't have superior top-end speed, or sudden acceleration, and corners will back off and sit on his deep routes. Most effective working between the hashes and isn't a consistent vertical threat.
    The dish: Shouldn't be stereotyped as possession receiver but doesn't have the big-play skills of the top three wideouts. That said, he is very polished, and is coming off of a splendid offseason. Could get into the first round, certainly no worse than a high pick in the second stanza.

  • Michael Clayton (LSU)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-2 ¾ , 209 pounds, 4.54 in the 40, and 32 ½-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Registered 182 catches for 2,582 yards and a school-record 21 touchdowns. Ranks No. 4 on the school's all-time receptions list. An All-SEC selection in 2003. Standout special teams player early in career and had 36 tackles on punt and kickoff coverage units.
    Upside: Precise route-runner who, despite lack of speed, deceptively eats up the cushion on unsuspecting cornerbacks and then is on top of them. Not only sharp in his cuts, but just always seems able to shorten his steps and break off his route at the optimum moment without any loss of speed. Loves to run the "post" pattern. Knows how to get, and to maintain, position in the secondary, even in tight spaces. Nice, loose hips, superb change of direction skills. Strong enough in the upper body to shuck cornerbacks and get a viable release off the line. Great competitor who always wants the ball at crunch time. An enthusiastic blocker who will at least stay with defenders deep upfield. Hard worker.
    Downside: Lacks explosive, second-level speed, and will go through slumps because he gets frustrated when people play off him. Doesn't attack the ball aggressively sometimes in the middle of the field. Not a great leaper.
    The dish: A far better football player than an athlete. Plays a lot faster than his stopwatch time. Could be the fourth receiver chosen, most teams have him in the first round, while a few others are wary of his speed shortcomings.

  • Michael Jenkins (Ohio State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4½, 218 pounds, 4.39 in the 40, and 35-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Ranks eighth in Big 10 history in receptions and third at Ohio State. In 51 appearances and 38 starts, totaled 165 receptions for 2,898 yards and 16 touchdowns. Finished career with a streak of at least one catch in 38 consecutive games. Returned 21 punts for an average of 9.0 yards and one touchdown.
    Upside: Muscular body, great build overall, and surprised scouts with a blistering time on his recent "pro day." Can kick it into high gear, and run away from defenders, in a blink. Has the strength to break tackles. Naturally soft hands and catches the ball out in front. Well coordinated and has improved route-running. Good jumper and attacks the ball. Will go fearlessly over the middle and his size creates advantages over most defenders. Excellent, sure-handed punt returner.
    Downside: Still developing in the finer points of playing the position. Occasionally gets lazy in his routes and still has some longstrider tendencies. Also needs to work harder against the "press," has to fight more to get a cleaner release.
    The dish: Compelling prospect who has so much natural ability and size that, even though he has a second-round grade on a lot of boards, no one should be overly surprised if he gets into the first round.

  • Lee Evans (Wisconsin)
    Vital statistics: 5-feet-10 7/8, 197 pounds, 4.41 in the 40, and 34 ½-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Demonstrated remarkable persistence by coming back from knee injury sustained in 2002 spring game. Required two surgeries to repair the extensive ligament damage and missed the entire season. Had seriously considered entering the 2002 draft but opted to remain in school and then suffered the injury. Played in 47 games and started in 38 of them, ringing up 175 catches for 3,468 yards and 26 touchdowns. Only player in Badgers history with a 1,000-yard receiving season and he did it twice. Ranks second all-time in the Big 10 in receiving yards. Had one kickoff return for 34 yards and a score. Carried four times for 26 yards. Completed three of five passes for 66 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.
    Upside: Obviously, given his battle with knee surgeries, a determined player who isn't about to quit on himself or his team. More quick than fast, gets in and out of cuts with economy of motion. Adjusts well to the ball and can really track the pass thrown directly over his head. Knows how to sit down in the open areas and make himself available, understands the importance of working back to the line, will keep plays alive by moving around in the secondary. Good vision and awareness and plays with notable balance.
    Downside: Got off to a slow start in 2003 after his long rehabilitation and didn't really regain form until about midway through the season. Even though he timed well at the combine, doesn't play with quite the same suddenness he possessed before he blew out his knee, and lacks some prior explosiveness. Lacks the size some of the other wideouts in this draft have. Runs a little too much up on his toes. Durability still a concern.
    The dish: Wonderful story of perseverance and grit, a kid who simply refused to feel sorry for himself. Could go near end of first round but second round more realistic.

  • Reggie Williams (Washington)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-3 ¾, 229 pounds, 4.54 in the 40, and 36-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Started in 32 of 36 appearances. Had 238 catches for 3,536 yards and 22 touchdowns. Only player in school history with two 1,000-yard seasons and three years of 900-plus yards. Carried three times for 11 yards, returned two kickoffs for 31 yards and three punts for 15 yards.
    Upside: Lean and athletic, sturdy player with long arms, the kind of frame every team wants at the position now. Really gets on top of the smaller corners and takes advantage of his size edge. Will go into traffic, works nicely between the hashes, and can play the muscle game when going after the ball. Has been productive every season, embraces the role of "go to" receiver, knows how to get open in tough spots. Strong in the shoulders, can create separation through strength, has some subtle push-off moves. Good body control and adjustment. Surprisingly good ability to chop steps and change direction.
    Downside: More an intermediate than deep threat. Isn't the dynamic game-breaker that some of the other wide receivers seem to be. Look at him on tape and he often just seems to float through games and rely strictly on natural skills. A passive player when the ball isn't come to him. Adequate, but not particularly willing as a blocker.
    The dish: Most teams feel he is a first-rounder, perhaps the first receiver off the board after the "Big Three," but we've downgraded him because he doesn't run all that well and is not a hard worker. Comes across as disinterested at times and teams are certainly aware of his penchant for coasting.

  • Keary Colbert (Southern California)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-0 7/8, 207 pounds, 4.45 in the 40, and 36-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: The all-time Trojans receptions leader, with 207 catches for 2,964 yards and 19 touchdowns. Had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2002-2003. Ranks third in school history and eighth in Pac 10 annals for receiving yards. Carried six times for 74 yards and one touchdown.
    Upside: Played second fiddle to Kareem Kelly and then to Mike Williams, but a very accomplished receiver in his own right. Solid route runner who plants nicely and gets in and out of his cuts sharply. Very polished. Gets his hips turned to present a good target to quarterback, especially on intermediate crossing routes, and swivels his head to see the ball. Plays with good feel, vision and decisiveness. Tough receiver over the middle and in traffic, strong hands, will give up his body to extend for the catch. Tenacious blocker who might not get people onto the ground, but will hang with a defender, knows how to seal off. Selfish player and has the right mindset for being a complementary receiver.
    Downside: Surprised many scouts with his 40-time at "pro day," but still not a deep threat and won't hit a lot of home runs. Not just a possession receiver but does work better in the short and intermediate areas. Because he's got short arms, doesn't quite play as big as his physical dimensions.
    The dish: A hard worker who has been overshadowed by higher profile receivers for the Trojans but has a chance to make a name for himself. If he falls to the third round, some team is going to get a productive No. 2 receiver and a real steal.

  • Devery Henderson (LSU)
    Vital statistics: 5-feet-11½, 198 pounds, 4.36 in the 40, and 35 ½-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Began college career as running back and switched to wide receiver in the spring of 2002. Started in 25 of 42 games and finished with 89 receptions for 1,311 yards and 19 touchdowns. His 19 touchdown catches are second-most in school history, behind only teammate Michael Clayton. Carried 73 times for 433 yards and three scores and returned 30 kickoffs for an average of 24.7 yards. Also added 10 special teams tackles. Famous for catching 75-yard "Hail Mary" touchdown pass against Kentucky in closing seconds of 2002 game.
    Upside: Tough, live body, looks more like a tailback, and that's the position at which he began his career. Thick through the chest and shoulders and will bully people. That isn't to say he's a limited speed guy because, with sub-4.4 speed, he has corners backpedaling when he breaks the huddle. A real vertical threat who stretches secondaries and creates a lot of room for himself and for his teammates. Very athletic and explosive and can get himself into top-end gear in just a couple steps. Can return kickoffs. Hard worker.
    Downside: Still developing as a receiver, hasn't had enough exposure to the position yet to have really mastered key nuances. Not a natural pass-catcher, doesn't adjust well to the ball, will cradle passes and allow the ball to get too close to his body. Still raw coming out of his breaks, will round some cuts off, needs help with footwork in general. Very limited menu of routes he runs well. Just an adequate blocker in the running game.
    The dish: Has too much big-play potential to ignore. Because of his speed, hard to imagine him getting out of the second round.

  • Derrick Hamilton (Clemson)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-2 7/8, 196 pounds, 4.49 in the 40, and 36-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: One of the most prolific all-purpose yardage performers in conference history and the all-time school leader with 4,839 yards. Was named to the All-SEC team each of his last two seasons. First player in school history to total 100 receptions in a two-season span. Had 167 catches for 2,312 yards and 16 touchdowns in 38 appearances and 27 starts. Had 58 kickoff returns for a 26.8-yard average and two touchdowns and 68 punt runbacks for an average of 9.1 yards. Rushed 44 times for 357 yards.
    Upside: Tall, lean receiver with long arms and a knack for the big play, both as a wide receiver and return specialist. Fluid athlete with good deep speed, can run past people who don't honor his quickness. Elusive runner who thrives on open field situations and will usually make the first tackler miss. Nice vision, sees the field well and developing a better spatial feel for the game.
    Downside: Plays a tad upright at times. Best with the ball in his hands, and was used a lot on reverses, swing passes, plays that got him into space and where he didn't have to vie so much with traffic. Not strong enough yet to break tackles.
    The dish: Still has a way to go before he is a complete receiver but ought to be able to contribute quickly in the return game. Probably a third-rounder.

  • Jerricho Cotchery (North Carolina State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-0½, 212 pounds, 4.58 in the 40, and 36-inch vertical jump.
    Numbers game: Ranks fourth in conference history in receiving yards. Caught 200 passes for 3,319 yards and 21 touchdowns while starting in 39 of 49 appearances. Had 46 grabs of 20 yards or more and 39 straight games with at least one reception.
    Upside: Three-year starter in a very sophisticated passing game so should arrive at camp as a relatively finished product. Good smarts. Runs all the routes well and nifty enough feet to get him in and out of his cuts without throttling down. Good short-area quickness. Great concentration, will take a hit and hold onto the ball, courageous over the middle. A willing blocker and doesn't mind playing on special teams coverage units.
    Downside: Not much of a vertical threat. Plays solid but doesn't always play fast. Only average in his change of direction.
    The dish: A possession-type receiver who should be chosen in about the third round.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.