Alabama’s Amari Cooper is one of the top-rated receivers in the 2015 draft class. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
As we head into the 2015 NFL combine, this year’s crop of draftable receiving talent is starting to take shape. In the wake of the 2014 class, just about any draft in league history looks disappointing, but football fans would be wise to get up to speed on this year’s group. Some of these players can make an impact right away, and there is plenty of depth, too. Will there be any Odell Beckhams? No. In fact, I don’t see any Mike Evans or Sammy Watkins either. That doesn’t mean this class lacks talent. Far from it. In fact, I like this class much better than the 2013 class.
I’ll break the top 20 prospects into four tiers to give you a general sense of value and where the drop-offs are. These ratings can and will change as we move through the draft process and watch more film … a lot more film.
Be sure to check out Rotobahn in the coming days and weeks as we roll out our long-form scouting reports and start to tackle the puzzle that is the 2015 fantasy draft board. This is going to be one of the most interesting drafting seasons ever. Has the era of the running back ended? If so, what defines where we are now? Be sure to tune in to the next fantasy football podcast, when Jim Hackett and I will dig into these topics and a whole lot more.
Click on the player’s name to watch a sample of his game film.
Amari Cooper, Alabama
DeVante Parker, Louisville
Kevin White, West Virginia
Take your pick. These three players could go off the board based on scheme fit as much as anything else. They all are high-quality players who are NFL-ready. The general consensus seems to be that Cooper will be taken first, but White is an imposing physical receiver who some teams will covet, and Parker has a little bit of everything. For anybody who did film work on Teddy Bridgewater last season, Parker should be well-known. He was on the other side of most of Bridgewater’s big plays, and that’s no coincidence. Parker reminds me of Dallas’ Terrance Williams when he left Baylor, but with better hands and more developed routes. One thing all three of their top guys have in common is that their value is not all that dependent on the combine. Barring something really off-the-charts bad, the film and a clean bill of health is all these players need to sell themselves on draft day.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri (never played a down for Oklahoma)
Devin Smith, Ohio State
Sammie Coates, Auburn
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Breshad Perriman, Central Florida
Philip Dorsett, Miami
This tier is a step down, but you still have mid- to late-first-round talent here. The difference is that some of these guys have discernible flaws, and a few are not game-ready like the Tier 1 options. Green-Beckham is a player who would possibly be off my board if I was an NFL GM. His off-field baggage is that significant. On the other hand, he has a skill set that is reminiscent of Calvin Johnson. Don’t get me wrong, DGB is not the freak that Megatron is, but his athleticism is rare for a man his size. Kevin Smith is a bit under the radar for a guy who was the lead receiver for a national championship team. Smith has an NFL skill set and he can take the top off of a defense. Coates is here for his upside. He may be the best deep threat in this year’s class, and we expect him to run very fast, but he lacks the polish of guys like Cooper and Parker. Jaelen Strong is a big name and he was a very solid college receiver who brings good hands and a big strong frame to the table. Getting consistent separation against man coverage will be the key to his success at the next level. Perriman is moving up boards, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure why it took so long. Anybody who watched Blake Bortles’ 2013 film had to notice this guy. My main concern with Perriman is his hands, and it’s a mild concern. He could end up being one of the better values if he makes it into the second round. Dorsett’s inclusion in this tier may surprise some, but at Rotobahn we love his speed and alpha attitude. The only concerns we have with Dorsett are his size and his potential lack of durability. The kid is an NFL talent. Just watch his film.
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Rashad Greene, Florida State
Nelson Agholor, USC
Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Tre McBride, William & Mary
Some good NFL receivers will come out of this group. Lockett, coming off a strong week at the Senior Bowl, has plenty of speed and quickness. He also has NFL bloodlines. His father, Kevin Lockett, played six seasons in the NFL. Greene is a well-known and productive receiver if you’ve been watching the college playoffs the last few seasons. He’s a dependable well-rounded receiver but he’s a shade on the small side. Lippett is a talented kid who may need a year or two to reach his potential physically. At 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, he’s a little on the lean side, but he has a well-rounded game. McBride has tantalizing ball skills and he could move up boards with a good combine performance.
Deon Long, Maryland
Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Dres Anderson, Utah
Jamison Crowder, Duke
Josh Harper, Fresno State
DaVaris Daniels, Notre Dame
Deon Long is a sleeper with impressive strength and tackle-breaking ability for his size. He could become a trendy riser with a good combine performance. Montgomery is a talented and versatile player, but his inconsistent hands concern me. Anderson’s season ended in October due to a knee injury, so the combine has special importance for him as he tries to show that he’s fully recovered. Anderson also is the son of a former NFL receiver (Flipper Anderson). Crowder is a very good receiver, but his lack of size should make him a slot-only receiver at the next level. Harper is a solid receiver with soft hands, but he needs to show some speed this week or he could fall down boards. Daniels is a player to watch this week. He missed the entire season due to academic woes, so teams will be looking closely to see what kind of shape he’s in. A strong workout would send a powerful message about his maturity.
I’ll be back Thursday with a look at the running backs, with the tight ends and quarterbacks going up on Friday and Saturday, respectively. I’ll also take a look at some of this year’s sleepers and small-school talents. That will be posted Saturday morning. If you want to keep up with the combine as it happens, follow me on Twitter.