If Matt Millen is in the house at Radio City Music Hall for the NFL Draft on Thursday night, chances are he’ll have a few restraining orders filed against himself by the end of the evening. The former Lions general manager who drafted wide outs like they were on the verge of extinction would be ecstatic about this year's draft prospects. The dirty secret about this NFL Draft is that the wide receiver group that gets pushed past the first round velvet rope is deeper than Floyd Mayweather’s ringside entourage.
Sammy Watkins should be getting bottle service in the green room as the top receiver in this draft despite his average size because of his unique set of snatch and run skills.
After Watkins, there are a litany of athletes with skillsets across the spectrum that will be expected to make life easier for a quarterback out there.
Some lucky quarterback will be passing the Courvoisier and the pigskin to Texas A&M redshirt sophomore Mike Evans. On the other end of Johnny Manziel’s rainbow throws, Evans formed one half of the most daring pass and catch duo in the nation for the past two seasons.
They’re also very antithetical draft prospects. Scouts are concerned that Manziel’s Mighty Mouse routine may not translate to the NFL, but there are no such concerns with Evans. Not since Calvin Johnson was perched atop draft boards as an awe-inspiring physical specime, analogous to current Jadeveon Clowney, has a towering wide out been this highly-touted.
In the red zone, Evans has the potential to be a dominant entity, but what sets Evans apart is his knack for beating defensive backs to jump balls and separation speed on deep routes. There’s a possibility that Evans sneaks past Watkins and gets drafted by a franchise nfatuated with measurables like the Raiders.
While Evans doesn’t possess Megaton’s top-end speed, his 4.53 speed is more than sufficient for a player of his immense size as long as he polishes his route running.
Evans isn’t alone as an enormous end zone target that is being heralded as a first rounder. Last time we saw Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, he was softy plucking Jameis Winston’s BCS national championship-winning pass out of the clouds over Auburn cornerbacks and touching down in the end zone.
The forgotten receiver in this draft is USC’s Marqise Lee. A year ago, Lee’s name was the first one off the lips of talent evaluators. Lee will still go mid to late first round, but the shine has been removed from his prospects after a junior season in which the Trojans offense sputtered like an asthmatic substitute driving Snoop Dogg’s tour bus.
Oregon State’s diminutive receiver Brandin Cooks raised his profile and filled in the void left behind by Lee as the Pac-12’s most explosive receiver. Cooks barely meets the height requirement at 5-10; however, the numbers of note for Cooks were 1,730 yards and 128 receptions.
Cooks set the nation on fire and absconded with the Fred Biletnikoff award by taking a sledgehammer to the Pac-12 receptions and receiving yards records. Cooks is a few rungs below Evans on most draft boards, but his 4.33 speed, quickness and shiftiness after the catch make him a weapon in open space.
Underneath the radar LSU junior Odell Beckham Jr. has slipped into first round projections after a season in which he was bestowed the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.
Penn State's Allen Robinson and Indiana's Cody Latimer round the remaining prospects who could be getting pushed up the line into the first round of the NFL Draft.
In an era that’s transformed the passing game into liquid gold, and four receiver sets have created more opportunities, this is the perfect job market for receivers. The employer interviews are over and all they can do now is enjoy the NFL Draft until their name gets called. For many of the aforementioned receivers, the wait won't be long. It's almost time to get to work.