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Receivers iffy at the top


Teams wanting to draft a receiver this year might do well to wait until after the first round.

"There is not a dominant receiver at the top of this draft but the position is littered with prospects through the fourth round that could develop into productive second or third wide receivers," draft analyst Tony Pauline said.

Two, maybe three, wide receivers would seem to be first-round prospects, but in each case there is an element of uncertainty clouding those players.

Malcolm Kelly, 6-3, 224, of Oklahoma is the top-ranked wide receiver. He's a big, fluid and silky receiver. Kelly wastes no motion catching the ball. He snatches passes out of the air and makes difficult catches with defenders draped on him. What's not to like, right?

Here's what's not to like: Kelly has declined to run at the combine and at Oklahoma's pro day. Hmmm, what does that say about him?

Kelly's reluctance to run for scouts has raised red flags and he'll try to ease those speed suspicions when he runs at his personal workout session on April 9. If he runs well, Kelly could climb the board. As for now, some scouts are comparing Kelly to Duane Jarrett.

Want speed? DeSean Jackson is your guy. The California junior has home-run hitting speed. He's a threat to take it all the way every time he touches the ball, whether it's as a receiver, kick-returner or running a reverse. So what's not to like, right?

Here's what's not to like: Jackson is a mere 5-9, 169, and is not a good route-runner. He'll make the catch in a crowd but he's not real natural in doing it. He's considered to be a mid to late-first round pick.

Want size and speed? Devin Thomas is your guy. The Michigan State junior is 6-2, 216, and ran a 4.43 at the combine. He can stretch a defense with his speed and has the size to make the tough possession reception. What's not to like, right?

Here's what's not to like: Thomas has only done it for one season. He's an average route-runner and may lack the kind of quickness necessary to become an effective route-runner at the NFL level. He's regarded to be a late-first, early-second round pick.

James Hardy begins a run of less risky prospects. The 6-5, 217-pound Indiana junior is a big, physical possession receiver. He's a great red-zone target with good fundamentals and decent speed; he ran 4.5 at the combine, though he doesn't play that fast. Hardy extends his hands and plucks the ball out of the air and someone is expected to pluck him out of the draft in the second round.

Limas Sweed, 6-4, 215, of Texas is another big, strong possession receiver. He's been consistently productive, especially in the red zone and on third down. Sweed ran in the high 4.5's at the combine and lacks minimal quickness. He's a mid-second round prospect.

Florida's Andre Caldwell has it all. The 6-2, 204-pound senior ran in the 4.3's at the combine. He has the size and the speed to be a big-time NFL pass-catcher, but he may go later than his talent would suggest. Caldwell missed time with an injury last year and his stock may also be dropped by the reputation of Florida receivers for being under-achievers on the NFL level. He's a mid-second round prospect.

Early Doucet, a 6-1, 209-pound senior from LSU, is big, strong and very athletic for his size. He's good in the red zone. A groin injury sidelined him last year and he has yet to run for scouts. He's a second-round prospect.

Kansas State's Jordy Nelson, 6-2, 217, is coming off a sensational season. He has a complete game; makes plays downfield, is reliable underneath and will block for the running game. He's been compared to Anthony Gonzalez. Nelson ran in the mid-4.5's at the combine and figures to be drafted in the second round.

Fred Davis, 6-3, 255, of USC tops the tight ends. Davis is a former wide receiver and is the best pass-catcher of the tight end class. He's an average-at-best blocker, however, and lacks great football strength. He's a mid to late-second round prospect.

Nobody looks the part more than Michigan State's Kellen Davis, 6-6, 262, who has an all-world body and plays to it, on occasion. Davis is a phenomenal athlete but a raw prospect. He's also played defensive end and basketball. He has the potential to be a top tight end as a blocker and receiver, but development will be required. He ran in the low 4.6's at the combine and is a mid to late-second round prospect.

Martellus Bennett, 6-6, 259, of Texas A&M is another developmental tight end. A former basketball player, Bennett is a terrific athlete who shows flashes on the football field. He offers great upside but needs a lot of work on his overall game. Bennett ran a 4.69 at the combine.

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