The following is the second of 10 installments previewing the 2003 NFL draft class. Today, we feature the wide receivers.
If you like pitchers and catchers, this is your kind of draft. The quality and depth of the quarterback class is exceeded only by the wide receivers, who present star quality at the top and home-run picks throughout.
Michigan State's Charles Rogers and Miami's Andre Johnson are certain top-10 selections. Unfortunately, both of those players figure to be gone when the Jaguars step up to the plate with the eighth pick of the draft. The Jaguars have a decided need at wide receiver, but there would seem to be a major gap between Rogers and Johnson and the next group of wide receivers.
Rogers, 6-2, 208 and a legitimate 4.4 in the 40, is the ultimate in a big-play wide receiver. The third-year junior caught 68 passes for 1,351 yards and 13 touchdowns in a troubled season for the Spartans. Rogers has it all; size, speed and athletic ability. Only his abrasive attitude could sabotage what should be a great pro career.
Johnson, 6-2, 230, is even a step faster than Rogers. Johnson has all of Rogers' big-play abilities and more, but just hasn't put up the kind of numbers Rogers has. Johnson caught 48 passes for 1,038 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The rap on Johnson is that he drops too many passes.
The Jaguars would love for Johnson to fall to them, but most draftniks have Johnson gone before the Jaguars pick.
Enter the next wave, led by Florida's Taylor Jacobs and Tennessee's Kelley Washington. They are first-round candidates, but they just don't seem to fit where the Jags are picking.
Jacobs, 6-0, 205, has 4.5 speed and put up Rogers-like numbers in 2002. Jacobs has outstanding intangibles to match his impressive physical abilities, which are highlighted by his soft hands. But Jacobs lacks run-after-the-catch ability and doesn't always play at a star level.
Washington, 6-2, 223, is also a 4.5 sprinter, but plays even faster than his time. Washington has the ability to be even better than Rogers or Johnson, but that depends on refinement of his skills. He's needs to control his ego. Washington also suffers from a chronic neck injury.
Penn State's Bryant Johnson, Florida State's Anquan Boldin and Illinois' Brandon Lloyd are impressive prospects.
Johnson, 6-2, 214, is a 4.5 guy with great hands and body control. He's a high-character player who brings toughness and punt-return ability to a roster. Johnson doesn't have the kind of big-play ability the first-rounders possess.
Boldin, 6-0, 216, is dogged by a bad 40 time. He's big, strong, physical and athletic. Boldin is a born leader who makes acrobatic catches. But his postseason workouts were not impressive and he could fall far enough in the draft to become a major steal.
Lloyd, 6-0, 184, also lacks speed. Lloyd has top hands and body control; can really jump. He appears to be destined to become a possession-type receiver, at which he might truly excel.
The wide receiver crop just goes on and on, with players such as Talman Gardner of Florida State, Middle Tennessee State's Tyrone Calico, USC's Kareem Kelly, Billy McMullen of Virginia, Doug Gabriel of Central Florida and Terrence Edwards of Georgia.
Gardner, 6-0, 205, is a 4.4 guy who never realized his potential at Florida State. Gardner is a deep threat who could develop into a big-time player on the pro level, but his draft stock may have been damaged recently when he ran afoul of the law.
Calico, 6-3, 223, is this year's postseason star. Calico jumped out at scouts with a 4.3 40 and impressive workout numbers. To be a big-time NFL receiver, Calico needs to develop his hands and body control
Kelly, 5-11, 186, has run-after-the-catch ability and makes the tough catches. He is hindered by what is considered to be a bad attitude and a lack of consistency. But Kelly has home-run potential as a pro receiver.
McMullen, 6-3, 210, made play after play at Virginia, but he lacks speed. His size makes him a solid second receiver prospect.
Garbriel, 6-2, 213, made big plays at Central Florida. He's instinctive, smooth and ready to go. Gabriel is another top second receiver candidate.
Edwards, 6-0, 176, lacks size but not speed. His speed and leaping ability give him long-ball potential.
Other top candidates are Teyo Johnson of Stanford, Sam Aiken of North Carolina and Shaun McDonald of Arizona State.