In what is one of the most exciting and aggressive off-seasons in recent years, the receiver position has been the most intriguing to follow. Wes Welker departed from New England for Denver, the Vikings and Ravens traded away their best receivers away, and the Rams and Steelers lost their feature weapons to more aggressive teams.
But, for the Vikings, Ravens, Steelers, and Rams, waiting to replace their departed receivers until draft day may be the wise decision thanks to the depth of this 2013 wide receiver class.
Replacing Percy Harvin for Minnesota
It’s not going to be easy for Minnesota to move on from the only other legitimate weapon on their offense besides Adrian Peterson. Among the leaders in yards after catch in the NFL since he came into the league, finding a playmaker who can pick up big chunks of yards is a must for the lackluster arm strength Christian Ponder. Grabbing a 1st round pick, the Vikings have the potential to draft Harvin’s replacement in the Top 25, at either pick 22 (their own) or with Seattle’s pick at #25.
Cordarelle Patterson, Tennessee (1st Round)
-Patterson has multiple questions about his character, ability to adapt to an NFL offense, and his development as a route runner. But his explosive, big play ability could be exactly what the Vikings need to replace Harvin. He wins in the short area, especially after the catch, and can extend away from his body well in the mid-range routes to give Ponder a wide throwing radius.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia (1st Round)
-The trendy Percy Harvin-comparison, Austin is the quickest, most devastating playmaker we’ve seen in the draft since Reggie Bush came into the league. The major concern with Austin (especially on a team like Minnesota) is this size, route development, and need for talent around him may cause him to struggle to add value for a lackluster offensive team, similar to how Dexter McCluster has struggled to make plays since his NFL arrival.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (2nd Round)
-If Minnesota chooses to pass on a 1st round receiver, or go with a more physical, short area receiver first (Keenan Allen/DeAndre Hopkins), Stedman Bailey can provide the big play ability, along with the short-mid range route development that can give the Vikings a big play threat.
Replacing Anquan Boldin for Baltimore
As the Ravens began to purge their roster of any salaries they couldn’t make work for this year or the futures, they were forced to trade Boldin to the 49ers (for just a 6th round pick). They won’t find Boldin’s replacement in the 6th round, nor find an adequate replacement in free agency. Luckily (and likely part of their reasoning for letting Boldin go), this receiver class has great value in the early rounds, a few of which could fill the physical, strong-handed role Boldin filled for this team.
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson (1st Round)
–Not the same build as Boldin and won’t win in the shorter routes early in his career the way Boldin did last year, Hopkins extends away from his body very well, and can finish catches in traffic inside and outside the hashes. Plus, he has some added downfield ability as well.
Da’Rick Rodgers, Tennessee Tech (2nd Round)
-A major character red flag, Rodgers isn’t ideal for a team looking to add new leaders to an overhauled roster, Rodgers may be too good of a fit to pass on in the late 2nd. Reminds of a bit slower, more NFL ready Terrell Owens now, he likely could seamlessly fill in for Boldin better than any receiver in the draft or free agency, if his character doesn’t get in the way.
Chris Harper, Kansas State (2nd Round)
-A receiver I expect to be a late riser, Harper wasn’t featured well enough this season thanks to having the lackluster Collin Klein throwing to him. However, after Rodgers, he’s the most physically gifted receiver in this class, and already has route development, body position understanding, and strong hands to win in west coast routes already.
Replacing Mike Wallace for Pittsburgh
The Steelers have done a great job in drafting big play receivers past the first few rounds in the draft recently, with Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and of course, the recently departed Mike Wallace. While both of the previous two can pick up the slack, the Steelers should continue to find big play receiver value to utilize Big Ben’s big arm. Generally, finding a replacement for a receiver who had 45 plays of 25 yard-plus in four seasons (2nd in the NFL over that stretch) would prove difficult. But in this class, they’ll have more than a few options to fill his shoes past round one.
Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (2nd Round)
-A prospect I directly compare to Mike Wallace on our scouting reports, Wheaton has the deep speed, vertical route polish, and ability to extend away from his body vs. coverage at a very high level. A possible sleeper for the late 1st round, the Steelers may target Wheaton if they trade down in the 1st or trade up to the early 2nd because of how smoothly he can replace Mike Wallace.
Terrence Williams, Baylor (2nd Round)
-Williams doesn’t have any route definition thanks to basically only running vertical and screen routes in college. However, his ability to get downfield in a hurry, his size and length, and flashes of feature receiver ability, he could be a value in the mid-late 2nd if the Steelers are willing to work with him as he adds polish to his game.
Marquise Goodwin, Texas (2nd-3rd Round)
-A bit undersized to be compared to Mike Wallace, Goodwin has impressed enough in flashes on film, at the Senior Bowl, and displaying wowing speed/burst at the NFL Combine. It’s a risk to assume he’ll be an instant fil-in for Wallace because Goodwin never showed much NFL separation in college on film, Goodwin’s big play ability may be worth the risk in the 3rd round.
Replacing Danny Amendola for St. Louis
After losing Wes Welker to the Broncos, the Patriots poached Danny Amendola from the Rams, replacing their slot receiver need and pushing the Rams further into their frustrations when considering their receiver depth chart. However, the depth at receiver, particularly in the slot, in this draft class is why Welker and Amendola only commanded in the $6 million per year range on their contracts. Here are some of the more intriguing slot receivers that the Rams could consider to replace Amendola.
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech (1st-2nd Round)
-Maybe not a seamless transition to the slot, Patton is a polished and decisive route runner in the short area, finishes catches in traffic and on the outside, and has the quick turn-and-run ability to likely transition into the slot on occasion if need be. Patton is also maybe the “safest” receiver in this draft class.
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (3rd Round)
-A former running back, Swope has developed decisive slot receiver out routes and hitches, two keys to slot receiver success in the modern day NFL. Being a bit undersized and still needing to add some bulk if he hopes to last in the NFL, his physicality as an upfield runner, NFL readiness in the slot, and surprising speed at the NFL Combine may lead him to be a trendy slot receiver pick in the Top 100.
Ryan Spadola, Lehigh (5th-6th Round)
-The only late round receiver option on this list, Spadola hails from the Patriot League at the FCS level, which isn’t known for pumping out playmakers for the NFL. He’s been productive over his career, gets vertical quickly thanks to sneaky speed, some explosive burst, and decisive steps upfield. He’ll likely be a trendy, mid-late round slot receiver option, and that value could push him to the 4th-5th round.