2012 NFL Free Agency: Thinning wide receiver class could boost draft value of the position

The NFL is a passing league. If you needed confirmation, look no further than the mad rush to sign and trade for wide receivers as free agency opened yesterday. Teams are starting to spread the field with three and four wideout sets on a regular basis.

Shortly after free agency opened, Vincent Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan both signed with the Washington Redskins. And later in the evening, Robert Meachem inked a deal with the San Diego Chargers after a visit with the Buffalo Bills. Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall was traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Chicago Bears for a pair of third round picks before any of the other madness got under way.

Laurent Robinson appears to be the next big prize, with at least three teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, vying for his services. But what about the other teams in need of a wide receiver? The market is dwindling, but the demand is still high for the position.

Well, meet Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright.

The value of some of the top wide receivers in the 2012 NFL Draft was floundering as of late. The consensus on who the top guy was starting to blur, and a mixture of puzzling 40-times, both on fast tracks and in Indy, left scouts analyzing milliseconds to separate these guys from one another.

With some of the top free agent options off the board, however, some teams may bump these receivers up their boards a bit.

A team like the Jacksonville Jaguars, who figured to aggressively address wide receiver during free agent, still have not added a playmaker at the position. They are currently hosting Laurent Robinson, so this could change shortly, but multiple upgrades are needed at the position for them.

The Browns are also likely trying to find some pass-catchers. They own the No. 4 overall selection in the draft, and while many, including myself, think that's a bit high for Justin Blackmon, Cleveland may be desperate to do it.

The Buffalo Bills also struck out at wide receiver, despite hosting Robert Meachem for a visit yesterday. The Bills are looking to add another threat across from Stevie Johnson and they also pick in the top-ten.

Brandon Marshall has left a big hole to fill in Miami as well. The Dolphins are left without any legitimate threats at the position, but could fix that with the No. 8 overall pick, assuming they find their quarterback in free agency.

With Brandon Lloyd's departure from St. Louis, the owners of the sixth pick in the draft could also be targeting a wide receiver in April. Surrounding Sam Bradford with some weapons has to be a priority for the Rams.

Very few teams picking in the top ten don't need help at wide receiver. That's good news for Justin Blackmon and company. While I'm not sure any receiver in this draft is necessarily worth a top ten pick, need dictates it in this case. The demand for a wide receiver is there. Depending how the remainder of free agency plays out, six out of the ten teams picking in the top ten could be targeting wide receivers. There may not be an elite receiver prospect in this draft, but something's got to give.

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