There are 26 wide receivers on SB Nation's latest top 200 big board of players entering the 2014 NFL Draft. Nine of those receivers are within the top 50, three within the top 30 and two within the top 10. Despite there being just four within the top 32, as many as six or seven receivers can easily go in the first round and just as many could go in the second and third.
We're looking at a year in which SB Nation's fifth-ranked receiver -- Brandin Cooks of Oregon State -- could easily be considered top material in previous years. This year's top receiver, Sammy Watkins of Clemson, is a special talent that SB Nation has placed at No. 5, below defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, offensive tackle Jake Matthews and outside linebacker Khalil Mack.
The full list of receivers on SB Nation's top 200 is below:
What to watch for
What to watch for
5. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
7. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
30. Marqise Lee, Southern California
31. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
34. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
40. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
42. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
46. Jarvis Landry, LSU
50. Davante Adams, Fresno State
55. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
61. Allen Robinson, Penn State
71. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
82. Cody Hoffman, BYU
94. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
105. L'Damian Washington, Missouri
106. Paul Richardson, Colorado
107. Hared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
109. Robert Herron, Wyoming
110. Martavis Bryant, Clemson
123. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
141. Josh Huff, Oregon
146. Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
157. Mike Davis, Texas
160. Cody Latimer, Indiana
193. Corey Brown, Ohio State
All of Watkins, Evans, Lee, Cooks and a combination of the next three or four have been pegged as going in the first round by analysts around the Internet. Teams can look at those players and see a No. 1 receiver or someone who can approach that level of ability. With an increasing reliance on the passing game in the NFL, teams are placing higher and higher premiums on No. 1 receivers, and less on running backs.
We could see zero running backs drafted in the first round this season, and seven wide receivers. That's a pretty intense differential at this point, but it's clearly where the NFL has been headed for some time now. But the receivers aren't going to go in the first just out of necessity, they've earned every bit of the recognition they've received.
Take Cooks, the fifth guy down on the list. A quick glance at his stats shows some overwhelmingly impressive numbers in college. He put up 128 receptions for 1,730 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns, setting multiple Pac-12 records. He earned the Fred Biletnikoff award and was a consensus All-American, and yet we have him pegged as the fifth-best receiver this year.
In 2013, Tavon Austin, DeAndre Hopkins and Cordarrelle Patterson were all drafted in the first round. The jury is still out on them, but the number is what we're interest in. Austin was considered a potentially game-breaking receiver due to his speed and general athleticism, but not necessarily a try No. 1 receiver. This year, most of the top guys are considered potential No. 1 receivers either right out of the gate or early on.
The year before, Justin Blackmon went at No. 5 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The first round also saw Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and A.J. Jenkins taken. It's worth noting that Jenkins was taken at No. 30 overall and he was considered a significant reach by most experts. He's since been traded and will struggle for playing time in 2014.
The 2011 NFL Draft might be the most comparable to this year when it comes to the level of talent up top. Both A.J. Green and Julio Jones were expected to be excellent players, and they have proven to be thus far. They were both drafted in the top 10 that year, as well. Jonathan Baldwin was taken at No. 26 and thus far has proven to be a bust, however.
A receiver wasn't drafted until No. 22 in 2010, when the Denver Broncos took Demaryius Thomas. Dez Bryant went to the Dallas Cowboys two picks later. It's not until 2009 we get a draft that really looks like it stacks up to this one in comparison, at least in regards to pre-draft hype.
The 2009 NFL Draft saw Darrius Heyward-Bey, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt all taken in the first round. A total of 15 wide receivers ended up being drafted in the first three rounds.
But how does that talent compare? Well, Crabtree had an awful lot of hype for his ability, and the fact that he took the aforementioned Biletnikoff award two seasons in a row -- the first time any receiver had done that. Heyward-Bey was one of the most athletic players we've ever seen, and both of Maclin and Harvin were pegged as game-breaking receivers due to their quickness.
Unfortunately, that class hasn't quite measured up to its draft status. Maclin and Crabtree have been good, while Nicks, Harvin and Britt have all been derailed due to injuries. Even Crabtree has had issues with injury as well. But as a whole, this class is pretty comparable to that one in regards to the talent level, depth and athleticism. It should be interesting to see if we get more than the six that were taken in 2009.