There is no tidy stacking, no obvious, orderly listing, no neat way to sort the receivers at the top of the upcoming NFL draft.
Tavon Austin of West Virginia is a DeSean Jackson/Percy Harvin type who figures to be gone by No. 20. Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee has the potential to be a freak talent-wise, but will scare some teams with his inconsistencies. He, too, figures to be off the board by the time the Indianapolis Colts are on the clock at No. 24.
In a recent conversation with ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, I asked him about who would fit for the Colts there and the Texans at 27 as the two teams look for receiver help.
Here is his rundown of the next tier of guys, all of whom he said a team would ideally get in the second round.
Keenan Allen, Cal: "He’s not 100 percent, he ran a 4.7 the other day. It’s not a perfect situation. But he’s a late-first, early-second round prospect and he should play like that. On tape we estimate him at 4.53, 4.55, that range. I thin he’s going to be a really, really good No. 2 in the league.
“…He was catching the ball better than ever this past year. He knows how to use his body. He’s very athletic. He’s got size and he’s thickly built. While he’s not near a burner, he’s quick and he’s got enough speed to challenge you and to take advantage of mistakes. To me he would be the highest-rated wide receiver when Tavon and Patterson are off the ball."
Justin Hunter, Tennessee: “If you’re looking for someone who can run vertical routes and stretch the field. If New England is looking for that guy, a poor man’s Randy Moss, that’s what Justin Hunter is: 6-4, 196, can burn, can climb the ladder. He’s a silky smooth route runner and quite honestly when they needed to pick up a first down, when they needed a play at Tennessee, that’s where they went, it wasn’t to the other guy Patterson.
“And he’s the one who showed up consistently. I think he’s a better football player than Cordarelle Patterson. But with the ball in his hands, Patterson is just freakish. But he really disappears. He’ll show up with one or two big plays that just kind of blow your mind and leave you wanting more."
“I think Hopkins has the best hands of the three," McShay said. "I think Woods is the quickest, best athlete and certainly he’s been productive for a long time. He’ll go over the middle, he’ll do a lot of different little things for you and I think he’s going to be a really good No. 2 receiver in the NFL as well. Quinton Patton, he doesn’t like going over the middle, but he’s very athletic. He has great hands and ball skills 90 percent of the time, but he’ll have some focus drops. He’s kind of a wildcard to me. But if he plays to his potential he may be the third- or fourth-best receiver of this group in the NFL."
After Austin, McShay would prefer all of these guys in the second round. But he said he sees Patterson going before the 20th pick, and one or two of the others going in the late first-round range.
I asked McShay about the comparisons of Woods to Reggie Wayne. He said he only sees it a little bit, that Woods doesn’t run like Wayne. Woods' ability to snatch the ball on the run, the way he can make some things happen and his ability to be savvy in coverage may be the root of the comparison. But there have been some questions about the consistency of Woods’ work ethic, and Wayne is a big-time worker.
Woods needs to land with a team where a peer in his position group will ride him regarding his work ethic and mistakes. If he’s among a more passive group it won’t bode well for him, McShay said.
So there is some deeper thinking on receivers who could be in play for Indianapolis and Houston in the 20s. It is one man’s opinion, of course, and we’re not taking into account all of the other potential context that could steer Ryan Grigson or Rick Smith somewhere else entirely.
Both Indianapolis and Houston need to add a receiver somewhere in this draft, though based on what they have in house, the Texans are more needy than the Colts.