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Friday, April 8, 2005
Updated: April 12, 5:06 PM ET
Size, leaping ability make Edwards a 'catch'

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

Here is how ESPN.com rates the top 13 wide receiver prospects in the draft:

Braylon Edwards
Braylon Edwards led the Big Ten with 1,221 receiving yards last season.

Braylon Edwards (Michigan)
Vital statistics: 6-feet-2 7/8, 210 pounds, 4.48 in the 40.
Numbers game: Caught just three passes for 38 yards as a true freshman in 2001, then posted huge numbers every year thereafter. In final three seasons, went over 1,000 yards every year and had 10 or more touchdowns in every campaign. Finished with 252 catches for 3,542 yards and 39 touchdowns in 44 games, including 36 starts. Had 10 rushes for 72 yards and no touchdowns. Competed in track in the 60-meter and 200-meter sprints. A consensus All-American choice, two-time all-Big 10 selection and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's premier receiver in 2004.
Upside: Tall and linear, long arms, a superb playmaker. Knows how to use his size, especially in the red zone, to take the ball away from defenders. Great frame, looks like a slightly too-tall tailback and has the same kind of open-field running skills. Strong run instincts after the catch and has excellent change of direction. More quick than fast but can still break down a cornerback's cushion. Great leaper and makes super adjustments to the ball. Gives up his body in both the passing and the running game. Continues to get better in every facet of the game and really sweats the detail-type stuff.
Downside: Still needs to work on some of his routes, will round some patterns off, and doesn't always sell a pattern when he senses the ball isn't coming his way. Because he is so talented, will coast or lose concentration at times. Frustrated coaches early in his career with a bit of a prima donna attitude, showed up late to practices and meetings, and displayed some selfishness.
The dish: Not a blazer but might be the premier overall prospect in the entire draft and figures to be chosen among top five.

Position-by-position schedule
In preparation for the NFL draft (April 23-24, ESPN), Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton will roll out a position-by-position look at draft prospects, along with a breakdown for each position. Click here to see the complete schedule.
Mike Williams (Southern California)
Vital statistics: 6-feet-4 5/8, 229 pounds, 4.56 in the 40.
Numbers game: Played only two seasons, starting in 15 of 26 appearances, left school following the 2003 season to enter the draft, but was denied eligibility. Finished with 176 catches for 2,579 yards and 30 touchdowns. Went over the 1,000-yard mark both seasons, scoring 14 touchdowns in 2002 and 16 in 2003. Rushed five times for 35 yards and also completed all three of his pass attempts for 57 yards and one touchdown. Selected as an All-American in 2003, the first USC wide receiver to earn that honor since Keyshawn Johnson in 1995. Was the Trojans' first sophomore since Tony Boselli in 1992 to make an All-American squad.
Upside: Naturally gifted playmaker with great size-speed combination. Huge and inviting target who can muscle off smaller defensive backs, knows how to shield himself and to create separation. Will extend for the ball and seems oblivious to the traffic in the middle of the secondary. Can, and will, make the acrobatic catch. Strong hands and tough to pry the ball away from him. Nice fluidity for such a big receiver. Hard to knock off the ball away when he is running the inside slant. Big target in the red zone, especially on fade and corner routes. Solid runner after catch, surprisingly good vision and field awareness.
Downside: Lack of long speed might mean he's always an intermediate range threat. Footwork is inconsistent at times. Doesn't always bend for the low ball, and just sort of collapses slowly, like an accordion at times. Needs to work his way back to the ball a little better. A bit of a long strider. Has to learn to use his hands better to get release off the line and to fight off the initial jam when corners are pressing him. For such a big guy, not a very dominating blocker.
The dish: One of the great ironies of this draft is that Williams will go off the board higher in 2005, certainly among the top 10, than if he had been ruled eligible for the 2004 lottery.

More on WRs
  • Others: Fred Gibson (Georgia), Roydell Williams (Tulane), Tab Perry (UCLA), Geoff McArthur (California), Paris Warren (Utah), J.R. Russell (Louisville), Leron McCoy (Indiana, Pa.), Airese Currie (Clemson), Josh Davis (Marshall), Reggie Harrell (TCU), Tony Brown (Tennessee), Darian Durant (North Carolina).
  • Rising: Speedster Jerome Mathis (Hampton) dazzled scouts at the combine with his 4.3-range speed and, while very raw and from a small-school program, is getting lots of attention. And no wonder. The guy averaged 26.4 yards per catch over the course of his career and scored 21 touchdowns on just 93 receptions. He also averaged 26.6 yards per kickoff return and scored six times. From a bigger school, Craig Bragg (UCLA) is a solid, possession-type guy with a little more quickness than scouts thought. Finally, and it's about time, scouts are beginning to take a closer look at Taylor Stubblefield (Purdue), the NCAA's all-time leading pass-catcher. Yeah, he can't run out of sight in a week, but he is a superb slot receiver who will be a middle-round bargain.
  • Declining: Chris Henry (West Virginia) was one of the country's top prospects going into the '04 season, but off-field issues and basic immaturity have cost him dearly. Steve Savoy (Utah) was the favorite receiver for Alex Smith but he has fallen out of favor with scouts because of molasses-like 40 times. Another once-promising wideout who has run disappointing times is Dante Ridgeway (Ball State).
  • Intriguing: Everyone knows about the Oklahoma tandem of Mark Clayton and Mark Bradley, but the Sooners have two more wideouts, Brandon Jones and Will Peoples, who merit consideration. Peoples won't light up anyone with his speed, in the 4.6 range, but is a steady possession receiver. Jones runs in the 4.4s, is very smooth, and could develop into a productive No. 3 wideout with the right team. Tommy Manus (Morgan State) is another 4.6 receiver, even less polished than Peoples, but a player with compelling size (6-feet-3½ and 222 pounds) and nice athleticism.
  • Sleepers: As usual, there is a ton of late-round possibilities at the position. Jamaica Rector (Northwest Missouri State) is a blazer who dominated at Division II but is a tad undersized. Efrem Hill (Samford) was one of the premier players at the Division I-AA level and, while reed-thin, is a tough receiver. Larry Brackins (Pearl River Community College) is nearly 6-feet-5, has a huge wingspan and has too many raw skills to just dismiss out of hand. Munchkin-sized Chad Owens (Hawaii) has played in a big-time, sophisticated passing game and possesses dynamic return skills.
  • Notable: Oklahoma's Mark Clayton helped teammate Lynn McGruder rescue a family of five from a serious automobile accident and was nominated for several awards for bravery and courage. … Jason Anderson of Wake Forest is the nephew of former NFL player Cornelius Johnson. … Fred Amey of Sacramento State is the brother of former Oakland defensive lineman Vince Amey. … Mark Bradley of Oklahoma is the son of former Sooners quarterback David Bradley. … Tennessee's Tony Brown broke several of Michael Irvin's high school receiving records in Florida. … Michigan star Braylon Edwards is the son of former Wolverines running back Stanley Edwards, who played for the Houston Oilers and Detroit Lions. … Hampton's Jerome Mathis won six track titles, all in the sprints, in high school. … Virginia's Michael McGrew is the cousin of former San Francisco defensive lineman and first-round pick Reggie McGrew. … Courtney Roby is the cousin of the late Reggie Roby, the onetime NFL punter.
  • Troy Williamson (South Carolina)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-1 3/8, 203 pounds, 4.32 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Two-year starter, appeared in 34 games and had 91 receptions for 1,754 yards and 13 touchdowns. Best season came in 2004 when he posted 43 catches for 835 yards, an average of 19.4 yards per reception. Surprisingly, never had a 1,000-yard year and never scored more than four touchdowns in a season. Averaged 18.6 yards on 24 kickoff returns, and carried 12 times for 101 yards. Set a conference record for longest play from scrimmage with a 99-yard catch against Virginia in 2003. Averaged over 30 yards per touchdown catch. An all-SEC choice in 2004.
    Upside: Long-limbed and angular wideout with top-end deep speed. Excellent all-around athlete, fluid, almost lithe, in his movements. Seems like he is gliding sometimes, and that plays to his advantage because cornerbacks don't seem to realize how fast he really is moving until it's too late. Has very subtle moves at the line of scrimmage to escape the jam. Knows how to knock a cornerback's hands away from him. Soft hands and can pluck the ball, makes good adjustments, catches the ball away from his body.
    Downside: Because he didn't play in a big-time passing game, will have to work on his recognition skills, reading secondary rotations, and on route adjustments. Not as good a runner after the catch as Edwards or Williams. Needs to run routes sharper, and without throttling down to make cuts, and will have to become more spatially aware.
    The dish: Stock has skyrocketed since the end of the 2004 season and his vertical speed and home-run potential will make him a first-round choice.

    Mark Clayton (Oklahoma)
    Vital statistics: 5-feet-10 3/8, 193 pounds, 4.40 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Played in 52 games and started 36 of them, recorded 221 receptions for 3,241 yards and school-record 31 touchdowns. Had a huge season in 2003 when he rang up 83 catches for 1,425 yards and 15 scores. Scored touchdowns in eight straight games and had 10 catches of 40-plus yards. Numbers diminished in 2004, when he had 66 catches, because Sooners ran the ball a lot more with freshman Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Rushed 14 times for 82 yards, returned six kickoffs for 120 yards and seven punts for 101 yards and one touchdown. A two-time all-Big 12 choice and made most All-American teams in 2004.
    Upside: Lacks the physical dimension of the bigger receivers in this year's pool, but a wiry build and can take punishment, certainly knows how to protect himself. Much more quick than fast, although he opened a lot of eyes at the scouting combine with his performance in the 40, and that surprised a lot of people who felt he was kind of pedestrian. Smooth and fluid, and of all the top receivers might be the most naturally explosive in and out of his cuts. That's particularly true on the inside routes. Good body control and super change-of-direction abilities. Long arms allow him to play a tad bigger than he is, and he is fearless in traffic and in terms of attacking the ball. Smart and savvy, has played in sophisticated passing game and knows how to get open. Can return kicks.
    Downside: Not a guy who is going to regularly run up the boundary and separate from the cornerback on a "nine" route. Doesn't jump well. Could use some more bulk in his upper body, but not too much, since that might slow him down.
    The dish: Quality receiver who knows how to play the game. Looks like a No. 2 wideout, but for some teams and in some offensive systems, could easily be a lead guy. A whole lot quicker than people anticipated and should be chosen in the first round.

    Reggie Brown (Georgia)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-1 5/8, 196 pounds, 4.45 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Former high school track and basketball star. Overcame slow start to his career, and some injuries, to finish with 144 receptions for 2,008 yards and 12 scores. Best season was in 2004 when he posted 54 catches for 860 yards and six touchdowns. Returned six kickoffs for a 19.7-yard average and rushed 11 times for 87 yards. A Parade Magazine choice in high school, named all-SEC in 2004.
    Upside: Naturally smooth athlete and incredibly explosive over a 10- to 15-yard stretch. Really comes hard off his cuts, will snag the ball in front of his body, and add yardage after the catch. Deceptively strong and will break tackles if cornerbacks come soft after him. Terrific leaping ability, with an NBA-level vertical jump, and that allows him to make a lot of catches outside the body frame. Can cover up and protect himself. Flashes enough vertical dimension to get up the sideline or deep up the seam. Has overcome injuries and a disappointing start to his career.
    Downside: Will lose concentration on some easy balls. Gets into streaks where he will fight the ball into his hands sometimes. Really coming on as a receiver but perhaps still a better athlete than complete player at his juncture.
    The dish: Depending on how the wide receivers come off the board early, has a chance to get into the lower portion of the first round. Has passed up a lot of higher-profile guys since the end of the season and no worse than a high second-round selection.

    Terrence Murphy (Texas A&M)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-0 7/8, 202 pounds, 4.39 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Had 172 receptions for 2,600 yards and 10 touchdowns. Because of team's emphasis on the running game, never had more than 762 receiving yards and did not score more than four touchdowns in any season. Averaged 24.5 yards on 31 kickoff returns and carried 17 times for 209 yards. Played in 45 games and started 29 of them. An all-Big 12 selection in 2004 and twice named to the all-conference academic team.
    Upside: Impressive looking specimen, really cut, looks the part. For all his speed and explosion, best part of his game might be the manner in which he sets up defenders, and his innate feel for the game. Has an uncanny spatial instinct and great vision. Strong in the open field and can find holes when the secondary is in disarray. Has return skills. Good blocker, excellent student of the game, a very bright guy in general.
    Downside: Suffers some lapses of concentration and confidence. Still catches the ball against his body too often. More sudden than smooth. Has experienced some fumbling problems in the past.
    The dish: Work habits and still-burgeoning abilities make him a solid second-rounder.

    Mark Bradley (Oklahoma)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-1 3/8, 201 pounds, 4.37 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Played two seasons at Arkansas-Pine Bluff before transferring to Oklahoma as a walk-on, in part because he felt he would get better overall treatment as he rehabilitated from a major knee injury. Started only four of 25 games for Sooners but had 34 catches for 685 yards and nine touchdowns. In two seasons at Pine Bluff, posted 24 receptions for 459 yards and two scores. Returned 19 kickoffs for a 25.4-yard average at Oklahoma and rushed four times for 73 yards and one touchdown. Also had 13 special teams tackles.
    Upside: Still learning the finer points of the position but has the potential to be a really dynamic receiver. A natural athlete who will work hard to get better and to turn his skills into production. Excellent body control, adjusts to the deep ball, can get vertical. Quick into his cuts. Ask him to do anything and he will, as demonstrated by fact he played on every special teams unit, and served as the holder for placements.
    Downside: Limited exposure as a starter and, thus, limited production. Everything he's done so far has been sort of a tease. Will need a patient team, a coach that will provide him some time to develop. Might become a solid No. 2 guy but, at the same time, might never be more than a No. 3 if his progress is slowed.
    The dish: One of the fastest rising players at any position thanks, in large part, to a tremendous postseason. Will be chosen in the second round.

    Matt Jones (Arkansas)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-6, 242 pounds, 4.37 in the 40.
    Numbers game: As a quarterback, started in 32 of 46 appearances, completing 417 of 755 passes for 5,857 yards, with 53 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions. Also rushed 385 times for 2,535 yards and 24 touchdowns. Gained more than 500 rushing yards in all four seasons and finished as the SEC's all-time rushing leader for quarterbacks. Also caught three passes for 33 yards. Played basketball in 2001 and averaged 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds as a small forward.
    Upside: Hey, the guy is huge and runs under 4.4. How much more upside do you need than that? He's got incredible burst and acceleration for a man so big. Super hands and nice hand-eye coordination. Covers a lot of ground with very few steps. Incredible all-around athlete as evidenced by 40-inch vertical jump.
    Downside: Will need plenty of work on route running. Seems to glide into his cuts and, for all his straight-line speed, isn't functionally quick or sudden.
    The dish: One of the most compelling and tantalizing athletes in this or any other draft. Scouts are hard-pressed to find anyone to whom he compares. It would take a lot of guts to grab him in the first round, but someone is going to swallow hard and select him in the second.

    Roddy White (Alabama-Birmingham)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-1¼, 207 pounds, 4.47 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Four-year starter, appeared in 45 games and started in 43 of them, finishing a stellar college career with 163 catches for 3,112 yards and 26 touchdowns. Led his team in receiving three consecutive seasons. Career year came in '04 when he led the nation in receiving yards (1,452), catching 71 passes for 14 touchdowns. Averaged 15.2 yards on five kickoff returns and had one rush for 17 yards. Twice named to the all-Conference USA team.
    Upside: Good hands, not just in catching the ball, but in shaking free from corners at the line of scrimmage. Got better every season and topped off career with brilliant year in 2004. Tracks the ball well and makes good adjustments. Can lull secondary and then burst by everyone by kicking into a second gear. Good jumper. Will compete.
    Downside: Didn't face top-shelf competition for the most part and, when he did play against better corners, struggled at times. Can get sloppy in his routes and seems to coast too often. Some scouts have questioned his work habits.
    The dish: Looks like a second-round pick but overall stock has slipped some in the last few weeks.

    Vincent Jackson (Northern Colorado)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-4¾, 241 pounds, 4.46 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Started in 22 of 46 career appearances. Averaged more than 17 yards per catch in every season and three times averaged 20-plus yards per reception. Rewrote most of the school and conference record books with 177 receptions for 3,548 yards and 37 touchdowns. That included 1,462 yards and 21 scores in 2003 and 1,382 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2004. Returned 52 kickoffs for a 23.8-yard average and also averaged 11.6 yards and scored twice on 88 punt returns. Twice named to the all-Great West Conference team and was the conference's offensive player of the year in 2004. Played on the basketball team and averaged 10.6 points per game in 2002-2003. In 2003-2004, he averaged 13.6 points and 3.1 assists, both team highs, and 5.6 rebounds.
    Upside: Imposing size, built more like a tight end or maybe an H-back, but certainly has wideout-caliber straight-line speed. Towers over most defenders and exhibits solid body control. Has the kind of size to create mismatches in tight areas, and could really be a force in the red zone. Because of his strong basketball background, has a natural feel for positioning and for how to shield people away from him. Obviously, with his long body and arms, can catch the ball outside his frame.
    Downside: Mostly a long strider who will have to learn to chop his steps and to make cuts without slowing to gather himself. Tends to round off most of his breaks and does not run precise routes. Will take plays off when the ball isn't coming his way.
    The dish: Very compelling guy, has run some excellent times for a man so big, and it will be interesting to see just how high a pick some team will invest in him.

    Roscoe Parrish (Miami)
    Vital statistics: 5-feet-9¾, 170 pounds, 4.37 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Played in 35 games and started 10, didn't break into lineup full-time until 2004, and was largely the No. 3 receiver and return specialist until then. Had 43 catches for 693 yards and eight touchdowns in 2004 and finished his career with 81 receptions for 1,285 yards and 11 scores. Returned 68 punts for an average of 13.2 yards and three touchdowns. Also rushed 18 times for 178 yards and one touchdown. Named to the all-ACC team for 2004.
    Upside: Possesses warp-speed acceleration and can go from zero to 60 faster than most pricey foreign sports cars. Water-bug quick and can find plenty of holes in a secondary after the catch. Good hands. Tougher than one would expect for a player his size. Superb and dynamic punt return man and that was his primary role until 2004.
    Downside: Size will always be a question because he might struggle to get off the line of scrimmage. Might have to work exclusively out of the slot. Still learning the position. In the big picture, hasn't played much wideout, and is going to have to work hard on route running and on recognition.
    The dish: Some early projections had him in the first round but there are so many more accomplished receivers in this draft, that seems unlikely. Some team is probably going to get a proven return man, and developing receiver, in about the third round.

    Craphonso Thorpe (Florida State)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-0 7/8, 188 pounds, 4.37 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Made 48 appearances, 21 of them as a starter, and caught 123 passes for 2,153 yards and 22 touchdowns. That included 51 receptions for 994 yards and 11 scores in 2003. Broke his leg late in '03, had a rod inserted. Had 39 kickoff returns for an average of 21.7 yards. Recorded six rushes for 13 yards. Superb track athlete, ran indoors in 2002 and outdoors in 2003. In latter year, won the conference title in the 100 and 200 meters and was named the ACC's top outdoor track performer for 2003.
    Upside: Big-play mentality and vertical speed. Soft hands and really concentrates on seeing the ball and catching it out in front of his body. Adjusts well to the football in the air and seems to come back naturally to most passes.
    Downside: Simply wasn't the same player in 2004, after breaking his leg the previous year, and lost much of his explosiveness. Not a pure enough route runner to compensate for the loss of speed. Not real tough; some scouts claim he's got a track mentality and will mope when things aren't going his way. Gives up when he is stymied at the line by the initial jam.
    The dish: Has rehabilitated himself a bit in recent weeks, with stronger workouts, and seems to have regained much of his speed. But he's still mostly a linear player and one who still has plenty of ground to make up.

    Courtney Roby (Indiana)
    Vital statistics: 6-feet-0 1/8, 189 pounds, 4.41 in the 40.
    Numbers game: Three-year starter, 35 starts in 45 appearances, with 170 receptions for 2,524 yards and 12 touchdowns. His best statistical season was actually in 2002, when he had 59 catches and 1,039 yards. Returned 28 kickoffs for a 20.3-yard average and carried 37 times for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
    Upside: Fast enough to eat up the cornerback's cushion in a hurry. Good body control. Not the most fluid receiver but knows how to find soft spots in a zone. Really sets up some routes nicely.
    Downside: Doesn't play quite as fast as his stopwatch time. A thin frame and will get knocked off the ball. A bit of a body-catcher.
    The dish: Enough vertical speed to be a first-day pick and there are even some clubs that see him as a second-rounder.

    Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.