Junior WRs could upstage weak senior class

NFL teams in need of wide receiver help cannot be happy about an impending draft drought at the position. After back-to-back years with at least six first-round receivers and at least 13 first-day receivers, the 2006 class came up embarrassingly short with just one first-round pick (Santonio Holmes) and only eight selected on Day 1.

The defections of Holmes (Steelers) and Chad Jackson (Patriots) weakened what was already considered an anemic crop of 2007 wide receiver talent. As it stands right now, Jason Hill (Washington State) and Jeff Samardzija (Notre Dame) rank as the top senior prospects. While both show enough potential to emerge as solid NFL starters, Hill's lack of consistency and Samardzija's lack of elite speed have scouts questioning their respective potential to develop into premier targets at the next level.

The silver lining could be an ultra-talented assembly of youngsters who will be eager to exploit the opportunity of a weak senior class. As it stands now, Dwayne Jarrett (USC), Calvin Johnson (Georgia Tech), Sidney Rice (South Carolina) and Ted Ginn Jr. (Ohio State) are the best of the bunch.

Also promising is the potential depth of the senior class. Steve Breaston (Michigan), Courtney Taylor (Auburn) and Andre Caldwell (Florida) are coming off injury-riddled junior campaigns, but each has flashed game-breaking ability when operating at full throttle.

What you see is what you get with Steve Smith (USC), but he's a sure-handed possession receiver who looks NFL ready right now. Conversely, Dwayne Bowe (LSU), Paul Williams (Fresno State) and Jarrett Hicks (Texas Tech) are rough around the edges, but their combination of size and playmaking skill are tantalizing to NFL scouts.

Johnnie Lee Higgins (UTEP), Chansi Stuckey (Clemson), Terry Richardson (Arizona State) and Tyrone Prothro (Alabama) lack first-day receiver talent, but each brings extra value to the table as a potential difference-maker in the return game.

Ryan Moore (Miami-Fla.), Matt Trannon (Michigan State) and Rhema McKnight (Notre Dame) are underachieving talents who could pull Maurice Stovall-esque draft-board ascents with strong senior crusades.

Finally, Mississippi Valley State's Tyrone Timmons is the premier small-school prospect from this year's wide receiver corps. He will not become the second Delta Devil ever taken in the first round of an NFL draft (Jerry Rice, 1985), but his impressive blend of size and speed should earn Timmons a mid-to-late-round pick in 2007.

Three-Year Tally

The following is a graphic representation of the number of wide receivers selected in each round of the previous three NFL drafts. Most NFL teams use this type of chart to study position trends when setting up their respective draft boards each year.