2010 NFL Draft: WR and TE Breakdown
By Lance Epstein
The NFL draft is only four days away. Each day leading up to the draft, I will breakdown one of the seven major positions on the field. Those positions are secondary, linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, wide receivers/tight ends, running backs/fullbacks and quarterback.
With each position, I will breakdown the best player at the position, two sleepers, an overrated player, a late-round gem, and the player(s) the Eagles should select.
Today's installment is the fifth part of the seven part series. I will be breaking down the wide receiver and tight end positions.
If there were one position in this draft in which the Eagles do not necessarily need to upgrade, it would be the wide receiver position. With youngsters Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson in the fold, the Eagles will have a dynamic duo for the next decade.
On top of having those to impressive wide receivers, the Eagles locked up slot receiver Jason Avant to a long-term this offseason. Moreover, the Eagles decided to bring back unrestricted free agent Hank Baskett, who spent last season with the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite having four capable wide receivers, the Eagles might want to find themselves a taller, possession receiver since Baskett is a free agent at the end of the year. Of course the Eagles had one in Brandon Gibson, but they traded him to St. Louis in the deal that brought back linebacker Will Witherspoon. Do not expect a wide receiver early in this draft, but Philadelphia may take a project with raw talent that they can groom for do the line.
As for the tight end position, the Eagles could use an insurance policy incase second-string tight end Cornelius Ingram does not recover from his torn ACL. While Ingram possesses great athleticism and is a red-zone threat, Philadelphia cannot count on him to be 100 percent after suffering his second torn ACL.
Again like the wide receiver position, do not expect Andy Reid to pull the trigger on a tight end early because Brent Celek is coming off a career year where he pulled in 76 receptions for 971 yards and eight touchdowns. Celek needs to improve his blocking skills, but he is on his way to being an elite tight end in the NFL.
The Best: Dez Bryant, Oklahoma St., 6-2, 225 lbs
If Bryant did not get suspended by the NCAA and sit out almost the entire 2009 season, he probably would be a lock to go in the top 10 of the draft. Unfortunately, his character issues and lying to a NCAA investigator has made his stock drop dramatically and he is projected to go anywhere from 10th overall or fall all the way to 25 where the Baltimore Ravens select. Still, Bryant is a rare talent that has great speed, good body control to adjust to he ball in the air and is a big target in the red-zone. Teams believe Bryant is a bit lackadaisical about running routes and coming out of his breaks, but he has the potential to be an elite wide receiver.
David Reed, Utah, 6-0, 191 lbs
While Reed needs to work on his route running skills and coming out of his breaks due to playing in a spread offense in college, he has shown the ability to be a nice slot receiver in the NFL. At the East-West game, he demonstrated that he could run precise routes and get out of his breaks with excellent burst once he was taught. Of course, he is a bit undersized for the position, but he can grow into a nice slot receiver much in the mold of Wes Welker. He is not a burner, but he is hard worker, which will make it hard to keep off any roster.
Brandon LaFell, LSU, 6-2, 211 lbs
LaFell is a big-body wide receiver that needs to learn how to run precise routes and refine his game, so that he can be a good wide receiver at the next level. He does not possess world-class speed, but his long strides allow him to get by defenders. Additionally, he has very soft and natural hands. Although the one knock on him is that he has a case of the drops, but a lot of great wide receivers had the same knock on them coming out of college as well. LaFell is a nice red-zone target that will go out and catch the ball at its highest point.
Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas, 6-2, 207 lbs
The Kansas wide receiver might be the most difficult wide receiver to figure out in the draft. In college, he would look like the best wide out in the NCAA one week and the very next he would disappear completely. Many scouts have listed him as the most inconsistent wide receiver coming out of the draft. In addition, he does not have explosive speed or even the ability to beat defenders after he catches the ball. On top of that, he is not physical or even aggressive for a player with his size. Finally, he has maturity issues to boot. Briscoe will probably be drafted in the third round, but people won't remember him in a year or two.
Jacoby Ford, Clemson, 5-9, 185 lbs
The word that describes Ford is explosive. He can beat opponents as a wide out or returning a punt to the house on special teams. While Ford is very undersized for the position and has inconsistent hands, his world-class speed makes him a big-time threat as a slot receiver. Certainly, it will take him a couple of years to develop his skills to be a cream of the crop slot receiver, but he can contribute immediately to any team on special teams.
Player(s) the Eagles Should Take:
Danario Alexander, Missouri, 6-5, 215 lbs
Alexander did not participate at the NFL combine due to injury and did not have a Pro Day either, so he is a bit of an unknown. However, at Missouri he was a very productive player and in the fifth or sixth-round he could be worth the risk. Unlike most of the receivers on the Eagles, Alexander has the size, speed and ability to go into traffic and make the tough catch. Alexander needs to work on his route running to be an affective possession receiver, but his work ethic and competitiveness shows that he is willing to become better and could be a steal.
The Best: Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, 6-6 265 lbs
Most draft experts have Jermaine Gresham as the most talented tight end in the NFL Draft. However, he is coming off a major knee surgery, which could take away one facet of his game that makes him so affective, his speed. Certainly Gronkowski has injury problems of his own since he is coming off of back surgery and missed 16 games over the past two seasons. Still, he has the rare combination of size, speed and athleticism for the position to make him a very good player at the next level. Additionally, he plays the game with toughness and blocking skills that scouts have compared to current Dallas Cowboy tight end Jason Witten.
Dorin Dickenson, Pittsburgh, 6-4, 226 lbs
Unlike most of the tight ends in this draft, Dickenson is more of a wide receiver playing tight end. At Pitt, he was such a great athlete that he played linebacker, wide receiver and fullback before finding his calling at tight end. In the NFL, teams will use this versatility and probably make him a H-back, which will permit them to use him in a variety of ways. In order to be a great H-back in the NFL, he must add more bulk and strength so he can be a better blocker.
Dennis Pitta, BYU, 6-4 245 lbs
One thing that scouts have knocked Pitta for is that he is an older player since he had to do his two-year mission. At the start of the NFL season, he will be 25 years old. Still, he is a receiving threat down the middle of the field and has very good hands. Additionally, he runs very precise routes and is very smooth out of his breaks. Ultimately, he needs to add more weight and strength to be a starting caliber tight end in the NFL.
Aaron Hernandez, Florida, 6-2, 245 lbs
This is not because Hernandez is a bad player or cannot succeed in the NFL. The problem is he is an undersized tight end that will have major problems being a blocker at the next level. On the other hand, he has great athleticism and is a threat down the field as a tight end. In fact, he does a great job of plucking the ball out of the air and adjusting to an off target throw. However, he is not very strong as a blocker and does not understand taking the appropriate angles when getting to the second level. Additionally, he is coming out of a spread offense so he will struggle to become a precise route runner.
Jimmy Graham, Miami, 6-6, 260 lbs
It is amazing before the season and the combine, Graham might not have even been drafted. Today, he might go as high as the fourth-round. The former Gator basketball player has great athleticism and huge potential, but needs to improve his technique, route running and blocking. That said, he showed great burst coming out of his routes, can get separation from defenders and can come down with the ball in a crowd. Remember, a lot of the great tight ends in the league now (Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates) were at similar stages entering the draft.
Player(s) the Eagles Should Take:
Garrett Graham, Wisconsin, 6-3, 243 lbs
Graham enters the draft as a ‘tweener, who lacks the size and strength to be a great blocker at the NFL level. Despite that, he possesses some of the same skill sets as incumbent Eagles starter, Brent Celek. He is a good route runner, is excellent at reading coverage and finding holes in a zone. Like Celek, he is a natural receiver that plucks the ball out of the air and can be used as a wide receiver in some formations. Again like Celek, he is a willing blocker, but probably will never excel at it. In the fifth round, the Eagles could find another steal.
Tomorrow we breakdown the running back and fullback positions...