Quick Hits: Sleeper Picks at Wide Receiver
LSU’s Reuben Randle is flying under the radar as a future NFL star
Every team is familiar with top tier wide receiver prospects like Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd. But what sleepers could make an impact for teams in need of weapons on offense? Here are six wide receivers who could contribute tremendously at the NFL level.
Stephen Hill - Georgia Tech
The junior out of Georgia Tech has quickly risen up draft boards at the wide receiver position. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 215 pounds, Hill is a physical specimen who runs a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, the fastest time recorded by a wide receiver at the 2012 NFL Combine. In addition, Hill has tremendous leaping abilities, with a 39.5-inch vertical. In his last year of college, Hill had 28 receptions for 820 yards, an average of 29.3 yards per catch. Hill is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, blocking wide receiver in this draft after playing in Georgia Tech’s option offense.
However, there are questions about this prospect. Due to Georgia Tech’s offensive scheme, Hill ran pretty basic routes at the college level and is consequently somewhat of a raw route-runner. There are also questions about Hill’s consistency in catching the ball. Overall, Hill has tons of upside due to his physical attributes and success as a deep threat at Georgia Tech. But he will need to refine his route running skills and football IQ to be a legitimate force in the NFL.
Projected Round: Late First or Early Second Round
Rueben Randle - Louisiana State
Randle is another prospect with plenty of potential. He possesses ideal size at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, and he possesses the ability to run routes quickly as well. Randle has impressive acceleration off the ball and has the athletic and physical ability to win against man-to-man coverage all over the field. Running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Combine, Randle doesn’t possess explosive speed. Yet, he is a player who builds speed over time to outrun the defender.
Recording 53 catches for 917 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2011, Randle is a consistent receiver with good hands. Leaving LSU as a junior, there are concerns that Randle is an unpolished prospect who needs to develop his route running, especially across the middle of the field. Overall, if Randle can improve in that skill, he has the size and athleticism to become a stud in the NFL.
Projected Round: Late First or Early Second Round
Mohamed Sanu - Rutgers
Sanu is a throwback player who loves the physical part of the game. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, Sanu is a fearless receiver that is not afraid to go across the middle. He has great hands and he has the ability to read coverages well and find holes in zone defenses. Consequently, Sanu is very efficient in the short-to-intermediate passing game. Sanu also has good leaping abilities with a 36-inch vertical.
In 2011, he was extremely productive at Rutgers, with 115 catches, 1,206 yards and 7 touchdowns. However, Sanu lacks the pure speed (he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash) to contribute in the deep passing game. Overall, Sanu will be a solid possession receiver at the next level that would fit perfectly in a West Coast Offense.
Projected Round: Second Round
Chris Givens - Wake Forest
The 5-foot-11, 198 pound junior out of Wake Forest is considered one of the best route runners in this year’s draft class. Givens is an explosive player with great acceleration, field awareness and quickness, making his routes extremely crisp and efficient. He is a former track star, and it shows in his 4.37-second 40-yard dash time. Additionally, Givens makes all the necessary catches at full speed.
A First-Team All-ACC selection this past year, Givens had 83 receptions, 1,330 yards and 9 touchdowns this past year at Wake Forest. However, there are concerns about his physicality. He often gets jammed at the line of scrimmage and does not give a full effort blocking in the run game. But overall, Givens has the skill set to be an elite deep threat receiver in the NFL.
Projected Range: Second or Third Round
Brian Quick - Appalachian State
Another boom-or-bust prospect, Brian Quick has NFL teams excited about his size and potential. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 220 pounds, Quick was a high school basketball star who has made a pretty smooth transition to football. He is a dynamic weapon in the short game, deep game and in the red zone. He can shield out smaller defenders in between zones and he can out-leap defenders in jump ball situations (he has a 34-inch vertical). Quick has very strong hands and is consequently a very reliable pass catcher.
In his senior year at Appalachian State, Quick put up his best collegiate season, with 71 catches, 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns. There are concerns about his experience, as he only played one year of high school football and four years of college football at an FCS school. Consequently, there are concerns about his transition from the FCS level to the NFL. Also, Quick doesn’t possess the flat line speed (4.55-second 40-yard dash) to flash by big time corners in the NFL. Overall, Quick has the physical build, athleticism and hands to become a threat at the next level.
Projected Round: Third Round
T.Y. Hilton - Florida International
The senior out of FIU is a dual threat at wide receiver and kick returner. Running a 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds, Hilton has the straight-line speed to be a game changer in the open field. He has good field vision and uses good judgment with the ball in his hands. He’s a solid route runner and he is able to separate himself from the defender because of his speed and quickness. Consequently, Hilton is a decent option in the slot.
Hilton had 72 catches, 1,038 yards and 7 touchdowns this past year at FIU. However, Hilton lacks the ideal size at 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, and he is not a good blocker. Additionally, he is not a reliable short-to-intermediate game receiver. Overall, Hilton has value in his deep threat and kick returning abilities. His role on an NFL team will be similar to the role that Devin Hester plays for the Chicago Bears.
Projected Round: Fourth or Fifth Round
Other Sleepers to Watch For: Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, Arizona WR Juron Criner, Wisconsin WR Nick Toon, California WR Marvin Jones, Penn State WR Derek Moye.
Jon Blauvelt is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Senior / Broadcast Journalism and Political Science
Jon Blauvelt is a senior at Penn State majoring in Broadcast Journalism/Political Science and minoring in Spanish.
Blauvelt has experience across communications in TV, radio, print, public relations and corporate communications. Check out his LinkedIn profile for more information.
You can also follow Blauvelt on Twitter @JonRBlauvelt.