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2018 NFL Draft: Chris’s top 5 receivers and tight ends

Which players could be the top prospects in the passing attack come April’s draft?

NCAA Football: Mercer at Alabama Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

The wide receiver class in the 2018 NFL Draft looks to be an interesting one. It doesn’t have the prototypical big-school, big, athletic “X” receiver that scouts can point to as the clear top prospect. Instead, there are a number of good prospects that offer different skill sets that might appeal to different teams with different schemes and needs.

The New York Giants have been making due without a top receiver since the disastrous game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Roger Lewis Jr., Tavarres King, and Travis Rudolph have stepped up in the absence of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris. However, the Giants’ extended look at their receiving depth could reveal a need to bolster the position come the draft. It might not be a pressing need, but it might pay to be familiar with the receiver class.

On the flip side, the Giants are probably set at tight end. Evan Engram is having a great rookie campaign, Rhett Ellison is a high-priced (and probably under-used) free agent, and Jerell Adams looks to be growing as a player in his sophomore season. However, we’ll take this opportunity to take a quick peek at the tight ends as well.

1 - Calvin Ridley (Alabama)

Which receiver is the first off the board will likely come down to which teams are picking when. However, the NFL values explosiveness, and Ridley has that in spades. He is an older prospect at 24, and a bit thin (listed at 190 pounds), but he is a threat to score any time he touches the ball, as well as a good route runner with reliable hands. His production has dipped with the departure of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator, but his ability to make game-breaking plays is already well documented on tape.

2 - James Washington (Oklahoma State)

Washington doesn’t have the raw explosiveness of Ridley or the size of Sutton, but he is just a good, consistently productive receiver who gets it done on the field. Washington reminds of Hakeem Nicks or Jeremy Maclin with his ability to play bigger and faster than he measures. He is a solid route runner with good speed and reliable hands and is a threat all over the field in Oklahoma State’s spread offense. Washington has had 185 receptions, 3,784 yards, and 31 touchdowns in his last three years.

3 - Courtland Sutton (SMU)

Every year it seems like a big receiver emerges from a smaller, or FCS, school to capture the attention of scouts and draftniks. This year that is Sutton. At 6’4,” 216 pounds, Sutton is a long receiver with impressive athleticism, and he has used his tools to dominate the competition in the AAC. It’s good that he dominated his level of competition, but that is to be expected from a prospective NFL receiver at lower level. Had he played like that against Alabama or Ohio State, he might be the top player at his position, but he can only play the teams on his schedule. He might still get there, however, with a strong showing through the draft process.

4 - Christian Kirk (Texas A&M)

In recent years a number of “undersized” receivers have come out of college to have significant impact on the NFL. Using sharp route running and explosive quickness to exploit the NFL’s trend toward big cornerbacks, players like Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Cooks, Tyler Locket, and Sterling Shepard have produced big numbers despite not conforming to the NFL’s archetype for wide receivers.

Kirk looks like the next receiver in that line. At 5’11,” 200 pounds (or possibly smaller), Kirk has consistently produced at TAMU. In his three years there, he has 236 receptions for 2705 yards and 22 touchdowns. Like other smaller receivers he relies on crisp routes and quickness to create separation, and he has added value as a returner on special teams.

5 - Simmie Cobbs Jr. (Indiana)

You don’t see too many top receivers coming out of Indiana, but Cobbs’ big 6’4,” 220 pound frame and ability to dominate the catch point are definitely eye-catching. He is deceptively quick for his size and isn’t afraid to extend for catches, giving him a massive catch radius. Cobbs’ ability to separate from coverage and use that radius in the red zone is almost unfair. Against Ohio State he had a phenomenal 11 catch, 149 yard, 1 TD game in which the Buckeyes simply could not find an answer for him.

Tight Ends

1 - Hayden Hurst (South Carolina)

A former walk-on, Hurst’s production is hindered by South Carolina’s offense rather than talent. He is athletic with a well-rounded skill set, and at 6’6,” 250 pounds, he has a prototypical NFL frame

2 - Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)

Another prototypically built tight end, Fumagalli has downfield athleticism as well as all the blocking ability you would expect from a 6’5,” 250-pound TE from Wisconsin.

3 - Mike Gesicki (Penn State)

Saquon Barkley pretty much IS the Penn State offense, but with defenses focusing the entirety of their attention on him, other players need to produce as well. Gesicki helps out his teammate as a blocker and his offense as a red zone threat, with seven touchdowns on the season.

Saquon Barkley pretty much IS the Penn State offense, but with defenses focusing the entirety of their attention on him, other players need to produce as well. Gesicki helps out his teammate as a blocker and his offense as a red zone threat, with seven touchdowns on the season.

4 - Mark Andrews (Ohio State)

Andrews doesn’t look quite as athletic on the field, but he has some quickness and ability to get lost in defenses, picking up long strikes. He is also a solid run blocker.

5 - Caleb Wilson (UCLA)

Wilson is a boom or bust prospect who could disappear or be a definite riser over the course of the draft process. A transfer from USC, the 6’5,” 230 pound Wilson is a recent convert to the tight end position, and is probably better thought of as a “hybrid” player. He looked to be starting a break-out year at UCLA, but had his season ended in October with a broken foot. With head coach Jim Mora fired and quarterback Josh Rosen likely leaving for the NFL, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Wilson make the jump as well, despite the uncertainty around him on the field.

His athleticism and a receiving background could make him stand out over the course of the draft process, assuming his foot recovers enough to allow him to participate.