NFL draft preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2013 - 11:47 AM

Teams in search of receivers won’t find a Calvin Johnson or a Larry Fitzgerald. But what they will find are solid starters, contributors and Day 3 sleeper picks

The hot topic:

No ‘Megatron,’ but there is mega depth

Teams in search of receivers won’t find a Calvin Johnson or a Larry Fitzgerald. But what they will find are solid starters, contributors and Day 3 sleeper picks who will go on to have surprisingly successful careers.

That’s what the draft experts agree on. What they don’t agree on is when the run on receivers will begin and which receivers will kick things off in the first round.

“It’s kind of pick your flavor,” said Vikings Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, referring to the wide array of shapes, sizes and talents of this year’s draft-eligible receivers.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. now likes West Virginia little slot receiver Tavon Austin as the first receiver taken, going 16th overall to St. Louis. Three to five more receivers, including the much bigger but less polished Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee, could join Austin in the first round. Another wave of potential starters is expected in the second round, while the third and fourth rounds should bring hidden gems such as Aaron Dobson of Marshall and Markus Wheaton of Oregon State.

The talent at tight end is considerably thinner, although Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert (6-6, 250) will be a top-20 pick. San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar, a 6-6, 254-pounder with exceptional speed and ball skills for his size, is rising quickly and could be a second-round pick.

THE FRONTRUNNER

Tavon Austin, West Virginia

The 5-8, 174-pounder is similar to former Viking and current Seahawk Percy Harvin. At least in his versatility and elusiveness. Austin is a dynamic playmaker with the speed (4.4) and quickness to separate from and frustrate defenders with yards after the catch. Where he doesn’t compare to Harvin is strength. Austin is about 10-15 pounds lighter than Harvin and not nearly as powerful.

THE CONTENDERS

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee, WR

The former junior college standout went to Tennessee and stood out there, too. He scored touchdowns receiving, running and returning kicks. He set the school record with 1,858 all-purpose yards. He has good speed (4.49) for his size (6-2, 216). But he’s also raw because he’s played only one year at the major college level.

 

Keenan Allen, Cal, WR

Allen (6-2, 206) has first-round talent but could fall to the second round because of a knee injury that sidelined him for the last three games a year ago. Caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six TDs two years ago.

 

Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame, TE

Just the latest NFL-ready tight end to come out of Notre Dame. The Vikings have two of them — Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson — so they’re not interested. Eifert is 6-6, 250 pounds and runs with enough speed to be a matchup problem.

THE SLEEPER

Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech

The 6-2, 217-pounder has all the physical attributes to make it in the NFL. He’s big, strong and fast. He has good hands and can make difficult catches over the middle. But he’s a big character risk who teams will stay away from until the third day of the draft. He was dismissed from Tennessee because of bad behavior before the 2012 season. He transferred down to the FCS level and dominated with 78 catches for 1,207 yards and 11 TDs.





 

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  • West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin.

  • Da'Rick Rogers

  • Tyler Eifert

  • Keenan Allen

  • Cordarrelle Patterson

  • Tavon Austin is neither tall nor especially strong, but his speed and versatility might make him the first receiver drafted.

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