2014 NFL draft preview: Wide receivers and tight ends

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Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans during a drill at pro day for NFL football representatives on Thursday, March 27, 2014.

Photo: Patric Schneider, ASSOCIATED PRESS - AP

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There likely won’t be an offensive weapon selected with the first overall pick, nor the second, but don’t let that fool you. Wide receiver might be the deepest position in the draft, with a number of players capable of making an immediate impact in a pass-happy league even outside of the first round.

Seven receivers could be selected in the first round and likely two of those will go in the top 10, led by Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans. While those two are clearly the best receivers of the group, Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, Southern California’s Marqise Lee, LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr., Penn State’s Allen Robinson and Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief could all hear their name announced by Commissioner Roger Goodell in the first round.

That doesn’t even include the steals available in the middle rounds. Last year, the Chargers got a third-round gem in Cal’s Keenan Allen, who developed into one of the top rookies with 71 catches and 1,046 receiving yards. It wouldn’t be surprising to see third-rounders this year who have the same impact.

On the other hand, there aren’t as many game-changing tight ends in this draft. Only one, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron, is expected to be a first-rounder. Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro and Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be second-day picks.

Teams looking for depth at tight end could find some value at the position in Day 3 with some solid options, including Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz and Georgia’s Arthur Lynch.

THE FRONT-RUNNER

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins should go in the top five. Listed at 6-1 and 211 pounds, Watkins was immediately considered one of the best receivers in the country following his freshman year and shattered nearly every school receiving record in three seasons. The three-time first-team All-America is dynamic and versatile, with the ability to return kicks and even lineup in the backfield. He’ll be in contention for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

THE CONTENDERS

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

Evans is every quarterback’s dream. Just ask quarterback Johnny Manziel how many times Evans grabbed an off-balanced jump ball by using his 6-5, 231-pound frame to leap over everyone in the vicinity. He possesses unmatched size and strength and will be a top-10 pick. There should be a few teams calling the Vikings and looking to deal if he’s still on the board with the eighth pick.

 

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

He’ll need to improve as a blocker, but Ebron’s ability as a playmaking tight end isn’t in question. The All-ACC first-team selection broke the conference single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end (895) last year. Listed at 6-4 and 250 pounds, Ebron is a good route runner and has great hands.

 

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Cooks might only be 5-10 and 189 pounds, but he’s durable and agile. Last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner, given to the nation’s top receiver, he ran a 4.33 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine and has made countless defenders whiff in three seasons. The consensus All-America broke both the Pac-12 single-season receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,730) records last year.

THE SLEEPER

Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin

He went from walk-on to one of the top receivers in the Big Ten last year. Abbrederis doesn’t have exceptional speed, but gains separation as a good route runner with reliable hands. He torched Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby, a first-round talent, for 10 catches and 207 yards last season.





 

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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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