WRs: Sleepers lurk in an elite class

WRs: Sleepers lurk in an elite class
by Craig James, Yahoo Sports
April 22, 2004

Craig James
Yahoo Sports
Cris Carter's draft analysis:
Overview | AFC: East - North - South - West | NFC: East - North - South - West

Craig James' draft analysis:
Overview - QBs - WRs - More offense - Defense

The wide receiver position is loaded in this draft – what a group. The depth will give some teams a real bonus in the second or third round, and I've got a couple of players in mind.

Larry Fitzgerald probably is at the top of the heap, but the supporting cast will play a huge role in how fast all of these players develop. Most of the top guys have height and can run and use their bodies well.

I saw many of Fitzgerald's games, and he elevated Pittsburgh to a lot of wins that were achieved mostly because of his ability. Miami, however, limited him to three catches in the Panthers' biggest game of 2003, which again points out how key a supporting cast is to these guys' immediate and prolonged success.

After Fitzgerald, it's a battle of the Williamses, whether there are two or three of them. Mike Williams' eligibility is in the hands of the courts, but Roy Williams and Reggie Williams are certain to be selected early.

All of the Williamses are pretty similar, and I'll echo what Cris Carter has said. They all are ready for the NFL, and they can become stars if they are surrounded by a solid supporting cast. They can't do it on their own, at least not right away.

Just a notch below the Williamses is another solid group. Lee Evans is a little shorter and less powerful than the players ranked above him, but he has proven by overcoming knee surgery that he has a lot of discipline and a strong work ethic. And he came back and got stronger as the year went on.

Add Michael Clayton, Mike Jenkins, Rashaun Woods and Devery Henderson to the list of solid guys who will have an impact as the No. 3 receivers on their teams as rookies.

But I'd like to look at a couple of players who have been largely overlooked.

There's a reason Keary Colbert out of USC had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. There's a reason Colbert is USC's leader in career receptions. It's because he just makes plays.

Colbert doesn't have blazing speed, but he plays the game fast. Watching him against Michigan in the Rose Bowl, I couldn't help but keep thinking that this guy is a difference maker. He's way underrated.

And how about Jerricho Cotchery of North Carolina State? He's another guy that might not run away and leave a defensive back in his dust – but he makes great plays.

He's got wonderful body control and strong hands. He and Philip Rivers had a lot of success together in Raleigh. Cotchery led the ACC in receiving yards per game in both 2002 and 2003 and broke Torry Holt's school record for career catches.

Those are two guys who have had major success on some of college football's biggest stages. They're potential No. 2 guys for some teams right away.

Send Yahoo! Sports analyst Craig James a question or comment for potential use in a future column.


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Updated on Thursday, Apr 22, 2004 10:15 am, EDT

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