NFL draft WR rankings: Three-horse race to headline a fairly uninspiring crop

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With questions about the health of Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, the speed of Clemson’s Mike Williams and the sturdiness of Washington’s John Ross, there might not be a receiver who lands in top 10 picks for a second straight year. The top wideout selected in the 2016 NFL draft was Corey Coleman, who was the 15th overall pick, with three more receivers following him later in Round 1.

A similar scenario could play out this year, with Davis (if he can show he has recovered from offseason surgery) or Williams being the first receiver off the board in Round 1 and the other — or Ross — following closely behind. Teams that highly value speed also could roll the dice on Ross as this draft’s WR1 after he showed elite speed at the NFL scouting combine with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash.

Clemson WR Mike Williams has a decent chance to be the first receiver drafted in 2017. (AP)
Clemson WR Mike Williams has a decent chance to be the first receiver drafted in 2017. (AP)

There doesn’t appear to be a fourth option that could fall into Round 1, although some teams certainly project Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey — a running back by trade — as a tremendous slot option and jack of all trades. Regardless, he’s a top-15 pick, however you categorize him.

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After that, there’s some solid depth in this WR class that stretches into Day 3. However, the crop features a lot of slot receivers and potential Nos. 2 and 3 receivers with few game-changers. This crop also lacks great size, which could make Williams and a handful of others more attractive than in a typical draft class.

Positional grade: C-minus

We like Davis, Williams and Ross a lot for what they do, respectively, and it’s a solid class for slot and possession receiver. But this class lacks that A.J. Green-type difference maker and clear-cut No. 1 target, which makes it a rather uninspiring lot from a star-power standpoint.

(Editors’ note: Although some teams could project McCaffrey and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel to receiver in the NFL, or in a hybrid role, we included them in our running backs rankings.)

Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is our top-ranked receiver in the 2017 NFL draft. (AP)
Western Michigan’s Corey Davis is our top-ranked receiver in the 2017 NFL draft. (AP)

Shutdown Corner’s Top 10 wide receivers for 2017

1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan — 6-foot-3, 209 pounds — Outstanding production, physicality; alpha dog mentality shows in his play, but is he healthy enough to run a 40-yard dash before the draft?
2. Mike Williams, Clemson — 6-4, 218 — Big receiver who wins in the air and still has room to improve, but medical history, lack of speed are worries
3. John Ross, Washington — 5-11, 188 — Combine 40 legend is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, but knee injury history and smallish frame are concerning
4. Zay Jones, East Carolina — 6-2, 201 — All-time FBS reception leader has terrific hands and could be a Jarvis Landry-like slot weapon who frustrates defenses
5. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington — 6-2, 204 — Football savvy, body control are obvious, NFL-caliber traits; profiles as a solid No. 2 option in time
6. Chris Godwin, Penn State — 6-1, 209 — Has raised stock with huge Rose Bowl, big combine performance; could be more dominant pro than he was in college
7. Juju Smith-Schuster, USC — 6-1, 215 — Big-bodied, feisty receiver who would be an excellent complement to, say, an A.J. Green or Dez Bryant
8. Chad Hansen, Cal — 6-2, 202 — Smooth, faster-than-he-looks and highly competitive; Jared Goff, Davis Webb both complimented his route running and commitment to his craft
9. Carlos Henderson, Nevada — 5-11, 199 — Tackle-breaking machine who broke out last season but must work hard to perfect finer points of his craft
10. Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky — 5-11, 203 — Small-handed, quick-as-a-hiccup slot receiver with YAC potential; is he this year’s Stefon Diggs?

Sleeper
Mack Hollins, North Carolina

If you’ve followed me closely on Twitter, you might have seen me tweet a few times extolling the virtues of Hollins, who should be a productive pro despite a collarbone injury that cut short his final season and a hamstring injury he suffered while running the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. Both were hard-luck injuries, and he should be fine by the time NFL teams report for duty this summer.

The 6-4, 221-pound Hollins worked his way into the Tar Heels’ lineup after making himself into an exceptional special teams performer and performed those duties throughout his career. In that regard, he should enter the NFL with a chance to be a David Tyree-like contributor. But this height-weight-speed prospect also was a big-play receiver in his limited chances the past few seasons in college and has a chance to be a very good third option in the NFL with development. Here’s Hollins shaking man coverage, adjusting to a so-so throw and beating the Duke safety to the post for a long TD in 2015:

UNC’s Mack Hollins can scoot when he’s healthy. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
UNC’s Mack Hollins can scoot when he’s healthy. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Athletically, Hollins matches up quite favorably to Davis and Williams (our top two receivers in this class), takes pride in his blocking and special teams assignments and has a quirky personality that should make him a good fit in most locker rooms.

Here’s a taste of what Hollis is capable of, playing hurt against Florida State last season and showing great body control prior to the collarbone injury:

North Carolina’s Mack Hollins has great size, speed and body control. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
North Carolina’s Mack Hollins has great size, speed and body control. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Small-school wonder
Robert Davis, Georgia State

Davis broke nearly every one of Kansas City Chiefs receiver Albert Wilson’s school records and is a physical marvel who put on a show at the combine. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds he bench pressed 19 reps at 225 pounds, ran a scalding 4.44-second 40-yard dash and 6.82-second 3-cone drill, and also put up massive numbers in the high (41 inches) and broad jumps (136). There’s a growing sense that workout might have pushed him into the early Day 3 discussion.

Georgia State WR Robert Davis is raw but has fantastic athletic tools. (AP)
Georgia State WR Robert Davis is raw but has fantastic athletic tools. (AP)

Davis looks like a short small forward with his chiseled frame and can go up and snag the ball easily over smaller defensive backs. Playing in the same stadium the past few years has led to some — frankly unfair — Julio Jones physical comparisons, but Davis of course has a long way to go, development-wise, to reach Jones’ lofty plateau. Still, there is a lot to like about Davis, who emerged from Wilson’s shadow (they were teammates in 2013) and improved his production and play steadily, even with shaky quarterbacking at times.

He’s still raw, is learning to harness his special athletic traits and also didn’t dominate (10 100-yard games in 49 college contests) the way you’d expect in a pass-happy offense. Davis also appears to suffer from some concentration drops at times, and his change-of-direction skills didn’t always translate exceptionally well in the two games we watched of him. But he’s a willing blocker, put up some good tape against Wisconsin and has size and speed you can’t teach. In time, Davis could turn out to be a poor man’s Martavis Bryant — without the off-field concerns, we believe.

Other 2017 NFL draft position rankings:

Quarterbacks
Running backs

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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