Who are the top wide receivers available in the 2011 NFL draft? Though there are a couple of marquee wide receivers in the 2011 NFL draft, the talent pool after the top couple of players remains murky. Below is a summary of the top five wide receivers available in the draft for 2011.
If you’re interested in other content relating to the 2011 NFL draft, make sure to check out the following:
2011 NFL mock draft
Top quarterbacks in the 2011 NFL draft
Top running backs in the 2011 NFL draft
And now, on to the best wide receivers available this year:
#1. AJ Green – University of Georgia
Without question, AJ Green is the best wide receiver prospect available in 2011. If a receiver comes out of this NFL draft class that is on par with a Calvin Johnson or a Randy Moss, it’s AJ Green. Several mock drafts have AJ Green going first overall. I think that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s unlikely that Green makes it past the first half dozen picks.
AJ Green is 6’4” and 210 lbs; his combination of speed and height will give him a distinct advantage against most NFL corners. Green’s one of those unique receivers that is able to make something out of nothing, and he’ll instantly make any quarterback look better. The defensive line talent available in this year’s draft (i.e. Da’Quan Bowers and Nick Fairley) is a notch above Green, but he still may end up as the most immediately impactful player in the draft.
Perhaps more than with any other position, wide receivers can see their draft stock fluctuate based upon combine results. Otherwise excellent receivers that don’t post good 40 yard dash times often unjustifiably see their stock plummet. So there’s always a high measure of variance when you speculate exactly where a receiver ends up getting drafted. That said, AJ Green is as close to a sure thing as you will find in this draft class.
Draft projection: First round, top 6
#2. Julio Jones – University of Alabama
You’re unlikely to find a draft pundit who would take issue with AJ Green as the best wide receiver available this year. But Julio Jones is the consensus second best, and he may not be far behind Green. The body types of Jones and Green are quite similar–Jones measures out at 6’4” and 220 lbs.
Some of Julio Jones’ biggest games came against Alabama’s tougher opponents. He put 200 yards of receiving against Auburn, and 120 against South Carolina. Both Jones and Green are big, tough receivers that aren’t afraid of contact. I’d give the edge to Jones in terms of physicality, and to AJ Green when it comes to finesse.
It wouldn’t be that surprising to see Julio Jones slip in to the top ten. Barring the unforeseeable, he should be drafted in the first half of the first round.
Draft projection: First round, picks 10-15
#3. Jonathan Baldwin – University of Pittsburgh
The separation in the depth of the wide receiver prospects for 2011 is between the second and third players. Green and Jones are in a class by themselves, and there’s a significant gap between them and the next best wide receiver available. However, in time Jonathan Baldwin has the potential to be every bit as good.
In many respects, Baldwin is even more physically imposing than Jones. At 6’5” and 230 lbs, he’s about as big as one can get for the receiver position. The primary knock on Jonathan Baldwin is that he’s still somewhat raw. You can see the potential in him, but his route running isn’t that great. He didn’t play the level of competition that Green or Jones did in college, and still put up some fairly pedestrian stats at times. He finished his junior year with about 800 receiving yards and just 5 touchdowns. He was also a non-factor in Pittsburgh’s bowl game against Kentucky.
But he’s the kind of player that may very well excel at the combine and in individual workouts. So based upon potential alone, Baldwin won’t last long in the draft.
Draft projection: Second round, picks 40-60
#4. Torrey Smith – University of Maryland
You could say that Torrey Smith is the best receiver in the draft that doesn’t fit the supersized mold of Jones, Baldwin, and to a lesser extent, Green. At 6’1” and 200 lbs, Smith isn’t undersized, but has more of the classic proportions of a wide receiver. He is still developing as a player, but turned in a very solid junior season performance at Maryland with over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Smith has excellent speed and has all the makings of an excellent kick returner at the NFL level. But like Baldwin, he’s more of a work in progress than Green and Jones are, who could very well step on to a team as the #1 receiving option.
Draft projection: End of the second round
#5. Leonard Hankerson – University of Miami
It’s reasonable to make the case the Leonard Hankerson’s draft profile has a slight parallel to Michael Crabtree’s. That’s not to suggest that Hankerson will ever be considered as a top ten pick. But as was the case with Crabtree, there seems to be a gap between Hankerson’s performance on the field and how he may measure statistically in 40 yard dash times, etc. Michael Crabtree was rumored to not have the kind of elite speed many NFL teams look for in their receivers, but always seemed fast enough in game time. the same has been said of Hankerson. He may not clock the fastest times, but can make gain separation from defenders and make plays when it counts.
If Hankerson turns out surprisingly good numbers at the combine, expect his draft stock to rise. He could challenge Baldwin for position as the third best receiver in the 2011 NFL draft.
Draft projection: End of the second round