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Ranking A Loaded Rookie Wr Class...


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Mel Kiper's look at the 2014 rookie wide receiver class

Here's my ranking of the top five rookie receivers in the NFL:

1. Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Evans doesn't have a singular moment, he has a better overall profile than Beckham right now -- and that's even before you consider the QB situation in Tampa.

He has more receptions (49 to 41), more receiving yards (841 to 609), more TD catches (8 to 5), and has been a beast down the field. Evans now has 17 catches of 20-plus yards, while Beckham has seven. In fact, the only two players who have more 20-plus-yard catches in the NFL are Julio Jones and Demaryius Thomas. And again, Evans has been thrown to by the highly inconsistent duo of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon. How would he do with Eli Manning?

An added note on Evans that might get overlooked: The guy will flat-out block down the field. I was going back through games and he was consistently doing a good job in that area. The little things plus a ton of big plays have him on top.

2. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants

On a per-play basis you can make an argument that ODB has been the NFL's best rookie WR. Unfortunately, this ranking is about total value over the course of the season, and that leaves him just a notch below Evans so far. But he already leads the Giants in receiving yards despite missing those four games, and he's on pace for nearly 900 yards over a 12-game season, which is really impressive. Beckham is that guy who will make the contested catch in the air on a well-defended throw, and he'll beat you underneath and make plays after the catch. He's just scratching the surface.

At his pace, it wouldn't surprise me if he's the top rookie WR by the end of the season.

3. Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers

There are plenty of warts to be found if you watch Benjamin every week, as I have. He drops too many passes and his route running -- which was a big concern of mine through the draft process -- has been an issue at times. Last week, he ran a bad slant and basically created an interception that Cam Newton didn't deserve. But give him credit for his production within the context of the huge responsibility he's taken on with a team that lacks pass-catching help. He leads his team and all rookies in targets (98), is on pace for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, and has a dozen catches of 20-plus yards. Give Benjamin credit because he's been asked to be a true No. 1 for his team, and he wasn't totally ready for that based on technical ability.

4. Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills

Like Benjamin, Watkins has had his ups and downs and will need to be more consistent. But similarly, he's taken on a huge role for a 6-5 team and deserves credit for that. It's not as easy when defenses consider you the No. 1 option. Watkins has 14 more targets than any other Buffalo player, and also has more receptions (48) and yards (684) than any Bills receiver. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he averages 5.0 yards after the catch, so he's consistently creating in the open field. You don't have to love what Buffalo gave up to get him (I didn't) to say he's done pretty well so far and will get better as he becomes more consistent.

5. Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins

One of my bold predictions during an August "SportsCenter" appearance was that Landry would eventually become Ryan Tannehill's favorite target, and I think he's getting there. Landry is now second behind only Mike Wallace in team targets, and he hasn't had fewer than five catches in a game since October. He has just a pair of drops on the year, and I think he'll be considered one of the more reliable pass-catchers in the league soon. Todd McShay and I both agreed that Landry probably had the best hands in the entire draft, right there with his college teammate Beckham Jr.

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I don't disagree. Although Cooks has been a pleasant surprise in the past few weeks before his injury and to start, he's performed where I thought he would, ~800 yards.

What I do disagree on is who's ranked 5th, it should be Jordan Matthews.

He came out as a 1st round talent, putting back to back 1300+ yard seasons at Vandy. He is 6'3 212lbs WR and has good speed running a 4.46s 40 time. Any other year, he's a 1st round selection, but some of these players just jumped the draft and he fell to the second round.

On the season, he's put up 686 yards and 7 TDs, while not being really featured in a #2 WR role until about week 3-4 when they realized he was just better than Cooper. Since Sanchez took over, Matthews has been the #1 target and has produced 413 yards (including the half game Sanchez played vs. Houston) and 5 TDs in 5 games.

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Can change on a week to week basis. That's how good this WR class is.

First few weeks it was Benji, then Sammy, then, Benji, then Evans....now OBJ (imo)...

Honestly........ I'd probably stick with Benji... even if it's a homer pick......... because he, from week 1, has went against every teams best DBs.. while defenses knew that with Olsen pretending to be an Olineman, the Panthers had no other receiving threats , except for ol Benji.

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Evans has come out of ******* nowhere the past few weeks.

Honestly hard to rank them, because the ones at the top are pretty **** even IMO.

Just focusing on our guy, KB has had to face the pressure of being the true #1 on the team since day 1 and has been facing the team's best DBs and double coverage virtually all season, yet still manages to make some plays... the downside is he has really struggled with the drops. He's probably dropped 5 TD passes this season, and drops some gimmes... yet turns around and makes ridiculous catches, the likes of which very few receivers do on such a consistent basis. If he learns to calm down, focus, and haul in the easy ones he'll be something else. And yeah, his route-running leaves something to be desired at the moment. Ball-skills are off the charts though.

I'll give Beckham the nod at the moment. He's been consistently good in his playing time. I'm liking what Evans is doing right now, but still wanna see a little more out of him, and see some sustained success once it's obvious he's the guy the defenses are planning for.

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Its like how Alshon lit the world on fire last year. Teams prepared too much to stop Marshall and Forte, so Alshon got the easy look often enough.

If I were to go back and do the draft, I'd stick to my decisions:

1st pick: Jordan Matthews (or trade back to early 2nd - I predicted on ST that Philly would take him in the 2nd)

- If we were gonna trade up, I wanted CJ Mosley. This defense couldn't sustain that "3 safety set" against the run heavy schedule we'd face, so I was hoping we'd somehow get him since he seemed to be the next "Lavonte David/Luke Kuechly"-type linerbacker. When Baltimore picked him, I said he'd be a future all-pro. He's already PFF's #1 rated LB...

2nd pick: Stanley Jean-Baptiste

- I'm not going to even lie, I'd still pick this. Saints finished the year with a solid DL that could generate pressure, solid #1 corner in Lewis, signed Byrd and Bush so our safeties would be set, Vaccaro would take his 2nd year leap, signed Bailey as a 1-2 year bandaid, got back PRob who would be at best a bandaid at #2 for a year, and White played well enough that if something were to happen, he was solid depth. We didn't need a Day 1 starter, we were okay with taking a project that we could build up into becoming the next brandon browner. Then...**** my life: Bailey gets cut, PRob decided to stay in 2012 form, White was absolutely ******, and we need a competent player and SJB isn't ready. I couldn't have predicted that, no one did.

3rd pick: De'Anthony Thomas or John Brown

- I know we needed an "x" factor/speedster on the field and those two were the speedsters we could fill with Sproles gone. De'Anthony made more sense, but John Brown was a flyer pick for me.

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