Top 40 Wide Receiver Prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft

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21. Bert Reed, Florida State, 5’10” 175 (Senior)

They call him “Speed” because any time this guy touches the ball, he is gone in a flash. One of the fastest players in all of college football, and is a guy who will absolutely turn heads at the Scouting Combine. Solid route runner who will be a great fit in the slot in the NFL. The bottom line here is–you have to find a way to get Bert Reed the ball. They don’t call him “Speed” for no reason–this guy can run, and he can ball. Despite his size, he is definitely not afraid to make plays deep over the middle, though that could change in the NFL. Doesn’t have to slow down very much at all to get out of his breaks, which can absolutely kill defensive backs. Not a physical player by any means, but doesn’t play like he’s 175 pounds. Reed is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and his game reminds me of a mix between Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson, but not quite to that caliber. I have to wonder why the ‘Noles are not using this guy in the return game. Capable of making defenders miss in the open field with ease.

22. Chris Rainey, Florida, 5’9″ 175 (Senior)

Very versatile player for the Gators who comes with a long list of red flags. Rainey has been arrested and charged with stalking in his time at Florida, allegedly sending a text to his former girlfriend of three years that said, “Time to die,” and then after she called the police, he allegedly told her to “Wait and see what happens when they [the police] leave.” Coaches declared that Rainey was no longer part of the Florida football team in September last season, but he was given a second chance and enters the season on top of the team’s depth chart at both running back and as a wide receiver. Rainey is a smaller player who can contribute in a multitude of ways thanks to his gift of blazing speed. Rainey is getting all of the reps right now as the starting RB in Charlie Weis’ system with other players nursing injury and the aforementioned Jeff Demps running track, and he says it feels like he’s back in high school again now running out of the I-formation. Watch out for Rainey to have a huge year if he can stay healthy. With Brantley’s struggles at quarterback, the Gators should use their speedy running game to get the offense going, and with two guys in Rainey and Demps who have speed to burn, they could be dangerous.

23. Kendall Wright, Baylor, 5’10” 190 (Senior)

**No scouting report yet available**

24. Dyrell Roberts, Virginia Tech, 6’2″ 185 (Senior)

Tech’s best vertical threat on offense – pure speed guy with underrated possession abilities. Playmaker on special teams, returning a TD against Alabama and a 75 yd return again Nebraska in 2009 (averaging 25.5 yards/kickoff for career).  Was having a breakout season in 2010 until he suffered a compartment syndrome thigh injury against Georgia Tech and missed the last five games of the season. Sat out spring practices while still recovering but should be good to go for the fall. Played running back in high school and has good shake moves after the catch. If healthy, will be a big reason Tech runs more 3-receiver sets this year.

25. Deonte Thompson, Florida, 6’0″ 200 (RS Senior)

The common theme so far in the Florida skill position players has been speed, and Thompson is another guy who has a ton of it. Thompson enters the season as the most experienced receiver on the Gators’ depth chart, and he led the team in receiving last year with 38 catches for 570 yards and a touchdown. You would love to see Thompson able to get into the end zone more often, and he was on pace to seemingly do so before with seven touchdowns in his first two seasons as a Gator. Shows very solid effort as a blocker downfield. Able to get downfield in a hurry, and has big play ability. Thompson is probably most famous for his comments about transitioning from Tim Tebow to John Brantley, where he said that Brantley was a “real quarterback” as opposed to the way he described Tebow. He’s got great size and speed, and should be able to contribute to an NFL offense and special teams unit.

26. Erik Highsmith, North Carolina, 6’2″ 190 (Junior)

Tall, lanky receiver prospect who has shown his ability to make the big play as a Tar Heel. Specifically, Highsmith had a huge touchdown reception against the Tennessee Volunteers in the Motor City Bowl, where he hauled in a 39 yard bomb from T.J. Yates for his third touchdown reception on the season. Regressed a bit statistically from his freshman to his sophomore year, which is something to monitor because he is a very, very talented player. Has 62 career receptions for 773 yards and five total touchdowns. Has solid speed and good hands, and could emerge as another big play threat.

27. Jheranie Boyd, North Carolina, 6’2″ 190 (Junior)

Like most of the UNC wide receivers on this list, he has shown an ability to be a big time playmaker. Boyd had most of his production last year in the first game of the season against LSU where he had six catches, 221 yards, and a touchdown. Big play threat who has 26 career catches, 7 of which have gone for touchdowns. Also contributes to the Tar Heels out of the backfield, where he had a couple of big runs last year and in 2009. Has 30 career carries for 192 yards and a touchdown. Threat to score every time he touches the ball.

28. Taiwan Easterling, Florida State, 5’11” 200 (Senior)

Strong, physical receiver who is tough to bring down, and might be a model for toughness in general. Missed some time before the 2009 season with a torn Achilles tendon, and came back to play 13 games and start six after such a serious injury. Not to mention, Easterling doubles as an outfielder for the Seminoles, which is why you don’t see him on the team’s current depth chart. Two sport athlete who has a lot of ability on the field and set career highs last year with 43 catches for 551 yards and five touchdowns while starting 13 of 14 games. Not a speed demon, but can change direction on a dime, and knows how to make plays after the catch. Always keeps his legs moving, and might be one of my favorite sleeper receivers in the draft next year.

29. Da’Jon McKnight, Minnesota, 6’3″ 215 (Senior)

McKnight might not be on the radar right now, but he certainly will be, especially if MarQueis Gray can perform at the quarterback position like he is capable of. Last season, McKnight really broke out as a big play threat for the Gophers, catching 48 passes for 750 yards and a whopping 10 touchdowns. He averaged 15.6 yards per reception last year, and really showed how valuable he can be. McKnight is a big receiver who knows how to use his body, and he knows how to  get open. He didn’t start playing football until his last year of high school, and he is still somewhat raw, but there is no denying his playmaking ability. He should creep on the national radar as the season progresses if he can harness that momentum he had in 2010.

30. Damarlo Belcher, Indiana, 6’5″ 215 (Senior)

Belcher is a big possession receiver who had a great season in 2010, leading the Hoosiers’ very balanced passing attack with 832 yards on 78 catches. He also added four touchdowns, and has vaulted himself into the Indiana football record books. Belcher is third in Indiana history with 164 career receptions, and sixth with 1,939 yards. As a true freshman, he played in 12 games and started two of them, and has been extremely productive for them ever since. Since 2008, Belcher has found the end zone 11 times, and is the leader of probably the best overall unit on the entire Indiana team. As a sophomore, Belcher caught 61 passes for 770 yards and five touchdowns, and really has shown over the last two years that he can be a big play guy for the Hoosiers. He is tall and has great overall length, and while he’s not exactly “fast” he is a long strider and he can make plays down the field, where he is a serious mismatch. His NFL potential is higher to me, though I don’t know if he will be drafted higher than Tandon Doss was this past year, though he certainly could be. Ben Chappel is no longer the quarterback at Indiana, so that will be an adjustment in and of itself. Chappel was very good at distributing the ball to all of the receivers, but without him, you have to wonder if the new, younger quarterback is going to lock in on the experienced Belcher to bail him out of situations.