NFL Films' Greg Cosell says there hasn't been a wide receiver as good as Clemson's Sammy Watkins since A.J. Green and Julio Jones were drafted fourth and sixth overall in the 2011 draft. Watkins has nice size, nice speed and is ferocious when the ball is in the air - precisely the type of receiver the 49ers have had success with in recent years and what they would want for the future.
Would the 49ers trade up - likely into the Top 10 and perhaps the Top 5 - to get Watkins? With 12 picks, they certainly have the ammunition. But they have needs at cornerback and safety among other positions. Also, the lesson the Falcons learned when they traded away five draft picks in order to leap from the end of the first round to get Jones is that, after giving a big-money deal to their quarterback, they didn't have a lot of means to rebuild other areas of their roster.
Finally, this draft not only has good wideouts at the top of the draft, it has intriguing ones throughout. (That's opposed to the 2011 draft; the next wideout taken after Jones that year was Jonathan Baldwin). Because there are so many this year, I asked Cosell about big, physical wide receivers - the type of receiver Colin Kaepernick has been comfortable targeting in recent seasons and the type that fit well in a power-based offense. There will be plenty of time to write about other types of receivers - LSU's Odell Beckham and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, for example - between now and May.
Here are Cosell's initial thoughts on big, physical receivers. He differs from most draft prospect watchers by putting Kelvin Benjamin ahead of Mike Evans. For what it's worth, I agree with him. Watch the Florida State-Florida game this year when Benjamin is matched against NFL-caliber cornerback Louchiez Purifoy and you'll see why. The heights and weights are from the players' respective colleges. That means they are bound to drop by a few pounds and an inch or so when the players are officially measured in Indianapolis later this week.
Cosell said he liked Benjamin a bit more than Evans because he's a little more athletic and moves better than the Texas A&M product. "I thought he was pretty fluid for a big kid," Cosell said. "He can turn his hips and adjust for the ball, something a lot of big guys don't do." He comes from the same part of Florida as Anquan Boldin, and like Boldin played at Florida State.
Like Benjamin, Evans has excellent size and was Johnny Manziel's favorite target this season, especially in the red zone. Evans earned first-team All-SEC honors after leading the Aggies in receptions and receiving yards for the second straight year with 65 for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also was a team captain.
Cosell also likes Moncrief more than other observers. He cautioned that the following comparisons were meant to give people a frame of reference, but he said Moncrief reminded him a bit of NFL players Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon. "Some teams will see him as a better fit than others," Cosell said. "He's a big, physical athlete who definitely has first-step explosion."
Landry might end up being the smallest of this group when he is measured later this week. Cosell said Landry is unique in this group in that he can play both on the outside and out of the slot. "He has great hands," he said. "He's explosive with the ball in his hands. He's an outside-inside type of player."
Cosell noted that Robinson is coming out of an NFL-style offense having played for Bill O'Brien at Penn State. He described Robinson as more quick than fast, which is how someone might describe Michael Crabtree. "He has excellent body control and flexibility, and he is very good when it comes to run after the catch, which I think is important for the 49ers," Cosell said.
Adams, who led the nation with 24 touchdown catches in 2013, is another big player who is missing straight-line speed in his repertoire. Said Cosell: "He fits that profile of the big, physical wideout who can make contested catches against man coverage."
Cosell really likes Bryant and likened him to Justin Hunter, a second-round pick out of Tennessee in 2013 who finished with 18 catches, 354 yards and four touchdowns for the Titans as a rookie. "He can run the vertical routes," Cosell said of Bryant "I don't know what his 40 time will be, but he is a long, fluid athlete, and those are the types of players who are fast on the field."
- Matt Barrows