The last time three receivers were taken in the top 10 picks of the NFL Draft, it didn't turn out so well.
In 2005, the Cleveland Browns took Braylon Edwards at No. 3; the Minnesota Vikings selected Troy Williamson at No. 7; and the Detroit Lions drafted Mike Williams at No. 10. The trio combined for one 1,000-yard season, one Pro Bowl nod and played on two total teams that won 11 or more games in a season. Edwards accounted for all of those items.
A year later in the 2006 draft, no receivers were selected in the top 10. In fact, only one (Santonio Holmes, No. 25) went in the top 35 pick after seven were taken in the top 35 in 2005.
As we already look ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft, will it develop similarly to the thin 2006 class that followed what was supposed to be an elite class in 2005? Or will we see back-to-back strong groups and more receivers selected in the top 10?
Don't bet on Deon Cain becoming Clemson's third receiver selected in the top 10 since 2014, but the 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior is ready to take a big leap in 2017.
"I think he’s in a lot better position this year obviously than he was last year," said Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott on Cain being the Tigers' No. 1 receiver. "Before he’s really ready to go out there and be the man, be the starter, I think he still has a little bit of work to do this spring, which is normal.”
That work includes proving he's more than a home-run threat and, more importantly, that he's past the failed drug test from December 2015 that got him sent home before the Orange Bowl. With Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Jordan Leggett gone, (likely) new quarterback Bryant Kelly should look to Cain often.
In Texas A&M's season-opening win over Arizona State in 2015, true freshman Christian Kirk had 224 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. He hasn't slowed down since.
"I didn't expect any of that to happen in my first game," Kirk told Bleacher Report last year. "It caught me by surprise as much as it did everybody else."
Entering his junior year, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound speedster is another great year away from first-round draft status. Don't let Kirk's modest yards per catch (11.9) fool you; he's an elite playmaker and one of college football's most dangerous players with the ball. With top targets Ricky Seals-Jones and Josh Reynolds gone, Kirk will be the go-to receiver for Jake Hubenak or whoever replaces Trevor Knight at quarterback.
James Washington could've been a second-day receiver — if not late first — had he left Oklahoma State early. With another season to show improved hands and a more diversified route tree, Washington might become a sure-fire first-rounder.
He plays bigger than his 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame and uses big-time speed and upper-body strength to form the most lethal deep-ball duo in the nation with quarterback Mason Rudolph. Washington has 26 career touchdowns and averages 19.2 yards per catch. He had at least one catch of 30 yards in 10 of their 13 games in 2016.
The Amari Cooper comparisons will run rampant next spring for Calvin Ridley, and while Ridley has a similar build (6-foot-1, 188 pounds to Cooper's 6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and is also great possession receiver, the junior-to-be hasn't shown the flawless route-running and explosiveness — even though Ridley is quicker and faster — that Cooper did before his fourth-overall selection in 2015.
At least not yet.
Ridley separates well, secures a surprising amount of contested catches given his frame and has decent downfield despite quarterbacks who've struggled with the deep ball. He needs a great season from Jalen Hurts to reach the next level.
Non-power conference receivers haven't been the first receivers off the board in back-to-back drafts since 1960-61. Courtland Sutton could end that streak and follow Corey Davis' lead with a top-10 selection of his own.
Sutton's draft stock might be more dependent on SMU sophomore quarterback Ben Hicks than anything else. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Sutton caught 76 passes for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns from Hicks in 2016 but the freshman signal-caller completed only 56 percent of his passes, averaged less than seven yards per attempt and had a 1.2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Sutton has good size and breakaway speed and uses strong hands to both punish corners at the line of scrimmage and win jump balls.
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