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2014 NFL Draft: Trio of Pac-12 Receivers Off To Surprising Starts

Brandin CooksEarly in the season, it's difficult to truly notice which wide receivers are rising or falling based solely on statistics. A team can double-team, or even triple-team, a receiver, effectively making sure they don't get the ball. Going into Week 6, though, there's a trio of Pac-12 receivers making an obvious, consistent impact on their respective passing units. While they're all underclassmen, the new rookie wage scale generally devalues staying in school (for a football standpoint), especially for skill players, and it wouldn't be a stretch to see all three of them declare for the 2014 NFL Draft, as every coming draft breaks records for early declarations.

Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado

Paul Richardson's fate, like his father, Paul Sr.'s, has always been to be an NFL wide receiver. He transferred to Serra High School his senior year, which has recently pumped out receivers such as USC's Marqise Lee and Buffalo's Robert Woods. Unlike his father, though, he's not getting to the NFL through UCLA's blue and gold. Paul Jr. originally signed with UCLA, but switched his commitment to Colorado before his freshman year began, allowing him to avoid a transfer year. The 6'1” 170-pound pass-catcher made an immediate impact for the Buffs, earning freshman All-American honors his true freshman season. A knee injury caused him to miss a portion of the 2011 season which was projected by many to be his “breakout” year, and he missed all of 2012 with a torn ACL.

The injuries were unrelated, but they pushed that “breakout season” title to this year, and Richardson's fulfilled his side of the deal. In the first two games of 2013, he caught 21 balls for 417 yards and four touchdowns. And though he's only played three games this year (the Fresno State match-up was postponed), his 507 yards puts him in the top-ten for FBS receivers.

RELATED LINK: Week Five "Stock Watch" Features Oregon State's Brandin Cooks

Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

Nicknamed “Sonic Boom”, Cooks is part of the Oregon State receiver legacy which features Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, James Rodgers, Mike Hass, Markus Wheaton, and now himself. The 5'10” 186-pound dynamo leads the FBS in receiving yards (807), receptions (52), and touchdowns (nine) in 2013. He's also the only receiver ranked top ten in receiving yards that also averages over 15 yards-per-reception.

After finishing on the Biletnikoff's finalist list of 2012, Cooks's consistency is finally getting noticed by the general fan. Cooks's 196, 92, 210, 141, and 168 receiving yard single-game totals in 2013 is the main reason that Oregon State currently leads the FBS in passing yards, despite losing Markus Wheaton to the 2013 NFL Draft.

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

Heading to Pierce College, a JuCo, after graduating high school, Strong didn't exactly travel the traditional way to make it on draft boards. The 6'4” 205-pound wide receiver wasn't highly recruited as a prep, but had some major schools recruiting him while at Pierce. In December of 2012, he committed to Arizona State and enrolled shortly after.

Strong had a pretty civilian opening game of 2013, but since then, he's put together three straight 100+ yard games, all nationally televised vs skilled Wisconsin, Stanford, and USC defenses. His 433 receiving yards rank him in the top 20 of the FBS. Strong is the only pass-catcher on the list who had never started a game prior to the 2013 season. Arizona State will play in another nationally televised game against a major team, this week, when they go to South Bend to face Notre Dame.


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