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Who are the best receivers in the 2014 NFL draft?

The Saints are going to select a wide receiver in the NFL draft. This is a given. Ideally, that will happen in the 1st or 2nd round. If it doesn’t happen by the 3rd round, I’ll be extremely concerned. So who are some of these receivers the Saints could end up with anyway? That’s where I come in happy to oblige. Here are the top 20 receivers in the draft according to ESPN. Now as I think about “fit” for the Saints I think it’s important to think about a player’s skillset. The Saints are evaluating a number of things, but I think character, speed (ability to stretch the field) and how NFL ready they are (because Drew Brees isn’t getting any younger) are the most important characteristics for the team right now. I put character in the mix because that’s a team philosophy the Saints mostly always abide by.

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson: No shot he’ll be available at 27. And while he’s probably the best receiver in the draft and NFL ready, he does come with some red flags as he’s been suspended and had run ins with the law in college due to marijuana possession. Because of that I don’t think the Saints would move up to get him.

2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M: He’s like faster version of Marques Colston. He’s as NFL ready as they come. For his size his speed is great, but he’s not a burner like some. I think because the Saints have two players like him in Colston and Graham already he’s not the best complement but he won’t be available at 27 anyway. He’s an emotional player that gets out of control on the field at times, but he’s never had off the field issues.

3. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU: Before the combine I would have given him a strong chance to fall at 27, but not anymore. I’ll be very surprised if he drops that low. He is a perfect fit for the Saints and does everything well. He needs to polish some things technique wise and round out his game but he will get there in no time. He may be a little bit less “NFL ready” week 1, but he could contribute in a big way in the second half of the season if he’s healthy.

4. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: I really hope he falls to 27. He’s my dream pick, I’ve made no attempt to hide it. The only draw back is he’s small. But he’s a fast high character guy. He reminds me of Steve Smith a bit only in terms of ability (not attitude at all), but faster and not as strong yet.  I think he’s a perfect fit for the Saints. He can stretch the field immediately with his speed.

5. Marqise Lee, USC: He should be available at 27. He didn’t tear it up at the combine with average times, and he has some injury history. Most feel he’s polished enough to make an impact early but I don’t love this pick for the Saints in the 1st round. He grew up in a really bad part of town but seems to be grounded.

6. Cody Latimer, Indiana: He has great hands and he’s tough, plus he has decent speed. He lacks the top end explosiveness, though, and he has durability concerns. Not for me at 27.

7. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State: Like Mike Evans he runs great for his size and he’s one of those guys that uses his frame to make big plays. But he’s just not NFL ready and his game will take some work. Again, he feels a little too much like an unpolished version of Colston and Graham.

8. Davante Adams, Fresno State: Projections are all over the place for him. Some have him going in the first round, but it’s possible he could drop to the Saints’ 2nd round pick. He’d be tremendous value at that point without question. He doesn’t have elite speed but he has terrific hands, runs pretty good routes, is high character and seems NFL ready. This would be a great fit for the Saints.

9. Jarvis Landry, LSU: He’s slow, but if the Saints haven’t drafted a receiver by the 3rd round and he’s available I’d take him in a heartbeat. Has arguably the best set of hands in the class and regardless of his measurables he’s proven he’s a gamer. When the lights come on and he’s in pads he’s just a football player. He can’t stretch the field but he’s NFL ready and he’s super high character.

10. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: He’s big, strong and relatively fast but he doesn’t have the best separation ability. His routes need some work. Some have him going in the 2nd round, but again, if he falls to the 3rd he’s worth considering.

11. Bruce Ellington, South Carolina: At 5’9″ he’s also a burner that’s very slight of frame. He’s like a Brandin Cooks “light” and he could be a pretty good fit for the Saints if available in the 3rd round, especially if the Saints don’t get a receiver prior to. Worth mentioning that he’s a fantastic locker room guy by all accounts.

12. Paul Richardson, Colorado: He’s a burner but he’s not NFL ready. He also tore an ACL in 2012 so that’s a concern. Feels like a slightly slower version of Joe Morgan (pre injury). Inconsistent hands. I’d avoid him but he’s an ok fit.

13. Martavis Bryant, Clemson: He’s got a rare blend of size and speed. He could make an impact in the NFL, but I think the Saints rule him out due to major character concerns.

14. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers: He reminds me of Colston as a rookie very much. He’s 6’6″ and has great speed for his size. Probably not a great fit for the Saints given what they have, but he is a very high character guy.

15. Allen Robinson, Penn State: Some mocks had him going in the first round early in the process, it’s surprising to see his stock fall. Like Landry he just didn’t do that great at the combine. One thing is undeniable, though, and that’s his success in college. The guy was a star and put up monster stats. I like him as a sleeper pick but he’s not a perfect fit.

16. Robert Herron, Wyoming: He’s small too and has some speed but he’s not an elite burner. He also doesn’t have great catching ability downfield. Super high character.

17. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss: He’s one of those guys that looks great on paper but struggles to put it all together. Statistically he’s had two good seasons at Ole Miss but this would be a significant project and he seems like a shorter version of Nick Toon.

18. Kevin Norwood, Alabama: Similar to Jarvis Landry in that he’s super high character, has great hands and is NFL ready. The drawback is he can’t stretch the field. He’d be a good guy to have in the mix, though, if you can get good value for him with a later pick.

19. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma: Doesn’t have great speed, doesn’t have good size and he has off the field concerns. Not a good fit for the Saints. He is a good route runner and produced big time in college, though.

20. Josh Huff, Oregon: Doesn’t have great speed and character is a concern. Not a good fit.