In the weeks leading up to the 2008 NFL Draft (April 26-27), BR.com will offer a look into the top prospects by position. Last week, we had three wideouts to watch. Here's a snapshot of the best of the rest in alphabetical order, in addition to tight ends.
** Wide Receivers
Early Doucet, WR, LSU (6-0, 209)- Doucet could certainly be considered in the argument for the draft's best wideout, and it should be no surprise if he's gone in the first round. After playing in the shadow of 2007 first-round receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis, he busted loose to lead the Tigers with 57 catches for 525 yards and five touchdowns (despite missing four games with an injury) on an LSU team that won the BCS National Championship. He ranks fourth in LSU history with 160 career receptions and is one of only three wideouts in school annals with 20 touchdowns.
In his own words:(Doucet on how the Championship may have helped his status) "I think it's an added bonus, but I think throughout my career I've developed, and each year I've gotten better. And playing alongside two first-round picks made it a little easier for me as well."
James Hardy, WR, Indiana (6-6, 217)- Hardy came to Bloomington, Ind. as a big-time basketball prospect out of Fort Wayne and played in 23 games his freshman year for the Hoosiers' hoopers. But, he committed to football the next year and proceeded to rewrite school record books. Hardy set single-season marks with 79 receptions for 1,125 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns last season. His length and vertical leap - 37 inches at Indiana's Pro Day - make him a prime target in the end zone.
In his own words:(Hardy on what he thinks scouts see in him) "They see things I need to work on at the same time; overall they think I could be a great target. I want to be the best at this position and now is going to be my shot to go out there and work with professionals."
Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan (5-11, 181)- Even though he ended his career in Ann Arbor a year early, Manningham still placed his name in the Michigan record books as fourth in touchdowns (27) and ninth in receptions (137). The two-time All-Big Ten selection had a monster 2007 campaign, leading the conference with 1,174 yards and 12 scores on 72 receptions as standout quarterback Chad Henne's favorite target. Manningham may have hurt his standing after running the 40-yard dash at the Combine in the slower 4.6 area, but he recovered at his Pro Day by running in the high 4.3s.
In his own words:(Manningham on the NFL receiver he would compare himself to) "I haven't really thought about that. I don't compare myself to any NFL receiver. I like Steve Smith and Hines Ward because I can relate to their size and how they play. Steve Smith is going to get the ball down the field. Hines Ward is a tough wide receiver. He does what he has to do, and he blocks real well."
Devin Thomas, WR, Michigan State (6-2, 216)- Thomas is one of the stronger wideout prospects in the draft, but his added bulk hasn't cost him any speed, as he ran a 4.4 40 at the Combine. His production at MSU was outstanding. Thomas set a school record with 79 receptions last year, posting 1,260 yards and eight touchdowns, while also ranking 11th nationally with a 29.1-yard average on kickoff returns. Thomas spent the 2004-05 seasons at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before qualifying academically to enroll at MSU.
In his own words:(Thomas on his strengths) "My strength is my power and manipulating the defensive back and going up for the ball. I'm a very aggressive receiver and I think my credentials are real good."
Martellus Bennett, TE, Texas A&M (6-6, 259)- Another player that pulled double-duty for the football and basketball squads, Bennett is an athletic tight end that could fall in the mold of a Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, both of whom were talented college basketball players. Bennett was productive for the Aggies both blocking and receiving through his career. Last year, he registered 67 knockdown blocks while posting a team-high 49 receptions for 587 yards and four scores.
In his own words:(Bennett on playing two sports) "I would say football is my wife, and basketball is my mistress."
Fred Davis, TE, USC (6-3, 255)- Davis took a long road from being a receiver/running back recruit to the Mackey Award winner as the nation's top tight end. He led the Trojans in 2007 with 62 catches for 881 yards and eight scores. Davis has the size and experience to be best utilized as an H-back at the next level.
In his own words:(Davis on switching positions at USC) "I never thought about any of that, playing tight end, winning the Mackey Award. I thought about playing receiver when I first came to them. When I came back in the fall, I came back at 240. I told them I'll try any position you want. They said tight end."
Dustin Keller, TE, Purdue (6-2, 245)- Keller is another player that just got too big to be a receiver. A talented wideout prospect out of Jefferson (Lafayette, Ind.) High School that was first-team All-State as a senior, Keller's 185-pound freshman frame blew up to 248 pounds by the time his career was over. After four years, he boasted 142 catches for 1,882 yards and 16 scores. Those impressive numbers were only bolstered by his Combine performance, where Keller finished first in his position in the 40 (4.55 seconds), vertical jump (38 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, 11 inches). He also was second in the bench press with 26 reps.
In his own words:(Keller on his Combine showing) "I feel that I could have done better in all of the [drills]. More than anything, I know I could have run faster in the 40, but it was the fastest among the tight ends so I can't complain."