2014 NFL draft position preview: Wide receivers

Kelvin Benjamin, Chris Davis

Kelvin Benjamin catches the game-winning touchdown pass against Auburn’s Chris Davis, left, in January’s BCS title game. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

In the lead up to the May 8-10 NFL draft, The Insider is looking at Washington’s positions of need, spotlighting players who might fit what Jay Gruden and staff are looking for. On Mondays and Thursdays, Mike Jones reports on players at the positions the Redskins need most, and provides top 10s. On Wednesdays and Fridays, Mark Bullock checks in with screengrab-based examinations of players who could be available early, mid-draft and late.

Mike has looked at tackles and cornerbacks so far. Here’s his take on wide receivers:

The Washington Redskins this offseason devoted resources to upgrading their wide receiver position by signing DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. Paired with Pierre Garcon, Washington has three legitimate targets for Robert Griffin III.

But the Redskins’ pass-catching unit still has its deficiencies, mainly in the size department.

Only two receivers on the roster top the 6-foot mark. Leonard Hankerson measures in at 6-2, but is coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament and faces an uncertain future. David Gettis, signed this offseason, is 6-3, but also remains unproven after battling injuries for a chunk of his four-year career, logging playing time in only two seasons.

Because of this, Washington is expected to look to add a big target in the draft, and the Redskins appear likely to have their pick.

One of the biggest receivers in the draft – Texas A&M’s Mike Evans (6-5, 225) – will likely go early in the first round. But Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Clemson’s Martavias Bryant, Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and Indiana’s Cody Latimer all stand 6-3 or taller and most of them are likely to be drafted late in the first first or early in the second. Matthews and Latimer possibly could remain on the board until the early third round.

Benjamin could wind up being the best remaining receiver by the time Washington gets on the clock at 34th overall. The team would have to decide if the 6-5, 235-pound junior better fits their needs than would one of the top remaining tackle, inside linebacker or safety prospects.

Benjamin certainly boasts big-play potential. Last season, he recorded 54 catches for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns (averaging 18.7 yards per reception). He boasts good versatility, with the ability to play on the outside or line up in the slot. He also plays with a physical style, which coupled with his size, makes him difficult to bring down.

The size also makes Benjamin difficult to cover, which is why NFL teams are always looking for the next big threat.

“In today’s NFL, with the advent of the back-shoulder fade … has changed the whole way we’re drafting now,” draft analyst Mike Mayock says. “Benjamin and Evans are today’s NFL; outside the numbers, red zone, throw it up. In the old days, even 10, 15 years ago, quarterbacks were taught if a corner or safety covered your guy in press coverage, you went to your second read. Now they’re taught to throw it at the back of his helmet. Mike Evans, he ran fast, he caught everything, he catches naturally. The Benjamin kid from Florida State is a similar body type.”

Benjamin isn’t currently quite as polished a receiver as Evans, which is why he is projected to go a little later in the draft. He struggles with consistency with his hands at times, and must improve as a route runner.

This offseason, Benjamin has focused on improving his skills so he can become more consistent, and in turn generate more yards after the catch.

“First, catching it. That was one of my problems,” he said at the Combine. “Seeing the yards before, I start to run and I wound up dropping the ball. That’s something I really have to work on. Once you catch it, you just have to keep moving, keep your legs going and get up field and everything else will take care of itself.”

Jones’s top 10 wide receivers:

Rank Player (click names for bios) School Height Weight Proj. Round
1 Sammy Watkins Clemson 6-1 211 1
2 Mike Evans Texas A&M 6-5 231 1
3 Odell Beckham Jr. (more here) Louisiana State 5-11 198 1
4 Marqise Lee Southern California 6-0 192 1
5 Brandin Cooks Oregon State 5-10 189 1-2
6 Allen Robinson Penn State 6-3 220 1-2
7 Martavias Bryant Clemson 6-4 221 1-2
8 Kelvin Benjamin Florida State 6-5 240 2
9 Davante Adams Fresno State 6-1 212 2
10 Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt 6-3 212 2-3

Mike Jones attended the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, and has been tracking draft prospect visits for The Post. Have a question about the draft or anything else concerning the Redskins? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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Draft preview: Cornerbacks | More draft coverage

Outsider: Three RTs who could fit Redskins

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