Tavon Austin’s breakaway speed could make him the first receiver chosen. (Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

This is the sixth in a series of 10 looks at the available prospects in the draft, with a focus on how the Redskins might approach the pool of players at this position. Other installments: Safety | offensive line | cornerbacks | running backs | inside linebackers

The top wide receivers, such as West Virginia’s Tavon Austin and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, won’t be available to the Washington Redskins in the NFL draft that begins Thursday night. They lack a first-round pick, thanks to last year’s trade to move up for quarterback Robert Griffin III, and Austin and Patterson should be long gone by the time the Redskins choose.

But the Redskins have seven selections in the draft from Friday’s second round onward, and if they choose to add a wide receiver, they should have some options in a class of pass-catchers that experts say is relatively deep.

“As far as this group, you can win with this young group of receivers who come in,” Atlanta Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff said at the NFL scouting combine.

The Redskins perhaps have more pressing needs at safety and cornerback after having the league’s 30th-anked pass defense last season. It might be tempting for them to seek a right tackle in the draft to compete with the holdover starter they re-signed, Tyler Polumbus, and free-agent additions Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood. So it’s not at all certain that the Redskins will choose a wide receiver with a relatively early pick.

But there are reasons for the Redskins to at least consider drafting a wideout. They made aggressive moves in free agency last year to upgrade their wide receiver corps, signing Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Garcon was productive when healthy last season, but opted against offseason surgery to repair the torn ligament near the second toe of his right foot. Morgan and veteran Santana Moss could be free agents after the 2013 season.

The wide receivers in this draft probably won’t begin coming off the board until around the middle of the opening round. But from there, some people within the league believe a significant number of wideouts will be taken in relatively rapid succession.

“I think it is deep right into the second round,” Chuck Cook, the director of college scouting for the Buffalo Bills, said at that team’s pre-draft news conference.

Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, California’s Keenan Allen and perhaps Southern California’s Robert Woods could join Austin and Patterson as first-round picks. But there still should be talented wideouts available in the next couple rounds from among a group that includes Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton, Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, Texas’s Marquise Goodwin, Baylor’s Terrance Williams and West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey.

There is relatively little debate about Austin and Patterson being at the top of the class. Austin is a multi-talented player who could have an impact as a receiver, runner and kick returner.

“I’ve been a little guy my whole life,” Austin said at the combine after being measured there at 5 feet 8 and 174 pounds. “I’m a little guy. But I play big.”

Patterson said at the combine he expects to be a productive pro immediately.

“The things I did in college, I expect to come in as a rookie and be a good rookie and be a Pro Bowler,” he said.

Maske’s top 10 wide receivers:

1. Tavon Austin, West Virginia 5-8, 174 1
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee 6-2, 216 1
3. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson 6-1, 214 1-2
4. Keenan Allen, California 6-2, 206 1-2
5. Robert Woods, Southern Cal 6-0, 201 2
6. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech 6-0, 202 2
7. Terrance Williams, Baylor 6-2, 208 2
8. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State 6-0, 189 2-3
9. Justin Hunter, Tennessee 6-4, 196 2-3
10. Marquise Goodwin, Texas 5-9, 183 2-3

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