With 2013 NFL Draft season in full swing, most of our attention has been on the quarterback position over the past few months. While the Buffalo Bills will almost certainly add a quarterback in the draft, they also have a heavy need at wide receiver. I enlisted the help of SB Nation's own Dan Kadar to help us discuss his top wideout.
SB Nation has put together a list of the top 37 receivers, and at the summit is a somewhat surprising name: DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson. "He's the kind of wideout that knows how to get himself open and really gets to the ball at the high point," says Kadar. "[He] had some spectacular catches for Clemson last season."
Fellow SB Nation draft analyst Matthew Fairburn says Hopkins is the only receiver without question marks.
"While he lacks the elite athleticism some of the other prospects in this class have shown, Hopkins has consistently shown an ability to get separation and make tough catches. Few wide receivers have the kind of body control Hopkins has shown."
Hopkins saw an expanded role in 2012 when Sammy Watkins went down to an injury. Saying he has "unquestionably the best hands in the draft," Kadar thinks Hopkins is one of a few receivers who could come in and start right away. Despite being on top of the receivers list, he is No. 21 on Kadar's big board and forecast by many as a late first or early second-round pick, and could be great value for Buffalo at pick No. 41.
But Hopkins may not fit the vision general manager Buddy Nix has shared. In December, he spoke of moving Stevie Johnson to the slot and finding a big, physical wide receiver to play opposite speedster T.J. Graham.
"We need a big-time outside receiver. T.J. gives us a lot of that," Nix said on an interview with WGR 550, "but you still need to get another, bigger guy that can line up out there and catch the ball when he's covered."
Unfortunately, this isn't the year for that type of receiver, says Kadar.
"There aren’t too many guys like that this year," says the draftnik. "I think there are some 'sleeper' players who can do that. Da’Rick Rogers who went from Tennessee to Tennessee Tech can do that. Justin Hunter of Tennessee at times could. Aaron Dobson of Marshall is a player who flashed that ability to go over the top and make a tough catch. But really, there isn’t a stand out guy in this draft that can do that."
The Bills may be able to snag those players in the third round or later. Hunter is the highest on Kadar's board at 59, with Dobson at 76 and Rogers 96. If Buffalo waits that long, it would mean a receiving corps of two green third-rounders (or later) with Johnson in the slot. That's not exactly a winning combination should the Bills thrust a similarly green quarterback in the mix. But all is not lost. Despite his lack of measurables and physicality, Kadar says Hopkins can be that dominant receiver for the Bills.
"He is a go up and get it guy," wrote Kadar. "He may not have had a 40-inch vertical at the NFL Combine, but Hopkins can get up at the ball. He outplays his size and measurables because he has such good body control. He knows how to use his shoulders and hips to create separation and give the quarterback a bigger area in which to throw. It's evident in his tape on fades in the end zone and boundary plays."