Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley

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Silverman: Calvin Ridley Is Quite The Catch In NFL Draft

Maryland's Moore, LSU's Chark Among Other Top WRs

Steve Silverman
April 13, 2018 - 3:59 pm
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A great crew of receivers can take an average quarterback and help turn him into an All-Pro candidate.

Nearly every prospect who will get drafted later this month can run a pattern and catch a ball when he is open. That’s not how receivers are judged in the NFL.

Receivers must be able to break free from tight coverage, accelerate into the open, make moves that force tacklers to miss and have the hands to catch passes that are not necessarily ideal. Combine all those skills with remarkable athletic ability, and a team can draft a receiver with game-changing ability.

While I generally give much weight to a player’s game performances in judging his draft value, it is not as big a factor with wide receivers. In college, the better athletes can break wide open -- 5 yards or more -- and make easy catches. That's not going to happen in the NFL. Breaking open in the pros means gaining a step or a step and a half on the defender. As a result, it can be a bit harder to find consistent and productive wide receivers in the draft. However, I believe there are at least five receivers in this draft who can become impact players.

MORE: Silverman: Saquon Barkley Has Chance To Develop Into NFL’s Best Running Back

Calvin Ridley passed all the tests he faced with the Alabama Crimson Tide. He is of average size, slightly more than 6 feet and 189 pounds.

While teams like bigger receivers with a great wingspan so they can make the tough catch near the sideline or over the top of the defender, Ridley has exceptional quickness and is a very advanced route runner.

He is also quite precise with his route stems and his ability to set up defenders. He will make the tough catch in traffic and has excellent concentration, and he is also a fine blocker despite his lack of size.

Ridley is the best receiver in the draft, and he should be the first at his position selected.

MORE: Silverman: 5 Later-Round NFL Draft Prospects To Watch

Maryland's D.J. Moore is similar in height to Ridley, but he is a bit thicker at 210 pounds. He looks like he wants to overpower defenders on a regular basis, but he is a fluid runner who can accelerate past the defender and find the soft spot in the zone.

Moore has the kind of ball skills to make the tough catch on a badly thrown pass, and that’s something that will separate him from many of the other wideouts. He also has the kind of power that makes him difficult to bring down once he is underway.

Moore could go at the end of the first round or early in the second.

LSU's D.J. Chark, at 6-3, 199 pounds, has the kind of size that most teams want, and while he did not get a lot of opportunities in the Tigers’ run-heavy offense, he put on an impressive show at the Senior Bowl against the top defensive backs in the nation. He also did well in the testing process, running a 4.34 40-yard dash.

LSU wide receiver D.J. Chark
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Chark has a chance to become an even better receiver in the NFL than he has been in college. He clearly has the tools to succeed, and now he will get the opportunity to show off everything he is capable of doing.

Meanwhile, Texas A&M's Christian Kirk has had plenty of opportunities to show off his impressive skill set in college, catching 234 passes in his career for 2,856 yards while getting into the end zone 26 times. He also has speed and quickness to get the job done as a punt and a kickoff returner.

Kirk excels when running out of the slot and has the ability to lose the defender with quick moves no matter which route he is running. He has the long speed to break away if he can take two steps without getting hit.

SMU's Courtland Sutton has the size, strength and length at 6-3 and 218 pounds to win the battle with defenders on 50-50 balls. He won't tire down because he seems to thrive when he gets in a physical battle with defenders.

When it comes down to it, Sutton's strong hands will allow him to win the battle with defenders 95 percent of the time. He also has the kind of catching radius that quarterbacks dream about.

He has some areas in which he needs to get better, and that includes route running. He is not sophisticated in that area, but that weakness is mitigated by his strengths. His ability to make the spectacular catch on a badly thrown ball will make him a favorite of nearly every quarterback.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy

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