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Kaboom! Magazine.com 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers & Tight-Ends

Kaboom! Magazine.com 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers & Tight-Ends

Every NFL football team’s Super Bowl dreams and ambitions start at the exact same place….THE DRAFT. Every year, thousands of the top college athletes make themselves available for 32 NFL teams to draft and become professional football players. This year’s draft class features some of the most talented and most controversial athletes in the leagues history. Kaboom! Magazine.com prepares you for the 2018 NFL Draft with our annual draft preview. We will showcase the best players at each position entering this year draft, as well as a lot of late round gems that can help your favorite team hoist the Lombardi trophy for many years to come. Today, we will be focusing on this year’s top pass catchers and predict which new athlete we feel will have the best career in this draft class.

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Wide Receivers:
This crop of pass catchers can retrieve any ball thrown within a mile their way, but which one will be the best of the best when it’s all said and done?

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1. Calvin Ridley (Alabama):
Ridley is the top consensus wideout for the 2018 NFL Draft, he doesn’t come without some concerns, as multiple sources say independently that his thin frame worries them for the NFL. The talented junior gets a lot of praise for his route-running, quickness, and generally having good hands. Ridley had 55 catches for 967 yards with four touchdowns for 2017, but his production was held back by Alabama featuring its ground attack while using a running quarterback in Jalen Hurts, who has severe passing limitations. He could end up going high out of team need at his premium position, however.

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2. Courtland Sutton (SMU):
In 2017, Sutton totaled 68 catches for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns. He played well for SMU and continued to be a dynamic point-scoring threat. Sutton wisely decided to skip his final year of eligibility to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Sutton has good hands, height, body control, and leaping ability. He is a dangerous red-zone target. Running well in pre-draft workouts will be important for him, and his combine 40 time was solid, but not electrifying. Sutton could stand to be more physical with cornerbacks in the NFL.

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3. Christian Kirk (Texas A&M):
Kirk had 71 catches for 919 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2017. He also produced some big kick and punt returns. Versus Arkansas, Kirk carried Texas A&M to a win with five catches for 110 yards with two touchdowns and a kickoff returned for a touchdown. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Kirk impressed teams with how he interviewed, plus put up a fast 40 time to further help his cause. Kirk saw a lot of double coverage his direction in 2017, plus quarterback Kelly Mond struggled to get Kirk the ball. As a result, some teams are down on Kirk.

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4. D.J. Moore (Maryland):
In 2017, Moore totaled 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns. He has a thick, running back-like build that allows him to get physical with defensive backs. Moore is a gritty receiver with speed and quickness to generate separation. With his vertical speed and suddenness out of breaks, Moore is a threat to stretch the field as he can challenge defensive backs deep downfield. Moore is a competitive, aggressive, and fights defensive backs to make catches over them. Moore is very good after the catch with elusive moves in the open field to dodge tacklers. He uses his strong build to break tackles and bully defensive backs.

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5. Equanimeous St. Brown (Notre Dame):
St. Brown had 33 receptions for 515 yards and four touchdowns in 2017. Throughout the season, St. Brown got open through his excellent route-running while also seeing a lot of double teams, but the immense struggles of Notre Dame’s quarterback play and passing offense limited St. Brown. At the NFL Scouting Combine, St. Brown helped himself with an impressive 40 time for a big receiver. He is a sleeper prospect who could be a steal.

Pitt v Oklahoma State

Sleeper Pick: James Washington (Oklahoma State):
Washington caught 74 passes for 1,549 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2017. He is a deep-threat receiver with a lot of production from his college spread attack, which takes advantage of a lot of weak defenses. Some team sources told me they graded Washington as a mid-rounder for the 2018 NFL Draft. Washington is short with a running back’s build and is not really twitchy. He is deceptively fast, but that is build-up speed rather than first-step explosiveness. Sources also say that Washington has good hands, but doesn’t really make players miss after the catch. One team source said they graded Washington as a late fourth-rounder. Others could have him higher.

2018 Draft Class Career Predictions:
Best Career: Christian Kirk
Most Pro Bowl Selections: Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk
Most Super Bowls: Christian Kirk
Hall of Famers: None

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Tight Ends:
Guys like Jimmy Graham, Evan Engram, and Gronk have raised the game at the tight-end position in recent years. This year crop of TE are looking to raise the stakes even more.

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1. Hayden Hurst (South Carolina):
In 2017, Hurst totaled 44 receptions for 559 yards with two touchdowns. He also picked up a rushing touchdown and did a nice job of blocking. Team sources have raved about Hurst and think that he has a first-round skill set. They say he might slip to Day 2, but they love the physical talent of the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder. Hurst will be a 25-year-old rookie in the NFL because he played professional baseball in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization out of high school. Team sources say that Hurst is the only tight end they are really excited about in this year’s class. They feel he is the only tight end prospect who is of a similar caliber to last year’s group who went in the first and second round.

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2. Mark Andrews (Oklahoma):
Scouts who have done advance work on the 2018 NFL Draft class have Andrews among their top tight end prospects. Andrews caught 62 passes for 958 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017. He played well for Oklahoma. Andrews is a good athlete with quickness and is a dangerous receiver down the seam. He has to improve his blocking significantly for the NFL.

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3. Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State):
Goedert was a dangerous receiving threat over the past two seasons for South Dakota State. The senior amassed 72 receptions for 1,111 yards and seven touchdowns in 2017. He put up even better production as a junior with 92 receptions for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns. For the NFL, Goedert has the ability to contribute as a receiver. While he will struggle to get separation from NFL linebackers or safeties, he can use his size and high-point ability to make catches over defenders. He will be an asset in the red zone with his skills to sky high and make tremendous catches with body control and uncanny one-handed skills. Goedert is adept at finding the soft spot in zone coverage, and his size makes him tough to tackle for defensive backs. Thus, Goedert could be a quality receiving tight end in the pros but probably won’t be elite given the lack of speed, suddenness, and an ability separation.

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Penn State

4. Mike Gesicki (Penn State):
Gesicki is Coby Fleener. Tall, lean, probably will run fast; horrendous blocker – even [versus] defensive backs. He’s got some high-point ability. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Gesicki turned in a fast 40 time to help himself. Gesicki totaled 57 receptions for 563 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. He played well as a receiver for Penn State. For the NFL, Gesicki is a receiving tight end who could hurt defenses with his mismatch problems. He is a good athlete and has some real quickness. Gesicki runs well down the seam with speed to get vertical. His impressive athletic ability translates to him having excellent body control and leaping ability. With his talent to jump above defenders, Gesicki is very dangerous at high pointing the ball and boxing out defenders to make leaping grabs. With his quickness, size, and leaping ability, Gesicki is a dangerous red-zone weapon for the NFL.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford

5. Dalton Schultz (Stanford):
Schultz is a do-it-all Y tight end similar to Jason Witten. In 2017, Stanford used Schultz’s blocking skill to help open holes for Bryce Love. Against Notre Dame, Schultz put those well-rounded skills on display by opening holes in the ground game and also making an athletic touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. In the Cardinal’s ground-based offense, Schultz totaled 22 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns. He is a sleeper prospect who team evaluators really like and could end up being a second-day pick.

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Sleeper Pick: Jordan Aikens (Central Florida):
Aikens could find a role as an H-back and receiving tight end in the NFL. In 2017, he totaled 32 receptions for 515 yards and four scores. In 2016, he caught 23 passes for 347 yards and two scores. Aikens will need to improve his blocking for the NFL, but at the Senior Bowl, he showed some receiving skill. Some teams have a third-round grade on Aikens, while others have him later.

2018 Draft Class Career Predictions:
Best Career: Hayden Hurst
Most Pro Bowl Selections: Hayden Hurst
Most Super Bowls: Hayden Hurst
Hall of Famers: None