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Prospect Profiles: The Wide Receiver and Tight Ends Class

In order to familiarize fans with some of the top names in the 2017 NFL Draft, Chargers.com will be highlighting top prospects by position each week leading up to the first day of the draft on April 27th.

*Next up is a look at some of the premiere pass catchers according to pundits. *

WIDE RECEIVERS

Corey Davis

School: Western Michigan
Height: 6-3
Weight: 209 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Eric Decker

At 6-3, 209-pounds, Corey Davis passes the eye test for what teams look for in a wide receiver.  Add in his highly productive four years at Western Michigan and he's a consensus pick to go off the board early in the first round.

The model of consistency from the moment he stepped onto the field, Davis was named the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2013 when he caught 67 passes for 941 yards and six TDs. His numbers steadily climbed each season, culminating with a superb senior season in which he caught 97 passes for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. All three of those stats ranked in the top 10 in the nation, with his 19 TDs tied for the most by any player in college football.

Ultra competitive, Davis is a quarterback's dream with the way he attacks the ball in the air. His production in the red zone makes him an ideal target near the goal line, while he also has the ability as a home run threat.  In fact, he had at least one touchdown go for 70 yards all four seasons at Western Michigan.  

With a mixture of size, speed, athleticism and production, it's easy to see why draft pundits believe he may be the first wideout taken in the draft.

Combine Metrics
Did Not Participate

Cooper Kupp

School: Eastern Washington
Height: 6-2
Weight: 204 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Jarvis Landry

Even though he played at tiny Eastern Washington, Cooper Kupp has been a big name in scouting circles for quite some time. 

Unheralded out of high school, he's been on NFL teams' radars since his redshirt freshman year in 2013.  He captured the Jerry Rice Award as the top Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) freshman that season after catching 93 passes for 1,691 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns.  That production continued each season, culminating his senior year in which he was a consensus All-American with 117 receptions, 1,700 yards and 17 TDs.

When all was said and done, Kupp finished his four-year career as the single best wideout in FCS history.  He holds the all-time records in catches (428), receiving yards (6,464) and TD receptions (73).

Capable of playing outside or in the slot, Kupp is a natural pass catcher who plucks the ball out of the air with ease.  He is not only physical when fighting for position, but also competitive with the ball in his hands as he routinely also picks up extra yards after contact. 

Thus, while he didn't play against elite college competition, draft experts believe he is more than capable of transitioning to the NFL level rather quickly.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.62 seconds
Vertical Jump: 31.0 inches
Broad Jump: 116.0 inches

John Ross

School: Washington
Height: 5-11
Weight: 188 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: DeSean Jackson

Teams looking to inject speed to their roster covet the Washington wideout.

After all, he set the NFL world on fire with a blazing 4.22 40-yard dash, which is the fastest in Scouting Combine history.

Still, Ross is not a track star but a complete football player in every sense of the word.  He began his career as a wideout before starting three games at cornerback in 2014.  Ross missed all of 2015 after suffering an ACL injury during spring workouts, and reverted back to wide receiver in his return last season. 

It turned out to be a breakout year. Ross was a first team All-Pac-12 pick and second team All-American after catching 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, which tied for second most in college football. 

With the ability to take it to the house at a moment's notice, his game-breaking ability draws comparisons to DeSean Jackson and Brandin Cooks. Thus, it's no surprise that the home run threat's stock continues to skyrocket up the charts as the draft draws near.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.22 seconds
Vertical Jump: 37.0 inches
Broad Jump: 133.0 inches

Curtis Samuel

School: Ohio State
Height: 5-11
Weight: 196 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Josh Huff

The NFL places a premium on versatility, and Curtis Samuel boasts it in droves.

After emerging as an H-back in 2015, Samuel spent the past two seasons as a jack-of-all-trades for the Buckeyes.  Capable of beating defenses in a number of ways, pundits project him as a full-time wide receiver in the NFL. Nonetheless, creative offensive minds will have a field day dreaming up ways to create mismatches with Samuel on the field.

A first team All-American last season, the 5-11, 196-pound Ohio State star ranked second in the Big Ten in receptions (74), receiving yards (865) and touchdown catches (seven).  Samuel also carried the rock for 704 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, becoming the only player in the country to amass at least 700 yards on the ground and through the air. Overall, he accounted for 128.8 yards per game.

Samuel is most dangerous with the ball in his hands, and projects mainly as a slot receiver.  Critics note he needs to learn the nuances of route-running, yet believe it will come at the next level. He also brings value as a returner on special teams.  

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.31 seconds
Bench Press: 18 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.0 inches
Broad Jump: 119.0 inches

JuJu Smith-Schuster

School: USC
Height: 6-1
Weight: 215 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Anquan Bolden

USC has churned out wide receiver prospects on a regular basis lately, and JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to be the latest Trojan to make his mark in the NFL.

He made a name for himself the moment he took the field, catching 54 passes for 724 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman.  He earned first team All-Pac-12 honors the next season as a sophomore, totaling 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 TDs.  As a result, he was also named a second team All-American.  While his numbers dipped last season to 70 catches for 914 yards and 10 TDs, scouts lauded the way he played through injury to still start all 13 games for the Trojans.

Smith-Schuster is known for his physical style of play.  Thus, it should be no surprise that he says he models his game after the Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant.  It's also why pundits liken the USC star to Anquan Bolden.

Overall, pundits believe he should be one of the first wideouts off the board thanks to his penchant for winning 50/50 balls and his potential to develop into a reliable target to move the chains.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.54 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 32.5 inches
Broad Jump: 120.0 inches

Mike Williams

School: Clemson
Height: 6-4
Weight: 218 pounds
*NFL Network Pro Comparison: Plaxico Burress *

There may not be a more clutch receiver in this year's draft than Mike Williams.

The Clemson product has a knack for coming through when his team needs him most, never more so than in last year's National Championship game.  He helped lead the Tigers to a 35-31 victory with a memorable performance as he caught eight passes for 94 yards and one touchdown.

A big target at 6-3, 225-pounds, Williams bounced back from a serious neck injury in 2015 to dominate last season.  He was a first-team All-ACC pick as he hauled in 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Williams has a habit of making difficult catches look easy, and excels at every route on the route tree.  He drives cornerbacks crazy with his ability to blow by them with his speed or outmuscle them with his fame.  Overall, pundits believe Williams is a safe pick with the ability to emerge as one of the league's top wide receivers one day.  

Combine Metrics
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 32.5 inches
Broad Jump: 121.0 inches

TIGHT ENDS

Jake Butt

School: Michigan
Height: 6-5
Weight: 246 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Zach Miller

Jake Butt has long been thought of as a top tight end prospect.

Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in Michigan's 33-32 Orange Bowl loss to Florida State.  Luckily, he's expected to make a full recovery as scouts expect him to make a big impact in the NFL.

A two-time All-American named the Big Ten's tight end of the year in back to back seasons, Butt proved to be a big, reliable target for the Wolverines.  After totaling 41 catches for 446 yards and a trio of TDs his first two seasons, he really burst onto the scene in 2015.  Butt caught 51 passes as a junior for 564 yards and three TDs.  Last year, he hauled in 46 balls for 546 yards and four touchdowns.

Overall, Butt is the prototypical safety blanket that is a quarterback's dream. Thus, he should be one of the first tight ends off the board.

Combine Metrics
Did Not Participate

Evan Engram

School: Mississippi
Height: 6-3
Weight: 245 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Jordan Reed

A 4.42 40 yard dash is impressive for a wide receiver or running back.

It's almost unheard of for a tight end, yet is what Evan Engram ran at the Scouting Combine. In the process, he reminded scouts the type of mismatch he provides on offense.

Engram cemented his status as one of the nation's premiere pass-catching tight ends with a lights out 2016 campaign.   He was a first-team All-American and All-SEC selection as he caught a team-high 65 passes for 926 yards and eight touchdowns.

Critics would like to see more from Engram as a blocker as Mississippi mainly used him in the passing game.  However, they believe he can add that aspect to his repertoire with proper NFL coaching.

Overall, Engram is a nightmare to defend in the passing game with the ability to stretch the field as a tight end.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.42 seconds
Bench Press: 19 reps
Vertical Jump: 36.0 inches
Broad Jump: 125.0 inches

O.J. Howard

School: Alabama
Height: 6-6
Weight: 251 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Julius Thomas

The last tight end drafted in the top six was Vernon Davis in 2006.

This year, draft experts believe O.J. Howard has the rare skillset to snap that eleven-year drought.

In addition to boasting ideal size at 6-6, 251-pounds, the Alabama product oozes with elite athleticism.  He blows past linebackers with ease while outmuscling smaller defensive backs. Howard is also a natural pass catcher with the ability to take over a game at a moment's notice.

His defining performance came in the 2015 National Championship game where he put on a show, catching five passes for 208 yards and a pair of scores.  Howard built on that big day with a career-year as a senior, setting career-highs in receptions (45), yards (595) and touchdowns (three). 

Overall, while playing in an offense that did not focus on the tight end, he still managed to produce 114 catches for 1,726 yards and seven TDs over four years. Pundits are eager to see what he can do at the next level in a system that can maximize his skillset.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.51 seconds
Bench Press: 11 reps
Vertical Jump: 30.0 inches
Broad Jump: 121.0 inches

David Njoku

School: Miami
Height: 6-4
Weight: 246 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Greg Olsen

Miami has produced some of the top tight ends over the past couple decades, highlighted by Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow II.

Now, David Njoku looks to carry on that tradition.

He showed glimpses of his talent as a redshirt freshman in 2015, catching 21 passes for 362 yards and one touchdown. However, it was last year's dominating sophomore campaign that really put him on the map as he totaled 43 receptions for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.

Njoku's performance against Duke showcased his game-breaking ability, even though he posted the lowest reception total of the season. He caught two passes that day, but took each one to the house in dramatic fashion.  The first was a 76-yarder while the second was a short pass the tight end turned into a 58-yard touchdown.

Pundits also note that Njoku is only scratching the surface of his potential.  He is relatively new to the position, and is still learning the nuances of being a tight end.  Combined with proper tutelage at the next level, draft experts note Njoku has the ability to be a perennial Pro Bowler.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.64 seconds
Bench Press: 21 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.5 inches
Broad Jump: 133.0 inches

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