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Prospect Profiles: The WR/TE Class

In order to familiarize fans with some of the top names in the 2018 NFL Draft, Chargers.com will be highlighting top prospects by position each week leading up to the first day of the draft on April 26th.

*Next up is a look at some of the premiere wide receiver and tight end prospects according to pundits. *

WIDE RECEIVERS

Christian Kirk

School: Texas A&M
Height: 5-10
Weight: 200 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Sterling Shepard

Odds are fans of all 32 NFL franchises are clamoring for their team to select Christian Kirk.

After all, it's must see TV anytime he touches the ball.

All you have to do is put on the film from his dynamic 2017 campaign when the junior was a second-team All-SEC pick as a wide receiver and a first-team All-SEC selection as an all-purpose and return specialist. 

A team captain in 2017, Kirk started all 12 games, catching 71 passes for 919 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He also continued to be one of college football's most dangerous weapons as a returner on special teams.

What's crazy is that statistically speaking, it was the worst of his three-year Aggie career.

Kirk became a household name after an electric freshman season for the Aggies in 2015.   He led the team in receptions (80), receiving yards (1,009), all-purpose yards (1,789), punt return yards (341), kickoff return yards (385) and total TDs (eight).   His performance was good enough to rank second among freshmen in school history in catches, receiving yards and TD receptions.   Kirk returned in 2016 with another standout season, catching a career-high and SEC-leading 83 passes for 928 yards and nine TDs.

The 5-10, 200-pound wideout seems tailor made as a slot receiver in the NFL.  While pundits note he doesn't boast sprinter speed, he tends to kick it up a notch when the pads come on.  As a result, expect to hear Kirk's name fairly early in this year's draft.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.47 seconds
Bench Press: 20 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches
Broad Jump: 115.0 inches

D.J. Moore

School: Maryland
Height: 6-0
Weight: 210 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Pierre Garçon

D.J. Moore had every excuse to turn in a subpar 2017 campaign after being forced to catch passes from four different QBs due to injuries.

Instead, he turned heads to be named the 2017 Big Ten Receiver of the Year and a consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection.

Moore set a Maryland single-season record a year ago with 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns.  He is one of only three players in college football to accomplish that feat in 2017.  Moore also became just the third player in school history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards, and the first FBS player in 10 years to reach that mark despite not a single QB on his team throwing for more than 1,500 yards.

Overall, Moore enters the NFL with his name etched throughout the school's record books.  In addition to his single-season record of 80 receptions, he ranks third in single-season receiving yards (1,033), fourth in career TD catches (17), fifth in career receptions (146) and sixth in career receiving yards (2,027).

Pundits laud the 6-0, 210-pound receiver for his short area quickness and ability to make men miss in the open field.  He also isn't afraid of the big moment, taking on a hefty workload over his years with the Terrapins, which is why he is seen as having a very high floor in the NFL.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.42 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 39.6 inches
Broad Jump: 132.0 inches

Calvin Ridley

School: Alabama
Height: 6-0
Weight: 189 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Marvin Harrison

Virtually every mock draft has Calvin Ridley as the first wide receiver off the board, and it's easy to see why, as pundits believe he's primed to follow in Julio Jones and Amari Cooper's footsteps as the next great wideout out of Alabama.

Ridley can single-handedly wreck a game as he combines tremendous speed in the open field with smooth, crisp routes to gain separation from cornerbacks.   Teams also love his experience in Alabama's pro-style system and his ability to run every route on the route tree. 

The receiver dominated right from the get go in 2015. As a true freshman, he led the National Champion Crimson Tide in catches (89), receiving yards (1,045) and TD catches (seven).  He had another productive season as a sophomore, catching 72 passes for 765 yards and seven touchdowns. Ridley ended his collegiate career with 63 receptions for 967 yards and five touchdowns as he helped Alabama capture it's third national title in three seasons. Overall, he ranks second in school history in receptions (224) and receiving TDs (19), and third in receiving yards (2781).

As a reliable target who caught at least one pass in every game he played in, most believe Ridley will adjust to the NFL without missing a beat.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.43 seconds
Bench Press: 15 reps
Vertical Jump: 31.0 inches
Broad Jump: 110.0 inches

Courtland Sutton

School: Southern Methodist
Height: 6-3
Weight: 218 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Mushin Muhammed

Courtland Sutton arrived on Southern Methodist's campus as a highly touted safety.

It's a good thing the coaches quickly switched him to a full time wide receiver, as he is now primed to be one of the first off the board in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Sutton showed a knack for the position early as a redshirt freshman, leading the Mustangs with 49 catches for 862 yards and nine TDs in 2015.   He was an All-AAC selection as sophomore, ranking among the best WRs in the country with 76 receptions for 1,246 yards and 10 TDs. Having established himself as a premiere prospect heading into his junior campaign, Sutton delivered another outstanding campaign by catching 68 balls for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Sutton also boasts a basketball background, and approaches the gridiron with a similar philosophy.  A big bodied target with a massive frame, the 6-3, 218-pounder has an ideal catch radius.  He isn't afraid of contact, and uses his height to his advantage to go up and get the ball.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.54 seconds
Bench Press: 18 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5 inches
Broad Jump: 124.0 inches

TIGHT ENDS

Dallas Goedert

School: South Dakota State
Height: 6-5
Weight: 256 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Zach Ertz

Dallas Goedert may hail from a small school, but his game is ideally tailored for the NFL.

A reliable target in the passing game, Goedert has a tendency to make near impossible catches look routine.  One look at his film shows a player who never gives up on the ball, seemingly making a spectacular grab once a game.

Still, what's most important was his ability to come through for the Jackrabbits time and time again.

A two-time finalist for the FCS Walter Payton Award in 2016 and 2017, the 6-5, 256-pound Goedert etched his name in school annals over his lofty career.  He ranks third in school history with 198 receptions, fourth with 2,988 receiving yards and fifth with 21 TD catches.

Goedert was a valuable playmaker his first two years before kicking it up a notch in 2016. In fact, as a junior he set SDSU's single-season record with 92 catches which were good for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns.  He had another strong season as a senior, hauling in 72 passes for 1,111 yards and seven TDs.

Overall, Goedert checks all the boxes teams look for in a tight end with the size, speed, power and athleticism needed for the position.

Mike Gesicki

School: Penn State
Height: 6-5
Weight: 247 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Jimmy Graham

Perhaps no prospect had a better Combine than Mike Gesicki.

Always considered one of the top tight ends available in this year's draft, he put on a performance for the ages that some believe secured him a spot in the first round. Gesicki boasts rare athleticism for the position, and he put it on full display to emerge as the talk of Indianapolis.

While pundits couldn't stop raving about him, teams simply noted he showed the raw skillset that made him so effective for the Nittany Lions.

Gesicki rewrote the record books at Penn State as his 129 receptions and 15 touchdowns are the most by a tight end in school history.   He came into his own as a junior in 2016, catching 48 passes for 679 yards and five touchdowns.  As a senior last year, he set the school's single-season record for touchdowns (nine) and receptions (57) by a tight end. Gesicki ended his career by catching at least one pass in 27 straight games.

Draft experts note how the 6-5, 247-pounder has room to grow as a blocker.  However, they also see him as one of the elite pass-catching tight end prospects in a number of years, stressing how he's perfectly suited for modern day offenses.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.54 seconds
Bench Press: 22 reps
Vertical Jump: 41.5 inches
Broad Jump: 129.0 inches

Hayden Hurst

School: South Carolina
Height: 6-4
Weight: 250 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Dallas Clark

For months, Hayden Hurst has been seen as a lock to be the first tight end off the board.

The only question seems to be how early a team will need to select him to prevent someone else from snatching him up.

A well-rounded tight end who is as deft a pass catcher as he is a blocker, Hurst figures to be an ideal safety blanket for quarterbacks as he dropped only one ball in college.  He is quick in and out of his routes, able to separate from linebackers and safeties alike.  The tight end also has a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage. 

The South Carolina product enters the draft fresh off a lights out junior campaign, catching 44 passes for 559 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 6-4, 250-pounder ranked seventh in the nation among tight ends in receiving yards and tied for 10th in catches. As a result, he was named a first team All-SEC selection and a Mackey Award Semifinalist.

Hurst is older than most prospects as he'll turn 25 before the start of the 2018 season.  For comparison purposes, 2018 marks Hunter Henry's third year in the league, and he won't turn 24 until December.

Still, some believe Hurst's maturity means he's more likely to come in and contribute right off the bat.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.67 seconds
Vertical Jump: 31.5 inches
Broad Jump: 120.0 inches

Ian Thomas

School: Indiana
Height: 6-4
Weight: 259 pounds
NFL Network Pro Comparison: Jermaine Gresham

Ian Thomas may be the rawest tight end in the NFL Draft.

He also may have the highest upside.

A three-sport athlete in high school, Thomas was lightly recruited his senior year, spending his first two collegiate seasons at Nassau Community College before making the leap to Indiana.  Even then he didn't see a ton of action, he acclimated to a higher level of competition.  While he appeared in 13 games, he caught just three passes for 28 yards.

Then Thomas began scratching the surface of his potential.

The tight end appeared in 10 games, catching 25 passes for 376 yards and five touchdowns.  His 15.0 yards per reception was fourth-highest in the nation at his position, while his five touchdowns on the year were the second-most by a TE in school history.  Thomas also came up big when it mattered most, catching a career-high five passes for 91 yards against fourth-ranked Penn State as well as five catches for a career-high two touchdowns against second-ranked Ohio State.

It's also impossible not to root for the 6-4, 259-pound Baltimore native.  Thomas' parents both passed away tragically by the time he was nine years old and was raised by his older siblings.   He's also considered the ideal teammate due to his humble nature, strong work ethic and deep passion for football.

While pundits note Thomas may not make an immediate impact as a rookie, they love his athleticism and raw skillset, believing he has what it takes to develop into a dominant NFL tight end.

Combine Metrics
40-Yard Dash:4.74 seconds
Vertical Jump: 36.0 inches
Broad Jump: 123.0 inches

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed above represent those of individual authors and do not represent the opinions or policies of the Chargers' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives.

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