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NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 wide receivers and where the Bills stand

This is the second installment of a position-by-position preview of the 2018 NFL Draft. The first installment was on running backs.

Overview: This year's receiver crop has no Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson, freakishly talented, surefire, immediate stars in the NFL. The depth, however, looks pretty good. Grade: C.

"I think it's going to be a really good year for receivers in the second, third, fourth, fifth rounds," said ESPN analyst Mel Kiper. "It's a bad year for receivers in the first round but a good year after that."

"I think the second through fourth rounds at the wide receiver position, people are going to be all over the board, depending on what they're looking for," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.

The best: Calvin Ridley, Alabama. The top target for the national champions was a three-year starter who caught 244 career passes. He's not a huge physical specimen. But he's about as well-rounded as a prospect gets these days. He ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds.

"I'm a pretty good route runner, pretty detailed in my route running," Ridley said. "I don't like running weird-looking routes. I think I'm a perfectionist. I want my routes to be very detailed. Depth, to stick the top of the route. I just want to get in and out of my breaks."

Bills view: It would make perfect sense for the Bills to go for a wideout in the second round, and they could get a good one at No. 53 or No. 56, presuming they keep those picks. That range is the sweet spot for a number of prospects.

Oklahoma State's James Washington figures to land about 55 on the top 100. He's not big, at 5-foot-11, and he's not a blazer, at 4.54 in the 40. But he plays faster than he times and he catches everything. Washington has long arms, makes plays in the air, and he's built like a running back. He's superb after the catch. He can play outside or in the slot.

The 6-3 Courtland Sutton would be a good value at 53, too. He's a big man who works the boundary and red zone. Under SMU coach Chad Morris, he played the same position as Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, who were coached by Morris at Clemson. At 219 pounds, he's not as big as Kelvin Benjamin but he's somewhat similar. Is that what the Bills want? The Bills could draft him with the idea they may not keep Benjamin beyond 2018.

Memphis' Anthony Miller could rise to the 55 overall range, too. He's a slot receiver who gets separation. He's not much of a blocker. Texas A&M's Christian Kirk may not last to 53. He has great hands and great run after the catch but not great size at 5-10.

If not Round 2, there are interesting prospects in the third and fourth rounds, too. Colorado State's Michael Gallup is a productive, quality third-round prospect. Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton is among the fourth-round targets. But then the odds of getting good production in 2018 go down as you go down the list.

NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 Running backs; where the Bills stand

Rookie duds: Since the ballyhooed receiver class of 2014, the last three draft classes have not made much impact in the NFL. Last year, three receivers were picked in the first round (Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross) and none caught a TD pass as a rookie. Receiver is not an easy transition to the NFL. The reasons?

"One is the lack of quality press coverage in college football," Mayock said. "It’s hard to watch wideouts get challenged realistically at the line of scrimmage. No. 2 it’s a whole different conversation about the complexity of NFL defenses vs. what a lot of these kids are seeing in college football."

"No. 3, there were three first-round wide receivers a year ago ... and all three had hints of durability issues. All three of them struggled to get on the field last year because of injuries. ... So I’m kind of going on top of everything else, we need to be more aware of any kind of history of injuries with the wide receiver class."

Sleeper: Russell Gage, LSU. The 6-foot, 186-pounder was a special-teams ace for the Tigers and ran a 4.42 in the 400 at LSU's pro day. He was the No. 4 receiver for LSU, with 21 catches but could be a late-round pick.

Next: Tight ends.

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1. Calvin Ridley*, Alabama. 6-0, 189. Quick and tough, can start in slot from Day One.

2. D.J. Moore*, Maryland. 6-0, 200. Ran 4.42 and put up numbers, despite playing with 8 QBs for Terps.

3. D.J. Chark, LSU. 6-2, 196. Big and fast (4.32), draft stock has risen since Senior Bowl.

4. Christian Kirk*, Texas A&M. 5-10, 201. Excellent route-runner with quickness, return ability.

5. James Washington, Oklahoma State. 5-11, 210. Great production, gets separation, averaged 20.9 yards a catch.

6. Cortland Sutton*, SMU. 6-3, 218. Tall but hot huge WR who works boundary, red zone.

7. Anthony Miller, Memphis. 5-11, 201. Fast, quick, good hands. Had 238 catches and 37 TDs.

8. Dante Pettis, Washington. 6-0, 186. Holds NCAA career punt-return TD record (9) and had four in 2017.

9. Michael Gallup, Colorado State. 6-0, 205. Strong hands and good run-after-the-catch skills.

10. Tre'Quan Smith*, Central Florida. 6-1, 202. Well-built WR with RAC ability and blocks, too.


NFL Draft Preview: Top 10 Running backs; where the Bills stand

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