The 2014 NFL Draft is just a month away, and now that the NFL Scouting Combine and various pro day numbers are in, the top offensive players in the draft are getting an idea of what teams are truly interested in them and whether or not those teams will be their ideal situation to begin an NFL career.
Coaches and general managers are lining up visits with prospects in the hopes of demonstrating how each players unique gifts will be best-suited to their organization. Call it the courtship phase of the NFL draft.
The top offensive players in the draft may find themselves with plenty of suitors in the build-up to the draft, but for every offensive weapon there is at least one team whose needs and schemes give that player the best chance of long-term success in the NFL.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Oakland Raiders
The Raiders need to inject life into their stagnant offense, and Sammy Watkins' college production (3,391 yards and 27 touchdowns) prove that he has the NFL-ready pedigree Oakland desperately needs.
According to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com, analyst Mike Mayock has called Watkins one of the best receiving prospects of the last decade. Mayock also told Goodbread, "because his combine was so good a couple weeks ago, I think all he's going to do is catch the football (at Clemson's pro day Thursday), and if he doesn't get hurt, he's a top-10 pick."
Watkins excelled at beating press coverage and getting over the top of defenses in college, something that has infatuated the Raiders for years, thanks to the preferences of the late Al Davis.
With the Raiders' acquisition of quarterback Matt Schaub, Watkins will benefit from having a quarterback who excelled at throwing the deep ball in Houston to wideouts like the Texans' Andre Johnson.
The Raiders wide receiver corps is less crowded than that of the St. Louis Rams, who added Kenny Britt during the offseason and have promising young wideouts in Tavon Austin and Stedmon Bailey. Kyle Meinke of mlive.com reports the Detroit Lions have been courting Watkins heavily, but they already have Calvin Johnson snatching passes from Matthew Stafford.
Watkins is ready to star, and the Raiders are ready to let him shine.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: New York Giants
Eric Ebron is a freakish athlete who fits the mold of the new breed of tight-ends in the NFL. The New York Giants haven't had a standout at the position since the days of Jeremy Shockey and could certainly snatch Ebron with their first-round choice.
Ebron's predraft measurables are comparable to those Rob Gronkowski displayed coming out of Arizona in 2010.
|Eric Ebron vs. Rob Gronkowski, Predraft Results|
|Player||Height||Weight||Bench Press Reps||40-yard Dash||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump|
|Gronkowski||6'6"||258||23||4.68||33 1/2 inches||09'11"|
Ebron racked up an ACC-record 973 receiving yards as a tight end in 2013. Despite his weekly heroics in college, he struggled with drops at times, and did as well as on his pro day, according to David Simon of Comcast Sports Southeast.
Ebron ends day with 3 total drops and a double-catch. #UNCProDay—David Hamilton (@DavidHamiltonTV) March 25, 2014
Ebron would benefit from a veteran quarterback who can deliver an accurate ball consistently. Eli Manning would help Ebron settle into the NFL much quicker than Geno Smith of the New York Jets or EJ Manuel of the Buffalo Bills, young signal-callers for teams also looking to add a tight end in the draft.
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: Philadelphia Eagles
Odell Beckham Jr. brings a variety of skills to the table, and the Philadelphia Eagles under head coach Chip Kelly are best suited to take advantage of his myriad talents.
Leister (@BrendanLeister) February 21, 2014
Beckham's 2013 haul of 1,117 yards and eight touchdowns was his only standout season at LSU, though his limited production prior to last year was thanks largely to the team's focus on the running game under coach Les Miles. The Eagles already have a solid receiving corps with Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin, so Beckham won't have to deal with being a top target right away.
He could be utilized on a gadget play or two in Kelly's offense, as he carried the ball five times for 58 yards last season.
Beckham adds value on special teams as a punt or kick returner as well, something the Eagles can use thanks to the recent departure of DeSean Jackson. Beckham averaged a solid 9.3 yards as a punt returner during his three years at LSU, bringing two back for touchdowns in 2012. He also averaged 26.9 yards as a kick returner in 2013.
If he can't best Cooper or Jeremy Maclin for a starting wideout role, then he can certainly utilize his 4.43 40 speed to devastating effect as a return man.
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