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    Dig deep to find WR gems in NFL Draft

    The best place to find a receiver is not on the trade market, Anquan Boldin fans.

    Very few worthwhile receivers are put up for trade, and when they are, the compensation tends to be prohibitive. When the Lions traded Roy Williams to the Cowboys, they received first-, third- and sixth-round picks. To acquire Deion Branch from the Patriots, it cost the Seahawks a first-round pick they wish they had back.

    The best place to find a receiver is not in free agency, T.J. Houshmandzadeh hopefuls.

    There are exceptions to this rule, but many free-agent receivers get overpaid and then underperform. Among the clear examples of this a year ago were Javon Walker, who signed with the Raiders, Jerry Porter ( Jaguars) and Ernest Wilford ( Dolphins).

    The best place to find a receiver is not in the first round of the draft, Michael Crabtree dreamers.

    In the last 10 drafts, only 14 of the 39 receivers drafted in the first round (36 percent) established themselves as solid, consistent NFL starters. The best place to find a receiver is in the second through fifth rounds of the draft.

    Here at the NFL scouting combine, examples abound of intriguing receiver prospects expected to be chosen in those rounds. Among them are Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Britt, Deon Butler, Derrick Williams, Juaquin Iglesias, Ramses Barden, Mohamed Massaquoi, Louis Murphy, Darius Passmore, Brandon Tate, Quan Cosby, Brandon Gibson, Patrick Turner and Johnny Knox.

    Examples of similar receivers who have emerged as excellent values over recent years include Boldin, Bernard Berrian, Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings, DeSean Jackson, Kevin Curtis and Eddie Royal.

    "There always are enough wide receivers in the draft to find someone you like—whatever type you like," said Bears GM Jerry Angelo. "You can almost always go to the third round and feel good about what's there."

    It is not uncommon for wide receiver to be the deepest position in the draft because of the way college offenses utilize multiple-receiver sets and throw the ball so frequently.

    It looks like there are three sure-fire first-round receiver prospects this year—Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Other first-round possibilities are Percy Harvin and Brian Robiskie.

    But many teams are cautious about taking a receiver in the first round because of the history of receiver misses. Last year, in fact, there wasn't a single receiver taken in the first round—but there were 35 taken in subsequent rounds.

    Often times, receivers become first-rounders at the combine, not during the college season. It might have happened with Heyward-Bey, who ran a 4.30-second 40-yard dash.

    "Wide receiver is such a luxury position, unless you think you have a [Pro Bowl-caliber player], why take one in the first round?" Angelo said.

    NFL teams rely on the stopwatch and measurables more with wide receivers — often to their detriment.

    "We all get enamored sometimes with big, fast guys," said Gene Smith, who was named GM of the Jaguars earlier this year. "They produce a lot at the college level because they can out-big people, but not necessarily because they are precision route-runners. Some of them then struggle when they come into the league early because there are differences. It isn't as easy to get off the line. And they can't always outjump NFL corners. If they don't develop as a route-runner, they never will separate from coverage."

    That's why some of the second-tier receivers in the draft end up better players than bigger, faster first-rounders. Some of those down-the-line players excel in college not because of size and speed, but because of technique and savvy. And that translates to the next level.

    The beauty of getting a veteran like Houshmandzadeh is you have seen what he can do in the NFL.

    But the options are more plentiful—and cost-effective—in the second through fifth rounds of the draft.

    "Good young receivers usually are not out there in free agency, and a lot of people are looking for them," Angelo said.

    In the draft, they are as plentiful as grapes on a vine. It's just a matter of finding the sweet ones.

    [More at www.sun-sentinel.com]

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