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NFL Draft 2018: Scouting the wide receivers and tight ends

Alabama's Calvin Ridley celebrates his touchdown catch during

Alabama's Calvin Ridley celebrates his touchdown catch during the CFP national championship game against Georgia Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. Credit: AP / David Goldman

1. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama.

Height: 6-1

Weight: 190

40 time: 4.43

Projected draft status: Round 1

Strengths: The class of this year’s wide receivers, Ridley is an elite talent coming off an excellent junior season with 63 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns . . . Very good route runner . . . Has breakaway speed . . . Close to the level of former Alabama star receiver Amari Cooper.

Weaknesses: A bit thin and thus vulnerable against more physical cornerbacks . . . Will have to develop a more physical style himself to get off the line against press coverage . . . Prone to dropped passes . . . Will need to produce more yards after catch.

Quote: ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper: “He could be better than Amari Cooper and is the No. 1 receiver in this draft by a wide margin.”

2. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Height: 5-10.

Weight: 200

40 time: 4.47

Projected draft status: Round 1 or 2.

Strengths: Kirk is a strongly built receiver who can be very physical in traffic . . . Had a strong 2017 with 919 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns . . . Has good footwork and reliable hands . . . Very quick on cuts . . . Very competitive.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t have breakaway speed and can’t always create separation in tight coverage . . . Just an average returner . . . Built more for the slot than outside.

Quote: NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah: “I love his strength, elusiveness and will after the catch. Kirk reminds me a lot of Golden Tate coming out of Notre Dame, and I believe he can have similar success.”

3. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

Height: 6-5

Weight: 250

40 time: 4.67

Projected draft status: Round 1-3.

Strengths: A one-time baseball star, the athletic Hurst made it as a walk-on for the Gamecocks in 2015. Had a breakout season in 2016 with school records for receptions (48) and yards (616) by a tight end . . . Excellent hands with only one dropped pass in three collegiate seasons . . . Good quickness and ability to move through space to find an open area . . . Highly competitive.

Weaknesses: Will be 25 years old as a rookie . . . Will need to work on blocking . . . Needs to disguise his routes and cuts more consistently . . . With relative inexperience in football, will need to refine his techniques to be competitive at the next level.

Quote: Hurst: “The biggest thing that I take from my experiences from baseball, as hard as it was, what I went through in those three seasons, it’s made me a pretty resilient person. I was pretty much at the bottom of the sports world. Stayed in the rookie league for three years but battled my way out. Made a life change and brought myself this situation.”

4. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Height: 6-3

Weight: 218

40 time: 4.54

Projected draft status: Round 2-3

Strengths: Has prototype size for a wide receiver . . . Can be extremely physical . . . Excellent possession receiver . . . Benefited by staying in school last season, when he had 68 catches for 1,085 yards and 12 touchdowns . . . Doesn’t mind playing in traffic . . . Can outjump opposing defensive backs for the ball . . . Compares favorably to Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t have game-breaking speed, doesn’t create a lot of separation, so will be best as a possession receiver . . . Can dominate smaller defensive backs, but not as effective against more physical corners.

Quote: NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock: “There’s another way to separate now, and that’s with size — back-shoulder fades, the outside-the-numbers throws. He’s mostly kind of a fade, fade-stop, hitch and slant player right now. Can he be a Mike Evans-type player?”

5. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

Height: 6-5

Weight: 256

40 time: Did not run at Combine because of hamstring injury.

Projected draft status: Round 2-3

Strengths: Had incredibly productive final two seasons with a combined 164 catches for 2,404 yards and 18 touchdowns . . . Excellent route runner, especially given his size . . . Former high school basketball player . . . Has good body control, good hands and prototype size for an NFL tight end.

Weaknesses: Will be making a big jump in level of play . . . Occasionally gives away which direction he’s about to run . . . Will need to develop blocking skills at NFL level.

Quote: Hayden: “I want to be a three-down tight end in the league, So I’m going to have to be able to block. I didn’t do a ton of blocking at South Dakota State, but when I did, I put my head in there. I have to work on it a little bit, but I’ve been doing it already. I plan on getting a lot better at it and being one of the best tight ends in the league.”

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