In a year lacking an abundance of immediate superstar prospects, the wide receivers and running backs are well stocked with pro level talent, according to draft guru Frank Coyle of Draft Insider's Digest.
New England will certainly have interest at both positions. The Patriots would like a quality receiver to complement Terry Glenn and Troy Brown, and the team's ground attack has also left much room for improvement the last several years.
Coyle said the receiving corps has as many as 15 players who could be selected on the first day of the NFL draft, which will be held in New York City on April 21-22. The top two prospects are David Terrell of Michigan and Koren Robinson of North Carolina State, both of whom will likely go in the top 10 picks. A handful of others are potential first-round quality.
Terrell is almost a sure bet for Cleveland, where he would fit well with Kevin Johnson and quarterback Tim Couch. Though he is more polished, Terrell may not be a better prospect than Robinson, according to Coyle. Coyle said neither player has an obvious weakness in their game, while both have good height, a strong physical frame, athleticism and separation speed.
The next level of receivers includes Rod Gardner of Clemson, Chad Johnson of Oregon State and Ken-Yon Rambo of Ohio State. Coyle called Johnson the fastest rising player on the draft board, though Gardner's speed and play-making ability may make him the third receiver taken.
A couple diamonds in the rough for Coyle are Auburn junior Ronnie Daniels and the sizable Boo Williams of Arkansas. Coyle likes Daniels as a possession receiver who has a little more maturity. He said Daniels' experience and time as a professional baseball player will help him make the step up. Williams, a 6-4 target, is a probable second- or third-round selection with starting ability. Coyle likened him to a Shannon Sharpe-type player.
At the running back position, Coyle gave high grades for Maryland's Lamont Jordan, Mississippi's Deuce McAllister, Auburn's Rudi Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson. Coyle's own mock draft has New England picking McAllister with the sixth pick overall, though there are questions about his durability and running style.
Jordan's stock dropped some because of a disappointing senior season, while Tomlinson saw his value rise because of a strong showing during the week of the Senior Bowl. Coyle said Tomlinson proved he could run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield, both parts of his game that pro scouts have questioned.
Coyle also commented on a local product. He said Marcel Shipp of the University of Massachusetts is a solid all-around player who lacks great speed. Shipp may be a fourth- to sixth-round pick whose best shot in the NFL may be as a special teams player.
Coyle discussed the two skill positions at length Wednesday on the Internet radio show "PFW In Progress." He is a weekly guest on the show, which runs every Wednesday at noon eastern time here on Patriots.com. Coyle's draft information can be found at draftinsiders.com.