It’s been established in this space that if Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is available, the Pittsburgh Steelers should select him with the No. 17 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
But what if Patterson is gone by the time the Steelers pick? What if they pick an outside linebacker or a running back instead?
That would be OK, but the Steelers still would need to take at least one wide receiver in the draft. They need to alleviate the loss of speedster Mike Wallace.
They don’t necessarily have to find a Wallace clone. It takes more than just speed to be a complete wide receiver.
That said, the Steelers might be tempted to do some window shopping and take a look at the fastest receivers in the 2013 draft. Patterson’s 40-yard dash time of 4.42 seconds was the sixth-fastest among receivers at the NFL Scouting Combine, according to NFL.com.
How about the five receivers who ran faster than Patterson?
Let’s take a look at the Fast Five of the 2013 NFL Draft class and assess where in the draft they’d be a good value for the Steelers, or if the Steelers should pick them at all.
Marquise Goodwin, Texas, Sr.
5’9”, 183 pounds
40 time: 4.27
Goodwin ran the fastest 40 time of any player at the combine. NFL.com compares the senior to Wallace in its scouting report. If that’s accurate, then Goodwin would be an undersized version of Wallace, who’s 6’0”, 199 pounds. During the summer, Goodwin competed for the U.S. in the long jump at the 2012 Olympics. But in the fall, he had a subpar senior season, catching just 26 passes for 340 yards. Goodwin’s three previous seasons weren’t exactly eye-popping, either. He caught 30 passes as a freshman, 31 as a sophomore and 33 as a junior. Wallace wasn’t on anyone’s Heisman ballot during his days at Mississippi. His best season came in 2008 when he caught 39 passes, although he did provide a prelude of what was to come by averaging 20.1 yards per reception. The Steelers chose Wallace in the third round of the 2009 draft, and NFL Draft Scout projects Goodwin as a third-round pick. However, it’s hard to see the Steelers striking gold again in the third round with Goodwin.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia, Sr.
5’8”, 174 pounds
40 time: 4.34
Austin played his college ball in the heart of Steeler country, so he’d be a popular pick. The Steelers aren’t going to poll fans for their opinion on who to draft, however. Austin might be small, but according to NFL.com, he can take a hit. He caught 112 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. He also ran for 643 yards on 72 carries (8.9 yards per carry) with three touchdowns and amassed 978 return yards with two touchdowns. Austin finished eighth in Heisman voting, won the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player and was named first-team All-America as an All-Purpose Player. NFL Draft Scout says Austin “will dance too much and get caught going east-west too much or in reverse.” Austin should be on the Steelers’ board, but he’s too much of a risk to take with the No. 17 pick. He’ll be gone by the time the Steelers pick at No. 48 in the second round. So if the Steelers want him, they should trade down in the first round and get a pick later in the draft. That would give them an extra chance to draft another receiver. Because of his lack of size and all-or-nothing tendency, Austin shouldn’t be the only receiver the Steelers take in the draft.
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M, Sr.
6’0”, 205 pounds
40 time: 4.34
Despite his 40 time, Swope isn’t particularly noted for his speed in scouting reports, but Ryan Tannehill and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel probably have some nice things to say about him. Swope broke school records for catches with 89 and receiving yards with 1,207 in 2011. He followed that up last season by catching 72 passes for 913 yards and eight touchdowns with Manziel throwing to him. NFL.com says that Swope is an effective blocker and that he’s “the type of player who does all the little things right.” If Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders can be productive as the Steelers’ top two receivers, Swope could step in and establish himself as the No. 3 right away. He’d be a good pick in the third round for the Steelers.
Josh Boyce, TCU, Jr.
5’11”, 206 pounds
40 time: 4.38
From a statistical standpoint, Boyce showed a Wallace-like ability to stretch the field as a freshman and sophomore. In 2010, he caught 34 passes for 646 yards, an average of 19 yards per reception. In 2011, he caught 61 passes for 998 yards, 16.4 yards per reception. Boyce increased his reception total to a school-record 66 last season, but his yards per reception dipped to 13.5. Boyce is TCU’s all-time leader with 22 touchdowns. NFL Draft Scout projects Boyce as a fifth-rounder. The Steelers shouldn’t wait that long to take a wide receiver. So Boyce shouldn’t be the first receiver they draft.
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma, Jr.
6’0”, 194 pounds
40 time: 4.38
Stills has an NFL pedigree. His father, also named Kenny, was a safety for the Packers and Vikings. His uncle, Gary Stills, played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens. Those bloodlines seem to have given him a leg up on his peers in some aspects of his game. NFL Draft Scout says that Stills is a sophisticated route-runner and has the look of a veteran at times. NFL.com says Stills can make the tough catches. He caught 82 passes for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012. His maturity is questionable and he was arrested for DUI in 2011, according to NFL Draft Scout. After the headaches caused by Chris Rainey and Alameda Ta’amu in 2012, the Steelers must make character a high priority in this draft. However, it might be hard to draft eight players without a character risk somewhere. NFL Draft Scout projects Stills as a fourth-rounder. The Steelers have had a knack in recent years for drafting successful receivers in the later rounds. Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders were third-round picks and Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick. Stills could be another mid-round gem.