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Pittsburgh Steelers: Ranking the Top 10 Tall Receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft

Perhaps Ben Roethlisberger is on to something when he expresses his desire for a tall wide receiver.

Eight of the NFL’s top 10 in receiving yards in 2013 stood at least 6’3″. Antonio Brown and DeSean Jackson, both 5’10″, were the only exceptions.

Of the 13 players who caught at least 10 touchdown passes in 2013, including tight ends, nine measured at least 6’3″. Erstwhile Steeler Jerricho Cotchery (6’1″) was among the outliers in that group. Eight of those players helped their teams reach the playoffs.

The pass-happy NFL is becoming increasingly height-happy when it comes to receivers. Tall receivers are no longer a luxury. A towering target isn’t something that Roethlisberger wants, it’s something he needs.

According to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Steelers have told Roethlisberger that they plan to select a tall receiver in the early rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.

There’s plenty of height in this deep wide receiver class. In our previous Steelers mock draft, we had them taking Donte Moncrief of Mississippi in the second round. He doesn’t make this list, however, because he’s a stumpy 6’2″. Based on the aforementioned statistical breakdown of NFL receivers, 6’3″ seems to be where the “You Must Be This Tall to Ride” line is drawn as NFL offenses evolve.

Yes, Justin Brown (6’3″) was drafted last year and spent 2013 on the practice squad, and Derek Moye (6’5″) dressed for seven games last season. But the Steelers are looking for an early-round stud who can be more Plaxico Burress than Limas Sweed.

Here’s a look at the top pass-catching prospects who stand at least 6’3″, ranked in order of where they should be on the Steelers’ big board.

No. 1: Mike Evans, Texans A&M, So.

(6’4 3/4″, 231 pounds)

Catching passes from Johnny Manziel, who can move around and extend plays, Evans is well-trained in getting open for a quarterback like Roethlisberger. His combine performance cemented his status as a top-10 pick, so the Steelers won’t get him at No. 15. It wouldn’t be wise to trade up for him, because that would cost picks in later rounds. In a draft this deep, it’s better to accumulate picks than give them up to get one player.

No. 2: Allen Robinson, Penn State, Jr.

(6’3″, 220 pounds)

Robinson caught 174 passes for 2,445 yards in 2012 and 2013 combined. That’s third in Big Ten history in a two-season span, according to NFL Draft Scout. If he’s available in the second round, Robinson would be a good value for the Steelers with the 46th pick. He’s a physical receiver who can pick up yards after the catch and he keeps the replay officials busy scooping balls inches off the ground.

No. 3: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt, Sr.

(6’3″, 212 pounds)

Matthews is the top-rated senior in this wide receiver class and should be on the Steelers’ second-round radar. He’s the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions with 232 and receiving yards with 3,759. Matthews doesn’t have elite speed and he’s not the most physical receiver, but he’s a polished route runner. A cousin of Jerry Rice, Matthews is a safe pick who could be a productive possession receiver at the next level.

No. 4: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech, Jr.

(6’5″, 265 pounds)

The Steelers don’t necessarily have to draft a receiver as the tall target for Roethlisberger. In a lackluster draft for tight ends, Amaro should be atop the Steelers’ board at the position. He was seventh in the nation with 106 receptions in 2013, catching exactly nine passes in five straight games. It would be too early to take Amaro at No. 15, but he might not last until No. 46. If the Steelers want to draft Amaro without reaching, they’ll have to trade down to a late-first round pick. That way they’d get Amaro and have an extra pick or two later in the draft. Amaro has the size as a tight end to be a physical freak like Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham.

No. 5: Eric Ebron, North Carolina, Jr.

(6’4″, 250 pounds)

Ebron is the top-rated overall tight end in the class and probably will be off the board by the time the Steelers pick in the first round. Even if he is there at No. 15, the Steelers should pass on him. He doesn’t have prototypical tight end size for today’s NFL and looks more like a receiver. He’s another guy the Steelers should draft only if they can trade down in the first round and pick up additional picks later in the draft. If they really want a tight end in the early rounds, they can wait for Amaro on Day 2.

No. 6: Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State, So.

(6’5″, 240 pounds)

Benjamin generated a lot of buzz with his game-winning touchdown catch in the national championship game against Auburn. He led the SEC with 15 touchdown catches in 2013, including seven in the red zone. However, he drops a lot of balls and NFL.com senior draft analyst Gil Brandt reported that he missed a workout with an NFL coach because he was tired. The Steelers should use the No. 15 pick, their highest in the draft since 2007, on a better player than Benjamin. Before Brandt’s report came out, he seemed like a late-first round prospect who would be gone by the time the Steelers picked at No. 46. Now, he could tumble deep into the second round. Even if he’s there at 46, his work ethic needs to be scrutinized before the Steelers write his name on the card.

No. 7: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington, Jr.

(6’6″, 262 pounds)

A second-round caliber tight end, Jenkins’ best season came in 2012 when he caught 69 passes for seven touchdowns. His reception total fell to 36 in 2013, but he caught eight touchdowns. Seferian-Jenkins hasn’t been able to work out this spring because of a stress fracture that was detected at the combine, but he’s expected to make a full recovery.

No. 8: Martavis Bryant, Clemson, Jr.

(6’4″, 211 pounds)

Bryant caught just 42 passes in 2013 partly because most of the balls went to teammate Sammy Watkins, the top overall receiver in the class. Bryant doesn’t have the best catching technique and drops a lot of passes, including four against Georgia. He’s too risky a pick to be chosen in the second round. The Steelers traded their original third-round pick to the Browns last year, but have a compensatory pick at No. 97. If Bryant falls that far, that’s where the Steelers can get him for the proper value.

No. 9: Cody Latimer, Indiana, Jr.

(6’3″, 215 pounds)

If the vagaries of the draft leave the Steelers without a receiver in the early rounds, Latimer is a player they can look at in the fourth or fifth round. He caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013, averaging 15.2 yards per reception. He beat Darqueze Dennard, a cornerback almost certain to go in the first round, for a 3-yard touchdown pass at Michigan State.

No. 10: Devin Street, Pittsburgh, Sr.

(6’3″, 198 pounds)

Street’s adjustment to the NFL would be eased somewhat if the Steelers draft him. He’d be playing in the same home stadium. Street is probably a more solid 6’3″ than Latimer, who is listed as 6’2″ on NFL.com. But Street doesn’t have Latimer’s bulk, isn’t quite as explosive after the catch and isn’t as good a blocker. Street is a four-year starter with 202 career receptions, but he might have topped out. Street is the safer pick, but Latimer appears to have a little more upside.

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6 comments

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  1. Mike Batista

    I like Beckham, even if he’s not tall. I think he’s the second-best receiver in the draft behind Watkins.

  2. Rob Henderson

    Kelvin Benjamin has worked out with Ike Taylor and Ike said he works hard and would be welcomed on his team anyday. Also Dave Te said make Benjamin a TE and use him the way NO uses Jimmy Graham or NE uses Gronk. He said TE Benjamin would be a Great pick at 15 but if you spreading him out wide then wait until the second rd. He also stated Odell Beckham Jr would be an Awesome first round selection for The Steelers.

  3. Mike Batista

    OK, so maybe I got a little cute with the title. I left the word “wide” out of it so I could include tight ends. When a tight end catches a pass, he essentially becomes a receiver. As far as Coleman goes, sounds like he’s a little soft.

  4. Vittorio

    Has mike lost his freaking mind? He puts 3TE’s as Tall targets for Ben has he gone off the deep end or he is just high? It’s Tall WR for Ben or nothing at all. The Steelers already have 4TE’s on the roster no need to add a unnecessary 5th. If Evans is gone then take Benjamin and I know he is considered a reach but lets be honest here after the top 2 or 3 Tall WR’s the talent drops off dramatically. Bryant, Matthews and Latimer are being considered is a foolish idea. What ‘s even more foolish is that Mike won’t even consider Coleman out of Rutgers 6’6 guy who would look great opposite of AB. I try to picture what Matthews or Bryant or Latimer would look like next to AB and to be very honest I never want to think about that image ever again. It really turned out to be a bad picture and it is one I want to ignore for good. People are scared that a guy Benjamin or Coleman will turn out to be another version of Sweed, well what happens if they don’t turn out that way? Why should I believe that guys like Bryant, Latimer and Matthews will be any good. The Steelers are missing a WR who make that jump ball catch and there are very few of those guys in this draft. The other problem I have is people wanting what NE had and that’s this 2TE Threat offense, I don’t. That system makes you believe that your TE is the primary target in the offense when the WR is always the primary target no matter what. That 2TE threat offense will never have sustained success in the NFL. It failed in NE and it Failed in Baltimore and it will fail in Cincy. I want the Steelers to give Ben that Tall Target but if they decide to take TE at any point in the draft I will boo that TE every time he touches the ball

  5. Mike Batista

    I thought about Janis, but he’s a Division II guy and he’s probably used to being the best player on the field. That’s won’t be the case in the NFL.

  6. Milliken Steeler

    I would have Jeff Janis on that list. He is a big and fast WR, 6’3″ 219lbs and ran a 4.4. His stats the last two years of college were outstanding also.

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