We here at The Phinsider have spent the last six months talking up the 2013 receiver class, and with good reason: the Miami Dolphins' receiver corps is in serious need of a rebuild.
Of course, it's one thing to identify a team's area of need; it's another thing entirely to identify the specific players who will address that need. Fortunately, more than a few players made themselves visible for the right reasons during Combine workouts yesterday morning. Here are some of the players who best showcased their stuff in Indianapolis this weekend.
Tavon Austin, WR West Virginia
We already knew Austin had world-class wheels, but even the most hardened of NFL draft analysts were likely blown away by the former Mountaineer's unofficial 4.25 in the 40-yard dash early Sunday morning. That time does line up with the speed he displays on tape, so the next step for teams interested in using a 1 or early 2 on Austin is to come to a decision on whether they're comfortable with his undersized stature. Regardless, it's hard to picture Austin getting out of the first round after today. He was that good.
Marquise Goodwin, WR Texas
Austin had the second-highest 40 time yesterday. The top mark belonged to Texas receiver Marquise Goodwin, whose unofficial 4.25 gave way to an official 4.27 (Austin's official time was 4.34). However, Austin tops Goodwin on this list simply because the former used his blazing 40 time to potentially lock up a first-round grade. Goodwin, on the other hand, is still probably a third-round pick, even after securing the second-highest 40 time in modern Combine history (a mark he shares with former University of Houston cornerback Stanford Routt, who notched a 4.27 in 2005). A strong pro day could get Goodwin into the front half of day two, but he'll have to show a natural and developed feel for the route tree in order for that to happen.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR Clemson
Rarely does a receiver feel good about running a mid-4.5 at the Combine, but Hopkins did more than enough yesterday morning to confirm that he's one of the best prospects in this year's class. Hopkins looked natural and comfortable during the gauntlet and route drills, and his measurables (6'1", 214, 10" hands) are right in line with several big-time receivers in the NFL. Hopkins will obviously want to get his 40 time down a bit if he wants to solidify a first-round grade, but all of the tools are visible while viewing his tape. This guy is a sure-handed target who wants the ball with the game on the line.
Robert Woods, WR USC
He's back, and with a vengeance, it seems. Woods looked sleek, comfortable and locked in during receiver drills, and he clocked an unofficial 4.44 40 time, as well. The gauntlet was where Woods did his best work, though, as he practically annihilated the drill, and also displayed good concentration by securing a low throw during his first run-through. Woods will almost certainly build upon the official 4.51 time he posted this morning, but more important is the fact that he looked fully recovered from the banged-up ankle that plagued him through much of 2012.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Tennessee
Patterson's officially the No. 1 wideout in this class after yesterday's workout, but it's not so much because he was bigger and better than every other prospect on the field. Patterson blazed an unofficial 4.37 in the 40, and confirmed his ability to elevate by notching a 37" vertical jump. He was mostly seamless during receiver drills, but did let a few balls into his frame. Overall, Patterson did enough to confirm what we've all seen from him on tape. The next step for him will involve sharpening his ability to run routes, but his current standing as a premier playmaking slasher will prove irresistible to a team drafting within the top 16.
However, reports of Patterson failing to impress several teams during the interview process are beginning to surface, so keep an eye on that story as it develops.
Ryan Swope, WR Texas A&M
Swope's official 40 time of 4.34 was undoubtedly the "WTF?" moment of Sunday's workout. Thought to be a mid-4.5/low 4.6 guy, Swope flat-out ate up the Lucas Oil Stadium turf, wowing NFL Network's Mike Mayock in the process. Is Swope that fast on tape? Definitely not, but that 40 time will still boost his impressive-yet-underrated college resume. Swope was a big-time target for A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in 2012, and excelled at making contested catches over the middle and on the sideline. That's why it was somewhat surprising to see him drop a few passes during the gauntlet drill. Nonetheless, Swope might be an early day three selection after yesterday's performance. Not bad.
Conner Vernon, WR Duke
Of the receivers who participated in the gauntlet yesterday morning, Vernon looked the most natural and seamless. He displayed first-rate discipline and technique in the route-running drill, and also impressed with his ability to track and haul in the deep ball. Some scouts and analysts will complain about Vernon's lack of top-end speed (he clocked an official time of 4.68 in the 40), but few people seem to remember Anquan Boldin's time of 4.71 at the 2003 Combine. That's not to say Vernon will contribute at a high level in the NFL, but he possesses incredible coordination and feel as a pass-catcher, and that's a tough skill set to turn down, especially in the draft's later rounds.