Note: This is third in a series of college prospect profiles in preparation for the 2006 NFL Draft next April. This week, we take a look at the top five prospects at wide receiver.
Andre Johnson is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but until another Texan wideout steps up to take some heat off of him, he is going to struggle to be as productive as a player of his caliber should. Opposing defenses have learned to throw everything at stopping Johnson, even if that leaves their coverages susceptible to plays by the other Houston receivers.
For the most part, that has proven to be a successful strategy. Jabar Gaffney and Derick Armstrong have each had moments in which they look like they could become the guy who will make defenses pay for overcommitting to stifling Johnson, but neither has done it on a consistent basis. Rookie Jerome Mathis has the speed to do the job, but a hamstring injury has sidelined him so far.
The situation is reminiscent of the late-1980s Astros, who spent years looking for a quality hitter to bat behind Glenn Davis and make pitchers think twice about pitching around the team’s only real power threat. The Astros never found that player for Davis; let’s hope the Texans are more fortunate with respect to Johnson.
There doesn’t appear to be any receiver prospects for the 2006 draft that are in that elite Andre Johnson/Larry Fitzgerald/Braylon Edwards class, but there are several who could help a team like the Texans. Santonio Holmes of Ohio State and Steve Breaston of Michigan are both game breakers with rare run-after-the-catch ability who can also return kicks. Arizona State’s Derek Hagan is polished and productive. Martin Nance of Miami (Ohio) has the size to create match-up problems for almost any cornerback he faces. Washington State’s Jason Hill can get vertical and make plays deep.
Some more receivers to remember:
Jason Avant, Michigan
Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech
Sinorice Moss, Miami
Steve Smith, Southern Cal
Travis Wilson, Oklahoma Steve Breaston Home