In 2011, the Atlanta Falcons pulled off one of the greatest NFL draft trades in history. Atlanta traded five picks to the Cleveland Browns to move up and take Julio Jones, who has become one of the NFL’s best wide receivers.
Since 2010, there have been 27 wide receivers selected in the first round of the NFL draft. But of those 27, only seven have been selected in the top 10. Here is a look at those players.
2011: A.J. Green, Georgia (Cincinnati, fourth overall)
The buzz: Green was the first wide receiver taken in the 2011 draft, two slots ahead of Jones. He became the first rookie receiver to make a Pro Bowl appearance since 2003. Green caught more passes (260) in his first three seasons than any player in NFL history. He only played in 10 games this past season because of injuries, but still caught 66 passes for 964 yards and four touchdowns. He has been to six Pro Bowls (2011-16) and twice been named second-team All-Pro (2012, 2013). He was a two-time first-team All-SEC selection (2008, 2009) and was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2008.
2011: Julio Jones, Alabama (Atlanta, sixth overall)
The buzz: Jones missed two games with injuries in 2016, but still made the Pro Bowl with 83 receptions for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns. He is a four-time Pro Bowl player (2012, 2014-16) and a two-time first-team All-Pro selection (2015, 2016). Jones was a first-team All-SEC selection in 2010 and played on Alabama’s SEC and national championship teams in 2009. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2008.
2013: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (St. Louis, eighth overall)
The buzz: He has been a mild disappointment and has caught 181 passes since coming into the league. As a junior at WVU in 2011, Austin had 100 receptions for 1,180 yards and eight touchdowns. During the Mountaineers’ 70-33 win over Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl, he set a bowl record with four touchdown receptions. Austin was a two-time first-team All-American (2011, 2012) and a two-time first-team All-Big East performer.
2014: Sammy Watkins, Clemson (Buffalo, fourth overall)
The buzz: The Bills traded their pick to Cleveland to move up to grab Watkins. He set Bills rookie record in receptions (65) and receiving yards (982). But he has battled injuries the past two seasons and caught a combined 88 passes. As a junior he had 101 receptions for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns before he declared for the NFL Draft. He was named the MVP of the Orange Bowl in the final game of his college career. Watkins was a two-time first-team All-American (2011, 2013) and was the ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011.
2014: Mike Evans, Texas A&M (Tampa Bay, seventh overall)
The buzz: Evans has been everything the Buccaneers hoped. He caught 151 passes for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons in college before moving onto the NFL. In three seasons with the Bucs, he has caught 238 passes for 3,578 yards and 27 touchdowns. He had 96 receptions for 1,322 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 16 games and was selected to his first Pro Bowl this season, when he also was a second-team All-Pro selection. While in college he was a consensus All-America selection and a first-team All-SEC pick in 2013.
2015: Amari Cooper, Alabama (Oakland, fourth overall)
The buzz: Jones may be the standard for today’s wide receivers, but Cooper may the standard for the future. He was a Heisman finalist in 2014 and played on Alabama’s national championship team in 2012. Cooper caught 229 passes for 3,463 yards and 31 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide before leaving early for the NFL. He has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, catching 155 passes for 2,223 yards and 11 touchdowns.
2015: Kevin White, West Virginia (Chicago, seventh overall)
The buzz: The jury is out on this pick because White has been hampered by injuries. He missed his rookie season after suffering a stress fracture in his shin. White suffered a fractured fibula in the same leg four games into the 2016 season after making 19 receptions. At 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds, he is big and agile and would be a main target in the Bears’ passing game if healthy. While at West Virginia, White was a first-team All-Big 12 performer in 2014 and was a second-team AP All-American that year. In 23 games in college, he caught 144 passes for 1,954 yards and 14 touchdowns.
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