RENTON – In a 2014 NFL draft filled with uncertainty and intrigue, there is one topic in which there is little debate — that the group of receivers available is one of the best and deepest in years.
The consensus is that at least six receivers will be taken in the first round, with possibly more depending on how things shake out.
It already figured to be a strong senior group. Then 19 underclassmen declared early (of the 98 total from all positions) making it that much better at the top and deeper in the lower rounds.
“We can talk about the fifth round and drop some names that I think can be some productive NFL players,’’ said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. “It’s quality at the top and depth throughout.’’
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Mayock, in fact, said he thinks it’s the best group of receivers since the 1996 draft, when Keyshawn Johnson was taken first overall and Terry Glenn, Marvin Harrison and Eddie Kennison all went in the first 18 choices, and Terrell Owens in the third round.
That’s good news for the Seahawks, who would logically appear in the market for a receiver for several reasons:
1) To find someone to make up for the loss of Golden Tate, who led the Seahawks with 64 catches in 2013 before leaving in free agency to Detroit. Also, Doug Baldwin could be an unrestricted free agent and Jermaine Kearse a restricted free agent after next season.
2) To find another taller receiver, with Sidney Rice working his way back from a knee injury and no one else on the roster who has played regularly who is taller than 6 feet 2.
3) And maybe find someone who can return punts, something Tate handled last year and a spot that appears wide open with no one on the roster with a history of doing it (Percy Harvin has handled solely kickoff returns in his career).
Seattle, with selections Nos. 32 and 64, should have choices of receivers big and small, even if some of the best prospects figure to be long gone.
Among those whose names should be called early are Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M’s Mike Evans (at 6-5, maybe the best big receiver in the group), Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin (at 6-5, another intriguing big body) and, probably, two Pac-12 players — Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and USC’s Marqise Lee, either of whom the Seahawks might consider fortunate to get at No. 32.
One player who might still be available for Seattle is Indiana’s Cody Latimer, regarded as one of the fastest-risers at any position in the draft.
The 6-2, 215-pounder was regarded as a mid- to late-round choice before building a buzz with a steady stream of eye-opening workouts.
Latimer, who had surgery on his left foot in January but is apparently healthy, is known to have visited Seattle as one of the 30 nonlocal players the Seahawks were allowed to bring in for predraft visits.
When ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., discussed Seattle’s options with the No. 32 selection last week, Latimer was the first name out of his mouth.
“I’d be shocked if he didn’t go in the first round,’’ said Kiper, noting Latimer’s reported 4.39 time in the 40 and the fact he is “one of the strongest wide receivers you’ll come across and adds real good hands and natural pass-receiving skills.’’
Latimer was among the receivers declaring early for the draft after three years at Indiana, where he also was noted for his special-teams play.
He made eight tackles last season for Indiana — something that would almost certainly be a necessity for a rookie receiver to contribute for the Seahawks next season.
The depth of this receiving class, though, also means the Seahawks could wait until later rounds of the draft, particularly if they were to trade out of the first round to get extra selections in the middle of the draft, as many are speculating they will do.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.