NFL coaches and personnel men will always covet size when it comes to the wide receiver position. This mentality pushes those players above a shorter player and, in many cases, there is a total disregard for production. I break up receivers into three categories so that shorter or slower players don’t get lost in the process, allowing them to receive the final grades they deserve. A receiver with good height, weight and speed is considered clean, or WR. A receiver lacking the idea speed for the position (4.55 or slower) is slotted in the WRs category, and receivers with diminished height (5-9 or shorter) are tagged and put in the category of WRz. A lot of teams dropped Anquan Boldin, now a member of the San Francisco 49ers, out of the first three rounds after he ran a 4.60 on grass in 2003. But, when you turn on his DNA (film) you see a player who played faster than timed and had RAC (run after catch) skills that were excellent and yielded very good production.
I understand that there is no perfect size for a player, and this is why I break it down this way. Blue players (playmakers and difference-makers) come in all sizes and speeds. I also understand that if you draft a lot of short players, you will eventually be a short team. Likewise, if there are too many slow players on the roster, you have built a slow team. All 32 teams have a scheme fit and positional guideline that they strictly follow when building their roster and championship foundation.
Character: Leader in the locker room, community involvement, off-field issues (arrests, drugs, domestic incidents, guns, tickets, etc.).
Football Intelligence: Student of the game, film study, playbook memorization, ability to process and regurgitate information with recall.
Mental Awareness: Intelligence, ability to take hard coaching, understanding role on team and position assignments. Ability to process and retain football information.
Leadership: Natural-born leader, locker-room guy, team captain.
Competitiveness: A clutch player with a win-at-all-cost attitude, with a high level of intensity. He is at his best under adverse and pressure situations. He has confidence in himself and his teammates have confidence in him.
Toughness: A clutch player to consistently deliver under tough, pressurized situations. Has the ability to play when injured, or hurt, if the team needs him.
Production: Produce under pressure in critical situations as a runner, receiver and blocker.
Blocking: Attitude and temperament, three points of contact, strength/explosion; lead blocker; pass blocking; blocking on the move; toughness; aggressiveness; willingness; 3-E (eye, ear, elbow).
Durability: Stamina; endurance; injury history for position and the ability to play hurt.
Receiving Skills: RAC (run after catch) elusiveness; vision in open space; playmaker; catch-in-a-crowd toughness; production.
Athletic Skill Set
Start: Quickness and explosiveness out of stance.
Initial quickness: Initial movement out of stance.
Release: Hand combat and escapability off line of scrimmage to avoid defender; strength/explosion against bump and run; body language and head fake.
Burst/Acceleration: Increase acceleration into route.
Speed: Playing speed in pads; one speed; long strider; gear change with acceleration; short strider.
Concentration: Courage in a crowd, across the middle; running alone.
Routes: Stride; speed and quickness in/out of cuts; sharp; round; gear down in space.
Separation: Quickness out of break from defender; speed to run away in space.
Catching Ability: Make the tough catch – body, craddle, trap.
Ball Reaction: Find and adjust to ball in flight; track on the move.
Toughness: Ability to want and make the tough catch.
Adjustments: Physical adjustment; over shoulders; high and low; underthrown; jumping ability.
Hands: Hard/soft; sure; extend arms outside frame; strong.
Run after Catch: Vision; burst/acceleration; playmaker; elusiveness in space; production.
Durability: Stamina/endurance; injury history for position.
Blocking: Effort; physical toughness; aggressiveness.
Special Teams: Return skills (KOR/PR); coverage ability; holder.
(*) = Underclassmen
*Cordarrelle Patterson Tennessee 6’2-216 31 ¾ 9 A junior college transfer with only one year of production at the FBS level of competition, he will face a steep learning curve. Under the right coaching staff and with hard work, however, this difference-maker will be ready for the regular season. When breaking down this receiver, it was fun to evaluate his versatility (WR, RB, KOR, PR), which jumps off the screen. His exceptional size-speed combination, coupled with an excellent skill set, brings instant playmaking ability to the next level. He aligns in multiple spots within several formations (X, Z, F, RB). Has good escape off LOS (line of scrimmage) with shake and head fake vs. bump-and-jam technique; will need further development in hand combat due to inadequate exposure. Has limited route tree experience, but will blossom with NFL tutelage. Good short-area burst and acceleration with suddenness to separate from defender in and out of breaks. Long strider to cover a lot of ground quickly and is fluid in movement; can stick foot in ground and COD (change of direction) to string together several moves in a single play and weave through traffic to defy angle and outrun defenders. Will need development in reading coverages pre-snap and on the move at the next level. Despite small hands, this receiver can pluck the ball outside his frame and will cradle balls with defender close. Concentration drops, though, surfaced on games viewed. Can track and locate balls over shoulder and has excellent sideline awareness with tap shoe-and-drag technique. Good body balance and control to contort and adjust, with production and plays above defender. Has very good concentration to make the tough catch in a crowd, and uses body to shield ball from defender. Very good pad level and body lean with explosive finish and a nose for the goal line. Retains special return skills; a punt returner who makes the first defender miss and weaves through traffic with vision, burst and big-play production. As a KOR (kick of return) man, he hits the crease with buildup acceleration, great eyes, a long stride and very good production for a tall individual. Production is limited to 46 receptions, but that’s all I needed to see. A good offseason to build strength and explosion will increase Patterson’s inseason production. First-round pick.
Tavon Austin West Virginia 5’8-174 30 9 1/8 Explosive things come in small packages. The former running back has developed into a natural slot machine, with production as a receiver and return specialist for the next level. This WOz (short) is multi-versatile, aligning in the slot and on reverses and screens. One drawback: He has a very limited route tree. Possessing soft hands to snatch and go, Austin has exceptional burst, acceleration, gear change, COD (change of direction) and playmaking ability every time he touches the ball. He is a difference-maker despite inferior size. Has good feet and cutting ability to make several defenders miss on a single play. A huge part of Austin’s game is his elusiveness in tight and open space, with vision, cutting ability and suddenness to separate from defender instantly. Boasts exceptional punt return skills, including all of the tools to be extremely effective at the NFL level of competition: quickness, burst, vision and speed. Will need to further develop overall strength and explosion, as well as max out frame for longevity. Versatility puts this football player at No. 2 at his position. First-round pick could slip into second due to size.
*Robert Woods Southern California 6’0-201 31 9 1/4 A dual threat, he will be an instant playmaker in his rookie season. Has very good athletic ability, with combination of burst and acceleration, as well as COD (change of direction) to create separation from defender quickly as a receiver and return man. Aligns in multiple spots: 3×1 (outside), 2×1 (outside) and four-wide sets (inside/out,both right and left). Woods formerly starred in track (200/400 meter), as evidenced by his long stride that covers ground quickly. Has good route-running knowledge and an expansive route tree; uses shake-and-avoid maneuver, plus hand slap combat, vs. jam and press. Woods is very productive on reverses, and is willing to get dirty and dive for balls. Soft hands to catch outside of frame, and will snatch and pluck in traffic; regardless of occasional concentration drops, he has good toughness to catch in a crowd. Woods has rare talent, with very good RAC (run after catch), vision and speed to run away from defenders and defy angles via skip-and-skate elusiveness. Is effective on slants and bubble screens. Sources confirm that he blew away head coaches and general managers with his football intelligence at the combine. Is competitive with toughness to take a big hit, but did short-arm a few balls in films viewed. Blessed with very good awareness, he is a receiver who understands where the 3rd-down marker is. Has sideline presence, too, given his tap shoe-and-drag tendency, though he did run out of bounds in several games. First-round talent.
*Justin Hunter Tennessee 6’4-196 33 1/4 9 3/8 Exceptional combination of size, length, speed and production. He aligns (X, Z) outside the numbers. Need to continue development in escaping bump and press consistently with hand combat and a good strength program. A polished receiver with very good speed, he has a smooth stride to cover a lot of ground quickly; excellent vertical explosion and leaping ability to climb ladder and compete above the defender. Hunter boasts soft hands to catch outside frame while he contorts and adjusts midair with excellent body balance and control. Can track over shoulder to make the tough catch. Runs nice route tree, is very smooth in movement and will continue to develop at the next level with NFL coaching. A long strider with very good speed to defy angles in tight and open space, good RAC (run after catch) skills and exceptional red zone production, he uses his tall frame to shield defender from balls and employs leaping ability to make big plays. Will develop and become more comfortable at reading coverages, both pre-snap and on the move. Some teams view the left knee injury he suffered during the 2011 season as a non-issue, while others have long-term concerns. For size, he is strong in YAC (yards after contact). Hunter will need to develop more consistent blocking production. First-round talent, early second-round pick.
*Keenan Allen California 6’2-206 32 3/4 10 Big-play receiver with short-area burst and adequate buildup speed based on his DNA (tape). Has very good size and length. An extremely fluid receiver in terms of movement, he has great body balance, control and excellent positional attributes. Good hand combat and shake to defeat bump and press. A route-runner who creates separation from defenders with smart route running skills and short-area burst. Allen can contort and position his body while leaping for balls; extremely competitive to get dirty and make diving receptions. Soft hands outside frame with snatch-and-pluck elicits good production in traffic, and tracks over-the-shoulder balls and back-shoulder fades very well. Drops on films viewed resulted from looking to run first and not securing ball. Very good red zone production. Can weave through traffic – but I wouldn’t call it elusiveness. Despite long stride, overall playing speed is this player’s enemy; however, tape and production will truly entice teams. Allen’s private workouts in March will be of paramount importance, as his 2012 playing time suffered due to a left knee injury; did not work out at the combine. First-round talent, early second-round pick.
Others to Watch
Terrance Williams Baylor
Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech
*Kenny Stills Oklahoma
*Stedman Bailey West Virginia
Ryan Swope Texas A&M
Markus Wheaton Oregon State
Chris Harper Kansas State
Jasper Collins Mt. Union
Cobi Hamilton Arkansas
Marcus Davis Virginia Tech
*Ace Sanders South Carolina
Denard Robinson – Michigan Projection from Quarterback