The Senior Bowl opened my eyes to this draft class’ crop of pass catchers. I arrived in Mobile, Alabama for the week excited to see Marshall WR Aaron Dobson, but I came away as impressed with Elon’s Aaron Mellette. Baylor’s Terrence Williams struck me as the most NFL-ready, but I was surprised with Texas’ Marquise Goodwin and blown away by Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton. And I’d be remiss to leave out Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton and Kansas State’s Chris Harper because they both had solid weeks.
But the good news is that was just the beginning of our assessment of this year’s entire class of receivers. The individuals mentioned in the above paragraph were just a few of the top senior WRs in this class. There are other seniors and a bunch of underclassmen who are jumping to the NFL in 2013.
Here we’ll look at 3 offensive players to watch during the Combine this week. They all play the same position – WR. I’m not saying WR is the most important position to watch this year, rather, I feel this is a deep and talented position AND I feel the Combine can reveal the kind of information that will enable us to distinguish these receivers from each other more than it can reveal similar information that will allow us to distinguish players at other positions from each other. Also, this list focuses on players who were not at the Senior Bowl, since we’ve already gotten a good luck and have had plenty of conversation about them.
Anyway, let’s just get to the list…
WR DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson)
This is a guy who is growing on me more and more as I continue to talk about him and watch him. He had 82 receptions for 1,405 yards and 18 TDs last year as a junior for Clemson – impressive numbers. Depending on where you look, Hopkins is listed at anywhere from a half-inch over 6-0 to as high as 6-2, and usually always around 200-205 pounds. We’ll get an official measurement when he arrives at the Combine. Regardless, I actually think he plays bigger than even a 6-2 receiver. I say that because he does a great job of shielding defenders from a pass and making sure he puts himself between the defender and the QB. Also, he high-points the football with consistency and tenacity. NFL.com’s Josh Norris compares him to Roddy White, but I actually see more Anquan Boldin. I know scouts typically despise comparisons like that, but comparisons help fans develop a mind’s eye picture of a player.
On top of playing like a big receiver, Hopkins is also an explosive athlete. I’m not sure he has the explosive skills of a Quinton Patton and surely not of a Tavon Austin or Marquise Goodwin, but the explosion he has is good enough that, when put in combination with his size and catching ability, makes me excited about his NFL future. Besides, that’s one function of the Combine – analyzing measured speed/quickness of a player. If Hopkins times well in the 40-yard dash, he will definitely move up in my WR rankings.
This guy is definitely one to watch.
WR Kenny Stills (Oklahoma)
It’s a good idea to take a close look at mid-round prospects as well as 1st-round prospects, and that’s one of the reasons I’m including Stills on this list. He’s consistently listed at 6-1, 190 pounds. I don’t think he has elite speed or suddenness. And he doesn’t have a 1,000-yard receiving season to his credit at Oklahoma. Those are all pretty good reasons as to why he’s not considered a top-end WR prospect at the moment.
But for what he lacks in elite measurable qualities I think he makes up for in toughness, intangibles and competitiveness. Just take a look at the block he makes at the 2:02 mark of this clip. And then watch the rest of the highlight clip to see the kind of physical ability he brings to the table.
WR Robert Woods (USC)
Last year at this time, Woods was one of my favorite prospects. The trouble was, I didn’t realize until I arrived at the Combine that Woods had one more year left at USC. Fast-forward a year later, and I still like Woods. He’s listed at 6-1, 190, which won’t strike you as a prototypical height-weight combo for an NFL WR, but that shouldn’t turn you off from Woods.
As a sophomore in 2011, he had 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 TDs. Those are incredible numbers and you can see why I was so high on him last year. His numbers were not as good this past season – 76-846-11 – but he’s hardly to blame for that. USC’s passing offense went primarily through another talented WR – Marquis Lee – and Woods production fell off as a result. But he still had 11 TDs, and he’d already proven he could produce at an elite level for an elite program.
I believe he’ll be able to produce at the NFL level, too, if he lands in the right situation. Is that right situation in Minnesota? I don’t know, that’s a question that will be answered much higher than my pay grade or knowledge level. But I’m excited to see him this week at the Combine because I think he’ll be a good player in the NFL.
Tags: 2013 Scouting Combine
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