Thursday, May 15, 2014

2015 NFL Draft - Senior Tour - Wide Receivers

Watch List - Senior Wide Receivers

Dres Anderson - (6’1”, 187) - Utah

The son of former NFL wideout Willie “Flipper” Anderson, Dres figures to be the Utes’ top playmaker once again after leading the team in receiving in 2013. He will attempt to improve upon his 53 catches for 1002 yards (18.9 avg) and seven touchdowns, all while adjusting a new system under new offensive coordinator Dave Christensen. Anderson has ideal length at 6-foot-1, but could stand to add muscle to his lean frame to better handle physicality, both on the line of scrimmage and at the catch point. His speed and acceleration are his greatest assets, enabling him to separate downfield and make explosive plays after the catch. Anderson’s hands are suspect, but he flashes the ability to extend to catch passes outside his frame, and adjusts well to the ball in the air on deep throws. He displays elusiveness to make defenders miss in space, after which he has more than enough speed to capitalize. If Anderson can put it all together during his senior season, he has the type of playmaking potential to draw the interest of NFL teams next spring.

Kenny Bell - (6’1”, 185) - Nebraska

A Cornhuskers fan favorite, Bell has led Nebraska in receptions in each of his three seasons in Lincoln. His 52 catches in 2013 marked a career high, but his yards per reception were down more than six yards from his 17.26 average the season before, and his scoring output was cut in half as well. The discrepancies were likely due in part to redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. being forced into action earlier than expected when quarterback Taylor Martinez was injured, leading Nebraska to rely more heavily upon a short passing attack. Bell is a better than average route runner who exhibits good separation quickness. He lacks elite speed, but accelerates well enough to make plays in the vertical passing game as well. While he shows natural hands and makes the occasional spectacular catch, he has a tendency to let passes go through his hands at times as well. Nebraska’s short passing game gave Bell the opportunity to showcase his ability to make defenders miss and pick up tough yards after the catch, skills that also helped him to lead the Big Ten with 26.5 yards per kick return in 2013.       

Phillip Dorsett - (5’10”, 185) - Miami (Fla)

Following a sophomore season in which he caught 58 passes for 842 yards (14.5 avg) and four touchdowns, Dorsett had his 2013 season shortened due to a partially torn MCL in his left knee. Prior to the injury, the undersized speedster had 13 catches for 292 yards (20.9 avg) and two touchdowns. He returned to play in the final two games for the Canes, but did not record a catch in either contest. Dorsett has blazing speed and a second gear that make him one of the more vertically explosive receivers in the senior class, as well as a gamebreaker in the return game. He exhibits quick feet and the ability to accelerate out of breaks, allowing him to separate from defenders on underneath routes as well. While he does show some wiggle, Dorsett is more a one-cut-and-go runner than an elusive ball carrier after the catch. His final opportunity to impress NFL scouts will have to come with redshirt freshman QB Kevin Olsen throwing passes his way. Dorsett’s speed and quickness could make him both a playmaker and a security blanket for the first-year starter.

Antwan Goodley - (5’10”, 225) - Baylor

Goodley had a breakout year as a redshirt junior in 2013, leading all Baylor receivers in receptions (71), receiving yards (1339 - 18.9 avg), and touchdowns (13). Built like a power back, Goodley offers excellent versatility as a receiver that can line up either outside or in the slot. He demonstrates excellent quickness and explosiveness out of breaks as an underneath route runner, and shows no fear of going over the middle of the field. He is a very physical runner after the catch, one whose combination of acceleration, agility, and power make him extremely tough for smaller defenders to bring down. Goodley is a far more explosive vertical threat than his size would indicate, and he does an excellent job of using physicality to create separation at the catch point. His greatest weakness is his lack of consistency catching the football, possibly due in part to his compact frame and limited catch radius. His lack of effort as a blocker and on pass plays designed to go elsewhere can also be frustrating to watch.  

Rashad Greene - (6’0”, 178) - Florida State

Greene wasted no time before becoming an impact receiver at Florida State, leading the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns in both his freshman and sophomore seasons. He had his best season to date in 2013, catching passes from Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He was voted first-team All-ACC by both coaches and the media after catching 76 passes for 1128 yards (14.8 avg) and nine touchdowns on the year. Despite his smallish stature, Greene has the skill set to play outside the numbers in the NFL. He has excellent short area quickness to beat the jam at the line of scrimmage, and has very advanced ball skills. His natural ability to go up and get the ball in traffic and track deep passes over his shoulder at full speed separate him from most receivers his size. As is the case with most college wideouts, Greene has room for improvement as a route runner, but he has plenty of athletic upside there, provided he takes to coaching, gives attention to detail, and is dedicated toward maximizing his talent.    

Justin Hardy - (6’0”, 188) - East Carolina

A former walk-on at East Carolina, Hardy has been the Pirates’ leader in receptions and receiving yards in each of his three seasons with the program. He was voted first team All-Conference USA for the second straight year in 2013, after totaling 114 catches for 1284 yards (11.3 avg) and eight touchdowns for the season. Hardy exhibits excellent polish and quickness as a route runner, consistently separating from coverage to give his quarterback an open target. He is a natural hands catcher with exceptional ball skills, showing the ability to adjust to errant throws, making even the toughest catches look routine. A talented punt returner, Hardy is an elusive ball carrier who can make defenders miss and slip open field tackles. He is a smart player who is quick to recognize the blitz and break off his route to give his quarterback a safety outlet. Despite his size, Hardy displays good effort and technique as a blocker. If he stays healthy, there is little reason to believe Hardy won’t hold every career receiving record at East Carolina by the end of his senior year.    

Josh Harper - (6’1”, 184) - Fresno State

Former Bulldogs QB Derek Carr threw to three 1000-yard receivers in 2013. Both Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse followed Carr to the NFL, leaving Harper and running back Josh Quezada to lead what will be a green group of offensive skill players at Fresno State. Harper finished third on the team, both in receptions (79) and yards (1011), while his 13 touchdowns were second only to Adams (24). His route running needs work, as he has a tendency to round off his cuts, failing to sink his hips, and lacks suddenness in and out of breaks. While he does not possess great separation quickness, Harper has reliable hands and a knack for creating space with subtle physicality, enabling him to win at the catch point on vertical and fade routes. The coaching staff will ease him back into action this summer, hoping to have him completely healthy for Week 1 after offseason surgery to repair a core muscle he injured in the final game of 2013. It will be interesting to see how he handles the expanded role of being the team’s top receiver.     

Austin Hill - (6’3”, 210) - Arizona

After breaking out as a sophomore, catching 81 passes for 1364 yards (16.8 avg) and 11 touchdowns, Hill saw his college career temporarily derailed by a torn left ACL during spring practice, forcing him to miss the entire 2013 season. Returning to Arizona for his final season allows Hill the opportunity to prove he has fully recovered and back to his pre-injury form on the football field. Working primarily from the slot, Hill showed the ability to separate from defenders with both his speed and physicality. While he needs to do a better job of tracking the ball over his shoulder, he uses his big frame to box out defenders at the catch point, showing excellent hands and the ability to pluck the ball out of the air. He is unlikely to victimize would-be tacklers with elusive cuts in the open field, but Hill has the speed to outrun defenders, and his size and power make him a load to bring down after the catch. Scouts will undoubtedly place higher value on more production from the “X" receiver position, but if healthy, Hill should at minimum be a force over the middle of the field.       

Christion Jones - (5’11”, 185) - Alabama

Jones got off to a monster start in 2013, scoring three touchdowns (one receiving, one each on punt and kick returns) to help the Crimson Tide overcome a less than stellar offensive performance to pick up a win over Virginia Tech in their season opener. While he ran a high percentage of vertical routes to keep opposing safeties honest, the bulk of his receptions came on underneath routes, causing him to average just 9.7 yards per catch (36 catches for 349 yards and two touchdowns). With Lane Kiffin taking over as offensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa, expect Jones to line up outside more, as Kiffin likes to keep a lead blocker in the backfield for his tailback. It will be interesting to see how well the 5-foot-11 receiver handles playing outside the numbers, and whether or not his role as the teams “H” receiver has prevented him from reaching his ceiling. At this point, Jones looks like a shifty slot receiver whose best bet to make an NFL roster is as a return specialist and a No. 4 receiver.      

Tyler Lockett - (5’11”, 175) - Kansas State

Following a junior season in which he was virtually impossible to cover, Lockett elected to delay the start of his NFL career another year. One of the most exciting and prolific all-purpose athletes in college football, Lockett had his most productive season as a receiver in 2013, catching 81 passes for 1262 yards (15.6 avg) and 11 touchdowns. He also averaged 26.5 yards per kick return on the season, down from his 30-plus averages in previous years (35.2 in 2011,  32.8 in 2012). An exceptional route runner, Lockett made some of the Big 12’s top cornerbacks look silly with his ability to sink his hips, sell his fakes, and accelerate out of breaks, providing a security blanket for junior transfer quarterback Jake Waters with his ability to gain consistent separation. He lacks consistency catching the football, particularly when he has to extend to catch passes in traffic, and will struggle with physicality at the catch point. Even so, his ability to separate and dynamic run-after-catch skills will make him an ideal two-way go option from the slot in the NFL.    

Ty Montgomery - (6’2”, 215) - Stanford

Montgomery was the top playmaker for an otherwise inconsistent Stanford passing attack in 2013. He led all Cardinal receivers in catches (61), receiving yards (958), and touchdowns (10), providing balance to the power running game that is the staple of the offense. He also finished second in the country in yards per kick return (30.3), adding two scores in the return game. Montgomery has ideal size and speed to play outside receiver at the next level. His above average acceleration enables him to turn well-executed screens or kick returns into huge plays. While he lacks the lateral agility to make defenders miss in space, Montgomery is a very physical runner who excels at breaking open field tackles. His lack of sudden explosiveness as a route runner is a concern when projecting his future success, as is the fact that he seldom lines up on the line of scrimmage. He may be best suited to play slot receiver in the NFL, but Montgomery can make an impact, both as a blocker and a potential playmaker in both the passing and return games.

Levi Norwood - (6’1”, 195) - Baylor

Norwood has been a special-teams contributor since his redshirt freshman year, serving as the team’s primary punt returner for each of the last three years. He had his best year as a receiver in 2013, catching 47 passes for 733 yards (15.6 avg) and eight touchdowns. Norwood stepped up in the absence of Tevin Reese after the senior wideout injured his wrist in the Oklahoma game, catching 20 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns in the three games Reese was sidelined. He is still very raw as a route runner, with most of his separation manufactured by Art Briles’ system. He shows excellent vision, balance, and fluidity after the catch, consistently making the first defender miss and breaking more than his share of tackles. His 9.6 yards per punt return and two touchdowns are evidence that his ability to run and elude tacklers after the catch translates into the return game as well. An expanded role as one of Bryce Petty’s primary receivers could lead to a big senior year for the younger brother of Denver Broncos wide receiver Jordan Norwood.     

DeVante Parker - (6’3”, 209) - Louisville

Perhaps the most physically gifted receiver prospect in the 2014 senior class, Parker possesses the size, speed, and athletic talent to develop into a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. While former Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater liked to spread the ball around, there was no question who his clear-cut favorite red zone target was. Parker has insane leaping ability and a huge catch radius, making him a cornerback’s worst nightmare on fade patterns. His overall game is still very raw. He possesses ample strength and quickness to beat press coverage, but can be sloppy with his release off the line. He lacks polish with his routes and can struggle at times to maintain balance through his cuts. He makes some downright ridiculous catches, but he could be more consistent catching the football as well. Despite his overall lack of polish, Parker’s upside in each of these areas is evident when you watch him on tape, and he has been productive (55 catches for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013) despite showing room for improvement. His size, athleticism, and flashes of brilliance should draw him early consideration in next year’s NFL Draft.    

Devin Smith - (6’1”, 197) - Ohio State

As evidenced by his 17.9 yards per reception during his college career, Smith is more than capable of taking the top off opposing defenses. He posted career highs in receptions (44), receiving yards (660), and touchdowns (8) in 2013, and returns for his senior season as the undisputed leader of the Buckeyes receiving corps. While he struggles with physical press coverage, Smith has ample foot quickness to beat the jam. He shows lateral explosiveness and the ability to separate with sharp-breaking routes, but will need to refine his route running overall if he is to replace Corey Brown as the team’s go-to receiver on third downs. For all his physical talent, Smith’s overall inconsistency catching the football can be maddening. He has a tendency to allow passes to get into his body, and has dropped his share of would-be home runs during his time in Columbus. Smith has good size and game-breaking speed, but must become a more consistent, more complete receiver if he is to be considered among the top-tier pass catchers in next year’s draft class.    

Kasen Williams - (6’3”, 221) - Washington

Williams saw his relatively disappointing junior season (29 catches for 321 yards and one touchdown in eight games) come to a premature end when he broke his fibula and suffered ligament damage in his foot during the Huskies’ home win over Cal. While Williams is still not able to go at full speed, Washington’s new head coach Chris Petersen expects to have his senior wideout ready for the start of the season. When healthy, Williams is a big-bodied, physical receiver with a large catch radius and excellent body control. He does an excellent job of using either his hands or his frame to create physical separation from defensive backs. Apart from the occasional concentration drop, Williams is a reliable hands catcher whose leaping ability and balance allow him to make some pretty impressive catches. To his credit, while he was underutilized in the passing game in 2013 due to changes in Steve Sarkisian’s system, you never saw Williams give less than 100% effort. His physical blocking and receiving talents should both be valuable assets to his new coach. 

Others worth keeping an eye on:

Michael Bennett - (6'3", 205) - Georgia
Brandon Carter - (5'11", 186) - TCU
Jamison Crowder - (5'9", 175) - Duke
Devante Davis - (6'3", 210) - UNLV
Geremy Davis - (6'3", 216) - Connecticut
Titus Davis - (6'2", 190) - Central Michigan
Tony Jones - (6'0", 195) - Northwestern
Jameon Lewis - (5'9", 183) - Mississippi State
Matt Miller - (6'3", 220) - Boise State
Jaxon Shipley - (6'1", 193) - Texas  
Tommy Shuler - (5'7", 190) - Marshall
Jordan Taylor - (6'5", 210) - Rice
Jarrod West - (6'2", 205) - Syracuse
DeAndrew White - (6'0", 190) - Alabama

Much of the prospect footage used for the purpose of composing this blog can be found at the web's #1 NFL Draft resource:

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