Our position-by-position preview of the NFL Scouting Combine continues and today I want to give you a closer look at the wide receiver position.
It seemed like college football was churning out top-end prospects at receiver left and right. You can still find starting-quality players in the middle rounds, but that may not necessarily be the case in this class. There are really only three receivers with seemingly sure-fire first-round grades at this point in Corey Davis (Western Michigan), Mike Williams (Clemson), along with a speedster in Washington's John Ross. Who else should you be focusing on that can make an impact once they reach the NFL? Let's go through the list.
For a primer on what each category below means, check out the running back preview which offered a full explanation. The Mr. Average chart will give you a snapshot of what the average prospect drafted at his specific position has looked like over the span of the last five years to give you some context when the numbers from Indy start pouring in.
Top Pick: Corey Davis (Western Michigan)
Davis won't be able to participate in drills at the Combine due to an ankle injury he suffered during training for the event. We have, unfortunately, seen everything that Davis has to offer physically before he enters the league. Fortunately for him, that should be enough for him to still be a top-20 selection. With NFL size at just under 6-3, 212 pounds, Davis is a very polished route runner, is very good after the catch, and knows how to play the ball in the air. Some will question the level of competition, and that's a fair concern. But like Carson Wentz a year ago, when you watch Davis on film you see a quality prospect, regardless of the logo on the side of his helmet.
Workout Warrior: John Ross (Washington)
There have been reports that Ross has been clocked under 4.30 seconds in the 40-yard dash on campus at Washington. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, but it wouldn't shock me at all if he clocked in at one of the fastest times at the event, regardless of position.
Ross was a very good kick returner throughout his career, and his dynamic vertical ability allows him to take the top off the defense with ease. He also has very good ball skills and is a polished technician as well. Teams will need to do due diligence about his past knee injuries and upcoming shoulder surgery, but on the field he's the best deep threat in the class.
Here are some other guys whom I expect to test well: Western Kentucky's Taywan Taylor (expect his broad and vertical jump numbers to be very, very good), Louisiana Tech's Carlos Henderson (our friend Tony Pauline believes he could run a sub-4.4 in the 40), Miami's Stacy Coley (who should run in the 4.42-4.46 range), and LSU's Travin Dural (a track star with reported mid-4.4 speed).
Stopwatch Shocker: Noah Brown (Ohio State)
I don't have any kind of sense of what his 40-yard dash time will look like, but when you watch Brown with the Buckeyes he moves really well for a nearly 220-pound receiver. The former four-star recruit only averaged 12.5 yards per catch on just 33 receptions in his career, but he's intriguing because his movement skills are not common for men of his size. Don't be surprised if he turns in one of the better overall workouts that no one really expects in Indianapolis. Zay Jones from ECU, one of the stars of the Senior Bowl, isn't an outstanding athlete on tape, but some of his reported workout numbers during his time in college are pretty surprising (including a 137" broad jump and 4.04 short-shuttle time, both very good times for the position).
Trust The Tape: Mike Williams (Clemson)**
Many Eagles fans are excited about what Williams can bring to the table, and for good reason. The beastly 6-3, 225-pound receiver is one of the most physical receivers to come out of the draft in the last few years. He excels at climbing the ladder and making contested catches, leaping over defenders, and coming down with the football. He's not as polished a route runner as Davis, and he's not as explosive as a player like Ross, but Williams' ability to be "open" even when he's covered gives him an advantage over both players in that category.
What Williams lacks is that top-end speed, so don't be surprised to see him run in the low 4.5 range in the 40-yard dash. Some players who Williams has been compared to - Dez Bryant (4.52), Plaxico Burress (4.59), Brandon Marshall (4.52), and A.J. Green (4.48) - were all in that range. I would throw LSU's Malachi Dupre under this umbrella as well as a receiver who probably won't burn the track on his 40-yard dash.
Will Kill The Drills: JuJu Smith-Schuster (USC)
The position drill that everyone will be focused on for the receivers will be the gauntlet, where each prospect runs across the field from one sideline to another, catching a slew of passes in-stride before taking the final throw and turning up the far sideline. You want to see players going at nearly top speed (no jogging!). You want to see nice, clean hands at the catch point. Double catches and drops will be scrutinized, so you want to see the receivers catch the ball with ease and keep moving. I think Smith-Schuster, who was regarded as a potential first-round pick coming into the season, should look pretty good in this drill. Fred Ross from Mississippi State should also fit into this category as well.
Most To Prove: DeDe Westbrook (Oklahoma)
Every college football fan was familiar with Westbrook by the midpoint of the season because of his game-breaking abilities as a receiver in the booming Oklahoma offense. He was viewed by most analysts as a future first-round pick, despite his diminutive size (6-0, 176 pounds). The senior was a first-team All-America and a Heisman Trophy finalist, and one of the most explosive players in the country.
In December, news of multiple arrests in his background and a potential career-threatening injury during his senior year of high school put his perceived stock into a tailspin. Westbrook passed on the opportunity to go to the Senior Bowl, but he will face the media and, more importantly, NFL teams in Indianapolis. Medical checks on his core (a freak injury in high school ruptured his small intestines), and interviews with teams as they attempt to get to the bottom of his off-field history will be paramount in deciding how early, or late, the explosive receiver goes in April's draft.
Most Productive College Player: Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington)
Kupp isn't as explosive on tape as his peers. He would really benefit from a strong athletic workout at the Combine to help his cause as he tries to work himself into the top-50 picks of this draft. He still caught an astounding 428 passes with Eastern Washington over his career. He was a four-time All-Big Sky performer and a two-time first-team All-America at the FCS level. Kupp stood out among players from much bigger programs at the Senior Bowl in January. This would be another step in the right direction for the Washington native.
Best Story: Jerome Lane (Akron)
When Lane declared for the draft, I'll admit that I had to look him up and see who he was because I couldn't quite place him, but the name sounded familiar. Turns out, his father of the same name was a first-round pick in the NBA back in the late 80s. The younger Jerome was also a star on the hardwood in high school, but he stuck with football in college. Lane has good size at 6-3, 220 pounds. He averaged an astounding 17.8 yards per catch in Akron's shotgun offense, but what's even more interesting is that he's a converted linebacker who made the change to receiver in 2015. That physical style of play shows up on tape with Lane, who is raw but very physical. He also lined up in a number of spots for the Zips. Is he an H-back? A big slot receiver? A fullback? A tight end? Or can he play outside? Lane is one of the more interesting names I'm anxious to see work out in Indy.
Philly Connection: Chris Godwin (Penn State)
He's not a Philly connection just because he went to Penn State. Godwin was actually born in the City of Brotherly Love before moving south to Middletown, Delaware as a youth. The Nittany Lion was raised an Eagles fan, and that always counts for something!
Godwin has NFL size at 6-1, 205 pounds, and is one of the better contested-catch receivers in this class because of his ability to go up and fight defenders for the ball in the air. He burst onto the national stage after an unforgettable Rose Bowl performance in a losing effort to USC, but Godwin made outstanding grabs all year long. He's not going to light up the track in Indianapolis, but I expect him to do pretty well in position drills when it comes to catching the football.
|Height||6-0||Official 40||4.48 seconds|
|Weight||203 pounds||10-Yard Split||1.56 seconds|
|Hand Size||9 3/8"||3-Cone Drill||6.93 seconds|
|Arm Length||32"||Short Shuttle||4.21 seconds|
|Wingspan||76 1/2"||Broad Jump||10'1"|
|Unofficial 40||4.45 seconds||Vertical Jump||36"|
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.