Buffalo wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt lost a bet that eventually earned him a job. When Turner Gil arrived at the University of Buffalo he recruited two terrific athletes who played quarterback and wanted to remain quarterbacks. Gil made a deal with them. Win the starting job and remain a quarterback. Lose the job and change positions to help the team win.
Roosevelt’s competition: James Starks and Drew Willy. Starks became a running back and we know how that’s turned out thus far. Roosevelt became a wide receiver and became the outside threat for a team that made it to its first bowl game in decades.
Now Roosevelt is getting his chance to see the field in the NFL after numerous injuries to the Bills receiving corps. Although Roosevelt didn’t earn the job by working his way up the depth chart, there are numerous instances where good players emerge as starters because of their ability to get the opportunity and not let it go.
Roosevelt scored 82 points in my evaluation process, which the simplest way to characterize this number is that the prospect performed like a player with the potential to develop into a contributor early in his career – and that is without lessons he can learn to develop his game further.
I haven’t seen Roosevelt since his collegiate years so I can’t give you a detailed analysis of where his game is today. However, I can provide what his potential was when he entered the NFL.
Overall Positives: Roosevelt is a quick-twitch athlete with excellent quickness, body control, and burst. He changes direction very well with good footwork and can adjust his body in tight spaces to elude defenders as a runner and adjust to the ball in the air in tight coverage. He catches the ball well with his hands and he is capable of one-handed grabs, high pointing the ball, or scooping the ball on low passes. He can set up defenders with his release off the line and he stems route very well before he makes his break. He can sink his hips into his breaks to create separation without losing a lot of speed in the process.
Overall Criticism: Roosevelt was a high school quarterback and he only changed positions when he lost the competition for the job at the University of Buffalo. In fact, the other loser of this competition with Drew Willy was Packers RB James Starks. Roosevelt is not a big receiver. He’s skinny and lacks power as a runner after the catch and his blocking needs work. In Buffalo’s offense Roosevelt mainly worked the perimeter and the only inside-breaking routes were slants and smash screens.
Separation Skills: Roosevelt was quick enough to come down with a leaping catch on a one-yard hitch and change direction from facing the QB to heading to the direct sideline to avoid a direct hit from the cornerback charging from over top. He gained two yards, but the first step was quick.
I also like how Roosevelt changes the pace of his gait during his routes. Against press coverage with 13:22 in the half, Roosevelt began with a couple of slower steps inside before bursting outside to get a clean release. He’s very quick and he easily separated from the rest of the players down the sideline for a 39-yard score in the third quarter.
He did a decent job using his hands to inside the jam for a quick release downfield on a route in the second half, but the defender made a great recovery on the throw to tip the ball away. On a 3rd and 4 slant for seen yards with 8:01 in the game, Roosevelt used his hands well in tight coverage to engage the defender with a quick jab and then turned inside to break open. He later used his hands well to maintain distance from his release from press coverage on 2nd and goal, giving him the space to turn back to the pass on a fade stop for a touchdown with 6:07 left in the game.
Routes: Another positive about Roosevelt is his effort. Even on a route where he wasn’t targeted, he sank his hips into his break with 8:36 in the first quarter. On the next play, he sank his hips into his break on a one-yard hitch, which is something you rarely see a WR do on quick throws like this in college football. Roosevelt took a sharp jab step off the line, which forced the CB into a back pedal despite already granting the WR a large cushion. This initial release from the line gave Roosevelt the extra time he needed to climb the ladder to catch the high-thrown pass.
Roosevelt made a double move coordinated with the QB’s pump fake to get open on a post-corner route with 2:30 in the first quarter. The receiver did a very believable job of stemming the route with a dip inside before bursting up field and veering back to the sideline. With 13:19 in the half, Roosevelt did a great job of sinking his hips into his break on a 12-yard out, earning two yards of separation at the sideline to make a diving catch.
Receiving/Hands: Roosevelt demonstrated good extension of his body to catch a high throw to the outside with his hands away from his body with 8:19 in the first quarter. He made an excellent adjustment on a poorly thrown pass during a quick slant, scooping the ball with his hands under the pass at shoe top level just before it hit the turf and taking a hit from the cornerback for a four-yard completion with 3:06 in the first quarter.
Roosevelt did a nice job of turning his back to the cornerback in coverage on a corner route to catch the ball with his hands while using his body to shield the defender from the pass for a 19-yard gain with 2:30 in the first quarter.
He later made an incredibly good adjustment on the football on a corner fade in coverage so tight that you couldn’t see space between Roosevelt’s body and the defender’s as he tracked the football with his eyes. This ability to have “late hands”, bringing his hands to the ball just as the ball arrived over the top of him as he turned back to the QB is something you saw from a player like Randy Moss. Roosevelt made the catch over his outside shoulder with the corner wrapped around Roosevelt’s waist for the score on a 1st and goal from the two with 2:00 in the first quarter. In fact, the receiver actually caught the ball with one hands before using the other to secure the pass.
Roosevelt also made a diving catch at the sideline with a 12-yard out with 13:19 in the half. He adjusted well to a low-thrown ball to cradle the ball against his body just inside the sideline with his feet inbounds. With 12:47 in the half he made a nice adjustment on a pass thrown outside and high on a small screen, plucking the football just above the helmet of his lineman releasing down field to block.
Roosevelt’s first drop was a 3rd and 18 smash screen to the right side with 5:10 in the half. The receiver turned up field before he completely secured the pass thrown slightly behind him at helmet level and the ball slid through his hands.
He showed he could catch the ball over his shoulder with his hands on a screen pass thrown five yards behind the line of scrimmage in the left flat. He followed a convoy of three blockers and used his burst to get outside of them at the right time to outrun the defense for the score. His third touchdown of the day was a quick turn and catch with his hands on a fade stop with 6:07 in the game for a six-yard score with 6:07 left.
Ball Security: Roosevelt held the ball like a loaf of bread on a run to the sideline with 8:17 in the first quarter. He needs to do a better job of tucking the ball to his sideline arm. On a smash screen with 12:40 in the half he did a better job of carrying the ball with both hands.
Vision: Roosevelt is a fluid, quick-twitch athlete who sees the field very well as a runner. He dipped inside two blocks on a smash screen caught at the line of scrimmage on 2nd and 10 play. He managed to dip across the field, squeezing just inside his guard at the opposite hash to reach the first down marker and then dipping away from the pursuing DB a few yards further downfield for a total of 19 yards.