Wide Receiver


A.J. Green. Photo by Wade Rackley

2012

Thoughts on Josh Gordon to Cleveland – As I mentioned last week, I’ll have more analysis on Gordon’s game within the next 7-10 days. But I have a little time to share some thoughts on the Browns drafting Gordon with a second-round pick and the general tenor of reactions I have seen regarding the former Baylor wide receiver.

Josh Gordon: Hands are for More Than Catching the Football – Josh Gordon’s current skill and style of play reminds me of a mix between a raw Terrell Owens and Demaryius Thomas. However, his potential could be as limitless as Calvin Johnson. Gordon has a fascinating amalgamation of strengths and weaknesses for a wide receiver and this post will examine the strengths and weaknesses of the former Baylor wide receiver, who is the wildcard of the 2012 NFL Supplemental Draft.

Lesson One of a Route Clinic – At the time I suspected this receiver was Wes Welker, but the more I examine this tape I believe it is former Florida receiver Travis McGriff during his stint with the Broncos. Nevertheless, it’s an instructive demonstration of route running.

Walk on the Wild Side: Brandon Marshall – Once in a while I like to write about something tangentially related to the game. Something not about analysis of skill, technique, or strategy. Today’s topic is one of those times. Today’s topic involves Brandon Marshall.

No-Huddle Series: Cowboys WR Danny Coale - Note: I don’t claim these single-play analysis to be scouting reports that give an overall take of a player. I tag the phrase “scouting report” in my posts because this is how readers look for information on players that isn’t even as in-depth as I’m providing. While one play can tell a lot about a player, it can also be misleading. The plays I select are generally indicative of what I saw from the player overall.

No-Huddle Series: Colts WR LaVon Brazill – Player No.1 in this series is Ohio wide receiver Lavon Brazill, a preseason All-American as a junior who missed most of that season due to injury. I have no expectation where Brazill will be drafted, if at all. I think he has skills to potentially develop into an NFL starter. I like what he flashes as a route runner, athlete, and catcher of the football. Here’s one play that embodies much of these positives…

No-Huddle Series: Iowa State (and for a minute, Packers UDFA) Darius Reynolds - As Jon Gruden said during his QB Camp episode with Brandon Weeden, Iowa State is “a pretty good football team. Quietly, they’ve become formidable.” You don’t become that quietly formidable without some quietly formidable players. I think that pair of words fits wide receiver Darius Reynolds.

NY Times Fifth Down Top-Five Series: No.1 WR Michael Floyd – From the standpoint of on-field performance, I believe Floyd has the best all-around skills and talents among the receivers in this draft class. This is a talent-rich group, but none of the prospects in this class have all of the qualities that Floyd brings to the game. When evaluating the last two years of receiving talent, I believe the only receiver with more promise is A.J. Green.

NY Times Fifth Down Top-Five Series: No.2 WR Justin Blackmon – Blackmon plays a physical brand of football despite the fact that he is smaller and slower than he appears when featured in this wide-open Oklahoma State offense. The Cowboy offense gives Blackmon a lot of opportunities to approach defenders in space with the ball in his hands and heading downhill. While he will consistently be playing in tighter spaces at the N.F.L. level and he is not as explosive as other top prospects, Blackmon has the strength, hands and balance to become a reliable “plus” possession receiver (Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall) in the league.

NY Times Fifth Down Top-Five Series: No.3 WR Kendall Wright - There was a time that I considered Wright the best receiver in this draft class. He’s not big, but he is physical and that is what you need from an N.F.L. player with his speed and quickness.

NY Times Fifth Down Top-Five Series (No.4 Marvin Jones and No.5 Greg Childs) and Rankings Insight for This Year’s Wide Receiver Class - When it comes to this series, I usually just provide a teaser of the post to the Fifth Down and link you to the rest. But with today’s receivers,  No.5 WR Greg Childs and No. 4 WR Marvin Jones, I want to discuss the thought process behind their unusually high ranking – and a few general philosophical points with how I rank players. I believe additional perspective is a good thing in this case because many of you reading this post are fantasy owners in addition to football fans and draftniks.

Cal WR Keenan Allen: Creating Separation With his Hands – If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a couple of months then you know I have an appreciation for former Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones. As much as I enjoy his technical skill at the position, Jones’ contributions were sometimes overshadowed by the terrific athleticism of his teammate Keenan Allen. The rising junior is 6’3″, 205 lbs. of quick-twitch, X-box-inspired moves once the ball is in his hands.

Arkansas (and Minnesota Vikings) Receiver Greg Childs: Career Resurrection? The Career Near-Death Experience. This is one of my favorite Bloomisms of football writing. A Bloomism is what I call the slang that Footballguys and Bleacher Report Draft Analyst Sigmund Bloom (who is also a medalist in some Writer-Olympiad) creates to encompass various football experiences, states of mind, or rights of passage in the sport.The Career Near-Death Experience is an event where a player faces his career mortality. All players face it at some point. Those that don’t cross to the other side discover a new and better way to approach the game. Former wide receiver Cris Carter had a career near-death experience as drug addict…

Juron Criner “Trust Me”- Whether it was in a stadium, the park, the street, or your friend’s back yard, I know you’ve been in a situation where you knew you could take the man assigned to you. All you had to do was convince your quarterback. The fewer the words, the better. “Trust me.”

Lloydesque Sleeper: ECU (Redskins camp invitee) Lance Lewis- Brandon Lloyd was the subject of the second football-related article I ever wrote. This was two years before I launched the Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Lloyd was a fourth-round pick in his second year with the 49ers and he was beginning to make plays like the ones above. I have always believed Lloyd was a special player with a high football IQ, flypaper hands and a skill for adjusting his body to the ball that makes one wonder if there really is a Matrix. Only Larry Fitzgerald rivals Lloyd when it comes to this aspect of playing the receiver position at the highest level. Recently, I came across two college prospects that flash certain skills where they look almost identical to a current NFL star. One of them…

Vertical Goodness: Stephen Hill – I’ve been critical of the Georgia Tech receiver all week, but I’ve also been saying that the star of the Combine is more than just a gold medal winner 2012′s Underwear Olympics at Lucas Oil Stadium. Hill is a legit prospect with NFL starter upside. Although I’ve spent several pages analyzing what Hill doesn’t do, one play can encompass most of his strengths. On the surface, one good play to several not so good ones might seem heavily weighted to the negative. However, there are certain talents that don’t require lengthy analysis to value.

WRs Stephen Hill and Marvin Jones: Going Deep – This week I have been spotlighting the craft of playing receiver and using plays from the careers of Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and Cal’s Marvin Jones as examples. Yesterday, I profiled two crossing routes that couldn’t have been run more different from each other. Today, I’m going deep and examining a vertical play from both receivers.

WRs Stephen Hill and Marvin Jones: Managing Physical Play (Short) - Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill is tall, fast, and has a frame that will likely support another 10-15 pounds of muscle without sacrificing his 4.36-40 speed. Cal wide receiver Marvin Jones is a shade under 6’2″ and 200 pounds and he appears to have the type of physique that wouldn’t add weight if he injected liquified Crisco with an IV. Yet if I were building a team from scratch and you asked me which receiver I’d rather have catching passes from my quarterback, at this moment I’d take Jones despite the fact Hill’s physical skills are uncommon.

Georgia Tech (and NY Jets) WR Stephen Hill: Speed Kills – Now Learn How to Aim! The late, great Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis coined the phrase “speed kills.”  There was a time Davis prized speed the way a trained gun enthusiast prized a competition model Glock. But late in his career, Davis’ love for fast-moving players seemed more like a warning for addiction. If Davis were alive to see Stephen Hill’s 4.36-second, 40-yard sprint on Sunday, he’d probably get a contact buzz just from watching the Georgia Tech receiver on Lucas Field’s track. It’s hard to blame Davis, speed is a lot like a loaded gun. Capable of great power, it can disable an opponent without even pulling the trigger – sometimes without even removing it from the holster. However in untrained hands, it’s often more dangerous to those handling it.

Kendall Wright and the Money Catch - I love the intellectual component of football. There’s rich material to explore with every position, unit and team from the perspective of technique and strategy. It’s what I do here almost daily. But to say football is essentially an intellectual game is horseshit. It’s far and away an emotional game. Hitting might require a technical component to doing it the right way, but it also requires violence to do it properly and violence is an emotional act. Think I’m wrong? Take up boxing or a martial art and spar with an opponent. There’s a big difference between knowing how to…

When “Flat” is Good: Route Running and Baylor WRs Kendall Wright and Terrance Williams – For the next two months, I’ll be providing excerpts of film study I’m doing for my 2012 Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication, which will be available here on April 1. The David Wilson Vision Series is one example of what you’ll be seeing: analysis of one particular skill set of a player and his position. Although the Wilson Series was a little more comprehensive, you’re going to find highly critical or praiseworthy analysis on an aspect of a player that might not match my overall take that you’ll find in the 2012 RSP. Kendall Wright is likely an example. There is a lot like like about the Baylor wide receiver and I won’t be surprised if he’s among my top prospects at his position. He’s explosive, dynamic after the catch, and he demonstrates some strong skills as a perimeter deep threat. In many respects he reminds me of what Mario Manningham brings to the table for the Giants, but has potential to become much more (of course, so does Manningham).

Senior Bowl Interview: Jeff FullerThis Q&A of Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller took place at the Senior Bowl’s media night. I was unable to identify the reporters at the beginning of this session so I have labeled them Reporter 1 and Reporter 2. Fuller is a 6’4”, 217-pound receiver with experience in a pro-style offense brought to College Station by former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman. Here’s what Fuller had to say about his up and down senior year, his learning progression during his college career, and what he expects to face during his transition to the NFL.

Senior Bowl Interview: Marvin Jones – Marvin, let’s talk about the technique involved with playing wide receiver…

2011

Keys to a Good Back-Shoulder Fade – The back-shoulder fade can be an unstoppable weapon if a receiver understands how to run the route and the quarterback throws the ball with timing and confidence. Here are components of the route that make the play successful.

News of the Weird: Cameron Kenney - Around this time last year Cameron Kenney was eluding top prospect Prince Amukamara on the football field for a more-impressive-than-the-stats-suggest, 6-65 performance without Ryan Broyles in the lineup. This year, Kenney couldn’t elude a trashcan and a pole in my hometown.

Muhammad Sanu: “Football Player” – We live in the football era of specialization: Slot receiver. Third down back. Move tight end. Pass rush defensive end. Nickel back. In the box safety. But there was a time when its best players played more than one role.

RSP Contest: “Guess the WR Prospect” – Here’s a guessing game for you. Below I have described three receivers that teams drafted or signed as rookies in the last 3-5 years. All three receivers see significant time with their respective offenses and they all have a similar role.

RSP Flashback: Bills WR Naaman Roosevelt- 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.

Crossing the Divide: Titans WR Damian WilliamsLast week, I wrote about the great emotional divide that NFL prospects must cross in order to transition from college talent to productive pro player. A player currently attempting to cross this divide is Titans wide receiver Damian Williams, a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft currently starting in place of the injured Kenny Britt. Williams epitomizes a player balancing precariously on the line separating a breakthrough and a breakdown.

Talent and Production: The Great Emotional Divide - This is my seventh year studying the on-field performance of football players. I can say unequivocally that I know more about the techniques and strategy of the game than I knew when I began. I’m also beginning to realize that I have learned just as much about player evaluation during the four months I have spent creating content for this blog. However, much of what I have learned from my interviews of colleagues has less to do with technique, strategy, or what to physically seek from a player and more to do with what none of us know.

Discerning Errors From Deficiencies: A WR’s Hands- No prospect is perfect. Although I can hear some of you thinking Andrew Luck’s name (or maybe that’s the voice in my head and I just don’t want to admit it), this isn’t a post about the Stanford quarterback. It’s about learning to project a player’s potential by his errors. Failures often reveal more about a prospect’s upside than his successes. Fans and evaluators alike (present company included) often fail to discern the difference between a correctable error and a deficiency that requires more serious work and may never improve. Based on my six years of extensive film study, I’m going to share with you lessons I’ve begun to learn that will help you develop a more critical eye.

Top UDFA WRs- Due to the lockout, 2011 could be more difficult than usual for undrafted free agents trying to make it in the NFL. Yet, there will be players with the talent, the skill, and the work ethic to enter a camp and make the most of their limited opportunities. This week, I’m profiling offensive skill players who I believe have the ability to develop into quality professionals if they have been training hard enough in this crazy offseason to hit the ground running. Profiles of these players are excerpts from my publication, the 2011 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, available at Footballguys.com

Emerging NFL Talents: WR Eric Decker – Although my takes on the players in the next series of posts might be useful to fantasy owners, this isn’t a fantasy football article. I’m not projecting stats. I’m writing about talented players whose portfolio of work reveal techniques and behaviors that I think translate well to the NFL game. At the end of the year, you might look at the stat-lines and conclude that the quantity of the production wasn’t eye-catching for each of these emerging talents, but the quality of work they did was impressive enough for opposing teams, fans, and more astute fantasy owners to take notice.

Execution – While researching YouTube highlights for my last blog post, I came across a series of short videos on fundamentals for wide receiver and tight end. One set of these videos features former Packers, Chiefs, and Vikings tight end Paul Coffman, who does a fantastic job of demonstrating fundamental techniques for blocking, releases, routes, and pass catching. The other set has current NFL pros demonstrating the same fundamentals.

YouTube Chalkboard: Six WRs Who Will School You- Wide receiver can be a difficult position to evaluate because there are three general factors that contribute to a player’s success in the NFL: Athleticism, technique, and the mesh of his skills within the team’s offensive system. Here are six NFL WRs with lessons to share through the lens of YouTube highlights. 

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