Camp Watch List: Lions WR Patrick Edwards

Calvin Johnson needs a complement with big-play ability in Detroit. Patrick Edwards has the ability and the opportunity, but does he have the physicality?

Lions veteran Nate Burleson told the media yesterday that second-year receiver Patrick Edwards is poised to emerge as a play maker in Detroit. Edwards entered the league as a 5’9″, 175-pound prospect from the University of Houston with excellent speed, but returning from a freakish injury that he sustained earlier in his college career when he collided with a cart in the back of the end zone at Marshall.

I did not rank Edwards in the 2012 RSP because I didn’t want to project him without seeing more as an intermediate and short route runner. More important, players of his dimensions are often overlooked by the NFL or view him in a limited role. I studied Edwards’ 10-catch, 162-yard 3-touchdown performance against Central Florida in 2010 and I was impressed with him.

To underscore this point, I had Edwards in a fantasy league where rosters allowances exceed 55 players over the summer and I acquired Edwards again this morning. I still only recommend looking at Edwards as a summer consideration in larger leagues, but I do understand why Burleson and the Lions like what they see.

The reason I acquired Edwards is a mix of what I saw from him as a Houston Cougar and the fact that Lions seem open to using a diminutive player.  Here’s what football fans should know about this intriguing receiver courtesy of my RSP Scouting Checklist and play-by-play study of the young receiver.

Patrick Edwards’ Report 

Game Info

  • Date: 11/5/2010
  • Opponent: UCF
  • Location: Houston
  • Surface: Grass
  • Climate/Temp: Night-Temperate
  • Score: 33-40
  • Year: Junior

Game Production

  • Targets: 14
  • Missed Targets: 2
  • Drops: 1
  • Catches: 10
  • Receptions After Contact: 2
  • Receptions Yards: 162
  • Yards After Catch: 31
  • TDs: 3

Overall Score: 74.5

Score Explanation: A player scoring in the range of 70-79 points is a rookie with NFL-caliber talent, but likely falls under one of these categories:

  1. He is new to the position and has a wealth of physical talent.
  2. He lacked great coaching and his technical skills detract from his physical talent.
  3. He has strong technical skills, but he’s lacking the NFL-caliber physical talent to develop into a long-term productive starter.
  4. Injuries depressed his overall score.

Players in the upper half of this range often become starters – sometimes stars – but the rate of development is often slower than their peers. A player in the lower half is more likely to develop into a career backup with the ability to produce in spot situations. Fantasy owners will not want to draft these players in traditional leagues, but they do have nice value as mid-to-late round picks in dynasty leagues with deeper rosters.

Even if not drafted to a fantasy roster in his first year, a savvy owner will be aware of this player and acquire him off waivers at the opportune time. Some of these players I didn’t see produce one or two key skills that depressed their scores and I didn’t feel comfortable ranking them. Quality WR and TE prospects tend to score in this range on my checklists because the position has a tougher learning curve than running back and a tendency to lack the caliber of detailed coaching and development from college programs.

Edwards’ Strengths:  Edwards is a smaller receiver with a good burst and consistent hands. He has the burst to get behind cornerbacks and gain yardage in chunks once he’s in the open field. He makes the effort as a blocker and demonstrates good technique with his punch, feet, and hands to sustain blocks as long as his size and strength will allow.

I’m impressed with how he adjusts his vertical routes to use the sideline in coverage. He also understands how work turn contact against the defender during the route to gain additional separation. He’s a downhill runner after the catch. I think his potential is a little higher than his grade because I didn’t see him have to set up routes, work back to the quarterback, or attempt a difficult catch.

Edwards’ Weaknesses: Edwards is a short and light player for the position by NFL standards. Although he makes the effort as a blocker he doesn’t have the strength to consistently sustain blocks. He isn’t a huge factor after the catch in tight coverage because he lacks the strength to generate a push after the initial contact.

Edwards catches the ball with his hands, but he didn’t consistently get his hands away from his body to make plays at the first window of opportunity to snare the football. His tendency to catch the ball at the later windows of opportunity rather than the earlier windows is a concern. He dropped a sideline curl late in the game that could have put Houston in scoring position, because he didn’t use his hands to attack the football.

I thought Edwards was too tentative of a decision maker in the open field and on designed runs. If his first option isn’t available he doesn’t use enough of his quickness and lateral agility to create openings and he doesn’t take away angles of defenders when they are close to him.

Although there were some route techniques I didn’t get to see due to the flow of the game, even if Edwards is adept at these things I don’t see him becoming anything more than a complementary receiver in multiple receiver sets at the NFL level. He simply lacks the physicality and lateral agility to earn a starting role in the NFL.

You can download the rest of the PDF checklist and play-by-play notes here: Patrick Edwards

NFL Outlook: Edwards has the speed and ball-tracking ability to produce in a spread offense like Detroit. I can see how the Lions will primarily use him in the slot opposite the tight end and exploit the middle of a defense on deep seam routes, corner routes, and crosses. Because safeties have to respect Calvin Johnson, there is ample opportunity for Edwards to generate big plays. I also believe Edwards adjusts to the ball well enough to work the perimeter in certain defensive looks.

If Edwards demonstrates improvement with attacking the football, I think he can become a reliable weapon in the Lions offense as the third option in the passing game. He is capable of providing a big-play element in the slot where he won’t face press coverage that often and will eliminate some concerns about his size. However, the size factor remains a concern because the physical nature of the game can wear down a 175-pound player.

Until there’s more to see, I have to project Edwards as a boom-bust producer if he sees the field. However, there are factors to watch that could elevate his potential:

  • Additional muscle/weight to handle the NFL game inside the hash marks 
  • Sharp route recognition and rapport with Matthew Stafford
  • Decisive and effective skill shedding press coverage if used outside

Skill-wise, Edwards is worth the intrigue. Stay tuned to see if physically he can make the cut.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2013 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the 56-page Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2013 RSP at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

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