Matt Waldman’s RSP 2019 Senior Bowl Preview: Wide Receivers

Matt Waldman is once again covering Senior Bowl practices and continues his previews of the skill position players in attendance with thoughts on the wide receivers. 

Of all the positions, the practice week of the Senior Bowl provides the greatest intel on wide receivers. The drills do a better job of showcasing the skills and traits of the position than most.

As is the case with any position, practice does not demand the highest level of physical, technical, and mental skill integration that will be seen in a game environment. Still, the practice sessions often demand a greater integration of these skills for this position than others.

It also provides a level playing field that isn’t polluted with name-brand, big-program biases. Marvin Jones and Cooper Kupp are two past examples of participants who out-performed their peers during past SeniorBowls.  Here is what I am seeking from each of these wide receivers competing in Mobile this week.

Alex Wesley: The speedster from Northern Colorado needs to come into Mobile and show that he can beat tight man coverage and beat press at the line of scrimmage. If he can do that, he’ll at least prove that his strengths match up well with the college big boys. If Wesley demonstrates a technically-sound attack of the football against tight coverage in the middle of the field, he could reveal an additional valuable element to his game.

Andy Isabella: Another speedster, Isabella must showcase some physicality for his smaller frame. Can he handle the rough stuff off the line and in the middle of the field? He didn’t showcase these traits as a blocker on film. He isn’t challenged much as a route runner when working in the slot or against off coverage. This week’s gauntlet of drills should remedy that and deliver insights that his role at UMass has not.

Anthony Johnson: His attack of the football has not been technically consistent on film. Watching how he attacks the ball at a variety of target points in drills will help determine if his problems have been one of ignorance, tracking-coordination, or focus. His speed and acceleration on film have also raised questions about his ability to separate.

David Sills V: His hip mobility is a question mark. The deeper he can drop his weight, the more efficient his routes will become. Is the issue one of mobility or technique? This week should answer some of these questions. Sills also gets bullied in some of his routes on film. If he can demonstrate a more physical game in practices, it might help me pinpoint the reasons for him losing against physical play or at least isolate the situations.

Deebo Samuel: Although not as much as Sills, Samuel’s hip mobility is a question mark. Known for a strong catch radius despite a listed height that is also questionable, I haven’t seen Samuel in situations where a corner or safety has truly plastered him. How well he can win the ball or earn micro-separation that matters most in the NFL will be helpful intel for his scouting report.

Gary Jennings: In West Virginia’s wide-open offense, Jennings doesn’t have a lot of tape where he’s facing press coverage or running the variety of routes that will be required of him in the NFL. If he can display greater physicality and versatility as a route runner and receiver, he’ll elevate his portfolio.

Jakobi Meyers: A physical receiver who converted from quarterback earlier in his college career, Meyers is one of the most intriguing options in Mobile. A technical concern that shows up frequently on his tape is the tendency to “clap” his hands at targets rather than attack the ball with his hands in position to squeeze the ball with his fingertips. This week of practice should provide further insights into the problem that could lead to pro career riddled with inconsistency if not addressed.

Jaylen Smith: He doesn’t always maximize his potential catch radius. His performance in the vertical game also leads to questions about whether he’s a split end or a flanker. Chest-level targets often lead to Smith overthinking his technique and it leads to him fighting the ball. He tips off a lot of breaks on film and his ability to drop his weight could be a root cause.

Hunter Renfrow: A top slot receiver, there’s little doubt about his route running and hands. There is some concern about his size and ability to handle physical and technically sound play from defenders covering him tightly. He’s going to be fun to watch in drills that test these situations this week.

Keelan Doss: I’ve studied nearly 80 wide receivers this year, Doss hasn’t been one of them. Stay tuned for my thoughts this week.

Penny Hart: Based on my early film viewing of his career, Hart had a more accurate downfield thrower as an underclassman. If he can demonstrate a strong library refined moves against press coverage and win the ball in tight quarters, Hart could be among the most talked about players at this week’s game. He’s a spark plug with the ball in his hands.

Terry McLaurin: Another receiver that I haven’t studied.

Travis Fulgham: The size is there but can he be physical when called upon? His quickness looked impressive on film. If he practices quickly and displays a greater range of technical acumen than what was demanded of him at Old Dominion, Fulgham could also earn a lot of buzz.

Tyre Brady: One of my favorite receivers in this class, Brady is a smooth receiver and a game competitor. I want to see progress with his footwork at the boundary. While capable of spectacular plays, he also has a lot of focus drops. Practice will hopefully clarify (rather than further cloud) this issue and determine why these drops occur.

Bookmark the RSP 2019 Senior Bowl Page to find practice reports, videos, and podcasts covering the practice week and the players.

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