Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines the receiving and transitioning of 2019 NFL Draft prospect, TE Kaden Smith of Stanford.
Marqise Lee and Robert Woods were an excellent receiving duo at USC. In most circles, Lee was the pick of higher regard. Many cited Lee’s skill after the catch as a significant reason.
As good as Lee was (…is, and still could be), I preferred Woods as a route runner, pass catcher, and ball carrier. The reason had to do with transitions, a skill that isn’t measured at the NFL Combine or discussed often among draftniks or major media.
A transition is a process a receiver or right end uses to switch from pass catcher to ballcarrier. Transitions need to be efficient and it’s where many top athletes at these positions fail because they haven’t refined their footwork, mobility, and agility to maneuver in tight spaces.
The open field is a deceptive name for a part of the field where safeties, linebackers, and cornerbacks often have a running start towards the receiver as he’s transitioning to the ballcarrier. If the receiver transitions inefficiently, he can give his opponents 3-5 steps of ground and now the space between him and his opposition isn’t so open after all.
Stanford’s Kaden Smith displays a knack for efficient transitions in this RSP Boiler Room. Notice that many of the same skills that go into efficient route running also aid ball-carrying.
Bad transitions are a reason why many Combine winners who lean too much on raw athletic ability perform like raw players in the NFL. Good transitions are among the technical and conceptual reasons underpinning the argument that faster, stronger, quicker, more explosive doesn’t equate to better when valuing prospects.
It’s why the NFL Combine is more like an amusement park. Prospects only need enough athletic skill to “ride the ride.”
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