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When we left off I gave you guys some food for thought on past rushing receivers and how they translate to the NFL. While this information is interesting, it doesn’t help or serve a purpose for your current developmental or rookie drafts, as those featured players are already in the NFL. As a result, I decided to take a look at what happened in 2013 with some current college receivers. I had a few requests for longer lists, so I lowered the criteria and am taking you for a ride through the elimination process.
To qualify for this list, players
- Averaged six yards, or more, per carry
- Have over five carries
Here are the players who made the list, based on those qualifications:
A few things I noticed:
- Wide variety of heights and weights.
- Six juniors, eight sophomores and three freshman
- Huge discrepancy in YPR (yard per reception)
- Huge discrepancy in touchdowns
After looking over the prospects for the first time, I decided to make the first round of cuts based off what I perceive as weaknesses that won’t translate to the next level.
Reasons for being cut:
- Weighing less than 170 pounds
- Under ten yards per catch
17. Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois
Height, weight and yards per reception were major red flags for Lewis. He’s a very productive college player, but I don’t see NFL potential. Here are a few plays for you to check out:
As I mentioned above, he’s a solid college player but I don’t see someone at his size getting much, if any attention from NFL teams.
16. J.D. McKissic, Arkansas State
We’re looking for explosive players that can get it done both after the catch and running the ball and 8.1 YPR isn’t getting it done. He was obviously a big part of the team and his overall volume was towards the top of the list, but even if he caught every pass at the line of scrimmage, that’s not cutting it.
I found this:
Here, he displays some really solid ball skills, but I fear he’s a little too slow for the next level. He may benefit from a switch to running back altogether. With a solid frame and really tough after the catch, could see him carving out a decent role as a 3rd down back. I see a little Bruce Ellington to his game.
15. B.J. Knauf, Purdue
We have a really small sample size and he was only a freshman, but Knauf just missed out with a 9.7 yard per reception. As a young player in a major conference, we will definitely keep tabs on him and see if Purdue increases his role in year two. For now, he’s off the list.
14. Shane Williams-Rhodes, Boise State
I can’t get over that size. 160-pound wide receivers simply don’t exist anymore. Once again, I am not knocking Rhodes as a college player as he’s ultra productive and scores a lot of touchdowns, especially for being so small.
13. Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
As with most of the others, weight was his undoing. Everything else was above average but I have a hard time seeing a player at 5’6” and 160 pounds making it in the NFL, never mind earning a significant role. Grant is definitely a player to keep an eye on to see if he can bulk up and keep that speed in his junior season, but unfortunately, as far as this list is concerned, there are better options.
So, now we’re left with these 12 players
- Ricardo Louis
- Rannell Hall
- Jameon Lewis
- Ty Montgomery
- Keevan Lucas
- Bryan Underwood
- Keon Hatcher
- Tyler Boyd
- Stefon Diggs
- Aaron Grubb
- Sterling Shepard
- Mario Alford
This is where thinning the herd gets tough. While it was difficult, I found a line of demarcation that separates the good from the best. The final requirement is having a yard per touch above 12.0.
Just Missed the List
12. Aaron Grubb, UTSA
Grubb barely made the last weight cutoff of 170 pounds, so I suppose it’s not much of a surprise he didn’t make it past the second group. We don’t have much of a sample size, so there is little to go on, but things don’t appear promising for Grubb as far as NFL aspirations are concerned. He could certainly turn it around, bulk up and run wild in 2014, but I think it’s more likely he’s an above average college wide receiver. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not what we’re looking for. If tthis data was from his freshman year I’d be more optimistic, but Grubb is heading into his junior season, so the clock is ticking on him gaining weight and improving his play.
11. Bryan Underwood, North Carolina State
Underwood made some nice plays in his junior year at North Carolina State, but at this point in his career, heading into senior year, you’d like to see a little more volume and results. I’m not the biggest fan of his size, at just 5’9” and 179 pounds either, combined with his 11.8 YPT and the road ends here.
He did have a nice run against Clemson:
10. Ricardo Louis, Auburn
Initially Louis was one of my favorite players on this list. Hailing from a big time school and possessing an ideal height/weight for a rushing receiver, Louis looks the part. After looking a little closer, and after calculating YPT (yard per touch), the shine wore off. His rushing ability was good, but not good enough to balance out his lack of big play ability after the catch. Louis had a big 73-yard touchdown reception against Georgia last year, a play that bounced off two Bulldog defenders and landed softly in Louis’ hand. Taking away that 73-yard bomb and his YPR falls all the way to 9.6. I still think there’s potential here, as Louis is everything you want physically, but I just can’t recommend him yet.
Here’s the big play I mentioned:
9. Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Lucas was only a freshman last year, so he’s still got time to grow. He had to deal with being on a 3-9 team last year, and losing tends to have a negative effect on stats. While the team may not be great, Lucas is in line to be the main receiver in the offense next year, so if he’s the same guy or better than what he represented last year, he could end up on the final list for 2014.
8. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
You know what? There’s pro potential here. Shepard is slow for a 5’10” receiver, but he’s very elusive, has solid ball skills and was a touchdown machine in 2013. I did notice him going down very easily on first contact, but his ability to avoid tacklers altogether is his bread and butter. Obviously, he didn’t make the top seven, but I’d say he’s right on the cusp, and he’s closer to group one than group two. That being said, you can see where his limitations are, and he may have already maxed himself out.
Cream of the Crop
7. Jameon Lewis, Mississippi State
The worst of the best, and there’s no shame in that though. Lewis has major speed and big playmaking ability, and if he weren’t going into his senior year I’d be higher on him. While his height and weight aren’t an issue personally, when comparing to the rest, I see higher ceilings. Lewis is extremely fast and very decisive with his cuts, a deadly combo. Three rushing touchdowns on 13 rushes is also a great sign. I’m almost sure Lewis will make it into the NFL, but his role is questionable. I see a potential full time special teams player while being a boom/bust fourth or fifth option on offense.
For those of you who remember former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Jermaine Lewis, that’s about how I envision Lewis’ career going if he maxes out his potential.
6. Mario Alford, West Virginia
One of the more interesting players on the list is Mario Alford. Although we have a very small sample size, Alford posted 20.4 YPR, over three yards more than second place in the initial list. I move with caution because Alford hasn’t gotten much opportunity through three years, but you have to imagine Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin had something to do with that. Another player with a clear path to 2014 production, Alford has the most receiving yards of any returning player on West Virginia, and is the team’s top option. This is a make or break year in terms of pro potential for Alford, he’ll have to show NFL teams he can dominate with more volume before a draft pick will be spent on him.
5. Keon Hatcher, Arkansas
This is where it really gets good, as the top five are all players I could see going on day one or day two of the NFL Draft. Hatcher shined in a small volume role in 2013. At 6’2” 210 pounds, Hatcher is a surprisingly explosive athlete. Based on the way he moves, you’d think we were dealing with a 5’10”-6’0” type of prospect. Either way, Hatcher Is the definition of a Swiss army knife. While a solid receiver, I’d argue he’s even better as a runner. Hatcher had no rush for less than five yards in 2013 and seven of his 11 carries went for nine yards or more. While I didn’t include it in the spreadsheet, Hatcher was also an elite kick returner, averaging 22 yards on his nine returns. I don’t think he’s the athletic freak Cordarrelle Patterson is, but any player with his height/weight combination who can also run a 4.45 40 is worth taking seriously.
4. Rannell Hall, Central Florida
Hall isn’t the beast Hatcher is, but he’s a much more polished receiver and has more strength and tackle breaking ability after the catch. Hall is definitely a pure receiver at the next level, but he’d be most valuable if he had a few rushes and screens sprinkled in. With Hall and the more well-known Breshad Perriman, Blake Bortles had some very underrated weapons last year. He’s got a little Torrey Smith to his game and he catches the ball effortlessly and shows the ability to fully extend. Combine that with his obvious athleticism after the catch and I see a currently undervalued future NFL receiver.
3. Ty Montgomery, Stanford
My Goodness, I could care less that Montgomery is a senior; he’s one of the best athletes in the country. His best trait is his balance. Montgomery is deceptively fast because he always looks so balanced and under control. His second best trait is he’s 6’2” and 215 pounds of pure muscle. Montgomery isn’t a very subtle player, but with the gifts he’s been blessed with, I’m not sure it matters. He crushed the spreadsheet portion, coming in third in YPT at 15.1 and first in touchdowns (12). He may not be a totally refined receiver yet, but he’s worth a late first round pick simply based on ceiling, which is immense.
In terms of body type and the way he carries himself after the catch, he reminds me of Demaryius Thomas. While he’s miles apart when comparing ball skills, you’d have to imagine Thomas could get by even if he wasn’t a borderline elite hands catcher.
2. Stefon Diggs, Maryland
We all know about Stefon Diggs. He’s explosive, elusive, fast, has good ball skills and is extremely tough to tackle after the ball gets in his hands. He broke out in his true freshman season, posting 848 yards on 54 receptions. He also added two kick return touchdowns. Diggs was well on his way to posting an amazing 2013 season, but his year was cut short when he broke his leg, ending his season only seven games.
All signs point to Diggs being fully recovered and ready to roll, so I expect him to get back to the level he was last year at some point in mid to late 2014. It may take a few games to get acclimated to football again, but don’t be discouraged. Overall, I think Diggs translates to a top 20-30 pick. He’s also extremely young for a junior, a he just turned 20 in February and will have just turned 21 by next year’s NFL Draft.
Two easy draft comparables would be Kendall Wright and Brandin Cooks (both were 1st round, pick 20). It sounds irrational to say he’s better than both of them, but if he makes a full recovery, it’s true. Strictly based on draft position, that’s where I think he’ll fall.
Here’s a video from Diggs TRUE freshman season
1. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
I’ve talked about him enough, I wrote this about him a few weeks ago.