Devy Notes: Speedy Wide Receivers

Bruce Matson

Having elite level speed can be a game-changer. Subpar wide receivers can receive camp invites and even get drafted if they are fast enough to consistently keep opposing defenders on their heels. In the right situation, a wide receiver that can blow by defensive backs just might become a fantasy stud.

Tyreek Hill, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones led the league in targets going for 20 yards or more in 2018. All three of those receivers finished in the top five in PPR scoring last year. Being able to stretch the field allows receivers to see more downfield targets, which converts to fantasy points when those receivers achieve a high enough catch rate.

Obviously, it takes more than just speed to win in the NFL. Great hands and the ability to run pristine routes are also very good qualities to have. Being able to slip away from the defense in the open field is a rare attribute that not all wide receivers possess. If a player is blessed with game-breaking speed, he has a chance to carve out a major role with an NFL team.

Rondale Moore, WR Purdue

Moore became a household name during his freshman season, catching 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also carried the ball for 213 yards and two touchdowns. His 31.47 percent market share of Purdue’s passing offense combined with his 37.16 percent dominator rating makes him one of the most productive wide receivers in college football.

At a compact 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Moore’s natural low center of gravity makes him tough to tackle in the open field. His elite-level speed makes him a home run threat and the most dangerous player on the field. When coming off the line of scrimmage, he’s a threat to blow by just about every defensive back that lines up across from him due to his ability to eat up cushion between him and the defender. Not only is he fast, but he can instantly accelerate to top speed. The lateral agility is also there, allowing him to cover a lot of ground quickly while jump-cutting to either side.

He’s also super dangerous after the catch. According to PFF, he forced 37 missed tackles which is an incredible feat for a freshman wide receiver. He also generated 892 yards after the catch. His speed will instantly translate to the NFL level.

At the moment, he’s a late first-round pick in devy drafts. He’s easily one of the top wide receivers in college football. However, I believe by the end of the season, he will be considered the top devy receiver. Another year of on-field domination will cement him in the top spot of the rankings. His athleticism is a game-changer, and he will be a valuable asset once he hits the NFL.

Henry Ruggs, WR Alabama

Ranked 11th amongst wide receivers in the 2017 recruiting class by 247Sports, Ruggs received a four-star rating coming out of Montgomery, Alabama. He joined the track team during his senior year of high school and posted a state record with a 10.58-second 100m dash. Ruggs was also a star basketball player.

His athleticism made him one of the most dangerous wide receivers in college football. With Tyreek Hill-level speed, Ruggs is a threat to score from anywhere on the football field. Defensive coordinators will have to specifically game plan to stop him, because he can easily get behind the defense if they don’t account for his speed.

The fact that he can catch balls effortlessly away from his body without losing stride makes him even more dangerous. On top of that, he can track the ball while it’s in the air to convert the catch, making him a true deep threat. He’s explosive and can get to top speed in the blink of an eye. His most underrated trait is his body control at the catch point. It doesn’t matter if he’s contested; Ruggs will get himself into position to make the catch. His 142.7 passer rating when targeted proves he’s a reliable option in the passing game.

We are looking at a player who can be a dynamic asset in the right offense. If he’s paired with an accurate quarterback who knows how to get him the football, then he could be a WR1 in fantasy. He doesn’t need to be a target hog, because he will always be a threat to go the distance if he gets the ball in space.

Depending on where he lands in the draft, Ruggs could easily be one of the top picks in next year’s rookie drafts. The college football scene is definitely deep with talented receivers, but he has the skill set to be a game changer. You can’t teach speed, and players like Ruggs don’t grow on trees.

KJ Hamler, WR Penn State

While Jerry Jeudy and Justyn Ross were lighting up scoreboards, there was a Nittany Lion sharpening his claws and waiting to pounce. Hamler quietly led Penn State with 42 catches for 754 yards, equating to a 26.60 percent market share of the team’s passing production and a 25.20 percent dominator rating. His five receiving touchdowns earned a 23.81 percent touchdown share.

The NFL game is currently experiencing a transition process. Teams are valuing the smaller wide receivers who can create space with speed, quickness and diverse route running. Hamler is the prototypical mold of what the NFL is looking for and as teams play copycat, we should see the smaller and shiftier receivers start to infiltrate depth charts.

Hamler is an explosion waiting to happen. This is a gazelle that the predators can’t catch. Once he gets the ball in open space, he’s a threat to gash the defense for a big gain. His burst allows him to instantly separate from the opposition, while his speed makes it easy for him to pull away. This makes him a nightmare to defend because he’s eventually going to get loose in the open field.

Justin Shorter is another talented receiver on Penn State’s offense that’s on the rise. He could dip into Hamler’s target share this year. Shorter is a large explosive playmaker and will play the X position. This could be a deadly wide receiver duo Penn State.

Listed at just 176 pounds, Hamler doesn’t have the size of a prototypical WR1 at the NFL level. However, with how the game is changing, size isn’t a prerequisite anymore. He has more than enough speed and quickness to create separation and if he lands in the right situation with a high-volume passing attack and an accurate passer he could be a bigtime fantasy asset.

bruce matson
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