NFL Combine Watch: Wide Receivers
Turron Davenport of Press Coverage Sports is back again. This time he shares with us which wide receivers you should watch during the NFL Combine.
he Combine is finally here. The off season is upon us. Trent Baalke and the 49ers front office have done an excellent job of building a very talented roster. This year the 49ers have a total of 14 draft picks including four in the first three rounds. Thanks to the emergence of the dual threat Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers may be able to acquire an additional draft pick for Alex Smith. Niner fans should be very excited about this combine and off season. Do not be surprised if the 49ers package a few of their picks to trade up to select a more impactful player.
There is quality depth at a few of the positions that can be considered a need for this loaded roster.
In this article we will take a look a few players at some Wide Receivers that would supplement the 49ers roster. Tedd Ginn Jr. handled the Punt Return duties but he will definitely be gone next year. Randy Moss is an unrestricted free agent. Trent Baalke said that he is not sure if they will bring him back. Michael Crabtree enjoyed a breakout season and will be looking for a new deal after the 2013 season. Mario Manningham was a pretty good signing but he suffered a severe knee injury and it is unknown how he will recover. Kyle Williams is the most explosive Wide Receiver and the best slot option but he suffered a torn ligament in his knee also. The first round selection in 2012 was AJ Jenkins. He didn’t have a productive year in any stretch but he will be working out with Colin Kaepernick this off season in Atlanta.
The 49ers need to add another guy that can play the slot and help out in the return game. They also need to add a red zone and vertical threat. Cordarelle Patterson, Keenan Allen and Deandre Hopkins will probably be gone by the time the 49ers pick at #31. So here are a few Wide Receivers to watch in the combine and predraft process: (Please note, The following evaluations are from the staff at NFL.com)
West Virginia 5’9” 174
NFL Comparison: Randal Cobb
Strengths: Slot receiver possessing elite acceleration with the ball in his hands. Shows excellent vision both as a runner out of the backfield, as a returner, and as a receiver with the ball in his hands. Wins at every level of the field despite his size, and has been somewhat underutilized deep. Improved as a blocker, and will body up on bigger players. Almost unstoppable at continue on for additional yardage. Not a frail receiver; plays tough, has some upper-body thickness, and bounces up quickly from hits. Varies the speed of his route, lulls defenders to sleep and takes off to create space on out routes or over the middle. Tough to grab after the catch in zone coverage. Flashes the hands to adjust to wide or high passes, as well as tracking balls over his shoulder. Also goes down to grab low throws. Displays excellent balance to tightrope the sideline. Often used on fly sweeps, using his elite quickness and acceleration to cut inside or get the corner for big plays. Can make the first man miss on punt returns and has the vision to slalom between players to the sideline or up the middle. Very difficult to track down from behind.
Weaknesses: Limited to the slot on most plays; lacks the size and strength most scouts prefer outside, or even as a kick returner. Hands are good, but not exceptional; will let some hot passes through his small hands and into his chest. Gets a lot of his yardage on shallow crosses, quick throws outside, and the fly sweep/”touch pass.” Must prove he can hang onto the ball after taking big hits from NFL defenders. Might not have elite straight line speed.
Louisiana Tech 6’2” 195
NFL Comparison: Reggie Wayne
Strengths: Good size for the position, has the height and length to play outside at the next level. Very good acceleration off the line, gets to full speed in a couple of steps and can shimmy to free himself and stick his foot in the ground to get inside position on slants. Natural hands catcher – catches the ball with his hands away from his body, even when tracking passes over either shoulder. Wins jump balls in the end zone and over the middle with good vertical and great concentration. Acrobatic and excellent at adjusting to the ball in the air, especially to the back-shoulder on fades. Good sideline awareness to get two feet in-bounds while making the catch. Sells routes where he knows he’s not the primary target to free up the underneath or cross-field receiver. Shows fight as a run blocker, willing to hit multiple punches to keep his man at bay and works himself into the correct blocking angle. Hustles downfield to help out fellow ballcarriers. Plays with a feisty attitude.
Weaknesses: Extends his hands from his frame, but doesn’t snatch and secure the ball, making him struggle coming down with the ball when the defensive back contests him. As such, does not always find the ball downfield or come up with catchable passes when adjusting to it in the air. Inconsistent catching punts as a returner, makes some tough grabs running towards the sideline.
Baylor 6’2” 205
NFL Comparison: Torrey Smith
Strengths: Tall vertical and red zone target who can go up and get the ball. Eats up space quickly against soft coverage. Shakes his man off the line and has enough speed to get a step down the sideline. Is a sideline threat with quick feet for his size and body control in the air, making his stop, fade, and comeback routes more effective. Tracks the ball and adjusts to it in the air, and shows the ability to stop and turn for the back-shoulder fade. Adjusts his route to make himself available to his scrambling quarterback, going deep or crossing into an opening. Willing, strong, and physical blocker on bubble screens and in the run game, throwing his body into defenders and sticking with blocks. His blocking was a big key to Baylor’s perimeter run game.
Weaknesses: Pure outside receiver. Does not run a variety routes in Baylor’s offense. Routes are not always completed if he is not primary target. Inconsistent making his man miss after the catch, has some short-area quickness but better tacklers wraps up his long legs quickly. Tracks the ball well, but lets it get into his body and isn’t a natural hands catcher.
Tennessee 6’4” 205
NFL Comparison: Roy Williams
Strengths: Hunter’s height, striding speed, explosive leaping ability, and easy hands make him an exceptional vertical threat able to take the top off of any defense –- but only when he’s on the field. Prototypical height for an outside NFL receiver, though he will line up in the slot to test defenses over the middle. Straight-line speed appears more than sufficient for his size, can burst past corners down the sideline, and long strides that make it difficult for cornerbacks to recover once beaten. Varies his speed in routes to put defenses off balance, can accelerate with good foot quickness after a lull to create separation on digs and seam routes. Despite his size, possesses enough of a shimmy off the line to lose cornerbacks. Soft hands make him able to snatch throws in front of his frame or over either shoulder; will be threat on jump balls with his height and leaping ability.
Weaknesses: Has a limited number of snaps under his belt, needs to prove his hands are consistent when tested in a full season as a starter. Missed most of his second season with a torn left ACL. Must continue to get stronger throughout his frame to win battles at the line of scrimmage and break away from NFL tacklers. Blocking on run plays is inconsistent at best, shows little physicality in that realm.
West Virginia 5’10” 190
NFL Comparison: Greg Jennings
Strengths: Extremely productive. Showcases tremendous physicality in his routes. Uses his hands and body to create separation. Excellent body control. Very reliable target, volume catcher. Soft hands, can make plays off of his frame. Smart receiver who is adept at finds holes and picking up the first down. Tracks the football well over his shoulder and adjusts his body in order to make difficult catches. Competitive. Bailey lacks the ideal size and speed of an outside receiver. However, what Bailey lacks in terms of measurables, he makes up for with reliable hands, physicality, and superb body control.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size, both in terms of height and bulk. Not an overly explosive athlete. Doesn’t change directions with suddenness. Likely won’t run a blazing 40 yard dash. Often times most of the attention of the defense was given to teammate and fellow wide receiver Tavon Austin.
Sleeper – Aaron Dobson
NFL Comparison: Sidney Rice
Strengths: Presents a tall, long build prototypical of outside vertical receivers. Runs a bit high but has a fair three-step game off the line. Ankle flexion to create separation on comeback patterns. Possesses strong hands, length, and good concentration to snatch high and wide passes. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder and makes acrobatic one-handed catches. Can make a catch with a defender draped on him. Difficult for smaller cornerbacks to drag him down, as he will churn through contact to get the extra yardage. Able to free himself off press coverage using his hands.
Weaknesses: Hasn’t faced many top-level defenders during his career. Owns strider’s speed, and NFL corners will make it more difficult for him to get into his routes. Not a burner, will have trouble creating consistent separation. The inconsistency of his blocking technique requires some work; he has the size to be effective but regularly hesitates to make contact, overextends, and fails to sustain against much smaller targets on the outside.