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Armchair GM – 5 at 5 to Watch, the Wide Receivers – Draft 2017

March 28, 2017
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Armchair GM – 5 at 5 to Watch, the Wide Receivers – Draft 2017

Welcome, to a new segment where we will look at VIDEO of five college prospects at five positions that the Steelers should consider on Draft Day. Today we look at the Wide Receivers. It’s a pretty deep class so there is a lot of potential even in the later rounds. Mike Williams and John Ross will probably be off the board by the time the Steelers Draft at the 30th pick. That still leaves plenty of exciting receivers going all the way into the 3rd day.

1st Rd – Cory Davis – 6′-3″, 215# – 4.50/40 – Davis is tall, has good hands, is fast enough and his ability to get yards after catching ball is, well, eye catching. He hasn’t played against top talent but he projects very well to the NFL. 97 receptions for 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016 and 4 years of quality production. Davis is great in the Red Zone. My first round NFL mock only shows two of the big three, Mike Williams, John Ross or Davis, being drafted before the Steelers. Mike Williams seems a lock to go first and I’m guessing John Ross’ 4.21/40 will be too much to pass up.

“Focuses like a laser when ball is in the air. Tracks the deep ball as well as anyone in college and understands how to stack cornerbacks and keep them on his hip. Has second gear to run under the long ball. Excels in intermediate and deep parts of the field. Route running showed improvement in 2016. Variable route speed creates indecision for defenders. Vertical routes are crisp and create tilt in off-corners and safeties that he is quick to take advantage of.” NFL.com

2nd to 3rd Round – Zay Jones – 6′-1″, 200# – 4.45/40 – Jones had insane numbers in East Carolina’s pass-happy offense, 158 receptions for 1,746 yards with eight touchdowns in 2016. Yeah, you read that right. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl and an impressive Combine. “Jones had… quality production as a junior (98-1,099-5), sophomore (81-830-5) and freshman (62-604-5). Jones set an NCAA record for receptions, breaking the total previously held by former teammate Justin Hardy.” WatlerFootball

Jones has incredible hands and seems to routinely make impossible catches, even one-handers. He’s also serious about his blocking and likes to hit people. His routes are good not great at this point and there are some doubts about his separation speed at the next level but they seem to have been allayed by his strong Senior Bowl performance against tougher talent.  Has some kick return experience. Strong football genes with his father, Robert, playing for the Cowboys and his uncle, Jeff Blake a QB for Cincinnati.

2nd to 3rd Rd – ArDarius Stewart – 5′-11″, 195# – 4.49/40 – Stewart isn’t a statistical standout in college with 54 catches for 864 yards and a 16.0 yards per catch average and 8 TDs in 2016 with a few missed games but when you watch him play you understand why he is an exciting prospect. He also had  8 runs on options,  reverses and other special plays for 68 yards and 8.5 per carry.

Stewart runs crisp routes, fights for every pass, makes great runs after the catch  and is a chippy blocker. He was sort a Swiss Army knife for Alabama and provided a spark when the offense needed it, even throwing passes on occasion. He has kick return experience as well, with 8 returns for 161 yards and a 20.1 yard average. He had a one game ‘behavioral rules’ suspension by Nick Saban but has a young family and is declaring to support them. With a talented QB throwing to him and a creative Offensive Coordinator the sky is the limit for Stewart.

2nd to 3rd Rd – Chris Godwin – 6′-1″, 209# – 4.42/40 – 19/250# reps – Godwin caught 59 passes for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016. Penn State’s big and strong wide receiver surprised everybody with his forty time. Godwin runs good routes and climbs the ladder for jump balls. He’s very good in the Red Zone and was frequently targeted with jump balls and back shoulder fades. He’s another one who takes his blocking assignments seriously. He knows how to come back for the ball and put his body in front of his defender. Tracks the ball very well and had the speed to blow the top off a defense. Reminds me of an Anquan Boldin type with much more straight line speed.

3rd to 6th – Carlos Henderson – 5′-11″, 191# – 4.46/40 – Another Swiss Army knife for the offense. Henderson had 82 catches for 1535 yds and 18.7 yard per catch with 19 TDs. He also rushed, including some off tackle plays with 14 carries 133 yards for 9.5 average with 2 TDs. As his TD numbers show, Henderson excels near the goal line.

Henderson is an accomplished kick returner as well, with 25 returns for 805 yards and an eye-popping            32.2 avg per return and 2 TDs. Louisiana Tech liked to get Henderson the ball in space where his short area quickness would garner yards after the catch. He runs crisp routes and has some ‘psych’ moves to put on cornerbacks. I don’t want to oversell him but his game reminds me a lot of Antonio Brown.

“Flashes get-away gear used to climb over top of cornerbacks on vertical routes. Sells double moves and leaves defenders trailing. Decent job of shielding throws from traffic when working inside the numbers. Hands catcher and can dip to adjust to low throws. Extremely competitive runner after the catch. Plays bigger than his listed size.” NFL.com

Bonus Prospect! I just had to include this player because his ceiling is too high,  is such a good athlete and good attitude player.

4th to Priority Free Agent – Amara Darboh – 6′-2″, 214# – 4.45/40 – Amara Darboh moved with his family from Sierra Leone when he was 7 years old. He just became a U.S. citizen in 2015. Darboh has tons of natural talent. He had 57 catches for 862 yards for a   15.1 yard average with 7 TDs in 2106. He had similar production in his Junior year. His game is very similar to Corey Davis’ but Darboh faced better talent playing for Michigan. They are both compared to Mohamed Sanu by NFL.com.

“Fluid working two-way releases from slot. Smooth transitions in his routes. Won’t give away plant-and-go cuts to the post, allowing him to stay ahead of the cornerback. Heady player. Adjusts routes to create better throwing opportunities for quarterbacks. Accepts responsibility as blocker climbing up to cornerbacks with some urgency of engagement.”

Darboh is short on football experience and is a body catcher and sometimes double catches. Still, he doesn’t drop many and he seems to have soft hands when he catches balls away from him. His coaches have allowed him to keep his bad habits. His willingness to block and attitude could land him a spot on Special Teams where he would have some time to bring his pass catching to a professional level. Could be an incredible find if he develops.

That’s the wideouts! Next up will be the Running Backs. The Steelers added Knile Davis but they should look to add a running back in around the 2nd tp 3rd Rd or later. There are a number of strong prospects in this deep RB draft.

Go Stillers!

Jeffrey Burton

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