NFL 2012 Draft: Later-Round Receiver Scouting
Over the past week or so, I’ve done an extensive amount of research into various draft prospects this year. Primarily, I wanted to familiarize myself as best as possible with all the array of options we would have in the #MockThree draft I’ve been participating in. I also just enjoy doing the research because it gets me more pumped for draft day. Hurry up, April 26th! (Speaking of the draft, don’t forget we’ll be having extensive coverage of the draft here at VT including a live chat.)
We all know what the Vikings first pick will be barring some blockbuster trade from Cleveland or Miami – offensive tackle Matt Kalil, USC. The uncertainty begins with what the Vikings will do with their second pick. It’s likely that they will go one of three ways: receiver, cornerback or safety; all of which are definite team needs. We’ve talked quite a bit around here about different receivers the Vikings could target in the first and second rounds. We’ve discussed Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill (yeah!) and Alshon Jeffery.
I wanted to share with everybody some of the research I did on the later round prospects. The people that will probably go in the third round and beyond. This year’s wide receiver class is very deep so the Vikings have ample opportunity to improve the weapons Christian Ponder has this season.
I’ll provide upside and downside for each receiver, some tape analysis and, to wrap it all up, who I would select if I was Rick Spielman. So, if you’re a draft nerd like I am and are groveling for every bit of draft news you can get, join me after the jump to read the rest of this mammoth post.
(Note: I am no expert scout by any means. The following is just my opinion after reading the research of various other scouts, draftniks, etc… Also, I am no Greg Cosell when it comes to analyzing tape. Furthermore, I am not watching all the tape and the analysis I include is just my thoughts on the particular video that I show.)
HT: 6-2 | WT: 220
Upside: Criner is a big and physical receiver who does most of his work underneath. He almost always manages to come down with the ball, despite how bad the throw is (even if sometimes it is in unorthodox ways). Criner has good hand-eye coordination. After making catches, he manages to get up field quickly, fighting for extra yardage. His size and vertical allows him to go up and snatch the jump ball.
Downside: Criner is, for the most part, unable to get downfield and behind the defense. He doesn’t have that speed to really stretch the field or the route running skills to create tons of separation. He’s typically just a straight line runner, yet not great at it.
Combine Stats: 40 Yard Dash: 4.59 / Vertical Jump: 38″ / Three Cone: 7.15
Tape Analysis (vs. Oregon, 2011): Criner has a tendency to hold the ball away from his body, potentially allowing for the ball to be stripped away. It looks like Criner can focus too much on the YAC before making the catch – leading to drops. Although, I should say, most of the tape I’ve seen has him catching pretty much everything thrown in his direction, by any means necessary. (Maybe this was just a bad game).
The Bottom Line: Criner is a solid possession receiver who could occasionally go out for a deep ball (that will likely turn into a jump ball due to lack of separation). He could develop into a solid #2, maybe a #1 if he can develop his route running and learn to put distance between himself and defenders.
HT: 5-10 | WT: 175
Upside: Wright is fast. No, Wright is super fast. He gets off the line very quickly and can change directions almost instantly. His route running is good and he consistently creates separation between himself and receivers. After the catch, he is elusive and fights for extra yardage. Wright has shown he can produce on the inside as a slot receiver as well as on the outside.
Downside: Wright’s small stature allows him to be pushed around coming off the line sometimes. This could potentially create problems for him at the next level when dealing with NFL size and strength defenders.
Combine Stats: 40 Yard Dash: 4.42 / Vertical Jump: 38″ / Three Cone: 6.93 (Note: Great vertical for his height!)
Tape Analysis (vs. Texas A&M, 2011): Wright always seems to be open and 5 ft. away from any defender. As previously stated, he is quick. Seems to have great hands, didn’t see any dropped balls. Good awareness of where he is on the field and finds soft spots in the defense. Hearing “wide open” a lot with this guy… (Maybe it’s just A&M’s defense?)
The Bottom Line: I see Wright as another Percy Harvin. That doesn’t mean the Vikings shouldn’t target him. But, I don’t think he’s a #1 receiver in the sense that Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, etc… are outside, primary receivers. It wouldn’t hurt to have another Harvin-like player on the team, though, and it could potentially create nightmares for defenses. I would love to see the Vikings take Wright in a later round. Maybe with one of their may fourth round picks.
HT: 6-1 | WT: 215
Upside: First thing everyone is going to say about Toon is that he “has it in his bloodline” because his father, Al Toon, was a Pro Bowl wide receiver for the New York Jets. Beyond that, though, Toon is a good sized receiver who runs good routes. He knows how to create separation as well as make catches in traffic with his strong, reliable hands. Toon is an exceptional run blocker and understands the wide receiver position well. Toon can occasionally get downfield for the long ball and can use his size to be a legitimate red zone threat.
Downside: Toon isn’t a burner. He also isn’t very elusive after catching the ball. Injuries are a minor concern as Toon has lingering foot problems.
Combine Stats: 40 Yard Dash: 4.54 / Vertical Jump: 37.5″
Tape Analysis (vs. Nebraska, 2011): You’ll notice those strong hands in the first catch in the footage below. Toon reached over two defenders and snatched the ball away from them in front of their face. Good catch. Great route on the deep touchdown – really through the safety off with the quick juke.
The Bottom Line: I don’t know that Toon will be a major game changer, but he seems to be a very promising #2 who has enough upside to potentially become a #1 receiver. Barring any injuries, Toon is a safe pick for guaranteed production.
HT: 6-4 | WT: 215
Upside: Streeter is that wide receiver who could really cause problems for defensive secondaries deep. He has dangerous height, verticality and speed. He is an elusive receiver after the catch and works to get the extra yardage. Streeter’s measurables make him a legitimate red-zone threat.
Downside: Streeter struggles with catching the ball in traffic. He also always seems to be banged up.
Combine Stats: 40 Yard Dash: 4.40 / Vertical Jump: 33″ (That doesn’t seem right…) / Three Cone: 7.08
Tape Analysis (vs. Virginia, 2011): Despite what most scouts say, it looks like Streeter is actually pretty good at catching the ball in traffic. (Again, this is just one game, though…) Streeter ran some impressive routes and made some great catches deep. I have to make the comparison: reminds me of Moss a little. (I know, cliche.) I could see him easily running a post into the end zone and going up to snag the ball while being covered.
The Bottom Line: Streeter really seems more like a developmental prospect. I doubt he would make a huge impact immediately, but he does have a good amount of upside and could eventually be that outside, #1 receiver the Vikings are looking for.
HT: 6-2 | WT: 215
Upside: McNutt has a big frame that allows him to go up and get the jump ball (his impressive vertical doesn’t hurt either). He has soft hands and natural instincts. McNutt is an athlete; he is a converted quarterback as well as a basketball player. He is a playmaker who still should have a good amount of upside left. McNutt also has a high football IQ who was a team captain and a natural leader.
Downside: Separation. McNutt doesn’t have great speed/quickness so he may have difficult separating from defenders in the NFL.
Combine Stats: 40 Yard Dash: 4.54 / Vertical Jump: 37″ / Three Cone: 7.15
Tape Analysis (vs. Purdue, 2011): Great route running and speed/elusiveness after making the catch. McNutt has a couple of easy drops that is somewhat concerning. McNutt has good awareness and seems to know where he’s at on the field. Good adjustments to make the catch.
The Bottom Line: Again, McNutt seems like a solid #2 receiver. He’s a great route runner and could do damage in the red zone. Is he the #1 receiver the Vikings are looking for? Probably not.
While this year’s draft class is deep, it’s predominantly filled with solid, promising #2 receivers. No one really stands out as a Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson (not even Justin Blackmon or Floyd). That doesn’t mean there aren’t some receivers out there though who could really help Ponder out this season and provide more weapons. Of the above receivers, the one with the most upside is probably Tommy Streeter. If he can stay healthy and improve his hands and route running, he could be dangerous.
Personal Selection: If I’m Spielman, in the later rounds of the draft I would try and get someone like Jarius Wright in the fourth round. I would love to get a potential #1 like Stephen Hill in the second round, but Wright would be a nice consolation. At that point in the draft, it is unlikely we are going to find a true, #1, outside receiver. It would probably be in our best interest then to add another versatile, shifty, dangerous, Percy Harvin-esque player in the mix.
I would love to hear everyone’s opinions in the comments as well as receivers you would like the Vikings to target in the later rounds.