2017 NFL Scouting Combine: Wide Receiver Notes | Def Pen
2017 NFL Scouting Combine
John Ross is the fastest man ever at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.22 – 40 yard dash time. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The longest day of the combine takes place between the quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends. This year’s wide receiver class is exceptionally deep wich included 58 wide outs competing for this year which is the most ever. I’m not sure there is a guy who warrants a very high selection but there are some really great players. Who caught my eye for better or worse at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine in regard to the wide receiver position?

Is There Any Number One Receivers In This Class?:

Western Michigan wide receiver Cory Davis might be the most talented guy at the position but he couldn’t compete due to an ankle injury. I saw some drops when watching his games and I am concerned coming from a small school rarely facing press coverage.

Clemson’s Mike Williams has all the makings of a number one receiver but has some question marks. He has elite size at 6’4″ but decided not to run which confirmed my suspicion of his straight line speed. Often times he separated with his size and length but I’m not sure that works as well at the next level. He did jump very well with a 32.5 vertical and 121-inch broad jump. He caught the ball well in the drills but I already knew he would. Everyone is going to be awaiting his 40 time at the Clemson pro day because they don’t want to make another Laquan Treadwell type of mistake.

Last in this group is John Ross from Washington. I projected him to become one of the biggest risers at the combine because I knew he was going to run fast. I just had no idea he was going to break Chris Johnson’s record in the process posting an absurd 4.22 – 40 yard dash time. Ross has a ton of lower body explosion posting a 37-inch vertical jump and 133-inch broad jump. The downside to the Washington receiver is he is undersized at 5’11”, 188, and susceptible to injury. He has torn his ACL twice and is set to undergo shoulder surgery next week. He also couldn’t even finish his workouts after his 40-yard dash cramping up afterward. He struggled in a big way against Alabama facing a heavy dosage of press coverage in the college football playoff but there is no denying this guy is electric. From everything I saw in college, I would compare John Ross to DeSean Jackson. The real question is how high would you take DeSean Jackson in the draft? Does that speed warrant a first round pick?

2nd-3rd Round Value Picks:

I have to admit, this is the group that I would probably wind up with if I was a gm. In today’s NFL, you need guys who are dependable route runners. That’s the most important trait I look for and the Combine can often time fool people into believing false narratives at this position. All of these players should transition well to the NFL because they showed terrific run running skills. If you want to talk about safe, I don’t think any of these guys will fail at the next level.

Chris Godwin from Penn State had a really nice day in my opinion. He wins a ton of 50/50 balls for his size (6’1″, 205). A blazing 4.42 – 40 time is excellent for him. Godwin showed soft hands and caught everything thrown his way. Go watch his Rose Bowl game against USC where he caught 9 passes for 187 yards, and 2 touchdowns.

Chad Hansen, ‘the lama’ was Davis Webb’s go to guy at Cal. When you watch him play, Hansen has a real knack for getting open deep down the field. His 4.53 speed wasn’t indicative of that but rather his superb routes. He looked very fluid and tracked the ball well in the drills. Hansen had a big year in Cal’s offense in 2016 ranking third in college football with 9.2 receptions per game, and fourth with 124.9 yards per game.

Zay Jones hailing from East Carolina could not have put together a more impressive draft process thus far. Jones dominated during the Senior Bowl practices and lit the world on fire during the game too. The son of former Cowboys linebacker Robert Jones ran a 4.45 at 6’2″, 201. He doesn’t get the love he deserves but people should really start paying attention to this guy. His most impressive trait might be as a natural hand catcher as you can’t hear a sound when he snags the ball. Zay Jones is the all- time leader in catches in the history of college football with 399. Jones posted 158 catches for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016. I’m not sure anyone looked better running routes putting together a flawless day.

Cooper Kupp comes from the FCS level at Eastern Washington but this guy is the real deal. I saw Jordy Nelson all day when watching Kupp run routes. There isn’t a route this guy can’t run. He did run a 4.62 – 40 time but people should not be concerned whatsoever. This guy dominated at the Senior Bowl. Kupp was a top performer in the shuttle run which proves how quick he is in and out of breaks. Working out with Larry Fitzgerald in the offseason has paid dividends as he catches the ball with ease.

Is He A Running Back, Wide Receiver, Or Both?:

What do you do with Curtis Samuel? I actually like him better as a running back but this guy is elusive at either spot as a matchup nightmare. His 4.31 speed really blew me away. Just to give you the reader a bit of perspective here’s what I’m talking about. The Ohio State product rushed for 771 yards and eight touchdowns on 97 carries resulting in a crazy 8.0 yards per carry average. Samuel also reeled in 74 passes for 865 yards and seven scores. This guy was Mr. Do Everything for Ohio State. I wish he would have competed in the running back drills too.

The Slot Guys:

The list of slot guys I liked included KD Cannon from Baylor, Stacy Coley from Miami, Isiah Ford from Virginia Tech, Josh Malone of Tennesee, Speedy Noil from Texas A&M, and Ryan Switzer from UNC. I apologize for including so many but there are 58 guys to choose from! The thing you have to do when you have so many guys who are similar is watch the tape 3-4 times to try to pick up small differences in their game. That’s your best bet when choosing the right one. To be as brief as I can, KD Cannon showed elite speed at a 4.41. The one concern with him is he drops way too many balls but he is just as talented as Corey Coleman was a year ago. Coley ran fast as well at 4.45 while both players are more of a one trick pony deep threat type. Speedy Noil was a top performer in the vertical and broad jump posting ridiculous numbers (43.5 inch vert and 133 inch broad). Switzer is really undersized but is quicker than fast and put on a show at the Senior Bowl.

The Big Body Possession Guys:

The list of big body possession guys I liked included Amara Darboh – Jehu Chesson from Michigan, Malachi Dupre – Travin Dural of LSU, Bug Howard from North Carolina, Darreus Rogers – JuJu Smith-Schuster of USC, Josh Reynolds from Texas A&M, Travis Rudolph from Florida State. To wrap this group up, long speed is often times a concern but overall this group ran fairly well. There are no issues in that regard. It’s amazing how there are essentially clones of each other. Chesson and Darboh look like the same guy if you take the numbers off their jersey. Darboh is an inch shorter and ran .02 seconds faster. The same thing can be said of Dupre and Dural who were plagued by horrible quarterback play in college. Remember Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry came from a similar situation. I am a big fan of ACC receivers Rudolph and Howard. Both guys caught the ball really well. I wrote about Rogers and Smith-Schuster prior to the combine. I wrote about Josh Reynolds at the Senior Bowl.

The Projects:

A couple late round fliers to keep an eye on included Gabe Marks from Washington State, Isiah McKenzie from Georgia, Ricky Seals-Jones from Texas A&M, and Greg Ward from Houston. Marks was at the East-West game and reminds you of one of those scrappy Seahawks receivers. Seals-Jones measured in at 6’5″ running a 4.69 but is the furthest thing from a polished route runner. Ward is a former quarterback at Houston and for whatever reason didn’t work out.

Top 5 Wide Receiver Rankings:

  1. Mike Williams (Clemson)
  2. Zay Jones (East Carolina)
  3. Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington)
  4. Chad Hansen (California)
  5. Chris Godwin (Penn State)

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