NFL Draft Remix, Part I
By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor
NEW YORK (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) – In the National Football League, the syllogistic nature of the game has never been more pronounced than the pitch-and-catch world at present.
Too often nowadays we recognize the pitch and not the catch; mostly because the League is intent on extolling the virtues of the Wall Street Journal Wheaties Box pretty boy quarterbacks they perceive to be their image compass…
Well, to make it as a receiver in pro football, it is about the catch; but it is also about running the pattern, creating separation, catching in traffic, fighting off jams, blocking downfield, catching with your hands versus the body, scratching your ass with your eyebrows (just threw that in to see if you’re paying attention!) and ignoring stupid ass 40 yard dash times – because stopwatches can’t catch footballs!!!
I feel this class is a deep one, but because of the changes which hamstring the defense, a good receiver in college has a better chance to be a good one in the pro ranks; but a great receiver in college may be only a good one if they do not handle the basics previously described (scratching the ass with one’s eyebrows notwithstanding!)
As with my assessment in 2009, I have a major issue with throwing in players who I know are quarterbacks as wide receivers. I have seen some of our competitors list people like Florida A&M’s Curtis Pulley and Illinois’ Juice Williams as aberrations and will make them a throw-in as a wide receiver or banish them to the Wildcat ghetto at “situation quarterback.”
That said I feel it is a huge crime to waste the talents of a young man who is a natural leader; who inspires his teammates with his work ethic, and is a two-time All-American and two-time national champion likely to hear his name called on Draft Day.
Of course, I’m referring to Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State quarterback, and a two-time NCAA DivisionI-AA champion.
He was drafted as a wideout by the Carolina Panthers in the third round (89th overall).
This is the premise in which we select who we feel is most ready for prime time at the next level. With that said, BASN presents the Class of 2010′s Top 10 (all heights, weights and times approximate)
Overall Grade: B- plus.
1. GOLDEN TATE, Notre Dame, Junior, 5-11, 195, 4.41.
(Drafted in 2nd round by the Seahawks: 60th overall)
As I watch film of Tate, the 2009 Biletnikoff Award winner, I can tell he is not a pure pattern runner; but precision is difficult to strive for when you’re constantly bailing out inferior talent, which Tate did while catching balls and making plays for the Fighting Irish in their pro-style offense.
Where he does show confidence is in running patterns over the middle; he is solid, can take a lick, and has great leaping ability. Tate has sure hands, picks up the deep ball very well, is elusive after the catch and has great concentration; his touchdown snag and momentum-carrying spill into an opposing school’s marching band was a prime example of that.
Tate is more of an immediate offensive weapon because he can also haul ass on returns – 18 total touchdowns coming out of his sophomore year.
For as much as he handled the ball as a receiver, Tate wasn’t a fumbler; and while it may take a season or two before he becomes the second coming of Torry Holt as a route runner, Tate will be an immediate impact player.
I don’t expect him to be the first selected receiver, but I am stating in terms of overall skill sets, he should be. Let’s see which war room makes the successful first strike.
2. DEZ BRYANT, Oklahoma State, Junior; 6-2, 225, 4.54.
(Drafted in the 1st round by the Cowboys: 24th overall)
Screwed by the Dick Dastardly hypocrites that comprise the crime cartel known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Bryant was unfairly suspended for gathering information on his future, courtesy of soon to be Hall of Fame player Deion Sanders.
Bryant is a well-rounded kid highly motivated to succeed. Put up prolific numbers in a major conference, but his greatest asset seems to be his ability to refocus.
For all his numbers, Bryant has dropped a few; but he never has dropped catchable passes twice in a row from the game films I saw; in many ways that’s just as important as it would be for a defender to shake off being beat on a bomb for six.
With good size and a strong desire to not be brought down after the catch, Bryant is great in the open field – also showing some aptitude as a returner, which could be an advantage for someone at the next level because return men aren’t usually that big.
Once Bryant is Hi-Ho Silver into the wild green yonder, he’s gone. Doesn’t look blinding fast because he is a long-strider; give him two strides momentum, and you ain’t catching him.
Bryant is a definite first round pick; and a plug and play starter for nearly any team in the league.
3 .STEPHEN WILLIAMS, Toledo, Senior; 6-5, 200, 4.55.
(Signed as a free agent by the Cardinals)
Frankly, I don’t know what aspect of Williams’ game I like best. He makes every catch I saw with his hands extended, runs fluidly with a long, graceful stride and is a big man who can leap and snag the ball at its highest point a la Larry Fitzgerald.
Williams can run all the patterns by the numbers with precision, quickness, is physical and has great awareness as to where he is on the field; great footwork, good strength, speed to spare and is a willing blocker.
Prolific in his production, secure with the ball, and as a graduating senior has the maturity to match.
Oh, and by the way – he has the best hands in this Draft (in my humble opinion).
4.BRANDON LaFELL, LSU, Senior; 6-3, 211, 4.54.
(Drafted in the 3rd round by the Panthers: 78th overall)
Showing a lot of promise off a great junior season, LaFell went back for his senior year. The former high school quarterback is a tall and rangy kid but has great quickness and sure hands. Cuts well and doesn’t dance around; a guar-an-teed North – South advance the ball pass catcher who has improved greatly in his technical skill.
Runs all the routes by the numbers, and in spite of his long frame, is very adept at getting low and using his hands to cradle the ball. LaFell bailed out all the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks during the season, averaging over 13 yards a catch to go with 11 touchdowns.
A potential ace receiver, LaFell graded out well against the best defenders the Southeastern Conference had to offer over the last two seasons and will be a great addition to any team looking for a third receiver walking in the door.
5. FREDDIE BARNES, Bowling Green, Senior; 6-2, 206, 4.55.
(Signed as a free agent by the Bears)
What is Job One for a receiver? Ask former first round selection Keyshawn Johnson, and he will tell you proper: to catch the damn ball.
Barnes could’ve also told you that, but he was busy – catching a whole buncha balls: 155 of them in one season! Along with over 1700 yards and 19 touchdowns, what amazes me is that a receiver could produce so much yet be regarded so lightly.
A Biletnikoff Award finalist, Barnes is bad news for any defense; he is a true “neighborhood” receiver, awesome hands, smooth in and out of his cuts, great depth perception, secures the ball, tough over the middle, runs well after the catch – hell, what more do you want?
The MAC has been a gold mine for talent, and I ‘m sure many of my peers would be quick to say Barnes is a sleeper.
Well, on our board, he’s not a sleeper – he’s a keeper, and he deserves to go early in the Draft. Day Two as a second round pick would be a fitting reward for a young man whose stock I see rising – because all he does is catch the damn ball.
6. DAMIAN WILLIAMS, USC, Junior; 6-1, 197, 4.53.
(Drafted in the 3rd round by the Titans: 77th overall)
Like Golden Tate, Williams is looking to get while the gittin’s good. When a head coach leaves as opposed to being fired, it’s never a good sign for incumbent players; and like Tate, Williams was a great player that made good ones better by his efforts on the field.
Having good concentration, nice hops, and decent hands, Williams can house you on a return when needed and is probably more polished than most in this Draft as to route-running ability. Doesn’t body-catch from what footage I saw, and uses his blockers well on slip screens.
Like many of his peers coming from successful programs, Williams was in a pro-style offense and should be a quick study at the next level. This young man has a great upside and a team like the Tennessee Titans or Pittsburgh Steelers will make him a welcome addition to their respective locker rooms.
7. DANARIO ALEXANDER, Missouri, Senior; 6-5, 215, 4.59
(Undrafted and unsigned as of press time)
A big target from Texas, Alexander became an inspiration for his team through his toughness in enduring multiple knee injuries. Lining up sometimes as a tight end, Alexander was murder over the middle and a threat in the red zone. Strong hands, freakish hops (one local report recorded Alexander with a 46″ vertical!) Alexander can run away from a defense once he gets his giddyap on…
Unlike another former Texan with similar dimensions and potential (Texas Longhorns’ Lovell Pinckney), Alexander has shown his knee can stand up to the rigors of next level competition, and his resilience is the key ingredient that could have him taking someone’s job in camp.
While he may not be as polished as other pass catchers in this group, Alexander is a bona fide diamond in the rough with his ability to be immediately impactful in red zone situations while honing his craft on the fly.
If the St.Louis Rams are about home cookin’ this kid could be a steal, but teams like the San Diego Chargers love to stack up those big receivers.
Given the right fit, Alexander could become a slot target very much like Marques Colston.
8. ANDRE ROBERTS, The Citadel, Senior; 5-11, 195, 4.46.
(Drafted in the 3rd round by the Cardinals: 88th overall)
One of the most complete receivers in this Draft! Roberts is nifty with his hands and field awareness, shifty in his cuts and thrifty in his route running.
Roberts can make all the catches, is adept in reading defenses and seems to never stop in his attempts to get open, even if the play is away from him.
Disciplined and tough, Roberts can work in traffic or run away with equal aplomb.
Doesn’t have consistent breakaway speed, but he will carve your ass up with a double move.
Roberts is a prolific performer, with over 170 receptions and 2,000 yards in his last two seasons. Add his ability as a sure-handed punt returner, and Roberts is a bargain basement special for any NFL club. The Citadel may not be a traditional hotbed of talent at the next level, but Roberts is one cat with the claws to make it.
9. ARRELIOUS BENN, Illinois; Junior; 6-1, 219, 4.46.
(Drafted in the 2nd round by the Buccaneers: 39th overall)
This young man was another bailout guy for an underperforming quarterback. Benn has great separation speed but is not as steady as he could be in catching the ball.
One bad thing about looking at highlights as opposed to game film is the obvious evaluation of a full 60 minutes; from the two full Illini games I saw, Benn has the tools, but he has to be more intent on catching the ball first instead of looking to turn it up, make the routine catch, and be consistent in blocking downfield.
Part of succeeding in the pros is playing hard under the worst circumstances. For what skills Benn used in helping the Illini win, there were things that were out of his hands which may have hurt his assessment. How a player handles adversity is also something that comes with maturity; overall, Benn’s pluses far outweigh his minuses, and he is a worthwhile investment.
10. MARDY GILYARD, Cincinnati, Senior; 6-0, 187, 4.47.
(Drafted in the 4th round by the Rams: 99th overall)
Like the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin, Gilyard is fast and used to handling the ball often during game time; but he attacks defenses differently.
While Harvin’s touches came from having played tailback and wideout for the Gators, Gilyard reads holes like a running back but operates exclusively as a receiver – which makes him very effective on screens, short slants and reverses. Shows up for the big games for the most part in his collegiate career; plays with attitude and supreme confidence.
Needs the ball to keep his mind on business, but doesn’t drop it when it’s in the neighborhood. Not a pretty pattern guy, but Gilyard knows how to get open, and his leaping ability tacks another 2 to 3 inches to his height when in the air.
Add his 13-yard punt return average and you have an all-purpose weapon waiting to be utilized.