Image: Andre Caldwell
This is an interesting year for wideouts with no clear cut first round stars. Last year all the buzz was about Calvin Johnson, who tore it up at the combine and was drafted 2nd overall by the Detroit Lions. Some would argue that by the time the Super Bowl rolled around that New York Giant’s Steve Smith was the best rookie receiver, if you evaluated his playoff and Super Bowl performance it would be hard to argue against that opinion. Smith wasn’t drafted until the second round (51st overall). Well there isn’t a Calvin Johnson in this draft, but there might be plenty of Steve Smith’s. What I mean is that the first round talent is not impressive, but the players that get drafted in the 2nd and 3rd round might end up as the best NFL players, and they certainly hold the best value in this 2008 NFL Draft.
As the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine results come rolling in, one thing is clear, there were some blazing fast receivers running at Indianapolis. Seven receivers ran the 40 yard dash at 4.40 or better. Here are a few receivers that really helped themselves.
When DeSean Jackson (California) weighed in at 5’ 9.5” 168 pounds the red flags came out, most scouts didn’t think he was that tiny. But when he lined up and ran a combine best (for receivers) 4.35 forty, the red flags were put away. If he can’t be caught, who cares how big he is. This multi-dangerous receiver has to be watched at all times, not only a great receiver, but he also returns punts and kicks.
Andre Caldwell(Florida) came in with the second best 40 time of 4.37 seconds. Decent size at 6’ 0” 204 pounds, Caldwell can strike from anywhere on the field. Caldwell is quick as a cat and also scored in the top 5 of the 3 cone drill with a time of 6.75.
Small school standout Dexter Jackson (Appalachian State) was a key player in Appalachian State’s stunning upset of Michigan last year. Now we know why the Wolverine defense couldn’t catch him. His 40 time of 4.37 was the 3rd fastest time among receivers. Some NFL team that does their homework on this receiver could be making the others wish they had done more.
Missouri receiver Will Franklin had a great performance at the combine running a 4.37 forty. His speed is outstanding, but you would like to see better performance on the football field, he only recorded 709 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns in 2007.
Virginia Tech’s Eddie Royal was very impressive at the Combine. I give Kudos to Royal for doing a complete workout; his 40 time of 4.39 was outstanding. Royal has decent size at 5’ 10” 184 pounds and is very strong; he bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times and recorded a 36 inch vertical jump.
Everyone knew Houston’s Donnie Avery was going to be fast, he didn’t run quite as fast as he looks on the field, but his 4.40 forty yard dash is nothing to sneeze at.
Michigan State’s junior Devin Thomas is a prospect that continues to climb up the draft boards. Yes he might be a one year wonder, but that one year was spectacular. He finished 2007 ranked 15th in the nation in receiving yards with 1,260 and an additional 8 touchdowns. He has nice size at 6’ 1” 216 pounds and is blazing fast, running a 4.40 forty at the 2008 NFL Scouting Combine.
Kentucky’s Keenan Burton is a vastly underrated receiver; he will be a steal anywhere after the second round. Tough as nails, good character and decent size (6’ 0” 201 lbs). Burton ran a 4.43 forty and recorded a quick 6.77 second 3-cone time. He also recorded the best vertical Jump at 38.5”. Burton became only the third player in school history to total over 2000 receiving yards in his career. On the down side he was out of the lineup with assorted injuries--- knee, foot and ankle.
You have to like the combine performance of small school (Richmond) standout Arman Shields. He measured in at 6’ 0” 194 pounds and ran a nice 4.43 forty. His 6.67 second time in the 3-cone was among the best and he finished in the top 5 in the Vertical Jump at 37.5”. Shields also recorded the best 60 yard shuttle run at 10.87 seconds. Whether Arman gets drafted could depend on his performance at the combine due to the fact that he missed all of the past season except for the first game due to a knee injury.
Wisconsin receiver Paul Hubbard is a size and speed marvel, measuring in at 6’ 3” 221 pounds and running a 4.46 forty.
Indiana’s jumbo receiver James Hardy (6’ 5” 217 lbs) was extremely productive on the football field in 2007, recording 1,125 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. The scouts were saying he didn’t have break-away speed. Well he proved them all wrong by running an impressive 4.47 forty. That is quite a feat for a man that is almost 6 foot 6 inches tall.
Another small school star that has definitely gotten the attention of the NFL scouts is Coastal Carolina’s Jerome Simpson. He ran an impressive 4.47 forty, which is good for a prospect measuring in at 6’ 2” 190 pounds, but his broad jump was an all-time combine best of 11’ 4” and his vertical jump was 2nd best at 37.5”.
Jordy Nelson is a receiver that continues to climb up the draft boards, after an impressive senior Bowl performance, Nelson came into the combine and ran a 4.49 second forty. This is a big receiver at 6’ 2” 213 pounds and he was a monster on the football field. He finished 2007 ranked #2 in the nation in receiving yards with 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The small school players did very well this year at the combine, a player that is just flying up the draft boards is Pierre Garcon. This WR out of Mount Union (Div. 3 college in Ohio), ran a decent 4.48 forty and finished tied for third in the Bench Press with 20 reps. He also finished 3rd best in the vertical jump at 36.6” and in the top 10 in the Broad Jump with a jump of 10' 5 ". He also did well with a 6th place time of 4.19 in the 20 yard shuttle. Garcon was not even considered draftable a few months ago, but he could now hear his name called in the later rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft.
One of the top ranked receivers for te 2008 NFL Draft and almost sure to be selected in the first round is Texas receiver Limas Sweed. Sweed missed most of the season with a wrist injury, but came to the combine and ran an impressive 4.46 second forty yard dash. Impressive for a big (6' 3" 215 lbs) receiver.
Last but not least is receiver Harry Douglas from Louisville. Douglas had the best 3-cone time of 6.57 and the 3rd best 20 yard shuttle run of 4.12. Douglas is no stranger to success; he finished 2007 ranked 3rd in the nation in receiving yards with 1,159 and an additional 7 TDs. Douglas, even without the normal weight of a receiver makes defenders miss with his blazing speed which includes a second gear that seems to come out of nowhere. Douglas is yet another receiver that could be 3rd-4th round steal.
Special thanks to Clevaland Brown columnsit Paul Sink for assistance on this post.