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    Four Wide Receivers Who Might Surprise You and Go Round One

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    The NFL combine in Indianapolis every year is one of the most exciting events of the offseason for fans, scouts, and players. College Football’s best showcase their athletic ability to the world and make their case for why teams should draft them in late April. However, not every player benefits themselves in Indianapolis. Whether it’s underwhelming testing numbers (40-yard dash, Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, 20-yard Shuttle, L drill, Bench Press, and On-Field Workouts), poor interviews, or alarming medicals, players’ draft stock may tumble, regardless of what they show on film. The players that do tend to rise from unknown to “sleepers” in the draft process by media, are players who may not showcase ideal play on film, but their testing numbers and/or measurables (Height, Weight, Arm Length, Wingspan, Hand Size) are at the top of the class: the “Combine Warriors” due to the meteoric climbs in their draft stock. The players I’m going to address are four players who have good film and are considered as a late first/early second round pick; the fans and media might not be high on these players, making it a possible surprise to some if they go in the first round. I expect the four prospects in this article to test very well in a few days, thus elevating their draft profile.

    Alec Pierce:

    College: Cincinnati

    Projected Position: X or Z

    Height: 6’2 6/8”

    Weight: 208

    Arm Length: 32 ⅝”

    His Case for Round One:

    Pierce has ideal size for an outside receiver, standing at nearly 6’3” and 210 and can outmatch most cornerbacks with his size alone. He plays with great speed, most notably his impressive foot speed, making me expect him to test well when he does the forty yard dash. To go along with his size and speed, he has great ball skills: 50/50 balls almost always end up in his favor. He still has room to grow as a receiver, but he has a high floor with great upside to go along with it, drawing comparisons to Jordy Nelson, and reminding me of a young Adam Thielen.

    Projection:

    Pierce is a starting X or Z in a vertical passing offense that’ll utilize him primarily as a deep threat and jump-ball receiver. He wins with his great explosiveness, great acceleration and great play speed to create separation deep, and puts him in a good position to use his great body control and ability to high point the football to make the catch. He has a good release, and a good ability to find seams to help him win in the short-intermediate range. He lacks a consistent ability to separate from defenders at the top of his routes, however, he has the technique and explosiveness to develop that aspect of his game. He’s a great deep threat with a unique ability to high point the football and makes contested catches, with the potential to grow in the short-intermediate game to round out his skillset.

    Christian Watson:

    College: North Dakota State

    Projected Position: X or Z

    Height: 6’4”

    Weight: 211

    Arm Length: 32 6/8”

    His Case for Round One:

    He has ideal size at 6’4” combined with great play speed, possibly clocking in at 4.3 speed at the combine. Nobody in this class puts more effort on the field than Watson. He’s a “raw” talent at WR who needs to refine his skill set as a receiver, but his upside is crazy, and it’s hard to bet against him with the effort and toughness he shows on the field.

    Projection:

    Watson is a rotational X or Z receiver in a vertical passing scheme that’ll use him as a situational deep threat, and run blocker. His impressive ability as a deep threat along with his great effort, toughness, and aggressiveness each and every play, he never takes a play off are the tools of a quality starting reciever. He’s someone I’m confident will work hard on and off the field to keep getting better and better and wouldn’t be surprised to see him selected earlier than expected.

    Calvin Austin:

    College: Memphis

    Projected Position: Z or Slot

    Height: 5’7 ⅜”

    Weight: 173

    Arm Length: 30 ⅝”

    His Case for Round One:

    His size is far from ideal and will scare teams away from him which is justified as it’s rare that players his size develop into star WRs. If someone is going to break that trend, however, it would be Calvin Austin. Despite his size, he wins at the line of scrimmage consistently because of his quickness and ability to attack leverage: if you don’t play him perfectly, you’ll lose the rep. He’ll make an impact immediately as a Punt Returner and on Screens/Gadget plays.

    Projection:

    Austin is a starting Z or slot receiver in a Spread or Vertical offense that uses their receivers on crossing routes, posts, and screens/gadget plays to allow him to win in space and beat his defender with his athleticism. He’s a smart player who knows how to attack leverage and win against players much bigger than him, including off the line against press coverage. He’s explosive out of breaks and shows a rare ability in college to mix up his stems in his routes. He has impressive hands that are strong through contact, as well as the body control and ability to adjust his frame to make a multitude of tough catches. His size and strength could definitely limit him, and he may be refined to the slot despite his impressive ability to play outside. He has all the skills to be a great player in the NFL besides his smaller frame.

    Wan’Dale Robinson:

    College: Kentucky

    Projected Position: Slot

    Height: 5’7 2/8” (not confirmed)

    Weight: 185 (not confirmed)

    Arm Length: Unknown

    His Case for Round One:

    While Robinson has a similar frame as Austin, they differentiate in Robinson’s ability to play running back as well as Slot receiver. I’d expect Robinson to be used a lot in the backfield, especially on third downs as a receiving back. He’s a great athlete with great speed with his best trait being his ability after the catch. He has work to do as a receiver, but he shows good traits such as an ability to separate from defenders at the top of routes, and good aggressiveness over the middle of the field, a crucial trait for slot receivers.

    Projection:

    He has great potential if he develops his game as a receiver, especially vertically, and will thrive if he goes to a team that’ll use his versatility and skillset to its full capabilities. He wins with his athleticism, great acceleration, quickness and agility. He has a good ability to stem, and his great speed and quickness allow him to separate from defenders. His hands are solid, and he can make catches above his frame. He’s best after the catch, gets upfield quickly, is explosive, eludes defenders, breaks tackles, and is always impactful in open space. He has some aspects to clean up, is marginal thru contact off releases, tends to body catch, or catch with his hands the wrong way, had some drops below his frame, and has some issues surviving the ground/contested catches below his frame. He has untapped potential if used correctly, and could take on a “Deebo Samuel” type of hybrid role in the NFL.

    Some of these guys are projected as Day Two/Three picks by members of the media, but I doubt that’ll be the case after the combine. Even if they aren’t going to be Round One guys, I’m expecting their names to be called early Day Two. All four of these guys are talented football players and have arguably the most important trait in football, speed, great speed.

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