Connect with us

NFL Draft

NFL Draft: What To Look For In WR Prospects

Brian Martin



Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In WR Prospects

Today I continue the series about what I look for at different positions when scouting potential draft prospects.

I have previously broken down what I look for in the quarterback and running back positions, but now I will share with you what I look for in a wide receiver prospect.

Again, remember there are three things that I like to use in order to make up the final scouting report for a NFL hopeful. I like to study as much game film as possible because I think that is the most important tool at our disposal when studying potential prospects. I also factor in a players background check and their pre-draft workouts.

Keeping all of that in mind, here's what I look for when scouting a WR prospect.


I know what you're probably thinking. Why is blocking on a list about scouting the wide receiver position?

Well, I'll admit that it really has nothing to do with a WRs skill set or draft stock, but it's still a trait that I like to look for when watching film of a particular receiver.

To me, it shows that the player is willing to go above and beyond what is asked of him and it shows me something about the character of that particular player.

It really shows that the WR is willing to give that little extra effort in order to help hss team out and a block from a receiver downfield could be a deciding factor whether a play results in a touchdown or not.

Blocking can be taught at the NFL level so it's really a nonfactor, but something I still like to analyze.

Route Running

To me, route running is an artform and the better that a wide receiver is able to run their routes, the more successful they will likely be.

Gaining separation in the NFL is more difficult than it is at the collegiate level and that's why becoming an effective route runner is so important.

A lot of people believe that a receivers speed is why they get open in the NFL and that's true to a certain extent, but there are those types of receivers that did open on a more consistent basis because of their route running precision.

This trait can be a little difficult to analyze, so I like to keep a visual aid handy that shows the entire route tree that WRs will be asked to run in the NFL. I then like to jot down whether or not the WRs rounding off their routes and whether or not they are able to get in and out of their brakes without losing any speed.

Smaller receivers are usually more precise in their route running because they generally are more agile than the bigger receivers are. Case in point, Cole Beasley of the Dallas Cowboys.


The ability for a receiver to catch the ball cleanly with their hands is the number one trait I look for when analyzing the position.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In WR Prospects 1

Photo by JP Wilson/Icon Sportswire

I can't tell you how frustrating I find it when a receiver tries to continuously body catch a pass when it's unnecessary.

The #1 job of a WR is to catch the ball and our bodies are naturally designed to catch things with our hands, not our bodies.

I like to look to see if a prospect is a natural hands catcher and doesn't fight the ball when it's thrown their way. This is sometimes difficult to analyze because there are a lot of factors that can go into a receiver's production.

Do they have good QB play? What types of routes are they getting thrown the ball most?

This is another area where I like to keep a chart to write down everything that takes place on the given play. From when the ball is snapped until the whistle was blown, all the time focusing on the WR.


When analyzing a WR prospect, the players speed is one of the last things I really care about. In fact, I find it just a little bit more important than the players blocking ability.

I find it laughable that a WR prospects draft stock can rise or fall because of what their 40 yard dash time is. Remember, the tape doesn't lie.

If you look at some of the fastest timed WRs and then look at their production level in the NFL, you will notice that speed doesn't equal success.

Mike Wallace and Darrius Heyward-Bay were two wide receivers that ran a 4.3 40 yard dash, but neither of the players would be considered anywhere near the best players at their position.

A WRs speed is only an asset if they can run all the receiver routes precisely without having to slow down. If they can do that, they will have a successful career in the NFL.


With the exception of a WRs hands, a prospects quickness/agility is the most important trait that I want to look for when analyzing the position.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In WR Prospects 2A players quickness and agility is a big asset when it comes to route running and getting open consistently.

For instance, Cole Beasley of the Dallas Cowboys uses his quickness and agility to consistently win battles against opposing defensive backs and has become a favorite target for Tony Romo when he is looking to convert on third down.

I would much rather have a WR that has really good short area quickness than a receiver that has blazing fast straight-line speed.

A WR that has really good quickness and agility can have a long successful career in the NFL, especially if they can master their route running.


Again, a receiver size isn't all that important to me because in recent years we have seen some of the shorter receivers in the NFL find key roles for themselves on offense.

Players like Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, and Cole Beasley have found success playing out of the slot and winning matches because of their quickness and agility. Of course, you wouldn't look for these players to win many jump balls or become a threat down in the red zone.

NFL teams still like bigger receivers to play on the outside and to be able to use their size to take advantage of smaller defensive backs, but just because they're bigger doesn't mean that they're better.

Bigger receivers tend to struggle little more in creating separation, so when I look at a players size I look to see if it in any way hinders their route running, speed, or quickness.

Calvin Johnson was a big receiver that was able to have a successful career because his size didn't limit his speed or any other area of his game.


When scouting a wide receiver really depends on your own personal preferences to what you're looking for and how they would fit into the offensive scheme that the team uses.

If you're looking for a slot receiver, then you are looking for different traits than you would be if you're looking for an outside receiver, and vice versa.

Focus on the traits you find most important in a WR prospect and try to be meticulous finding out everything you can about that player.

One wide receiver prospect that I think would be a great addition to the Dallas Cowboys is Sterling Shepard, the former Oklahoma Sooner.

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

Click to comment

NFL Draft

Report: Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch Visiting Cowboys

Kevin Brady



2018 NFL Combine: 3 LBs Who Impressed
Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

As the 2018 NFL Draft draws closer, teams are beginning to hold their official visits with prospects of their own choosing. The Cowboys have already met with a few different prospects thus far, and they've reportedly added a linebacker to that list this week.

Multiple reports are saying the Cowboys will meet with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch this week, adding him to the list of 30 potential visits.

Marcus Mosher on Twitter

BoiseState LB Leighton Vander Esch will be a pre-draft visitor for the #Cowboys. Add him to your list of 30, per Tony Pauline.

Vander Esch is a bit of a controversial prospect in the draft world. As I've stated before, he tested like a freak athletically, and his combine profile alone would put him in the discussion on day one. The problems I have with Vander Esch have nothing to do with his athleticism, however, and everything to do with his actual football-playing ability.

On film, I see a player who struggles to get off blocks and will have trouble finding a home with the Cowboys. Still, I wouldn't mind the Cowboys drafting Vander Esch - that pick cannot come in the first round though.

Vander Esch is a long, rangy, and athletic linebacker who is at his best playing laterally and tracking down plays. As a blitzer, Vander Esch has some rather clear issues. He often runs directly into blocks and is unable to shed at the point of attack. I also don't think he is as instinctual a player as some of the other linebackers in this class, such as BYU's Fred Warner or Alabama's Rashaan Evans.

The way things are looking, however, Vander Esch is going to be a first round pick. And if not, he'll almost certainly be a top 50 pick. I wouldn't be very comfortable taking him at 19, and I'd have to think twice before even taking him at 50 for that matter.

Continue Reading

NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott

Sean Martin



2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire)

With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.

Josh Norris on Twitter

It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today

With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.

Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.

If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.

Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.

Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.

Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

Continue Reading

NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”

Kevin Brady



Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.

The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.

That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.

First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.

DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.

An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.

With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.

Continue Reading

Reader Survey

Want to help make Inside The Star better?

We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.

> Take the survey now

Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).

Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here