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