Total Pro Sports – In part one of this series we discussed the attributes that make Michael Crabtree and Hakeem Nicks my top two receivers in the 2009 NFL Draft class. Now, let’s examine the #3 and #4 wide receivers by taking a closer look at the skills and attributes which have them ranked near the top of the class.
(Note: College statistics are misleading, if used as a part of the evaluation process. They are dependent on too many variables that the players in question do not control. Statistics relate to opportunities, supporting cast, and level of competition. For those reasons, we will evaluate the traits that lead to productivity IN THE NFL rather than waste time discussing inflated college statistics caused by athletic mismatches NOT FOUND IN THE NFL.)
3. Jeremy Maclin
Maclin is a big play waiting to happen. He is my third ranked receiver in this draft due to his speed, quickness, punt/kick return ability, hands, and the “x-factor”—open field running ability.
Size: At 6’0”, 200 lbs, Maclin is on the low end of “average” compared to the evolving new breed of top-flight NFL receivers. Of course, when you’ve got the quicks that Maclin has, size doesn’t matter—much. He is not a player that should spend much time going over the middle in the NFL, but has enough size to stay healthy in any other role.
Speed: He ran an “official” 4.46 at the combine but, since we can’t trust the official combine times anymore, I’m going by game film and estimating that he’s between 4.33 and 4.38. Several scouts in attendance at the combine clocked him in that area. In any case, he has PLENTY of speed to get deep on anyone. What’s more important than straight-line speed is his ridiculous quickness. He reminds me somewhat of Devin Hester in the open field, as he is able to change direction on a dime without losing speed. Additionally, he has amazing acceleration and can go from zero to sixty in only a few steps.
Strength: Strength would NOT be considered a strength for Maclin. He has gained about thirty pounds since entering college, demonstrating his work ethic, but may need to gain another five pounds of upper body mass to be able to get off of press coverage consistently. Not a huge concern, as his speed should keep most corners at a distance, but something to note.
Hands: Maclin has pretty consistent hands, and made several circus catches at Missouri. He is a confident and natural pass-catcher who rarely lets the ball hit his body, and demonstrates excellent body control to go up and get it. Occasionally, he has a concentration lapse and seems to “hear footsteps”. Though, at other times, he will make tough catches in traffic and give up his body in the process. There was a marked improvement in his pass catching skills from his freshman to his sophomore campaign which, again, demonstrates his work ethic and commitment. Overall, a B+ in the hands department.
Route Running: Like 99% of college receivers, he will need work on route running. In Maclin’s case, unfortunately, he will need LOTS of work. He’s only slightly better, as a route runner, than Ted Ginn Jr. was coming out of college. That developmental issue could result in a somewhat limited rookie role. In the Missouri spread, he was not asked to run complicated or crisp routes, and was primarily used in crossing patterns, posts, streaks, and WR screens. For that reason, he has developed some bad habits (ie., telegraphing and rounding his breaks) which will take some coaching and effort to fix.
Intangibles: Maclin has that swagger about him that many of the great receivers possess. His supreme confidence in his abilities has made him a poised and patient ball carrier. The game, at the college level, has definitely slowed down for him. As a result he has developed excellent field awareness and vision which has helped him to become a threat to score on any play. He brings a limitless upside to any team that has the patience to develop him as a receiver. While he’s being developed, he will compete for a Pro Bowl spot as a return specialist immediately.
Grade: Top 25 pick. Raw talent with amazing athletic ability and vision. Game-changer potential. If Maclin isn’t chosen by Al Davis, at number seven overall, his slide could be a long one, but he won’t get past Baltimore at 26.
4. Percy Harvin
Harvin is very similar to Maclin in a lot of ways. Also a big play maker, Harvin combines excellent speed, quickness, agility, and surprising power to rank him fourth on my list.
Size: At just over 5’11”, 192 lbs, Harvin is not a physically imposing player or a huge target. He has had a somewhat troubling history of injuries which has some scouts concerned even more about his lack of size. His role at Florida had him in the backfield frequently, taking hits by many D-linemen and linebackers. His NFL role will not be as demanding and, as a result, his ability to stay healthy is likely to improve.
Speed: The obvious strength of Harvin’s game. He ran a 4.41 at the combine, which probably means that he’s actually a low 4.3 guy. He has a very quick first step and will command a cushion most of the time. Like Maclin, he is extremely elusive and will make great tacklers look silly.
Strength: Harvin is not particularly strong, but is notably stronger than Maclin in the lower body. He is not as easily brought down as most receivers his size. He is a fighter that will lower his head to pick up extra yards, keeps his legs churning, and will usually not go down on first contact.
Hands: Has made some tremendous catches in college and rarely drops balls. He doesn’t have the biggest hands in the draft, but has proven himself to be a reliable pass-catcher. In a role as a down field receiver in the NFL, he will catch everything he’s supposed to catch, and bring in more of the tough catches than most.
Route Running: A better route runner than Maclin, but still not great. He can plant and separate with the best of them, but will telegraph his breaks far too often. Again, at Florida his role was not dependent on great route-running. He should be able to remedy those flaws by mid-season of his rookie year.
Intangibles: Harvin has gotten raved reviews from Florida coaches and players. He is a hard worker who takes the responsibility of being the go-to-guy very seriously. He is a very smart kid who will adapt well to any NFL system and shows excellent football instincts, especially as a ball carrier in traffic. He is an unselfish player who could develop into a great locker room leader in a few years. Can his body withstand the NFL? His toughness is the lingering question mark which may cause his stock to slide on draft day.
Grade: First round pick. I see him in the Joey Galloway mold, at WR2, stretching defenses and hitting home runs. He could be an excellent slot option also, in the right scheme. His awesome speed and great upside puts him ahead of some other, more polished, receivers on my board. He, like many talented WR’s in recent drafts, could slide into the second round. At worst, I can’t see him getting past Cleveland at 36 overall.
Check back with TPS for Part III, coming soon. To be continued…