Wednesday, 04 March 2015 00:00

Mid-Late Round WR's with Ability to Make Fantasy Impact

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Randall Cobb Celebration Randall Cobb Celebration Elvis Kennedy Flickr Page

With the NFL draft, it’s natural to be drawn to the big names. However, premiere NFL teams are successful finding players with potential to contribute despite not being as highly regarded as other prospects.

As an example, let’s review the wide receiver position. With the game of football transitioning to a game predicated on high-flying passing offense, lower-level college programs have been able to develop players with the ability to make an impact at the NFL level.  Players such as Victor Cruz, T.Y. Hilton, Antonio Brown, and Anquan Boldin are examples of mid-late round wide receivers that have been able to achieve successful NFL careers. 

Additionally, there are three players I feel the potential to develop as starting caliber NFL wide receivers and consistent fantasy options - William & Mary’s Tre McBride, UNLV’s DeVante Davis, and Eastern Carolina’s Justin Hardy. 

Tre McBride WR/William & Mary

Every year there seems to be a player that comes from the Division IAA level or lower who makes a serious impact in the NFL. This year, my number one rated small school prospect is William & Mary wide receiver Tre McBride. The senior receiver finished his career with 196 receptions for over 2,653 receiving yards, and 19 touchdowns.

After establishing himself as one of the premier wide receivers at the FCS level, McBride was able to earn himself an invite to the East/West Shrine Game. McBride showed that he was not a product of playing against sub-par competition. 

SEASON

TEAM

G

RECPT

YDS

TDS

2011-12

William & Mary

11

14

146

0

2012-13

William & Mary

11

55

897

10

2013-14

William & Mary

12

63

801

5

2014-15

William & Mary

11

64

809

4

TOTAL

 

45

196

2653

19

As far as an NFL prospect goes, McBride has everything that you look for in a top-3 wide receiver for an NFL offense. While at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, McBride showed athletic ability on par with players from the division I level.

 

Height

Weight

Arm

Hand

10 yd

40 yd

Vert

Broad

3 cone

20  yd

60 yd

Bench

6’0”

210

32 1/8

9”

1.51

4.41

38”

122”

6.96

4.08

11.7

16

  

When you turn on the tape of McBride the first thing that stands out is how smooth of an athlete he is. It was a little difficult to peg just how fast McBride actually was due to the limited available game tape available, but after posting a 4.41 40 yard dash at the combine those concerns were soon put to rest.  McBride also showed great burst, posting a 10 yard-split of 1.51, the second lowest 10 yard-split behind UAB’s J.J. Nelson.

Having the speed to beat teams vertically is one thing, but McBride has shown to be one of the best route-runners in this years draft class, doing a great job accelerating to the top of his stem, and using limited wasted motion to get out of his break. This is not to say that McBride is a finished product, as he could definitely improve exploding out of his break, as well as working back to the ball better. 

McBride is starting to gain some positive buzz from draftniks after a great showing at the East/West Shrine Game. I currently value McBride as a third-round prospect in the upcoming draft, being a target for teams that emphasize west coast passing principles. 

Teams that fit the description above would be the Chiefs, Browns, Dolphins, and Raiders. All four of these teams are in a position to add a wide receiver this offseason, and could potentially be a great schematic fit for McBride. 

Of the teams listed above, I would like to see McBride land in Kansas City with Andy Reid. Per Pro Football Focus, quarterback Alex Smith only attempted 24 passes that traveled 20+ yards in the air, the second fewest total in the league, only ahead of Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger, a guy who played in limited action. If the Chiefs are going to have any success they're going to need to add receivers who are polished route-runners that have the ability to make plays after the catch.

If the Chiefs land McBride in the middle rounds this season, it would go a long way towards improving what was the worst group of receivers in fantasy football. While McBride may not be able to step in and be the no. 1 option in the passing game, I would not be surprised to see him play the majority of the offensive snaps by the second half of the season.  

DeVante Davis WR/UNLV

Next up on my list of under the radar draft prospects is UNLV's Devante Davis. Davis, a senior receiver, caught my eye since the first tape of his I watched, mostly due to his massive frame and physical playing style. 

Davis quietly became one of the most productive wide receivers in UNLV history, finishing his college career second in school history in receiving yards (2,785), second in 100-yard performances (11), third in touchdown receptions (22), and fourth in total receptions (186). Going into the Senior Bowl, I was really looking forward to see how Davis matched up against the other top senior wide receivers in this draft class, but due to a hamstring injury those hopes were dashed.

This is not the only time that Davis has had issues with injuries. Davis was forced to miss five games during his senior season due to a wrist injury, and when in the lineup Davis struggled to contribute on a consistent basis. In three of the 8 games Davis played this season, Davis was held to two or fewer receptions, a trend that cannot look good in the eyes of professional scouts. 

SEASON

TEAM

G

RECPT

YDS

TDS

2011-12

UNLV

11

4

42

0

2012-13

UNLV

13

61

854

4

2013-14

UNLV

13

87

1290

14

2014-15

UNLV

8

34

599

4

TOTAL

 

45

186

2785

22

Davis is the prototypical possession receiver for an NFL offense. Standing at 6'3 and 220 lbs, Davis possesses the frame and strength to out muscle smaller defensive backs. Davis also does a great job reading the ball in the air and shows the ability to react to a poorly thrown football with ease, resulting in several contested circus catches.   

While Davis possesses the frame you look for in a starting-caliber NFL receiver, there are two areas of his game that raise red flags. The first issue was the lack of top-end speed. Despite getting past defenders vertically, you never saw Davis display the long-distance speed needed to be the "x" receiver in an NFL offense. My concerns about Davis' speed was validated after posting a 4.57 40 yard dash at the NFL's Scouting Combine, a number that is considered average for a player at his size. 

The second issue I noticed while watching Davis' tape was his in ability to get consistent separation from defenders. Too many times Davis was forced to make catches with one or more defensive backs around him, and while he was able to make some of those contested catches, the likelihood of being able to win this way the next level on a consistent basis is not great. Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery has overcome similar issues to become one of the top young wide receivers in the game, so there's hope that Davis can overcome these issues and establish himself as a starter at the wide receiver position.

I value Davis as a Day 3 prospect right now. For best success at the next level, I would like to see Davis go somewhere that emphasizes a vertical passing attack such as the Cardinals, Chargers, or even the Cleveland Browns. Per Pro Football Focus, all three of these teams ranked in the top-10 in attempts 20+ yards down the field. 

Justin Hardy WR/Eastern Carolina

One of my hardest evaluations for this year's draft class comes when I sit down and watch Eastern Carolina senior wide receiver Justin Hardy. Despite not having elite measurables, Hardy was able to establish himself as one of the premier wide receivers at the collegiate level. 

Hardy was hindered by the sub-par quarterback play during his collegiate career, but still produced at an elite level in college football. Hardy capped off his senior season with his second-straight 100-reception campaign and totaled the second most receptions in the country (121), behind only Alabama's Amari Cooper.

SEASON

TEAM

G

RECPT

YDS

TDS

2011-12

East Carolina

10

64

658

6

2012-13

East Carolina

13

88

1105

11

2013-14

East Carolina

13

114

1284

8

2014-15

East Carolina

13

121

1494

10

TOTAL

 

49

387

4541

35

Although Hardy does not possess the measurables of the prototypical number one receiver, I feel he has a skill-set that will make him a valuable asset for an NFL offense. Hardy is going to be a terror for opposing defenses with his crisp routes and elite short area quickness  despite lacking elite speed to beat teams vertically, 

From a fantasy perspective ,I feel Hardy is going to make his greatest impact in PPR formats. Despite tallying 35 receiving touchdowns in his four year career, I don't think he will be able to put up the same kind of scoring production at the next level. Instead of racking up gaudy touchdown numbers I expect Hardy to make his living as a high-volume slot receiver at the next level, with the ability to lineup out wide on occasion. 

During his time at Eastern Carolina, Hardy was forced to run a lot of short routes (crosses, sticks, speed outs) due to the limited skill-set of quarterback Shane Carden. One of the benefits to playing with a below-average quarterback is that Hardy had plenty of opportunities to adjust to poorly thrown passes, showing plus body-control and impressive catch radius. 

For the most success at the next level I would love to see Hardy go to a team that emphasizes the use of multiple wide receiver sets, such as the Colts or the Packers. With the potential departure of wide receiver Randall Cobb the Packers could be in line to draft another wide receiver come draft time, and Hardy has the potential to be a plug-and-play type prospect at the wide receiver position. . 

During his last season with the Packers, Cobb lined up in the slot 87.3% of the time, totaling 106 targets in 501 total routes run (21.2%). Of those 106 targets Cobb hauled in 75 receptions for 1,067 yards, and 12 touchdowns. While it is never easy to replace a 100-catch receiver, the addition of Hardy to the Packers offense could be a step in the right direction. 

In my opinion Hardy possesses the skill-set similar to Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. While Hardy does not have the long-speed Sanders does both players run crisp routes, and are a danger to make plays after the catch. I currently grade Hardy as a late day 2 prospect and while he does not possess the frame of guys like Kevin White or DeVante Parker, Hardy makes up for his deficiencies with a versatile skill-set and elite route-running ability.

Elvis Kennedy Flickr Page  

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 06 March 2015 02:26

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