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Player: Devin Funchess
School: University of Michigan
Position: Wide Receiver
Weight: 230 lbs
Position Rank: 5
After the first tier of wide receivers off the board there are still a lot of talented pass-catcher in the 2015 NFL draft that have the ability to develop into impact wide receivers at the NFL level. Leading off Tier II of our rankings is University of Michigan wide receiver/tight end Devin Funchess. Funchess is perhaps the most versatile wide receiver in this draft having had experience playing multiple positions, as well as showing the ability to line up at multiple places whether it be out wide, in the slot, or in-line as a tight end.
Funchess is far from a finished prospect but possesses the combination of size, speed, and athletic ability to be lethal down the field in the NFL. I do believe that Funchess could step in and make an impact during his rookie season, but I do feel he has a few holes in his game to fix if he wants to be mentioned in the same conversation as Cooper, White, and DGB.
- Massive Frame
- Ability to line up multiple positions
- Physical in open field
- Able to make plays with contact
- Hindered by terrible QB play
- Massive Catch Radius
- Solid run blocker
- Able to recognize soft spots in zone-coverage
- Impressive burst of LOS
- Immediate Red-Zone Threat
- Does not explode out of breaks
- Needs to refine route-running ability
- Inconsistent hands (fights ball)
- Will need to develop NFL route-tree
- Will struggle getting off press-coverage
- Tight end or wide receiver?
The college career of Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess is an interesting. The former 3-star recruit originally signed with the Wolverines as a tight end, and was able to make some impact during his freshman season, totaling 15 catches for 234 yards and 5 touchdowns, good enough to earn him a spot on the freshman All-America team.
As a sophomore Funchess earned a starting position opposite Jeremy Gallon and showed to be one of the premier pass-catchers in the nation, totaling a 49/748/6 line during his sophomore season proving to be a match-up nightmare for linebackers and safeties.
Despite being labeled on the depth chart as a tight end, Funchess played more of a Jimmy Graham-type role for the Wolverines, lining up in the slot, out wide, and in line as a blocker. This versatility allowed the Wolverines coordinator to scheme up ways to get Funchess matched up against slower linebackers, and smaller defensive backs.
Going into his junior season Funchess made a couple of changes to his game. The first is that he was changing positions from tight end, to now a full-time wide receiver. The second move was changing his jersey number from 87, which he had worn for his first two season, to 1, a number that is synonymous for being worn by great Michigan wide receivers (Edwards, Carter).
With these changes there was hope that Funchess would finally put his tools together and become the dominant pass catcher that the program has been looking for since Edwards graduated in 2004. Things did not exactly go to plan as the Michigan football program more closely resembled a dumpster fire than a division I football team.
Funchess finished his junior season with 62 catches for 733 yards, and 4 touchdown receptions. While Funchess did post a career high in receptions during his junior season, he was limited to a lot of quick hitting passes such as stick routes, slants, and curl routes because of the inconsistencies of the Michigan quarterbacks.
Player Comparison: Braylon Edwards
When I first turned on the Michigan tape I had to make sure that I was watching the right game, because at the naked eye you would not be able to tell a difference between the former Wolverine wide receivers.
Both players possess a massive frame, strong hands, and the speed to stretch defenses vertically. Although Edwards was the more complete receiver coming out of college, I feel that Funchess could be the better professional player.
Braylon Edwards/Devin Funchess Statistical Comparison
As you can see by the chart above Edwards was a monster during his four seasons in Ann Arbor, totaling over 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in three of his four seasons.
During his four years at Michigan, Edwards definitely had the advantage in terms of quarterback play. Chad Henne was a perfect college quarterback for Edwards, as he possessed the big arm and gun-slinger mentality that could take advantage of his elite athletic ability.
It was a different story for the quarterbacks that Funchess had the misfortune of playing with. The Wolverines offense was held hostage by the the atrocious quarterback play of Devin Gardner far too often. There are plenty of opportunities to make big plays down the field, but instead Gardner panics and tries to make a play with with his legs.
Even though Funchess was not able to develop the way the Michigan coaching staff had hoped during his first season at wide receiver, there was some good that came from playing with the erratic Devin Gardner. Take the video below for instance, Gardner is throwing a corner route against either Cover-3 or man-coverage. It is a little difficult to differentiate because of the slot CB playing man, while the right side of the defense seems to be playing a deep third responsibility.
With the separation that is created by Funchess on this route this should be an easy pitch and catch for a division I quarterback. However, like a lot of Gardner's throws the ball placement, accuracy, and timing on this throw are all way off, causing Funchess to have to bail his quarterback out once again.
Braylon Edwards/Devin Funchess Physical Comparison
Aside from the physical comparison, there is one more comparison to Edwards that stood out when I was doing my evaluations. Both Edwards and Funchess possess the prototypical size of a vertical receiver at the next level, but have issues catching the ball on a consistent basis. Too many times their were passes thrown his way that Funchess had to double-catch, and even dropped some relatively routine passes.
The other aspect of Funchess' game that he needs to improve on if he wants to make a major impact at the next level is his route-running ability. While Funchess possesses the athletic ability and lower body flexibility to sink into his breaks rarely does it actually happen. Instead, Funchess relies to heavily on his athletic ability to get away from defenders, or make contested catches.
Going forward there is no denying that Funchess has all the tools in the world to become a dominating receiver at the next level. However, with the issues surrounding his inconsistent hands and raw route-running ability it may take longer than expected for Funchess to make a major impact. If Funchess can develop the weaker parts of his game, he has the size, speed, and athletic ability to develop into a low-end no. 1 wide receiver for a team, and at worst a great complimentary piece.
The first aspect that will determine Funchess’ fantasy value during his rookie season will be which team drafts him, and what position the will ultimately have Funchess play. If a team decides that they would like to develop Funchess as a wide receiver I believe fantasy owners will need to be patient as they wait for consistent fantasy production.
In standard leagues I would not consider Funchess anything more than a late round flier at this point, as he will most likely make his greatest impact towards the red zone his rookie season. Standing at 6'5" and having a vertical around 38", Funchess will be a major asset in jump ball scenarios against slighter-framed defensive backs.
As far as dynasty leagues go, Funchess is currently my number five rated prospect in the upcoming draft. With his size, speed, and ability to make an impact inside the 20's I rank Funchess as a mid-first round pick in dynasty leagues. While Funchess may not step in and make the impact that Cooper, White, or DGB do, there is plenty to like about his fantasy projection in the future.
When projecting where Funchess may land in the draft, the first thing you have to do is look for which teams may have a need at the position. Due to his versatility I am going to leave the possibility that a team could select Funchess as a hybrid tight end, rather than a full-time wide receiver.
Doing a quick overview of the teams that could be targeting a tight end/wide receiver come April:
- Jacksonville - Blake Bortles struggled during his first full season as the Jaguars starting quarterback. If the Jaguars have any hope that Bortles is the future they need to surround him with talented skill-players. Marcedes Lewis has been serviceable at best during his time in Jacksonville, and Funchess could step in and be the safety net for Bortles immediately.
- Oakland - Mychal Rivera was a pleasant surprise last season, but the Raiders offense has limited talented at the wide receiver/tight end position. Funchess could step in and be the primary pass catcher of the Raiders offense, and hopefully give Carr the no. 1 wide receiver he needs going forward.
- Atlanta - Tony Gonzalez is not walking through the door anytime soon, and with Roddy White getting another year older, the Falcons could stand to add some youth to the tight end position.
- Cleveland - When I write about a wide receiver/tight end this offseason more times than not I am going to list the Cleveland Browns as a potential target. With Josh Gordon suspended indefinitely the team needs someone for their quarterback, whomever that will be, to throw the ball too other than Andrew Hawkins.
- Miami - Charles Clay could potentially leave this offseason, and with the likely departure of disgruntled wide receiver Mike Wallace, the Dolphins could use some young talent at the wide receiver position.
- Houston - The first order of business in Houston is to figure out who will be under center come week 1. As of now I would expect Ryan Mallett to be given the opportunity to win the job
- Arizona - John Carlson would probably be better off retiring this offseason as he has been unable to carve out consistent production during his career. Even if Carlson is around, the Cardinals need someone who can attack defenses up the middle of the field, an area that Funchess specializes in. Just think of a tight end with the athletic ability of Funchess, and the production that he could put up in a Bruce Arians run offense. Scary thoughts.
- Seattle - I do not get how Russell Wilson can get it done with the options he has at the wide receiver position, but somehow Wilson is able to produce. Paul Richardson is an intriguing young option with big-play potential, but is still raw and will have to get back to full-speed after suffering a torn ACL in the playoffs. Funchess would step in immediately and be the most talented wide receiver/tight end on the Seattle roster
- New England - Remember what the Patriots did when they had Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski on the same offense? Well the addition of Funchess to the Patriots would give Brady yet another weapon at his disposal.
- Minnesota - The Vikings desperately need a no. 1 wide receiver for their offense, and standing at 6'5", Funchess has the frame that Norv looks for in his "x" receiver
As you can see there are multiple teams in this year's draft that could be looking to acquire a tight end with the ability to make an impact as a pass catcher.
Currently I have Funchess as my number four rated wide receiver in the upcoming draft. While he does not have the experience playing the position like the other players in this draft class, Funchess does possess a versatile skill-set that offensive coordinators crave. I currently have Funchess graded as a round 2 talent due to the questions about which position he will play, and the inconsistencies he displayed with his hands.
If Funchess can go to the combine and post a 40 time within the 4.5 range, and show some impressive side-to-side agility in the 3-cone drill, I would not be surprised to see him slide into the bottom half of round 1.
Grade: Round 2
We covered Miami's equally intriguing running back Duke Johnson last week and now want to talk about another Hurricanes fantasy prospects, and that's wide out Philip Dorsett.
Standing at 5'10 and weighing 195 lbs, one word comes to mind when you watch Dorsett play — speed. He may very well be the fastest receiver in this draft. He's undersized and flew largely under the radar during his first three seasons at Miami but unloaded an impressive 10 touchdown season his senior year to go along with 871 yards on 36 receptions.
Strengths: Top end speed, reliable hands.
Weaknesses: Blocking can be suspect at times, wasn't utilized much on short and intermediate routes in college, may struggle with the jam from bigger defenders.
Dorsett makes his money off the big play. He's not the type of receiver who racks up 13-15 catches a game and wears down the defense. He never had more than five catches in one game last season and averaged a crazy 24.2 yards per catch. His best outing came against Arkansas State where he racked up 201 receiving yards on just four catches. That's an average of 50 yards per catch.
When you watch Dorsett on film, he really impresses you with his straight line speed. He just blows by defenders with at times and will no doubt require NFL teams to keep a safety over the top, which could actually translate to better fantasy stats for the running back of whoever team lands Dorsett. We saw the kind of impact DeSean Jackson had on LeSean McCoy's stats in 2013 when McCoy won the rushing title. Having a speedy receiver that can clear out defenders is a great weapon to have, and Dorsett looks somebody who can produce a similar result.
Dorsett looks like a one-trick pony type of receiver as of right now, but that one trick is pretty good. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Wallace, two players who also value the nine route above all other plays, have proven very effective fantasy options despite not being viewed as complete receivers. Both Jackson and Wallace have turned in 1,000-yard seasons multiple times. The one thing you'll probably suffer from if you draft Dorsett is inconsistency, as he'll likely struggle at times especially if he goes to a team without an elite running back and they keep safeties over the top of him throughout the game.
Where he fits best
If Al Davis was still running things in Oakland, you can almost bet the house Dorsett would be getting selected by the Raiders in this year's draft. Oakland actually might not be a bad fit considering quarterback Derek Carr has great deep ball accuracy which would play to Dorsett's strengths. But with Oakland getting such a high pick and the team also in dire need of a true franchise receiver, it's more likely they go with a polished prospect like Devante Parker, Amari Cooper or Kevin White if they do in fact go the wide receiver rout.
With that, it's possible Dorsett slips to the bottom portion of the first round or even later. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as we saw players like Jordan Matthews benefit from getting selected on Day 2 as they ended up on a better team with a good offense already in place. We always stress that quarterback play is one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not a receiver will have success, and since we don't know where Dorsett will end up, we can only predict his likelihood for NFL success based on his own skill set. Dorsett will play his best if he finds a quarterback who can throw the ball down the field consistently well.
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School: University of Miami
Weight: 194 lbs
Position Rank: Top 10
Accolades: 2012 ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, Second-team All-ACC (2012,2013), First-team All-ACC (2014)
Elusive, speedy, and great instincts. These are some of the words thrown around when you mention fantasy dynasty prospect Duke Johnson. Johnson possesses the kind of explosiveness only seen among elite running backs. It was with t
Quick start in college
As a true freshman, Johnson exploded onto the scene in his very first game with the Hurricanes against Boston College, rushing for two long touchdowns. Although he was splitting carries with teammate and future Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Mike James, Johnson finished with 135 yards on just seven carries (19.3 yards per carry) while James tallied 54 yards on 14 carries (3.9 ypc).
But much like catching a fish on your first cast can be a bad omen, Johnson failed to eclipse the 100-yard mark for the next seven games during his 2012 freshman season. He was held in check by defenses such as Notre Dame, a team led by Heisman finalist Manti-Teo, and Florida State's stout defense that would later go on to win the National Championship in 2013.
But Johnson eventually broke out, and turned in his first real big time game against ACC rival Virginia. Johnson finished with 16 carries for 150 yards and while he didn't score a touchdown, he threw for a score off a running back toss-pass play and ended up returning a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. He also finished with 214 net return yards.
In 2012, Johnson led the nation in plays of 50 yards or more from scrimmage with 11.
As you can see in this video, notice how Johnson keeps the play alive by changing his field across the middle. He doesn't run violently or look to initiate a whole lot of contact, rather preferring to make defenders miss with quick lateral shifts. He whips out the stiff arm when he can, but he's not somebody who's going to run defenders over, especially at the NFL level. Overall, Johnson excels with his ability Most running to convert his vertical north/south energy to east/west almost seamlessly. That, combined with his great instincts when it comes to knowing where the defenders are on the field and exactly how his shiftiness will be applied in a way that nets him the most positive yardage is a skill only truly gifted running backs have. You throw in his receiving ability and you've got a potential fantasy juggernaut on your hands.
- Elite speed
- Aggressive in the open field, extends plays
- Natural receiver
- Plays big for his size, can move defenders
- Gets to top speed quickly
- Runs with purpose decisive when hitting the hole
- Pass blocking needs improvement
- Small size may prevent him from being a true workhorse back
- Small size may also prevent him from getting goal line carries
Injury bug bites sophomore year
Johnson was on his way to a breakout season in 2013 after rushing for more than 150 yards in three of his eight starts. But against arguably the Hurricanes biggest game against Florida State, Johnson saw his season come to an end after breaking his ankle. It's worth noting he rushed for 97 yards on 23 carries (4.2 ypc) against the Seminoles, a defense that was arguably one of the best that season.
A crazy good junior season
Some of Johnson's best performances came in 2014. At that time, Miami wasn't as potent of an offensive team due to their lack of consistency at quarterback, which resulted in Johnson carrying the load. It was because of this, combined with Johnson's maturity as a player, that allowed him to compile his most successful season. Johnson totaled 1,652 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns his junior year, scoring a touchdown in 9-of-14 games. His best effort came against Virginia Tech, where he demolished the Hokies for 249 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. It was the most ever rushing yards by an opposing player at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium and had Johnson not left the game after twisting his ankle with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter, he might've eclipsed 300 yards.
We mentioned his receiving ability as well. Here's an example of Johnson's catching ability out of the backfield.
When it comes to current NFL running backs who play like Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy immediately comes to mind. Like McCoy, Johnson is undersized, elusive, speedy and catches ball well out of the backfield. Johnson, like McCoy, might have trouble becoming an insider runner at the NFL level due to his lack of size.
McCoy/Johnson physical comparison:
|208 lbs||Weight||194 lbs|
|65 (two seasons)||No. of receptions (college)||69 (two and a half seasons)|
|4.5||40 yard dash||X|
*Listed height, keep watch for his official height/weight measurement at combine
Dynasty grade: Top 5 pick
Player: Amari Cooper
School: University of Alabama
Weight: 202 lbs.
Position Rank: 3
You will be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded receiver in this year's draft than University of Alabama junior Amari Cooper. The Heisman finalist finished his junior season with over 1,700 receiving yards, establishing himself as one of the elite talents at the wide receiver position for the 2015 NFL Draft.
- Physical receiver, ability to make plays after the catch
- Light feet, quick in and out of breaks
- Polished overall game
- Speed to be able to stretch defenses vertically
- Experience in pro-style system
- Attacks the top of his stem with aggression
- Gets great separation
- Able to produce despite double/triple-coverage
- Well built frame
- Body catches
- Awareness of surroundings? Lack confidence in hands?
- Does not play above the ground
- Case of drops
- Struggles with contested catches
Like I said earlier, you will be hard pressed to find a more “pro-ready” receiver than Alabama’s Amari Cooper. Cooper’s combination of size, speed, and quickness terrorized the SEC’s best on a weekly basis.
Although Cooper does not possess the massive frame that some people look for in a number one receiving option, he makes up for his lack of size with great route-running ability, and the speed hurt defenses vertically.
Cooper finished his junior season leading the FBS-division of college football with 124 receptions, and second in receiving yards (1727) only behind Colorado State’s Rashad Higgins. These numbers were good enough to earn cooper an invite to New York for the Heisman trophy ceremony, finishing third behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.
During Cooper's time at Alabama he totaled 228 catches for 3,468 yards, averaging an impressive 15.2 yards-per-catch over the last three seasons.
I will say that with Cooper’s experience in Alabama’s pro-style offensive system, the transition to the professional game should not be as difficult as it would be for players in a spread/air-raid system. Cooper was able to flourish in offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's up-tempo offenses, utilizing Coopers speed efficiently on screen's and crossing routes.
It may be hard to believe this next statement I am about to make but I believe that quarterback Blake Simms held back Cooper in his development this season. Simms was uh, mediocre to put it nicely when trying to drive the ball, struggling with accuracy and ball placement down the field.
If the rumors that I have been hearing are true, it looks like West Virginia's Kevin White could be moving ahead of Parker on some NFL draft boards. If that is the case it could be a blessing in disguise for Cooper's professional and fantasy outlooks.
If Cooper does start to slide there is the possibility that he reunites with his former high school teammate Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota. Bridgewater has established himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL and is in need of some extra firepower at the WR position. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater posted a 77.3 accuracy percentage (takes in account drops, spikes, and throw aways), ranking third in the NFL only behind the Saints Drew Brees (80.2%), and Chiefs Alex Smith (79.8%). If Cooper were to land in Minnesota it could be the makings of one of the top young QB/WR combo in the NFL.
Right now I have DeVante Parker as the no.1 receiver in this year's draft class due to his ability to make an impact as a possession receiver (PPR) and in the red zone (Standard). I believe that Cooper is going to make his greatest impact in PPR leagues this year due to his ability to run precise routes to get free from man-coverage. Cooper should still have some impact in standard leagues, but I would rank him more of a WR3 in standard formats, and more of a low-WR2 in PPR formats.
Going into next year's fantasy drafts there are three receivers that I feel have the ability to make an immediate impact, Louisville's DeVante Parker, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White. As far as Coopers fantasy projection it is hard to gauge exactly how valuable he will be since he has not been draft yet. Right now I would currently feel comfortable drafting Cooper as a WR3/flex option, with potential to grow if he lands in a positive fantasy situation.
Player Comparison: Reggie Wayne
One of the biggest deficiencies of the NFL draft is that the infatuation with the workout warrior's who may be impressive in non-contact drills, but cannot transfer it to the field on Sunday's. This is not the case for Cooper as he possesses the most pro-ready game in this year's NFL draft class.
Amari Cooper/Reggie Wayne Physical Comparison
|Amari Cooper||Player||Reggie Wayne|
|202 lbs||Weight||200 lbs|
The comparison goes past just a simple height and weight comparison. Both Wayne and Cooper will make their greatest impact between the 20's as a team's possession receiver.
Many college receivers struggle with the transition to the pro game due to the high volume of generated touches they got in college. What I mean by this is that instead of refining a players game to use his physical traits more efficiently, they take the easy way out by throwing a lot of screens, and utilizing jet sweeps to get the player in space. This is concern that Cooper will not have to worry about. During his senior season in Tuscaloosa, Cooper had more than 8 receptions in 12 of 14 games this season, and was able to reach double-digits in five of those games.
I feel like speed is one of the most underrated aspects of Cooper's game. Cooper reportedly ran a sub 4.4-forty last offseason at the Alabama pro day, even reaching times as low as 4.31. When the combine rolls around I would expect Cooper to run in the range of 4.38-45, showing that he has more than enough speed to beat defenses vertically.
There are not many negatives that you find when evaluating Cooper’s game, but there is one that came to my attention. Cooper has a tendency to use his body when catching the ball too often. According to Matt Harmon's Reception Perception he broke down some of the struggles Cooper had as well. One of the most startling stats that Harmon posted was that in the five games that he had charted for Cooper he had a drop rate of 11.4%. For comparison's sake, Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin had the highest drop rate of wide receivers last season.
Like Harmon, I noticed that a lot of Cooper's drop's came on relatively routine plays, i.e. slants, digs, screens, showing that he may have some concentration issues. Cooper also struggled while trying to make contested cathches. In the five games that Harmon charted Cooper only caught 50% of the targets when it was considered "contested".
The final thing that gives me cause for concern about Cooper's transition to the pro game is his lack of playmaking above the ground in college. There were a couple of instances where Cooper as able to show off high-pointing ability, but with the deficiencies Blake Simms had throwing the football, he was unable to show off those skills on a consistent basis.
Above is an example of Cooper doing a great job fighting off a defensive back on a jump ball situation, and going up to get the ball at its highest point. Cooper is never going to make the impact in the red zone like Kelvin Benjamin and Dez Bryant, but does offer some value that area of the field.
Amari Cooper/Reggie Wayne Statistical Comparison
|Amari Cooper||Player||Reggie Wayne|
|15.2||Yards Per Reception||14.5|
As you can see by the table above, the statistical comparison between Wayne and Cooper is very similar. Both players seem to make a living in the intermediate area of the field, evidence by their yards-per-reception number. While Wayne never matched the production that Cooper did in college that could be in large part due to the fact that the game has transitioned to a pass-happy game, where it was more focused around the running game when Wayne was still at Miami.
While I still feel that Wayne is the more complete player at this point in career I feel that Cooper has the potential to be as good, if not better than the Colts receiver. Both players have made their living developing the nuances it takes to be a successful receiver
Going into next season I would bunch Cooper right with Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White together in a category of players that I feel can step in and make an immediate impact. While Cooper does not possess the measurable that White and Parker do, he does come equip with a very refined game, and the ability to hurt you in a variety of ways. Currently I would draft Cooper somewhere in middle-rounds of most fantasy drafts. Obviously his ranking is subject to change if he is able to land in a place with a stable quarterback situation, but it would be hard to depend on any rookie as more than a WR3/flex option at this point in the season.
Cooper is my number three wide receiver prospect, and it seems like NFL teams are already starting to move Cooper down their board. Bleacher Reports Matt Miller recently tweeted:
Looking at the draft board you could make the case for Cooper being the pick as early as the number four overall pick to the Raiders, with his floor being number 11 overall to the Minnesota Vikings.
When the Minnesota Vikings traded up in 2013 to draft Cordarrelle Patterson they hoped their search for a bon-a-fide no. 1 receiver was over. However, Patterson has failed to live up to expectations to this point, failing to pick up the intricacies of what it takes to be an NFL wide receiver.
There is also the possibility that veteran Greg Jennings could be asked to restructure his contract. Jennings signed a 5 year/$47.5 million deal just two years ago and is clearly not worth the cap number he is due next season.
It has been speculated the Vikings will look to improve the wide receiver position this offseason whether it be through free agency or the draft. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks like a franchise quarterback, but needs more weapons at the wide receiver position.
One more interesting fact for you guys and gals, Cooper and Bridgewater played high school football together in Florida, so who knows maybe they will reunite to give the Vikings the true no. 1 wide receiver they have been looking for.
The Raiders have holes all over their football team and need to add premier talent regardless of the position. Quarterback Derek Carr looks like a nice piece, and if the Raiders organization has any hope of Carr being a franchise quarterback they need to add talented playmakers around him. The addition of Cooper to the Raiders offense could be the playmaker that the Raiders have been looking for since the days of Tim Brown.
Regardless of what team or system Cooper goes to I fully expect him to make a major impact during his rookie season. To maximize success it would be beneficial for Cooper to go to an offense that relies on timing, and the ability to make plays after the catch (West Coast Offense).
Grade: Top 15
Player: Kevin White
School: University of West Virginia
Weight: 210 lbs.
Position Rank: 2
Coming into the season West Virginia’s Kevin White was not seen as anything more than a mid-round draft pick. However, after posting a 109/1,447/10 line this season, White not only propelled himself into the conversation as a top-50 talent, but one of the premier talents out of the wide receiver draft class.
- High points the ball as well as anyone in the class
- Quick feet
- Aggressive in the open field
- Strong hands
- Works back to football well
- Gets to top speed quickly
- Ability to get off press-coverage
- Develop an NFL Route Tree
- Height is exaggerated
- Lacks elite speed
- Gives away when run blocking
- Struggles separating in the intermediate area of the field
- Get out of breaks with more aggression
There is still a lot of time from now until the draft in April, with plenty of time for players to move up and down my rankings. As of now in my first set of rankings West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White is currently my number two rated wide receiver in this year’s draft class.
White is late on to the scene for casual college football fans due to spending the first two years of his college career at Lackawanna College before transferring to West Virginia before his junior season. White flashed at times during his junior season totaling 35 catches for 507 yards and 5 touchdowns in a limited role.
White exploded onto the scene in the Mountaineers week one matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide in which he picked apart the Tide secondary for 9/145/1. This performance against one of the premier defenses in college football started a string of 7-straght 100-yard games for White.
White finished his senior season with a line of 103/1,447/10. These totals were good enough for White to be named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Trophy, the award given the top wide receiver in college football.
Despite having the size/ability to play vertically, White's shines in the short/YAC game. Because of this I feel that White could have some major value in PPR leagues this season as a low-end WR3 with the potential to improve depending on his weekly workload.
Now I am not saying that he is going to be useless in standard scoring leagues because White definitely has a nose for pay dirt. In his two seasons in Morgantown, White racked up 15 touchdown catches, showing an ability to beat teams over the top as well as an ability to help out in the red-zone.
When you mention the name Justin Blackmon, the first thing that pops into your mind is most likely his array of off-the-field issues that have kept him from being a viable fantasy option aside from a very small stretch of games. Instead of focusing on that side, I want to look at the playing style and physical attributes that I feel make the two a very comparable pair.
Justin Blackmon/Kevin White physical comparison:
|Justin Blackmon||Player||Kevin White|
|210 lbs||Weight||207 lbs|
|4.46||40 yard dash||4.5**|
*Listed height, keep watch for his official height/weight measurement at combine
**High School Measurement
Aside from the physical measurements being similar, White and Blackmon have a very similar playing style. Both White and Blackmon are extremely physical in the open field and excel on short passes dependent on the receivers' ability to get yards after the catch.
While White is listed at 6’3”, I have serious doubts that he is as tall as he says he is. If White measures closer to 6’1” at the combine like I expect him too, I feel it will be a battle between White and Alabama’s Amari Cooper to be the second wide receiver taken.
Despite the lack of the prototypical frame, White makes up for his lack of height with an elite ability to high point the football. White has good, not great speed, but has still shown the ability to beat defenses vertically due to his quick feet and ability to get free of press-coverage.
Like Louisville’s DeVante Parker I have a top-15 grade for White, and second rated receiver for the upcoming draft class.
Like Parker, I feel that White has the talent to make an immediate impact at the NFL level, and there are a couple of teams in particular that I feel he would be a great fit.
The first team is the Cleveland Browns. It's a sad situation that is developing with Josh Gordon, but it is something that they have to deal with. With Gordon likely suspended for the entire 2015 season, I would expect the Browns front office to address the lack of playmakers that they have at the wide receiver position.
If White were selected by the Browns he would step in and immediately become the focal point of their offensive scheme. While it is difficult to predict how new offensive coordinator John DeFillippo will run the Browns offense, it is encouraging that he had a hand in developing Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
The other team that I feel White could help out from day one is the Miami Dolphins. Now the Dolphins currently hold the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, and could be in prime position to land the former-Mountaineer.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was better this year throwing the ball down the field (Ranked 13th in PFF’s deep accuracy), but still needs a receiver outside of Jarvis Landry that has the ability to be beat defenses vertically. With the uncertainty surrounding receiver Mike Wallace and whether or not he will be a member of the Dolphins next season, I have a feeling the Dolphins will look to address the position earlier rather than later in the draft.
Also, with Michael Crabtree possibly leaving in free agency do not be surprised if the 49ers look too add a receiver, whether it be White or another talented pass catcher in the draft or free agency.
Grade: Top 15
Last year the NFL was blown away by the amount of rookie wide receivers that were able to come in and make an immediate impact for their football team. This year, I expect the 2015 class of running backs to be one of the deepest in recent memory.
Upon early evaluations I have at least 16 guys that I deem "draftable" at this moment. Headlined by Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, this draft has the potential to have several impact players at the position in their rookie season.
While a lot of people are familiar with the top players at this position, it is time to introduce everyone to the rest of the of the talented members of the 2015 running back class. It would take all day to discuss the players that have entered the draft, so what I am going to do is try and give a quick little insight on how I value each player.
What I am going to do is split my top-10 running backs into separate tiers, as well as give a few guys to keep your eye on once the combine, and pre-draft visits roll around.
TIER I: Instant Starter, Impact Players
1. Todd Gurley RB/University of Georgia
Weight: 232 lbs
- Angry Runner
- Accelerates through hole
- Plus pass catcher experienced running singleback and with a lead blocker
- Home run hitter
- Underrated athlete
- Gets great leverage on defenders
- Excellent Vision
- Injury Concerns
- Off-the-field Concerns
- Autographs for Pay Scandal
- Autographs for Pay Scandal
Photo courtesy of Thomson20192's Flickr Page
As I have gotten older the NFL Draft has become a a passion of mine. While some may not see a point in trying to project how these college players will perform at the NFL, I find the entire process fascinating. While it is pretty easy to identify the top players in the draft, finding the hidden gems can jettison any team from a borderline playoff team to a perennial Super Bowl contender.
While I do not have the resources of some draft "experts" I do feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it takes traits it takes to succeed at the NFL level.
Like any draft, the most high-profile players are the quarterbacks, and this year the cream of the crop have plenty of story lines that can be talked about come draft time. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Oregon offense blew away the competition this season on the way to a Pac-12 title, and a matchup on Jan. 12 against Cardale "12 Gague" Jones and the Buckeyes from Ohio State for the National Title.
Mariota was absurd this season from an efficiency stand point, totaling a TD:INT ratio of 38:2 with one game still to be played. Mariota definitely has the size (6'4, 230 lbs) and speed (4.4 forty) that has the potential to drive opposing defensive coordinators crazy as they try to game plan for the athletic specimen.
Mariota is not the only quarterback in this draft that has made a name for himself, although Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston's has started to make more of a name for himself due to his off-the-field antics rather than his play on the field. Winston has battled his immaturity issues with a myriad of off-the-field incidents as well as battled inconsistencies throughout his redshirt sophomore season. Although some people find some of the antics performed by Winston to be major red flags, I think that these issues can be worked through as he gets older.
Going into the 2014 college football season, there was a lot of hype around UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, and his potential to fight to be the first quarterback selected in next years draft. However, Hundley did not have the season that many expected from him.
So now that we have finished the 2014-15 college football season underclassmen will be forced to make a decision in the next two days as to whether or not they are going to declare for the upcoming draft. While it is difficult to predict at the moment who will decide to declare and who will decide to go back to school, I feel like the logical thing for several underclassmen (Jones, Mariota) to make them self eligible due to the lack of depth in this years quarterback class.
So of the quarterbacks that have declared, or that I expect to declare this is how I would rank them at the current time:
1. Jameis Winston QB/Florida State
Year: RS Sophomore
- · Experience in Pro Style Offense
- · Premier Arm Strength
- · Exceptional Accuracy/Ball Placement
- · Stands Tall in the Pocket
- · Athleticism to Make Plays Outside the Pocket
- · Consistent Footwork
- · Still Room to Grow Mentally/Physically
- · Knows Where Check Down is
- · Keeps Eyes Downfield
- Anticipates throws exceptionally well
- · Off-Field Concerns
- · Weight Gain
- · Mechanics worsened as year progresses
- · Elongated throwing Motion
- Increase in Interceptions
- "What the Hell" Throws
Grade: Top 3 Pick
2. Marcus Mariota QB/University of Oregon
Year: RS Junior
- · Prototypical Size
- · Adequate Arm
- · Plus Athleticism
- · Ability to throw on the Run
- · Pocket Movement
- Ability to make plays with his legs
- · Ball Placement could use work
- · Needs to let Routes Progress Longer
- · System QB???
- o Screen Passes
- o Throws too a lot of space
- · Inconsistent Footwork
- · Touch Needs Improvement
- · Learn how to Slide
- Throws with a weak base far too often
Grade: 1st Round
I'm sure that there are a lot of you that will argue that Mariota is the better quarterback prospect than Winston. While Mariota has elite upside, with the ability to make plays with his arm and legs, I give the edge to Winston because of his experience in a pro-style offense. The fact that Winston has the experience in the pro-style system, and has the experience to recognize when to make checks at the line. While Winston does have a couple of moments each game that makes me scratch my head, I still feel like his overall game and ability to anticipate throws and drive the ball downfield makes me give Winston the edge.
3. Brett Hundley QB/UCLA
Weight: 227 lbs
Year: RS Junior
- · Prototypical Size
- When in a rhythm, ball comes out effortlessly
- YAC routes Ball Placement
- · Short/Intermediate Accuracy
- · Short/Compact Delivery
- · Good Touch to Intermediate Areas
- Average Arm Strength
- · Deep Ball Inconsistent
- · Needs to Keep Eyes Downfield w/Pressure
- · Lack of Plays Under Center
- · Average Arm Strength
- Lack of Snaps Under Center
Grade: Late 1st/2nd Round
After Winston and Mariota come off the board I have a feeling it's going to be a little while before we hear another quarterback come off the board. UCLA's Brett Hundley entered the season as a contender for the no. 1 overall pick, but after failing to regress, and battling terrible offensive line play Hundley was unable to take the next step in his development. With Ohio State's Cardale Jones deciding to return to school for his junior season, Hundley is now in prime position to be the third QB off the board.
Hundley has the prototypical frame, but has a tendency to drop his eyes with pressure. Hundley possesses an NFL caliber arm that would be best suited for a west-coast offensive system that relies on timing receivers being able to make plays after the catch. While I would not want to start Hundley from day 1, I could definitely see Hundley make his NFL-debut at some point during his rookie season. I would expect a team to trade back into the bottom half of the first round to draft Hundley, and ensure the fifth year option that is in all rookie contracts.
4. Garret Grayson QB/Colorado State
Weight: 220 lbs
Class: RS Senior
- Good size
- Stands Tall in Pocket
- Quick Release
- Ability to Evade Pressure in Pocket
- Good Accuracy in Short/Intermediate Area of Field
- Willing to Throw into Tight Windows
- Needs to Sit an Learn Behind Veteran
- Average Arm Strength
- Level of Competition
- Lack of Experience in Pro-Style Offense
- Stares Down Primary Read
Grade: Round 3
5. Bryce Petty QB/Baylor University
Weight: 230 lbs
Class: RS Senior
- Plus Size
- Gets Rid of Ball Quickly
- Exceptional Accuracy on Short/Intermediate/YAC routes
- Ball Placement Good
- Underrated Arm Strength
- Experienced Starter
- Ability to Prove Self at Senior Bowl
- No Experience Running Pro System
- Footwork is major question mark
- Not Going to Extend Plays Outside the Pocket
- Leaves a lot of Plays on the Field on Deep Routes
Grade: Day 3
- Chris Bonner QB/CSU-Pueblo
Bonner is a massive individual standing at 6'7", weighing in at a stout 235 lbs. With this frame, and rocket arm Bonner has a chance to increase his pre-draft buzz with some strong individual work outs. Bonner has good feet, and stays square to the line of scrimmage in his drop. Bonner possesses plenty of arm strength, and an effortless release. By no means is Bonner ready to step in and run an NFL offense, but I could definitely see him ending up as a day 3 selection if he is able to impress in workouts.
- Sean Mannion QB/Oregon State
Standing at 6'5" the former Beavers quarterback has the look of a typical pro-style quarterback in the NFL, and is going to get a chance to prove himself after accepting an invite to play at the Reese's Senior Bowl. Mansion possesses a strong arm, but his accuracy and touch need a lot of work. Mansion also has an elongated throwing motion, which paired with his tendency to lock on to his primary read could make for a recipe for disaster at the next level. I would say he tops out at a day 3 selection come April.
Photo credit to Kathy Vitulano on Flickr