I took a look last week at a couple of defensive line candidates that the Dallas Cowboys might want to use one of their seventh-round picks on. With six picks currently in the last round of the 2014 NFL draft, they will be looking at multiple areas that might be of use to them.
One position group this year that everyone is saying is very deep is wide receiver. Although the Cowboys currently have Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris, they will probably need at least one more receiver for depth, and they almost certainly will also want to find one or two additional wideouts to try and stash on the practice squad. They have followed that plan for the past several years, figuring it was a good idea to have someone who already had some familiarity with the offensive system ready if they need to plug in someone midseason.
Wide receivers are also one of the best resources for special teams. This is where returners and gunners often are drawn from, and the hazardous nature of those assignments is another argument for having ready replacements on hand.
Once again, my digital friend @landonmccool helped out with his video scouting prowess in finding three candidates that are likely to be around in the seventh round, and who also may not be players that many other teams are paying much attention to.
Cody Hoffman, Brigham Young
Hoffman is a player that attended the NFL Combine, but did not impress. He had particularly weak numbers in the broad jump and vertical leap, a couple of figures that are often used to figure out how "tall" a receiver will play. Although he is 6'4", those numbers show he is not that exceptional in this regard.
Despite being among the tallest receivers at the combine, when you combined Hoffman's height of 6-foot-4 with his vertical leap number, his "true height" comes out to 8.6 feet, based on performance. That sandwiched Hoffman between a pair of 5-9 wideouts and made his "true height" more than six inches shorter than 6-5 receiver Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State and nearly a foot less than Texas A&M's Mike Evans, another 6-5 receiver.
This is one area where those measurables can be important. Evans is often cited as a great example of a player who will go up and high-point the football, using his height and leaping ability to come down with catches that many receivers would not make. It is sometimes argued that Evans played a big role in Johnny Manziel's career, turning far more jump balls into receptions than most receivers could.
But most people think that on field performance should always trump the Underwear Olympics. Hoffman was a true star in 2012, but did not do as well in 2013. Still, he caught a pass in 43 consecutive games, and had over 1,200 yards receiving that junior year. He has talent. Is it NFL talent?
The video shows a mixed bag. As so many college receivers do, he tends to catch far too much with his body rather than snatching the ball out of the air. He has consistency issues, but is a bit better route runner than a lot of his peers, and does have some experience coming out of the slot. If he can catch the ball cleanly, he becomes a fairly dangerous runner, showing good moves and elusiveness. Landon's summary:
So many different times, where he is there, but doesn't make the play. But at least he is putting himself in the position VERY often. Consistency is sorely needed with him.
This is guy likely isn't going to be a huge help to a team as rookie. He does certain things very well (Slants especiall), and he could probably do those things for you in his first year, but he needs time to tighten up his game up in order to consistently beat NFL coverage.
This is a kid you draft in the later rounds, let him work, then Training Camp before his 3rd year, you got people asking "Who the hell is THAT guy?!?!"
Don't know that he is an All Pro type. Need to find out what kind of work he's willing to put in. If he's a technician, could be very good 2, and maybe even a #1.
This kid's success is directly tied to how committed he is. Has all the tools, needs to put in the labor to sharpen his craft.
Derel Walker, Texas A&M
Walker is a player who was easy to overlook, since he most often was just keeping a defender busy while Mike Evans was making monster catches.
Even with the two projected first round picks having such a good relationship, Walker still managed to account for over 800 yards receiving. He didn't make it to the combine, so the only real indicator of his potential is the video. That is not easy when so much is focused on the Manziel-Evans connection.
His plusses are that he has good hands, and is more likely to catch the way NFL receivers should. He usually wins at the line, and he is very agile. He knows how to get separation. Plus he gets good marks as a blocker.
Minuses include too many drops, a very limited route tree, and lack of top speed. Another player who could be really good if he is coachable, but who would not make it out of camp if he can't learn some fundamental things quickly.
The most intriguing thing is that he was in that huge shadow at A&M. He might be worth a shot just to see if he was stunted somewhat by the circumstances. Landon's view of him:
- Traits you see that you can work with are his short area agility and explosiveness. He also has decent hand technique already.
- He doesn't have great speed, and he isn't physical enough or big enough to really be a true downfield threat.
- His short area explosion combined with hand usage make great starter kits for a technician type WR. This kid has traits that could help him separate consistently in the NFL if he can learn to run his routes crisper. People will struggle to stop him at the LOS and he will get open off of ankle snapping breaks out of his routes.
- Like all young WRs, he needs to sharpen his routes, and expand his repertoire. He is very raw, and doesn't show a wide variety of routes in the games I watched.
- He also needs to catch the ball more consistently. I don't think it's a physical issue as much as a focus issue.
Having said that, if he is a hard worker, this kid's ceiling is a very useful third or second receiver. His floor is never making a team.
L'Damian Washington, Missouri
Here is an interesting contrast. A player who is looked at as being more of an NFL product than Walker, but who had less than 100 yards more receiving. Just goes to show how big a difference it makes having an offensive dynamo behind the center.
Also, Landon saw something here he has seen with other players: There seems to be some kind of issue with the coaching at Missouri. He said that he keeps seeing players there that just look too raw for the time they have spent in their position. He also has real questions about the motivation of the players, including Washington, which makes him wonder if they are just not really into football and the work involved in being good, or if they just need a little kick in the pants from a good staff.
Washington is another body catcher. He shows some very good work, especially when he is the first option, but he also has a disturbing habit of loafing on the play if he is not expecting the ball to come to him. He uses his physical ability to cover for sloppy technique, which is not encouraging. But he also was a punt gunner for Mizzou, which is a very positive thing, both from the preparation for NFL special teams work, and for his own motivation. All in all, a very contradictory and puzzling player. Landon is not sure just what to make of him.
Ceiling is solid #2, possibly even #1 WR.
Floor is out of the league in two years.
Really love his understanding of how to use his body. I obviously see a lot of TWill in him, mostly b/c of body catching, but longer/taller. TWill was a bit more polished coming out as well.
If he were considered a Day 1 or 2 prospect, this would be the kind of kid who would either make careers, or get scouts fired I imagine. High upside, but the key questions I keep going to: Is there an effort problem, or a coaching problem? Neither/both?
Not players you would want to take high or even in the middle of the draft. But with, say, a compensatory pick at the end of the draft? These might be possibilities. There also is a good chance for finding a UDFA or two if you have higher priorities with other players.
This is where the scouting staff earns its money. Figuring out what players have that ceiling, and which ones are never going to grow, can be the difference between finding key parts of the roster and having to churn through mediocrities all the time. Dallas has shown that it can find some of those hidden gems. They need to come up with some more.