Welcome to a 3-part series called “The Rookie Report Card.” We are going into week 15 of the regular season and think we have had enough time to look back at our scouting department here at DFW. Admittedly, most of the college scouting was done by yours truly last year, but we may bump into another writer from time to time. The purpose of this series is to see how our original analysis of the player is shaping up. We will give each player a grade. This grade will NOT be based on their performance but rather OURS. We will be going back and pulling bits and pieces from the scouting reports for you to look at. There will also be links provided to the original article for that player if you wish to read the entire report (just click on the player’s name).
Today we will dive into our PRESEASON top 5 ranked wide receivers and will be followed up by QBs in a few weeks. Wide Receivers are a tricky grade, as it is commonly viewed as the most difficult position to segway from the college game to the pros in. Therefore, much of these grades are based on the “flashes” we have seen since all of these guys have had their inconsistencies. After all, they ARE rookies. There may also be an additional player or two depending on whether we had a sleeper this year (see Marvin Jones). Let’s see how we did.
#1. Justin Blackmon B (Original report written on 2-27-12 – pre-combine) – Justin Blackmon was our consensus #1 ranked WR going into the season. This was due to an impressive college resume, his run-after-catch ability, physical strength, and the fact that Jacksonville had no other options heading into the 2012 season. I mean how could this guy not do at least “ok”? Enter Blaine “I throw from the fetal position” Gabbert. I think most of us thought Gabby would improve to some degree, but I doubt anyone saw Chad Henne ultimately being the guy to unlock Blackmon’s potential. If you say you did, you are lying. While most Blackmon owners were disappointed for much of the season, he has shown enough under Henne’s regime to have his value back on the uptick. And even though Blackmon has underperformed much of the year, there is enough there to realize that he can be a legit WR in this league and a potential PPR stud moving forward.
“Back to his physical tools, he is 22 years old, 6’1 weighing in at 215 lbs. Those aren’t the greatest measureables, but not the worst either. I can see a little Anquan Boldin in him and a little Hakeem Nicks as well. Hopefully he will run the 40 at his pro-day, I’m expecting high 4.5′s”
“He isn’t that deep threat kind of guy like AJG last year. He is more of the Possession WR who will get a ton of short to intermediate passes. He can also make the tough catches. Here is a very cool Sport Science video profile for Blackmon link, it highlights his ability to contort his body to make the tough catch.”
#2. Alshon Jeffery B+ (Original report written on 3-17-12) – This is my “pat on the back” grade. Most people had Alshon in their top five along with a handle of “doughnut” jokes referring to Jeffery’s weight issues. I don’t know of anyone who had him #2 besides me. We here at DFW, looked past the weight issues to a guy who dominated the SEC in 2010 and had a down year in 2011 only due to injury. There is little doubt that this guy has the talent to be a legit #1 WR in this league. There’s just one problem… he plays across from a target-monster named Brandon Marshall. Ultimately, this will help him in the long run but may hurt is “high-end” production potential in the here and now (think Mike Williams(TB)-type production). Marshall has also taken a dysfunctional but active role in Jeffery’s development and while I wouldn’t want B-Marsh to mentor MY child, as a WR example there are few better. I truly believe this grade would have been higher had he not missed half the season due to a broken hand.
“Alshon’s potential is in his own “football hogging” hands. The dude CATCHES the ball, if he puts in the work he could be a heck of a player at H-back, slot, and outside receiver, making him a top 5 WR prospect.”
#3. Kendall Wright B- (Original report written on 3-9-12) – We had a lot of mixed opinions on Wright going into last season, most of that steaming from his benefiting from RG3 at Baylor and his weight issues going into the combine. We deserve some credit for having Wright in our top 3 as he certainly deserves to be there at this point, but we lose some points due to our lack of conviction. I am still not convinced that Wright can ever be more than a mid WR2 in this league and could easily see players like Reuben Randle and Michael Floyd flying past him on the WR rankings next year. I know some would disagree.
“He’s a projected 1st round pick for a reason, so I don’t want to seem to hard on Kendall, but I find myself more skeptical than others of this top ranked WR prospect.”
#4. Reuben Randle B (Original report written on 3-19-12) – Randle is a very interesting player right now. He is currently buried on the depth chart behind two elite level wide receivers in Cruz and Nicks. Randle has shown this year that he definitely has the ability to be a big-time wide receiver. The NYGs have a very interesting decision to make as Nicks will be a free agent after next season and it will be tough for the Giants to pony up for both Cruz and Nicks. Look for them to continue to push Randle next year to see if he can step into the “Nicks-role” as the true NFL #1 WR on the team. This would allow them to lock up the explosive, fan-favorite Victor Cruz to a long-term deal. Randle’s production will be in doubt until he can replace one of those two on the depth chart. The good news for Randle owners is that he has the talent to do so.
“I feel like Randle hasn’t yet shown us his full potential and he has a ton of room to grow. As much room as any WR in this class. That’s why I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and rank him as my #4 rookie WR. Pay close attention to where he goes in the draft. If it’s somewhere with a good, accurate QB watch out. This guy will showcase his skills in the NFL.”
#5. Josh Gordon - C (Original report written on 7-11-12) – Our lowest grade in our top 5 is Josh Gordon. We still get a passing grade because we DID keep Gordon in our top 5 suggesting that we felt the guy had the tools to be a potential stud. However, I don’t believe anyone saw Gordon becoming the most effect rookie WR in the draft class going into the season. A late-comer in the supplemental draft, Gordon (along with is “off-field” concerns) provided a much-needed topic of conversation in what normally is considered the “sports-abyss”. Gordon has gotten better and better this year and is already the clear #1 and go-to guy on a surging and up-and-coming Cleveland Browns team. I will be very surprised if Gordon is not the consensus #1 WR from this class going into next year and that is why our grade is only a “C”. I truly believe that possible maturity issues or inconsistent QB play will be the only reasons this guy slows down. I am sold.
“Gordon’s a stud when it comes to physical tools. He’s 6’ 3.5” and 225 lbs. He was projected in the low 4.4s but ended up at a 4.52 all while tweaking his quad.”
Michael Floyd - C- Michael gets a barely passing grade here due to a combination of depth chart and major QB issues. Floyd slid to #6 in our rankings when it was clear that he was going to be a 2-3 year project late in the preseason. Floyd is still clearly the second most talented WR in Arizona (sorry Andre Robert owners) and I believe that we will see Floyd opposite Fitz next year with Roberts possibly in the slot making for a VERY solid corps. BUT… it won’t make a hill-of-beans difference if Arizona can’t find even a semi-competent QB to facilitate the WR talent.
Marvin Jones – C- Finally we get to my man-crush. Mr. Jones and I had a love affair this last off-season as I saw a guy who had nice size, great speed, excellent hands, and ran the most polished routes in the draft class. Along with most, I was a bit baffled at Cincy’s decision to draft both he AND Sanu, but (as we have had a chance to see lately) both seem very capable. I believe it will now come down to health, making the most of the opportunity, and Andy Dalton’s continued development on whether we will ever see Jones or Sanu reach their full potential.
Brian Quick and Chris Givens - B The Rams took the same approach that Cincy did when it drafted Quick and Givens last year. “We need a damn WR bad so we might as well throw a few pieces of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.” I think our scouting reports on these two players speak for themselves. Read up. Here are some highlights for you:
” I would expect Chris Givens to be more of the deep threat in that offense as he possesses more separation speed on deep routes. “
“While Quick was able to gain separation versus inferior talent on deep routes in college, it will be MUCH harder for him at the NFL level.”
“Givens should provide the Rams the opportunity to attack the perimeter and stretch the field… at least that is were Givens’ strengths lie.”
So there you have our full WR report card. I feel we were definitely on our game when it came to this year’s WRs. This is a very talented draft class. Don’t expect every year to play out like this, but I believe in a few years we will be looking back at this class as one of the best WR classes to come along in quite some time.