Scouts Inc. on wide receivers

Originally Published: August 5, 2009
Scouts Inc.

Every program would like to have wide receivers with speed and height. Still, plenty of Division I playmakers lacking those traits make up for it in other areas. If a player doesn't have great speed or size, he must have great quickness; the ability to separate from a defender in one-on-one situations also is critical.

There are many wide receivers who have good speed but can't separate. On the flipside, there are a lot of possession guys who lack great speed but have both quickness and the ability to burst out of the cut, allowing them to separate from tight coverage.

For any wideout, getting open is the first part of the equation. Catching the ball, of course, is the most important part. Wide receivers in today's game must be physical enough to get off the jam, be a presence over the middle and be able to catch the ball in traffic. When coaches look at wide receiver measurables, good hands and the ability to extend their arms to snatch the ball away from their body are sometimes just as important as speed. If you can't catch the ball consistently, you can't play.

There's no denying that size can give a receiver a major advantage. Good wide receivers with excellent height cause great matchup problems for cornerbacks, especially in the red zone. The ability to make plays on the jump ball or adjust to poorly thrown balls is a must for wide receivers who possess great size. There is nothing worse than a 6-foot-3 receiver who plays like he is 5-10.

The days of the smaller receivers being in vogue are gone. Now undersized wideouts must be difference-makers in the return game and extremely tough. Most smaller prospects are better suited as slot receivers. If he is to play inside, he must be physically tough and have the ability to separate, get open and make the first down. He must also be smart and savvy and know how to adjust routes and read defenses on the move.

However, until a receiver makes the transition from high school to college, it is hard to project whether he will fit in as an inside slot guy or an outside vertical threat.

Wide Receiver Grading System
Scouts Inc. will evaluate the wide receivers on the following criteria:

1. Hands: How is their overall concentration on easy and tough catches? Do they have soft hands? Do they body catch too often? Can they snatch the ball when thrown outside their frame?

2. Patterns: Are their cuts sharp and crisp? Do they show good body control or do they look awkward?

3. Receive long and short: Do they have the ability to accelerate to the ball in the air? Do they have the ability to find soft spots and use their body to be a possession receiver? Can they stretch the field and go deep?

4. Run after catch: Are they a threat to score every time they touch the ball? Do they make catches in stride? Are they elusive in tight and open space?

5. Blocking: Are they willing to block? Do they finish and get good results? Do they sustain their blocks on the backside? Do they look to block in the open field?

6. Release: Can they avoid the jam at the line of scrimmage? Are they often held up or thrown off their routes? Are they physical?

7. React to ball and crowd: Can they come over the middle and catch the ball in traffic and when defended well? Are they tough enough to hang on to the ball and take a hit? Will they extend to catch the jump ball?

8. Initial quicks: How is their acceleration? Can they get off ball and kick it into an extra gear?