Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Rating the wide receivers
By Len Pasquarelli
Rating the wide receiver prospects for the April 20-21 draft:
Stallworth, Tennessee, 6-0 1/8, 197: Dazzled scouts with sub-4.3
times in 40-yard dash during his campus workout last month. Explosive speed
and can run past double-team coverages. Can turn the game around
at any time with a big play. High school sprinter is still learning nuances
of the position, but runs fairly precise routes and makes the acrobatic catch.
Has had some injuries but played much of the 2001 season with a cast on his
wrist. Very fluid and a great jumper. Needs to work on concentration, and
some feel he chops his steps a little too much.
Ashley Lelie, Hawaii, 6-2 5/8, 197: Has been bothered much of the spring by
a hamstring injury so no team other than Kansas City has seen him run pass routes. Looks skinny on tape but has added about 18 pounds since end
of season. Had 157 catches for more than 2,800 yards in the past two seasons and
possesses true home-run speed. Hard worker who has improved every season and
seems willing to pay the price to succeed at the next level. Added strength
should help him get off the jam, but since he played in run-and-shoot
offense, he needs work on route adjustments.
Gaffney, Florida, 6-1 1/8, 193: Showed grit and determination by
returning to the Gators without a scholarship in 2000 after being booted off
team. Has run decent 40 times but plays a lot faster than his stopwatch
speed anyway. At times it seems he's simply gliding to the ball. He
might be the best receiver in the entire draft in terms of adjusting to the
ball, a function of superb body control and innate balance, and he always
catches the ball at its highest point. Like most Gators receivers, looks
like he has never been near a weight room, so he might need to add bulk.
Josh Reed, LSU, 5-10¼, 210: Former tailback still flashes some skills from
his past position -- will run through tackles; he added nearly 600 yards
after the catch in a brilliant 2001 campaign. Still learning the wideout
position but runs sharp routes and doesn't have to throttle down going into
his cuts. More physical than most of his peers and has inherent sense of how
to use his body to shield off defenders. Has answered some skeptics who
questioned his quickness, but he does lack pure deep speed and he definitely
needs to shed some pounds from his doughboy frame.
Antonio Bryant, Pittsburgh, 6-1¼, 188: Hardly a choir boy off the field
and had a disappointing 2001 season on it, often appearing to be just biding
time until he could declare for the draft as an underclass player. Some
scouts compare his raw ability to that of Randy Moss, and he possesses a
similar frame. Lacks deep speed but is a pure receiver who knows how to get
open, isn't bashful about going into a crowd after the ball and will make
big plays even against double-teams. Some team is going to take him in the
first round, and he'll either break its heart or make it look smart.
Reche Caldwell, Florida, 5-11¾, 194: Won't run very fast on the stopwatch,
but his game isn't straight line anyway. He definitely has enough
competitive speed to succeed in the NFL. He's especially good working
between the seams. Even in tough situations, he won't get flustered. Plays
every down at a nice, controlled speed and has a deceptive burst to the
ball. Not especially explosive coming out of his cuts but is so precise that he tends to get open anyway. Like teammate Jabar Gaffney,
will need a little more muscle to run through NFL secondaries.
Walker, Florida State, 6-2¾, 210: Prototype size and knows how to
use it, will separate from cornerbacks by pushing off and can use his upper
body to muscle defenders off the ball. Suffered through injuries both
seasons at FSU, so still needs some work refining his routes and polishing
his overall game. But it's hard to ignore such a gifted athlete, a guy who
averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. Big hands and can really go up and
snatch the ball at its apex. Clocked a sub-4.4 time at the combine but
doesn't always play as quick as his stopwatch speed indicates.
Andre Davis, Virginia Tech, 6-1½, 194: Everyone knew this track sprint
specialist would run fast at the combine, and he didn't disappoint anyone,
blistering the track with a 4.42 in the 40. Good, live body, rarely goes
down on initial impact and will almost always add yardage after the catch.
Doesn't look like the typical track guy trying to make it as a football
player. Didn't always play his best against the top-flight competition and
was shut out last season by Miami. Not a natural pass-catcher, he has
to work on the small details, such as looking the ball into his hands.
Rising: Former track star Tim Carter of Auburn went from a probable
late-round selection to a likely first-day pick with strong performances at
the Senior Bowl and the combine. Carter is still a tad raw, but he has
improved every season and should be able to contribute as a kickoff return
man while learning the intricacies of playing wide receiver.
Declining: Georgia Tech wide receiver Kelly Campbell nearly declared for
the draft following the 2000 season, stayed in school but didn't work on
the things he needed to improve. He is a frail-looking receiver who is
easily jammed, is surprisingly stiff and doesn't run nearly as fast as most
of the scouts assumed he would.
Intriguing: Some team is going to grab former Indiana quarterback Antwaan
Randle El in about the third round and figure out a zillion ways to
use him. His stopwatch times haven't been as good as scouts wanted, but he
remains more quick than fast and is impressively elusive. He can be a
No. 4 wideout, return punts and work as the emergency quarterback.
Middle-round value: Although he will never develop into a star, Brian
Poli-Dixon of UCLA has the kind of size (6-5, 210 pounds) and overall
athletic ability that could provide some team a solid return on a mid-round
investment. If he ever concentrated and played up to his potential, he could
become an effective slot receiver.
Worth a late-round look: Former walk-on R.J. English of Pitt is the classic
possession-type guy, blessed with good size (6-2 1/8, 211 pounds) but cursed by a lack of quickness (4.63). But he is an excellent complementary
receiver who has good feel for the game and where the holes will be in the
secondary, and deserves a shot. Another player worth a look is
Wisconsin wideout Nick Davis, who returned five kickoffs for touchdowns in
Super sleeper: Not many scouts travel to Sacred Heart (Conn.) University,
but former basketball player DeVeren Johnson is worth a look. The
late-blooming wide receiver is 6-4, 212 and had 92 catches for
1,590 yards and 16 touchdowns the past two years. Johnson runs only in the
4.6s, but he catches everything in sight.
Others: Marquise Walker (Michigan); Deion Branch (Louisville); Cliff
Russell (Utah); Freddie Milons (Alabama); Ron Johnson (Minnesota); Kendall
Newson (Middle Tennessee State); Terry Charles (Portland State); Kahlil Hill
(Iowa); Herb Haygood (Michigan State); Darrell Hill (Northern Illinois);
Javin Hunter (Notre Dame); Emmett Johnson (Virginia Tech).
Notable: You could assemble a pretty good sprint relay team from the
wideouts who ran blazing 40-yard times at the combine. The quartet should
include Aaron Lockett of Kansas State (4.31), Auburn's Tim Carter (4.32),
Utah's Clifford Russell (4.36) and Javon Walker of Florida State (4.38) ...
Carter is related to Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome and baseball
stars Gary Sheffield and Dwight Gooden ... Derrick Gaffney, the father of
Florida wideout Jabar Gaffney, was a receiver with the New York Jets ...
The father of Kahlil Hill of Iowa is former Buffalo Bills standout J.D.
Hill ... Javon Walker of Florida State played two seasons of baseball in
the Florida Marlins organization ... Tiny Widener College actually has
two prospects, Jim Jones and Michael Coleman, in this draft. It's the same
school that produced former Atlanta Falcons star Billy "White Shoes"
Johnson ... Aaron Lockett of Kansas State is the younger brother of
Washington Redskins wide receiver Kevin Lockett.
Len Pasquarelli is an ESPN.com senior writer.