With the NFL Draft now less than 3 days away, it’s time to look at other areas of need for the Colts. As Part V of our Colts Draft Day Needs series, we will now look at the wide receiver position. While this isn’t as glaring of a need as the safety or center positions, which were previously covered, it’s still a need area that many NFL experts have the Colts targeting. Personally, I do not think that this position is as big of a need as others project. The current receiving group of Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Da’Rick Rogers, LaVon Brazill, and Griff Whalen is more than serviceable pending they can stay healthy. However, this is a very deep draft class of receiving prospects, with NFL circles speculating that it may end up containing more than one hall of fame caliber receiver. If there’s a chance to grab a talented receiver in a mid-round, who would normally be drafted higher in a normal year’s “run-of-the-mill receiver draft”, then I’m all for it.
If anyone knows receivers, it’s Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson too. He was the Philadelphia Eagles Director of College Scouting when they selected WR DeSean Jackson in 2008 (Rd 2) and WR Jeremy Maclin in 2009 (Rd 1), both of whom are highly regarded NFL receivers. He was the Indianapolis Colts GM when we selected Ty Hilton (Rd 3) and LaVon Brazill (Rd 6), with the duo having already outplayed their respective original draft round selection. I might be taking a leap of faith here, but I’m trusting GM Ryan Grigson’s better judgment when it comes to the receiving position, he has left me no reason to question otherwise.
While deep, the Colts current stable of receivers still has a lot of question marks. At age 35, and coming off a major ACL surgery, will we see vintage Reggie Wayne? How many years of football does he realistically have left? Will Hakeem Nicks return to his old form? Is TY Hilton ready to make the jump from just talented third-year receiver to NFL star? Will the gifted tandem of Da’Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill each consistently put it together to become starting caliber receiving options? There’s a lot of uncertainty with this group, but it appears that there is seemingly enough talent on paper already.
Still, it’s hard to blame GM Ryan Grigson if he adds talent to the current receiving group. If a receiver is the best player on the board, then he’s the best player on the board. Reggie Wayne can’t play forever, and while TY Hilton looks like he is destined to help fill Wayne’s shoes (rather, cleats) in the long-term, he’s going to need some help. The Colts do not know with certainty what Hakeem Nicks they will get. They don’t know what they can reasonably expect from their other young receiving guns, Da’Rick Rogers (age 22) and LaVon Brazill (age 25), consistently. If you have a chance to add the best player available on your team, then you add him (except for maybe quarterback when it comes to the Colts). You ask the hard questions later. No one ever complained about having too talented of a roster.
Consequently, we have analyzed a few receiving options for the Colts, who may be available from Round 2-4 of the NFL Draft. While they aren’t some of the big name receivers that are projected to go in Round 1, they are nevertheless talented and could be prospects of interest when they’re on the clock. Please see our analysis of these intriguing prospects below:
Cody Latimer, Indiana University: 6’3″, 215 lbs, 4.44, Jr…”Tough, physical specimen who reflects skills learned in his first love, basketball. He has great hands, a natural ability to get body position on defenders and that 39-inch vertical leap helps him win a lot of jump balls. His stock has soared since he recovered from left foot surgery and ran 40 yards early in April somewhere between 4.38 and 4.44 seconds for scouts who previously considered him little more than a possession receiver.” –Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
“I’ve watched 5 tapes of his games, and he didn’t drop a ball. I was blown away with his skill-set. He’s competitive can run after the catch and has great ball skills.” –Todd McShay, ESPN
“Due to a broken bone in his foot, Latimer was only able to run straight ahead and did not participate in any positional drills. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.44 and 4.45 seconds. He also had a 39-inch vertical jump. Latimer was at the NFL Draft scouting combine, but only competed in the bench press (in which he led his position group with 23 reps of 225 pounds). Latimer does not have a target date for another workout before the 2014 NFL Draft”. –Gil Brandt, NFL.com
“Latimer struggled to separate vs. press coverage. I seem him as a second round pick with a significant amount of upside.” –Mike Mayock, NFL.com
“I’d be shocked if he doesn’t go in the first round.” –Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN
Allen Robinson, Penn State: 6’3″, 220 lbs, 4.57, Jr…”Fluid athlete for his size with room to get stronger. Deceptive acceleration with sharp cuts to be a dangerous catch-and-go pass catcher. Physical ball-carrier with balance and body strength to shake off defenders and pick up chunks of yards after contact. Has shown return ability. Reset his own school mark in 2012 with 97 catches for 1,432 yards. His combined 174 receptions and 2,445 receiving yards the past two years both rank No. 3 in Big Ten history for consecutive seasons.” –Frank Cooney, the Sports Xchange
“After leading the Big Ten in receiving in back-to-back seasons, Robinson has a shot to sneak into Round 1 and should not slip very deep into Round 2. He uses his 6-2, 220-pound frame well, both in nabbing contested passes and in setting up his routes against defenders. Penn State leaned on him heavily to help keep its offense moving. Robinson responded with 97 catches for 1,400-plus yards.” –Chris Burke, SI.com
“He’s a solid second rounder with good strength and size. I want to see more burst and ability to separate.” -Mike Mayock, NFL.com
“Scouts, when they watched the film of Robinson, they loved what they saw. They saw a kid who had natural hands, could win the jump balls, was dynamic in terms of getting up the field after the catch, breaking tackles and making big plays. But they even question, does he have elite speed or is he just an average guy?” –Russ Lande, NFL Scouting Expert
“Robinson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 and 4.50 seconds (improving on the 4.60 40 from the NFL Scouting Combine). He had a 42-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-11 broad jump. He also did the three-cone drill in 6.54 seconds. Robinson had a great pro-day workout. He looked very good running routes. Robinson’s performance really helped his draft stock a lot. It will push him into a crowded group of talented wide receivers in the 2014 NFL Draft class; not the upper echelon of prospects (a group that would include the likes of Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Mike Evans of Texas A&M), but the next tier of talent.” –Gil Brandt, NFL.com
“He’s had some big catches in some critical points in games, but there are a lot of receivers who will be evaluated. And you don’t want to have a (combine) workout that’s less than spectacular, or else you can drop down significantly.” –Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN
Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: 6’3″, 212 lbs, 4.44, Sr…”Cousin of the legendary Jerry Rice, Matthews is a better football player than he is an athlete. He led the SEC with a gaudy 19.0 yards-per-catch average last season with above average speed that is more deceptive than sudden. His size allows offense scheme favorable matchups. Career totals: SEC’s all-time leader with 262 receptions and 3,759 receiving yards.” –Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
“Like Robinson, an ultra-productive college player — Matthews caught 94 passes in 2012 and 112 last season, overcoming average QB play. He, too, has some of that coveted size at a solid 6-3. Vanderbilt put his versatility on display, moving Matthews inside and out in offensive sets; he produced no matter where he was, showing no hesitation to take his routes over the middle. Matthews probably will be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in the pros.” –Chris Burke, SI.com
“At the Senior Bowl, he struggled to separate a little bit. It seemed to me he was a 4.55 guy coming off the Senior Bowl. I liked his tape at Vandy because he’s the most productive receiver in SEC history. And then he comes out today (combine) and runs a 4.44. I always say this is a cross-check. Don’t get too excited about guys running around in shorts. It’s a cross-check, so that tells me I’ve got to check the notes in my bag about the Matthews kid from Vandy because I’m not quite sure what he is yet.” –Mike Mayock, NFL.com
“Matthews (6-3 1/8, 212 pounds) has huge, 10 3/4-inch hands and posted 21 reps in the bench press. I had him timed at 4.45 in the 40 (4.46 officially). Everyone was worried about his speed, and some wonder whether he’s going to be just a possession receiver. What I know about Matthews is that he’s one of the hardest working prospects out there. He’s the guy who, whenever he stops playing football, will be a hugely successful person, whether it’s as a politician or a banker or an entrepreneur. He’s a really special guy.” –Gil Brandt, NFL.com
Jarvis Landry, LSU: “6’0″, 205 lbs, 4.77, Jr…”Landry tweaked a calf at the combine and struggled through his workout as a result. Unfortunately for Landry, he then followed that up with a shaky showing at LSU’s pro day. The end result may be that Landry slides in a very deep receiver class. Even in Round 2, he may prove to be a bargain. As a pick in Round 3 or later, Landry might turn into the steal of the draft. He certainly has the ability to prove people wrong. His talents start with decent size and strong hands, and continue with a knack for working his way open with smart routes. The 1,200 yards Landry put up in 2013 did not happen by accident.” –Chris Burke, SI.com
“Landry to me, with his toughness and ability to play inside or outside reminds me a little bit of Hines Ward. He’s one of the physically toughest players in this draft, for any position. He catches everything, he’s the kind of guy I’d like to have as a teammate, so I really like him.” -Mike Mayock, NFL.com
“Landry is often overshadowed by fellow wide receiver teammate Odell Beckham Jr., who is expected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft. Landry lacks Beckham’s explosiveness, but he posted the best numbers for the Tigers in 2013, catching 77 passes for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns thanks to his large, steady hands. Landry also led the nation in third-down catches for a first down last season.” –Sam Galanis, NESN.com
“Beckham (teammate) more explosive -vert and RAC. Landry better hands (among best in class). Both should go Top 50.” –Todd McShay, ESPN
“What I really like about Landry is that he is a fearless player when it comes to going to get the ball. He will take his route anywhere to grab the ball and is at his best when he can catch the ball in traffic. Time and time again, he has shown he will catch the ball in tight spots no matter if the defender is hanging all over him. He is not allowing the cornerback to knock it away from him. He fights for every ball that is thrown in his direction and will not give up. He also has outstanding field of awareness and knows how to work his feet along the sideline, keeping them in bounds. He can bend his body to put himself in position to catch poorly thrown passes and will run option routes. Another bit of veteran savvy: Landry understands how to get open regardless of man or zone coverage.” –Bryan Broaddus, Former NFL Scout
Jarred Abbrederis, Wisconsin: 6’1″, 195 lbs, 4.50, Sr…”Slick receiver who has a knack for finding even small windows in a zone defense and if the window closes he is shows tenacity to go get the ball. Lacks speed that will invite any sort of special coverage, but will give fits to faster, more athletic defenders tasked with trying to cover him without help. Former high school quarterback who made team as a walk-on and coaches had to find a way to use his athleticism and competitiveness.” –Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
“Put Abbrederis’ tape up against that of Watkins or Beckham and he might not look all that hot. Taken on his own for what he is — likely a second or third receiver at the next level — and NFL teams will be thrilled with what they see. He caught 78 passes for 1,081 yards last season, most of those coming because he worked his way open against a top cornerback. Abbrederis’ torch job against Ohio State draft hopeful Bradley Roby really thrust his status forward, as he made several contested catches plus worked Roby with deep moves. Is he a Pro Bowler? Maybe not. But it is not out of line to expect Abbrederis to go for 60-plus catches as a rookie.” –Chris Burke, SI.com
“Abbrederis measured 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, and has 9 5/8-inch hands, which is a good size for a receiver. He ran an impressive 4.45 40 (4.50 officially). The one thing he didn’t do is impress in the bench press — he threw the bar up only four times. But he showed some great hands by making some really good catches, and I thought he really helped himself a great deal at the combine.” –Gil Brandt, NFL.com
“So what I think I see with Abbrederis is a wide receiver who understands routes more than most wide receivers in college do. He gets in and out of breaks and he’s got good speed. I think he has got to get stronger so he doesn’t get beat up at the line of scrimmage. I think he is probably a third- or fourth-round pick.” –Mike Mayock, NFL.com
“Abbrederis, you saw what he did against Bradley Roby (referring to the Ohio State cornerback). Why? Because he is a great route runner. And a great route runner got the best of Bradley Roby, the great athlete. So I think Abbrederis is a Jordy Nelson type. I think he goes third round, fourth round. I think he will be a nice solid receiver in the NFL with great hands. Tremendous route runner. Probably the best route runner of any receiver in this draft.” –Mel Kiper, ESPN