By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
College production is for obvious reasons a very important factor to consider when looking at NFL Draft prospects. But it matters more for certain positions. It can be argued that wide receiver, due to its inherent reliance on the play of the quarterback and offensive system, is not a position were college production is heavily tied to NFL potential. Kasen Williams and Jarvis Landry are prime examples of immensely talented athletes without top level stats. That doesn’t mean that you should overlook them however.
WR Jarvis Landry, LSU
LSU is not typically thought of as an offense powerhouse and rarely boasts an offensive prospect as good as those on the defensive side of the ball. This year might be different. Jarvis Landry is a stud, and a prospect being very much underrated at this point.
Landry has a check next to all the categories you look at when scouting a receiver, aside from his slender frame. He is a terrific athlete with the quick feet and agility needed to create space from defenders. His ability to cut and break quickly will allow him to potentially master the full route tree. The lack of physicality is concerning as defenses will look to jam him at the line and disrupt his progress down the field. What is encouraging is that he plays with intensity and is not afraid of contact.
Working down field he uses his change of direction skills and tremendous body control to adjust to the ball in the air, extending his frame to haul in some very impressive grabs. His one-hander versus Arkansas was simply insane. Landry also has soft hands as evidenced by those highlight type grabs but doesn’t always catch everything he gets his hands on. On top of that he can be careless with the football and struggles to hang onto the ball traffic.
Part of the reason Landry tends to be considered among the second or third tier of wide receivers eligible for the 2014 draft is likely due to the offense he plays in. By no means is Zach Mettenberger unable to throw the ball, he is a great draft prospect in his own right, but the Tigers attack is a more traditional SEC style offense. This year Cam Cameron has introduced more pro style looks and opened up the playbook, but one would have to imagine that if Landry had the benefit of playing in a spread offense like Baylor, Texas A&M or even Clemson his numbers and likely his reputation would rise considerably.
Jarvis Landry can do everything a receiver can conceivably be asked to do on the field. He has the speed to break free down the field on a fly, the sharp cutting ability to lose a defender on a crisp out route, and the body control to reel in tough grabs on the sideline or in the red zone. It wouldn’t be surprising for him to develop into one of the more complete and dangerous receiver prospects in this class.
WR Kasen Williams, Washington
Washington’s resurgence has been fueled by the return of premier talent to the Pacific Northwest. Most fans would point to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins or quarterback Keith Price but you better not sleep on Kasen Williams. The Parade Magazine’s High School Player of the Year in 2011 was also a state champion at the long, high and triple jump! Is it really necessary to call him an explosive leaper?
On top of the having that lethal red zone trait he adds to it a strong 6’2 216 frame and large hands sure to make him a jump ball and fade monster. Those big mitts are strong and he uses them to pluck the ball away from his body. That being said, he also drops a lot of easy passes.
The question with Kasen Williams is two fold. Can he overcome average speed to get open against elite NFL corners?. Despite his large frame he demonstrates quick feet and burst off the snap. Both are signs that with improved technique and route running he has the necessary skill set to create just enough separation to give the quarterback a target to throw to. A big, athletic target at that. He doesn’t even need as much space as some smaller wide outs in order to be effective.
The second obstacle he’ll have to overcome is questions about his maturity. He was cited for suspicion of driving under the influence as well as speeding. He was tested and registered under the legal limit, but anytime a college athlete makes such a reckless choice its bound to hurt his draft stock. If this misstep proves to be an isolated incident, it would be fair to consider it a minor poor decision.
As a big, strong receiver with a history of being a dominant athlete in multiple sports (he was a high school basketball star as well) his upside is considerably high. Much like Landry he needs to overcome the cardinal sin of receiving, dropping the ball, to actualize that massive potential. Keep an eye on Williams as he will sure to garner a lot of attention after he gets a chance to showcase himself at the combine. He is an ideal candidate to make an explosive “jump” up draft boards. Pun intended.