Sunday, February 22, 2009
ACC Receivers Help Draft Stock at the Combine
Let me start off by saying that the NFL combine is one of the most overblown events in the NFL scouting process, specifically the 40 yard dash. While I understand it is very important for skill position players to be able to quickly accelerate and have good speed, the 40 does not always measure for these things right out of the gate. For instance in the 2004 draft Larry Fitzgerald ran an unimpressive 4.63 in the 40 while Reggie Willams, who had similar size ran a quicker 4.52. Willams has been a bust and Fitzgerald in now among the best 3 receivers in the league (and didn't look too slow on that 60 yard TD in the Super Bowl).
Nevertheless team scouts and draft evaluators put a large emphasis on the 40, so doing well can improve a skill position player's stock (as happened to Chris Johnson after his blazing 4.24) or really drop a player's stock (as happened to Chad Johnson after running a pedestrian 40, causing him to slip into the second round).
The wideouts are working out today in Indianapolis and Darius Heyward-Bey of Maryland along with Hakeem Nicks of Carolina may have both improved their draft stock with impressive 40 times. Heyward-Bey, who has a reputation as a burner turned in a 4.30, the quickest of any of the receivers, which should help solidify him as a first round pick. Personally I think he may be a bit of a bust as a first round pick as his porduction was never great in college and he accumulated most of his yards just by being faster than everyone else. It may take him a while to learn to run routes and get seperation from NFL corners.
Nicks ran a 4.49 in the 40, which at first glance seems merely average. However, many were questioning his speed and thinking he may run in the mid 4.5's or 4.6's. He showed he has enough speed to be in the NFL and also may have solidified first round status. Unlike Heyward-Bey, Nicks is a polished route runner with an abilitiy to go up and get the ball much like Fitzgerald. While he lacks Fitzgerald's height, the man has some of the most best (and largest) hands in college football (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2ikDsi-DJA&feature=related). He also is very tough for smaller corners to bring down in the open field. Additionally, production wise, he was the best receiver in the ACC this year and the top in UNC history.
One player who hurt himself in the 40 was Jeremy Maclin, who was one of the quickest and most dangerous playmakers with the ball the past couple seasons. Maclin only ran a 4.45, when he was espected by some to break a 4.30. He'll have to try and improve on his pro day but the slower time may cause him to drop out out of the top 20 selections. That said he was more productive in college and a more polished receiver than Heyward-Bey and is still a first round talent in my mind.