Greg Cosell broke down the draft’s top wide receivers Friday on Yahoo’s Shutdown Corner Podcast. Here is Cosell’s breakdown.
On Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patteson
COSELL: I think Patterson will be drafted solely because of his size and because of his dynamic movement. I don’t think he’s anywhere close to being a quality receiver in terms of the subtleties of how to run routes. In fact, he’s much quicker and more dynamic with the ball in his hands as opposed to running routes. Running routes he’s not that dynamic because he doesn’t know how to do it yet. He’ll get drafted high because of the potential. He needs to go to a team with a very good wide receivers coach, and he needs to be taught how to become a receiver.
Q: Would a team use him on bubble screens and quick slants to get him YAC until he learns how to run routes better?
COSELL: Yes. If you draft this kid, you understand what he is and what he isn’t. And then you provide opportunities in the context of your offense to maximize his strengths. If you just lined him up at the X or the Z and said, “Go play,” he’d have a really difficult time. It would be a tough transition. But with the expansion of offensive concepts in the NFL, there’s multiple ways now to use his skills while you’re teaching him the other skills.
Q: I think he has the potential to be able to do everything, it’s just not all put together yet.
COSELL: Correct. He has good hands. He has a wide catching radius. He can make tough catches. What he needs to do is use his speed and movement much more effectively as a route runner, not just with the ball in his hands, and that will take time. We saw what happened last year with Justin Blackmon, this sixth pick in the draft. He didn’t really start to play well until late in the season. We had Michael Floyd – he didn’t start to do much until late in the season, either. Sometimes it takes time.
On West Virginia’s Tavon Austin
COSELL: He may be one of my favorite players in this draft. I would draft this kid in the top 10 or 12 of the draft. I think this is where the league is going. It’s now become a passing-space league. The old, conventional concepts of how to use receivers – he’s an X, he’s Z, he’s a slot – I think that’s a little old school. I think Austin fits where this league is going. You don’t just line him up in one place. A lot of people are saying he’s going to have trouble getting off press coverage. Of course he will. He’s small. But that’s not how you use him. There’s no more explosive, dynamic player in this draft than Austin. Look at the Seahawks and Percy Harvin. They wouldn’t have given up what they did just for a receiver. I think they’ve got a plan, and I think that’s the way you’ve got to deal with Austin.
On Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins
COSELL: I thought he had excellent hands. I thought he had great body control. He was a very competitive guy with the ball in the air. He has deceptive speed. I wouldn’t call him a burner. Guys like this, they obviously fit and he’ll play in the league and he might be very good, but he’s not what I call a smooth-fluid guy. He’s a little stiff. I don’t think he’s real smooth changing direction. Even though Hopkins might be a little faster, I think there might be some similarities to Anquan Boldin. Hopkins is probably faster. He’s a competitive, physical guy.
On Cal’s Keenan Allen
COSELL: I think he’s a much smoother accelerator than Hopkins. I think Allen’s got deceptive vertical speed. He’s not a burner, but he’s a smoother athlete and he’s quicker than Hopkins and he’s a big kid too. I think this kid is much smoother laterally. I thought he was very compact in his vertical stem. Every route looked the same. I remember talking to cornerbacks years ago about the old Jaguars’ wide receiver, Jimmy Smith, who was a really good wide out. They said he was so tough to cover because of that. I really like Keenan Allen. I was talking to Bill Polian, and he said Allen reminded him of Reggie Wayne coming out of Miami. I like Allen more than I like Hopkins.
On USC’s Robert Woods
COSELL: I like Woods. I thought he was pretty good with the ball in his hands and that surprised me. Overall, I liked his combination of size – he’s not big but he’s not small – his movement – he’s deceptively quick and very good after the catch. He played the X in their base offense. I think that Woods and Blackmon are not that far off. Blackmon was a little bit bigger and stronger. Woods is a little quicker and more explosive. My guess is someone will say he’s just a slot receiver. I think he’s better than that. He’s more methodical and measured than purely explosive, and that’s why he’s not a top-15 pick, but I think he’s a very good receiver.
On Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton
COSELL: I thought he looked faster on film than his timed 40 speed from the Combine. A lot of people probably see him as a slot guy. I think he can probably play outside. I thought his movement and stride length fit better outside than in the slot. He always lined up on the right for Louisiana Tech’s offense. He never lined up anywhere else. He ran a limited route tree. I wouldn’t call him a top athlete. I think he’s a little bit straight-line. You’re not drafting Patton to be your No.1 receiver, line him up and say, “You go win. You run every route and you blow the top off the coverage.” That’s not what he is, and you’re not drafting him to be that guy.
On Oregon State’s Markus Wheaton
COSELL: He played X at Oregon St. This kid has got that explosive gear. He’s got excellent play speed. He’s got great acceleration. I think he needs to refine his route running so he plays to his natural speed and quickness more consistently. At this point I’d say he’s primarily a vertical route runner, but he can run. In every game I watched, he was the fasted guy on the field. He’s clearly a smooth, fluid athlete. He was very good on reverses. I see some similarities to Mike Wallace when he was coming out of Mississippi. Wallace was a third round pick, and there are many that would argue he’s a one-trick pony to this day, but that trick is pretty good because he can run. He can lift the coverage.
On Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope
COSELL: He played almost exclusively in the slot at A&M, but that’s a spread offense. I don’t look at him solely as a slot receiver. In fact, I think he could play outside, opposite a big-time No.1. I know he ran a 40 at the combine that blew everyone away, but doesn’t play like that. He certainly isn’t slow. Markus Wheaton – he plays like that. Ryan Swope – he doesn’t play like that. He has some deceptive quickness and speed, certainly with the ball in his hands. I think he’s got good lateral quickness. He had great recognition of coverage and leverage to run those option routes from the slot. If he does play in the slot, he’s got excellent size and physical attributes for that, but I think he’s not a receiver who’s limited to that depending on where he goes.
On Texas’ Marquise Goodwin
COSELL: He’s a straight-line speed player. He’s clearly got position versatility in a creative offensive scheme. He’s not a good route runner at this point. He doesn’t really know how to use his vertical stem to break down cushions and set up corners. He’s not lateral at this point. He’s a vertical speed guy, great top-end acceleration, they used him quite a bit on reverses and man, can he run. He’s not Tavon Austin. He’s not even in the same ballpark as Tavon Austin.
On West Virginia’s Stedman Bailey
COSELL: I think he’s a quick kid. There’s a very smooth glide to his movement. Another guy who’s deceptively quick and fast. Not a burner in the strict sense. He has more short area quickness than explosive long speed, but he does have the ability to get over the top on occasion. He’s very quick in and out of breaks. He’s an agile kid. He’s small, so how is he used? Let’s saying you’re lining up with base personnel, just two wide receivers on the field. Is he good enough to be one of them? Can he line up as your X or as your Z? He’d have to be a Z in my opinion – he’s not an X.
On Baylor’s Terrence Williams
COSELL: He’s not a true burner, but I think he’s a pretty smooth top-end accelerator. He’s a big kid. I think he’s got very good play speed. I think he’s a straight-line guy at this point. I think he needs to learn a lot more about the subtleties of running routes. There were a number of throws where I saw him separate with the ball in the air, and if you talk to anybody, that’s a critical attribute. I think he’s a work in progress, but I think he has a chance to be a very good vertical threat.
On Tennessee’s Justin Hunter
COSELL: There’s one guy who fascinates me, and he fascinates me because his ceiling is really high, but he may never get there. And that’s Justin Hunter from Tennessee. I’m not saying he’s this guy, but I think he’s got a very similar body type and a similar athletic skill set to A.J. Green. Now, he’s not A.J. Green as we’re having this conversation. Hunter has major issues with his hands. That’s a huge, huge problem. I’m not saying it’s not. He does not have natural hands. A.J. Green has great hands. So that’s a major. But Hunter’s size, his fluidity, that combination, his movement, there’s not a lot of guys like that. He’s clearly more of a speed-cut guy than a throttle-down-in-and-out of breaks guy because he’s so long. He will never reach any ceiling until he catches the ball better, and he may never catch the ball better, but that size and fluidity of movement is really impressive.