We’ve been doing a lot of Fleener talk around here recently.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say the Niners don’t end up with the Stanford tight end in the upcoming draft because a team in the top-15 drafts him and the Niners don’t get a chance to trade up. What do they do then?
They need a pass catcher who can make the big play to complement Vernon Davis longterm – that’s clear. Michael Crabtree isn’t that guy – he’s a possession receiver.
Who are the big-play receivers in this draft? Let’s take a look at the prospects who averaged more than 16 yards per catch last season.
1. Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech, 6-4, 209 lbs, 4.36 40-yard dash. Averaged 29.3 yards per catch in 2011 on 28 catches with 5 TDs. Caught only 49 catches in his entire collegiate career. Didn’t really run routes in college – ran as fast as he could down the sideline and if the defense bit on the option fake in the backfield, the quarterback chucked it to Hill. He may not have the lateral quickness or suddenness to ever develop into a split end – he may be a Super Marques Colston, a big, fast slot receiver who matches up against linebackers and safeties and nickel cornerbacks and runs the seam route. I’m guessing the Niners would prefer a true split end to a gimmick player, so I don’t think Hill is the guy for them.
2. Rueben Randle, LSU, 6-3, 212 lbs., 4.43 40-yard dash. Averaged 17.3 yards per catch on 53 catches and 8 TDs – outstanding numbers considering he was playing against SEC defenses and his quarterback was no good. He’s tall, he’s strong, he’s very fast and he runs good routes. In the NFL he has the potential to be a split end who averages 15 to 16 yards per catch. He’s a bigger, faster Hakeem Nicks without the big hands or the big vertical leap. He’s the best pass-catching prospect in this draft besides Fleener.
3. Jarius Wright, Arkansas, 5-10, 182 lbs., 4.42 40-yard dash. Averaged 16.9 yards per catch on 66 catches and 12 TDs. Averaged 17.5 yards per catch over his four year career in the SEC – a mindboggling statistic. He’s the same size as Mario Manningham, and he’s got an almost identical vertical jump, broad jump, hand size, arm length and 40-yard dash time as the super-hyped first round prospect from Baylor, Kendall Wright. Jarius Wright is projected to get picked in the fourth round because he’s too light, but he’s heavier, stronger and tougher than Desean Jackson and nearly as fast. Jarius Wright routinely made catches over the middle in traffic. He’s a first-round talent and a better player than the other Wright. Kendall averaged only 13.3 yards per catch in his four-year career in the Big 12 catching passes from the elite Robert Griffin III. The Niners could and should take Jarius, the steal of the draft, in the third round.