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Recent posts by Nolan Nawrocki
Third in a nine-part series.
What follows is PFW draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki's exclusive ranking of the top 10 wide receivers in the 2010 NFL draft, with an in-depth scouting report detailing each prospect's positives, negatives, summary and projected draft spot. These reports have been excerpted from PFW's 2010 Draft Preview, scheduled for a March 30 release.
1. WR-PR Dez Bryant
Oklahoma State junior
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 225 | Sp: 4.5e | Arm: 34 | Hand: 9 3/4
Notes: Parade All-American whose tenuous academic standing scared off some schools until late in the process. Committed to Oklahoma State in large part because of its early interest and assistant coach Gunter Brewer's association with Randy Moss (Brewer coached Moss at Marshall). Bryant was born to a teenage mother who had three children by age 18 and sold drugs to get by (she spent 18 months in jail when Dez was 8). Endured an unstable upbringing and was placed in special education classes as a high school freshman because of a learning disability. It was around that time when he left his mother and moved in with his father (who is nearly 30 years older than his mother) and stepmother. In October of 2008, Bryant's high school coach told the New York Times, "I've taken him to probably six or seven different places he called home. It wasn't an ideal family situation. He was from trailer to trailer and house to house." Combative and stubborn during his high school years, Bryant was kicked out of the house and moved in with his girlfriend at the time before qualifying academically. Played in 12 games (three starts) as a true freshman in '07, catching 43 balls for 622 yards (14.5-yard average) and six touchdowns with two punt returns for 15 yards (7.5) and zero TDs. Was suspended for the Florida Atlantic contest for being late to team meetings. Started all 13 games at the flanker spot in '08, racking up 87-1,480-19 (17.0) receiving (113.9 yards per game) and 17-305-2 (17.9) on punt returns. Also returned four kickoffs for 100 yards (25.0). Took a shot under the chin on the first series against Missouri but returned after being checked for concussion symptoms. Piled up 13-167-1 against Oregon in the Holiday Bowl before incurring a small ligament tear in his left knee and having worn a brace to play through it. Had the knee surgically repaired in January '09 and did not participate in spring practice. In the fall, saw action in three games - managed 17-323-4 (19.0) receiving, 3-111-1 (37.0) returning punts and 2-43 (21.5) returning kickoffs before the NCAA imposed a season-long suspension for lying about his relationship with Deion Sanders, who was under suspicion of courting Bryant as a potential client for agent Eugene Parker.
Positives: Exceptionally competitive gamer. Attacks the ball in the air with very strong hands and very long arms to sky over defensive backs, highpoint the ball and pluck it out of the air. Catches in stride and immediately turns into a running back, sifting through traffic and creating after the catch - very good run vision and instincts. Does not go down easily. Can bend and sink into his routes and adjusts well to the low ball. Can make the acrobatic circus catch and one-handed snags and will lay out parallel to the ground and sacrifice his body to haul it in. Tracks the deep ball extremely well. Outstanding hand-eye coordination and body control. Will cross the middle and has shown he can take a hit. Has a feel for coverage and keeps working to uncover.
Negatives: Is not a crafty route runner. Will make some concentration drops. Not overly elusive after the catch. Too naïve and immature. Many big gains came on improvised, broken plays in a simplified offense, and he may require an adjustment period to an NFL offense. Missed most of his last season after making questionable decisions and is too easily influenced and too much of a follower. Needs to learn what it means to be a pro and become more accountable. Too unreliable and does not show enough respect for the game.
Summary: A terrific game-day competitor with immaturity issues that could sidetrack a brilliant career if he does not learn that he will not be able to get by on his natural talent alone at the pro level. Appeared heavier and less agile as a junior than he did early in his career and showed up at the Combine at a bulked-up 225 pounds and did not work out. Proved he could be a difference maker from Day One in college and has the physical traits to become a dominating, No. 1 receiver if he figures out the meaning of hard work.
NFL projection: Top-15 pick.
2. WR Demaryius Thomas
Georgia Tech junior
Ht: 6-3 1/4 | Wt: 224 | Sp: 4.5e | Arm: 33 | Hand: 10 1/2
Notes: Also ran track and played on a state championship basketball team as a prep. Committed to then-head coach Chan Gailey and redshirted in 2006. Played in all 13 games in '07, starting nine, and recorded 35 receptions for 558 yards (15.9-yard average) and four touchdowns. In '08, was the primary receiver in head coach Paul Johnson's triple-option offense, starting all 12 games in which he played. Totaled 39-627-3 (16.1) with two rushes for 29 yards (14.5). Did not play against Virginia Tech (concussion). Started all 14 games in '09, producing 46-1,154-8 (25.1). Broke his left foot in February and required surgery.
Positives: Looks the part - outstanding size with length and well-proportioned muscle. Large, strong hands. Terrific body control. Adjusts very well to the ball in the air. Understands how to use size to his advantage - posts up defenders and wins in the air. Has soft hands to pluck the ball. Catches in stride and shows run strength to bust through arm and ankle tackles. Brandishes a stiff-arm (see Georgia). Can be a physical blocker.
Negatives: Inconsistent hands and concentration - drops too many balls. Played in a run-oriented offense and was not asked to execute a full route tree. Lacks elite top-end speed, acceleration and agility. Takes long strides and runs upright, limiting his transitional quickness. Is not sudden or elusive with the ball in his hands. Not an exceptional leaper. Feasted on single coverage. Should be a better blocker for his size than he shows - inconsistent effort.
Summary: A big, strong, long-armed, outside-the-numbers "X" receiver who emerged from a triple-option offense featuring a limited route tree and has shown a propensity for drops. Was clocking in the high 4.3s prior to breaking his foot but does not separate consistently, and his ceiling could be as a No. 2 in the pros.
NFL projection: Top-40 pick.
3. WR-RS Golden Tate
Notre Dame junior
Ht: 5-10 1/4 | Wt: 199 | Sp: 4.48 | Arm: 30 1/2 | Hand: 9 1/4
Notes: Father, Golden Tate Jr., was a receiver at Tennessee State and a 1984 Colts draft pick; younger brother, Wesley, is a running back at Vanderbilt. Golden III was a running back (also lined up at receiver), kick returner, punter and occasional cornerback. Also excelled in baseball (was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the 2007 MLB draft) and competed in track as a prep. Senior baseball season was cut short by a thumb injury, and he hurt his hamstring at the state track championships. As a true freshman in 2007, played in all 12 games (started against UCLA and USC) and recorded six receptions for 131 yards (21.8-yard average) and one touchdown. Returned 15 kickoffs for 326 yards (21.7). Broke out in '08, playing the "X" receiver opposite Michael Floyd, and led the Irish in all-purpose yards (1,754), receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns (11). Started 8-of-13 games (yielded to Duval Kamara in non-starts) and hauled in 58-1,080-10 (18.6). Also rushed five times for 37 yards (7.4) and one touchdown and returned kickoffs 26-521 (20.0). Posted the most productive postseason performance by a receiver in school history by piling up 6-177-3 (29.5) against Hawaii in the Hawaii bowl. Won the Biletnikoff Award after having the best receiving season in ND history in '09, amassing 93-1,496-15 (16.1) in 12 games (all starts). Racked up 1,915 all-purpose yards, including 25-186-2 (7.4) rushing, 12-171-1 (14.2) in punt returns and 3-62 (20.7) on kickoffs. Doubled as a center fielder for the baseball team - played a half in the '09 Blue-Gold spring football game, then went 4-for-9 in a baseball doubleheader.
Positives: Very competitive and confident - plays with a swagger. Quick-footed. Fights for the ball in the air and has extremely strong hands to highpoint the football. Outstanding concentration. Superb downfield ball skills - tracks and adjusts to the flight of the ball with good body control. Has a knack for uncovering. Good run balance and tackle-breaking ability. Comes from a pro-style offense. Versatile - returned kicks and punts and took snaps out of the "Wildcat" formation (see Purdue). Outstanding production - 15 career 100-yard games.
Negatives: Lacks ideal size with a bad body and tight hips. Short stepper lacks top-end speed (can be tracked down from behind). Needs to improve his functional strength. Inconsistent initial burst and line release - still learning to use his hands to fend off the jam and is too easily hemmed (see USC). Route running is a work in progress - can do a better job getting in and out of breaks. Lets balls into his chest and drops some catchable passes. Average blocker. Talks too much. Long-term durability could be an issue given his playing style - does not shy away from contact.
Summary: A compactly built, superproductive slot receiver trapped in a running back's body, Tate emerged from a pro-style system and could not be stopped even after facing increased attention as a junior. Still raw, Tate must show he can beat press coverage and could struggle to duplicate his perimeter success in the pros. But he does offer strong hands, competitiveness, versatility and playmaking ability to contribute readily.
NFL projection: Top-50 pick.
4. WR-RS Arrelious Benn
Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 219 | Sp: 4.58 | Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 9 3/8
Notes: Nicknamed "Rejus." Parade All-American who also won Washington D.C.'s Gatorade Player of the Year Award. In '07, started 12-of-13 games (gave way to a two-TE set against Western Illinois) in the slot despite battling a right shoulder injury all season. Originally dislocated his right shoulder during fall camp and was knocked out of the Wisconsin contest after aggravating the injury. Sustained a concussion against Ohio State. Posted 54 receptions for 676 yards (12.5-yard average) with two touchdowns in '07. Also rushed 32 times for 158 yards (4.9) with zero TDs and returned 10 kickoffs for 280 yards (28.0), including a 90-yard TD against Penn State. Started all 12 games in '08 and caught 67-1,055-3 (15.7) with 23-101-2 (4.4) rushing, 20-398 (19.9) on kickoff returns and 15 punt returns for 114 yards (7.6). Was cited by university police in September for driving on a suspended license. Led the team in receiving for the third straight year in '09 when he started 11-of-12 games and snagged 38-490-2 (12.9) with 7-23-1 (3.3) rushing and 12-318 (26.5) on kickoff returns. Dealt with a sprained ankle most of the season (originally sustained in the season opener against Missouri). Non-start came against Michigan State after suffering a mild concussion on the opening kickoff. Team captain who does not eat red meat or fried food.
Positives: Has an NFL body and looks the part with very good size and musculature and good play strength. Physical. Deceptive speed and acceleration. Can take a hit and maintain possession. Shows vision and burst after the catch - can power through arm tackles and sidestep tacklers. Strong blocker. Shows some burst as a kick returner and can open up his stride in space and go the distance. Tough, confident and competitive. Has a pro mentality and takes care of his body. Works at his craft. Has a 37-inch vertical jump and tied for a WR-best 20 reps in the 225-pound bench-press test at the Combine.
Negatives: Comes off the ball too upright and is not a vertical threat. Shows some tightness in his hips and ankles. Lets too many balls into his body and does not always appear confident in his hands. Still developing as a route runner and lacks polish to get out of his breaks cleanly without gearing down. Breaks stride to catch. Mistimes jumps and does not attack the ball in the air or win jump balls. Lacks the foot speed and agility to beat NFL defensive backs in man coverage.
Summary: Production dropped off considerably and was underutilized as a junior when Illinois struggled through a coordinator change and poor QB play. Is a body catcher and needs refinement as a route runner, but his combination of size, strength and run-after-catch ability should allow him to make an impact as a "Wildcat" runner, kick returner and complementary receiver, with potential to develop into a solid pro in a West Coast offense.
NFL projection: Top-40 pick.
5. WR-PR Damian Williams
Ht: 6-0 5/8 | Wt: 197 | Sp: 4.54 | Arm: 31 3/4 | Hand: 9 1/4
Notes: Prepped at Springdale (Ark.) High, where he was part of an undefeated state championship team which finished his senior season ranked No. 2 nationally. Racked up 63 receptions for 1,495 yards (23.7-yard average) and 24 touchdowns with 31 carries for 463 yards (14.9) and 12 touchdowns in head coach Gus Malzahn's spread offense. Also returned kicks and played defensive back. Signed - along with three Springdale teammates, including QB Mitch Mustain, a lifelong friend - with Arkansas, where then-head coach Houston Nutt had hired Malzahn as the team's offensive coordinator. As a true freshman in 2006, Williams started 5-of-13 games at flanker and caught 19-235-2 (12.4). In mid-December, Williams' parents were among a group that arranged a meeting with athletic director Frank Broyles in which concerns were expressed regarding the direction of the Razorbacks' offense. Ultimately, Williams transferred to USC and sat out the '07 season per NCAA rules, though he suffered a torn labrum at the beginning of spring practice and had both shoulders operated on. Was the Trojans' leading receiver in '08, starting 9-of-13 games at flanker and hauling in 58-869-9 (15.0) with 4-43-0 (10.8) on the ground. Started 11-of-12 games played at flanker in '09 and hauled in 70-1,010-6 (14.4). Also returned punts 24-340 (14.2), including TDs against California and Oregon State. Did not start against Oregon (strained glute/hamstring), then sustained a high right ankle sprain against Arizona State and sat out the Stanford contest. Team captain.
Positives: Deceptively fast long-strider with smooth, fluid movement skills. Nice hips. Soft, reliable hands to snatch the ball out of the air (see Ohio State). Good agility to shake free off the line of scrimmage. Shows polish as a route runner. Consistently creates after the catch - shows good run instincts (see Arizona State), elusiveness and surprising balance. Nice stop-and-go quickness. Good concentration - tracks the ball well and plays bigger than his size in traffic. Good field awareness. Confident and competitive. Well respected by teammates and coaches. Very solid punt returner.
Negatives: Has a slim, wiry build with thin legs. Needs more time in the weight room and could stand to improve functional strength. Lacks elite top-end speed to separate vertically. Lets balls into his body. Durability could be an issue - body type might make it difficult to stay healthy.
Summary: Thin-framed, leggy long-strider with reliable hands, advanced route running and slick creativity after the catch and as a punt returner. Played at an elite program and consistently made plays and showed up in big games. Would fit best as a flanker in a West Coast system.
NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.
6. WR Eric Decker
Ht: 6-3 1/8 | Wt: 217 | Sp: 4.55e | Arm: 31 | Hand: 9 1/8
Notes: Also played basketball and baseball as a prep. Redshirted in 2005. Played in all 13 games in '06, starting against Temple and Penn State, and recorded 26 receptions for 378 yards (14.5-yard average) with three touchdowns. Also completed a 22-yard pass. In '07, started all 12 games and totaled 67-909-9 (13.6). Added three rushes for 22 yards (7.3) and zero TDs with four punt returns for 28 yards (7.0). Also tossed a 20-yard TD pass. Reportedly punched opposing CB Jack Ikegwuonu in the groin during the Wisconsin contest. In '08, started all 11 games played and hauled in 84-1,074-7 (12.8) with 11-87-1 (7.9) rushing. Sustained a concussion against Indiana, sprained his left shoulder in the first half at Illinois (finished the game) and sustained a left high ankle sprain against Northwestern that hampered him against Michigan and sidelined him for the Wisconsin contest. Had his left knee scoped prior to the Insight Bowl against Kansas. Started all eight games played in '09 - posted 50-758-5 (15.2) before suffering a Lisfranc sprain (torn ligament) in his left foot against Ohio State and undergoing season-ending surgery. A left-handed outfielder on the diamond, Decker played baseball in '07 and '08 - was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 39th round of the '08 MLB draft. Was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round of the '09 draft. Two-time team captain.
Positives: Outstanding size with well-muscled frame. Gets into routes quickly and runs with tempo and balance and knows how to set up defensive backs. Sinks his hips and gets in and out of breaks cleanly. Keeps working to uncover and shows good field awareness. Shows good body control and soft hands - catches naturally and can pluck outside his frame. Great concentration and toughness to catch in traffic and take a hit (see California). Looks athletic and shows run strength after the catch - can shake the first tackler and spin off contact. Confident and competitive - rises to competition. Tough and will play through pain. Competitive downfield stalk blocker - finishes blocks.
Negatives: Has short arms. Is not a blazer and lacks top-end speed to stretch the field or pull away. Short-strider - not explosive. Average hand strength - drops some balls that he should catch. Not a crisp route runner - does not show burst at the top of his routes and can do a better job working back to the ball. Inconsistent blocker. Durability needs to be examined closely with a litany of injuries piling up the past two years and his long-torsoed body showing signs of breaking down.
Summary: Was really emerging as a receiver before a serious foot injury cut short his senior season. Inability to run before the draft could drop his stock, but Decker is a smooth-moving, inside receiver with the size, competitiveness and enough foot quickness to become a dependable No. 3 in a West Coast system.
NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.
7. WR Riley Cooper
Ht: 6-3 3/8 | Wt: 222 | Sp: 4.52 | Arm: 32 5/8 | Hand: 10 3/8
Notes: Father, Larry, played baseball at Oklahoma State. Riley was rated the 11th-best high school baseball prospect (outfielder) in the country by Baseball America. Considered a first-round baseball talent coming out of Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic, Cooper made it known to scouts that his intention was to accept a football scholarship from Florida. The Philadelphia Phillies tabbed him in the 15th round of the 2006 MLB draft, but were unable to dissuade him from attending Florida. Had a decorated prep football career, starring as a receiver, safety and return man. Suffered a separated left shoulder in a playoff loss his junior season and had his senior baseball season cut short by an off-the-field incident. Was charged with criminal mischief in March '06 after punching a car window. According to the report, the car's driver claimed to be leaving a party and attempting a U-turn when a group of people stopped to ask if he knew someone, at which time Cooper's arm went through his passenger window. He drove off, and police found Cooper at the hospital. Cooper's father contended Riley's action was a "defensive move," a reaction to nearly being hit by the driver who failed to see the group in his blind spot. Ultimately charges were dropped, but Cooper came away with a deep cut on his right (throwing) arm that required plastic surgery. As a true freshman in 2006, played in 13 games and tallied four receptions for 92 yards with three touchdowns against Western Carolina. Also made four tackles as a gunner and forced a fumble, despite dealing with sesamoiditis (inflammation of the sesamoid bones) in both feet. In '07, played in 10 games, starting against Tennessee and Auburn, and managed 8-182-3 (22.8-yard average). Sprained his left ankle against the Vols and was limited the next three weeks. Broke his pinky finger early in the Kentucky game, had two screws surgically inserted and missed two contests plus the Capital One Bowl against Michigan. Joined the baseball team in '08. In the fall, started 12-of-14 games, producing 18-261-3 (14.5). Charged with misdemeanor resisting an officer and failure to comply with a police or fire department in February '09 when he was cited by campus police for not getting out of the way of a moving car upon police orders. Case was dismissed. Did not participate in '09 spring practice while with the UF baseball team and played summer ball for the second year in a row. Had fluid drained from his knee in April. Was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 25th round of the '09 MLB draft. In the fall, was the Gators' top receiver, reeling in 51-961-9 (18.8) in 14 games (all starts). Suffered a hip-pointer against Arkansas.
Positives: Outstanding size with a tall, well-proportioned build and among the largest hands of receivers at the Combine. Shows strength at the line to fend off the jam. Naturally athletic with deceptive top-end speed - threatens DBs with long strides. Good hands and body control to adjust to the ball. Tracks the ball very well over his shoulder and can snag it out of the air. Is tough and willing to work the middle of the field. Shows awareness throttling down in throwing windows. Willing, aggressive blocker - latches on and sustains. Intense, tough, competitive tone setter. Has experience as a "gunner." Caught the ball very well at the Combine.
Negatives: Not sudden getting into routes and lacks top-end acceleration. Drifts into his routes. Is a bit straight-linish. Not elusive after the catch or very strong on contact. Could use more time in the weight room. Did not play in a pro-style offense and was not asked to run a full route tree. Just a one-year producer. Only recently committed to football full time and will have to answer some maturity questions.
Summary: A dual-sport standout who waited his turn in a talented offense, Cooper possesses the hands, competitiveness and blocking ability highly valued by coaches. A faster-than-quick, West Coast receiving prospect with an intriguing size-speed ratio. Has upside and special-teams ability.
NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.
8. WR-RS Andre Roberts
The Citadel senior
Ht: 5-10 7/8 | Wt: 195 | Sp: 4.46 | Arm: 31 1/2 | Hand: 9 1/2
Notes: Also excelled in track as a prep. As a true freshman in 2006, played in all 11 games, starting two (Furman, Virginia Military Institute) at the "X" receiver, and recorded 35 receptions for 557 yards (15.9-yard average) with five touchdowns. Also rushed four times for 43 yards (10.8) with zero touchdowns and returned 18 punts for 193 yards (10.7). Started all 11 games at the "X" receiver in '07, hauling in 78-1,060-10 (13.6) and returning punts 26-288 (11.1). Also ran track for the Bulldogs in '07. Started all 12 games in '08 at the "X" receiver and racked up 95-1,334-14 (14.0) receiving, 24-94-1 (3.9) rushing and was Football Championship Series' top punt returner with 24-461 (19.2), including three TDs. Also completed a pass for 15 yards. In '09, started all 11 games at the "X" and totaled 77-792-8 (10.3) receiving and 12-77-0 (6.4) on the ground. Added 14-217 (15.5) on punt returns and 3-66 (22.0) on kickoffs. Two-time elected team captain.
Positives: Very good short-area acceleration. Shows savvy as a route runner - creates separation with double moves. Recognizes coverages and works to the quarterback when plays break down. Good concentration - goes over the middle to catch in traffic areas and tracks the deep ball well. Plays bigger than his size. Confident - plays with a swagger. Coachable. Has a passion for the game. Elusive punt returner with good vision and traffic burst. Has shown well against top competition (Clemson '08, North Carolina '09) and shined at the Senior Bowl. Durable. Clocked very well in the shuttle and three-cone drills at the Combine, showing terrific agility.
Negatives: Did not consistently face top competition. Is not exceptionally explosive off the line and lacks elite, top-end vertical speed to consistently separate deep. Can be late adjusting to poorly thrown balls and struggles catching on contact. Not a physical blocker.
Summary: Bulked up nearly 20 pounds since last spring without losing much agility and shows good strength for his size. Is not an elite athlete but takes pride in his craft, will work to get better and has a skill set to succeed as a slot receiver and punt returner. Solid performance against better competition at the Senior Bowl and a strong Combine showing could elevate his draft stock. Has a lot of upside.
NFL projection: Third- to fourth-round pick.
9. WR-KR Mardy Gilyard
Ht: 5-11 7/8 | Wt: 187 | Sp: 4.61 | Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 9 1/8
Notes: High school running back who also competed in basketball and track and field as a prep, though he was academically ineligible as a sophomore. Was recruited to Cincinnati as a cornerback by then-head coach Mark Dantonio's staff. As a true freshman in 2005, appeared in eight games and recorded seven tackles with eight kickoff returns for 176 yards (22.0-yard average). After the season, he was accused of plagiarism, failed a class and lost his scholarship. Gilyard denies cheating. Unable to afford tuition and housing, he worked four jobs and slept in a car for four months. Ineligible in '06, he played semi-professional ball with the Kings (Ohio) Comets during the summer of '07, though he did not accept money and was not punished because he was not enrolled in school at the time. Head coach Brian Kelly restored his scholarship, and Gilyard returned to play 12 games in '07, starting the first seven contests (eight total) and tallying 36 receptions for 536 yards (14.9) with three touchdowns. Also returned kickoffs 7-206 (29.4) and punts 6-57 (9.5). Added two blocked punts. Missed the Syracuse contest with an undisclosed injury. Underwent Lasik eye surgery in the offseason. Started 11-of-14 games in '08, hauling in 81-1,276-11 (15.8) with 36-994-2 (27.6) on kickoff returns. Started all 13 games in '09, catching 87-1,191-11 (13.7) and rushing 5-16-1 (3.2). Returned kickoffs 42-1,281-2 (30.5) and punts 16-202-1 (12.6).
Positives: Naturally athletic with fluid movement skills. Quick-footed and agile. Makes plays and racks up yards after the catch. Can extend outside his frame and is not afraid to expose his body to make a play. Good concentration to track the deep ball. Shows natural run-after-catch skills and is dangerous in the open field - can stop and start, string moves together and make defenders miss one-on-one. Slippery. Excellent run vision - sees the cutback. Very good quickness, burst and vision as a returner. Gives effort as a stalk blocker. Showed up in big games. Confident.
Negatives: Slender, wiry build with thin ankles. Needs more time in the weight room - lacks functional strength to fend off the jam and can be subdued by physical press coverage. Lacks elite top-end speed. Is still developing as a route runner. Inconsistent hands - body-catches too often and drops more balls than he should. Did not play in a pro-style offense. Character needs to be scrutinized.
Summary: A former high school running back who overcame considerable personal adversity to reach this point, Gilyard lacks desirable speed to threaten off the line, but is a smooth-moving slot receiver with run-after-catch skills and return ability that adds to his value. Plays faster than he times and is still learning the nuances of the position.
NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick.
10. WR Brandon LaFell
Ht: 6-2 1/2 | Wt: 211 | Sp: 4.63 | Arm: 32 3/4 | Hand: 8 3/4
Notes: High school receiver and defensive back who also returned punts and played point guard for the basketball team. Redshirted in 2005. Saw action in 11 games (started against Alabama when the Tigers opened in a four-receiver set) in '06 and caught five passes for 140 yards (28.0-yard average) with two touchdowns. Hurt his ribs against Florida and sat out the next two contests (Kentucky, Fresno State). Played in all 14 games for the national-champion Tigers and started nine times while playing the "X" receiver in '07. Recorded 50-656-4 (13.1) and added an 18-yard rushing TD. In '08, started 11-of-13 games at the "X" receiver and tallied 63-929-8 (14.7). Played the "Z" receiver in '09, starting all 13 games and hauling in 57-792-11 (13.9). Rushed 5-13-0 (2.6).
Positives: Looks the part - good size, strength and body length. Is loose-hipped and moves smoothly with a fluid stride. Can power off the line. Good balance and body control. Demonstrates nice posture as a route runner - uses deft nods to set up defensive backs and gets in and out of breaks cleanly. Can snatch balls outside his frame. Nice boundary awareness. Factors in the run game as a physical, stalk blocker and will seek kill shots on unsuspecting defenders - good finisher. Durable.
Negatives: Has very small hands and has been too inconsistent catching the ball throughout his career with concentration lapses showing too frequently. Drops too many balls. Is not a blazer - lacks ideal top-end speed to create separation vertically. Has a diva attitude that could rub veterans the wrong way. Does not hide frustration when the ball doesn't come his way and has a prima donna attitude. Was contained by Florida and Alabama, and he will struggle to separate vs. physical bump-and-run coverage. Had a marginal Combine workout and interviews, dropping several balls in the gauntlet drills.
Summary: Was hampered by inconsistent QB play in college, but has the size and run strength to create matchup problems working as a flanker if he can overcome a case of the drops. Boom-or-bust candidate with concerning personality traits and frustrating on-field inconsistency coming from a program whose recent WR products have tended to disappoint in the pros.
NFL projection: Second- to third-round pick
Thursday: Top 10 TE prospects
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For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.