Sunday Senior Showcase: Big Fellas

Photo: © Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: Michael Pittman, WR, USC

I like big wide receivers.

I do. I was high on JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Kelvin Harmon. I actually didn't like Courtland Sutton as much as some did but was big Equanimeous St. Brown and Auden Tate. Run it all the way back to 2017, and I had Corey Davis in my top-five overall prospects and Chris Godwin in my top 30 — even if Godwin wasn't a big wideout (6-foot-1, 210 pounds), I just wanted to mention I had him high.

I tend towards bigger receivers because I like their ability to win with leverage in the tight areas of the red zone, and I think the electricity of route-running separation skews our eyes towards a myth of finding two, three, four players for a roster who can win like that. Eventually, you need a guy who can win in a contested spot.

Michael Pittman can win in contested spots.

Pittman is a true 6-foot-4 and plays around 220 pounds. Now, he isn't a fast player. He isn't a fluid player, either. So it goes when you have that much size. But Pittman is able to win on nine balls because he does well to vary the pace in his releases and when stemming upfield, and he rarely loses the red line given his proactive physicality and elite size.

It then becomes a matter of putting the ball up where he can go get it; and with the size of his hands, the length of his arms, and his strong concentration profile, that never seems to be a problem.

This, from my final report:

Catch Radius: Huge arms and big mitts allow him to snag footballs away from his frame with consistency. Has a decent elevation profile to attack downfield passes at their apex, though you can tell he prefers to play tethered to the ground rather than getting up...Good at getting back to the football and play against the sideline to secure catches on deep comebacks.

Now, Pittman isn't a bad route-runner at all — the same goes for his releases. He doesn't mess around with unnecessary head fakes and jab steps, he generates a soft shoulder to attack, and he wins with leverage and strength through his opponent. Pittman is just a limited player because he's tight in the hips. Fortunately, that's not how he'll win at the NFL level.

Pittman is a Round-3 prospect on my board before testing, which could reveal more glaring issues. He isn't a wide receiver one, but he has a good role on your offense — especially if you need someone to win against one-on-one coverage on the outside.

Defense: Raekwon Davis, iDL, Alabama

Raekwon Davis is 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds. That is big, and that is a big deal.

He has commanding, suffocating length. That's a size that you cannot account for with technique or anticipation or tenacity. If you're just not big enough to handle Raekwon's reach, then you're just not — and a lot of players are not.

Eventually, we have to sit down and have a conversation about the disadvantageous size, and I think Davis has cleared that threshold.

I loved Davis' film in the summer when it was easy to see how his size presents issues, impressive to see how he turned a corner at his mass and exciting to see how technically sound he was in the running game. But when you sit down to do a final film evaluation on these players who have flashed during live viewings, you often uncover warts you weren't noticing in between their splash plays.

And Davis is just too big.

It is so and understandably difficult for Davis to stay coiled in his stance, keeping his hips low so that he can fire outward and upward into his opponent. Early in games, the reps are solid and he accordingly has some impressive get off and can win in a gap.

But the later in games you get, the more tired you become and Davis' hips pop up accordingly. He's the last guy out of his stance and he's upright when his opponent gets off the ball.

Now, if you're upright and 6-foot-2, then your pads are still at a relatively natural level to the opposing offensive lineman — and if he's a big lineman, you could still have a good initial leverage point. But if you're 6-foot-7, as Davis is, you surrender your chest almost by default.

This, from my final report:

Leverage: Predictably lacking. Will stay as low through the chute as he can, with his hips beneath his pads, but that's typically still above the leverage of opposing offensive linemen. Cannot keep his hips coiled through contact or play in front of his toes; he loses balance and leans on his opponent. Will locate his hands on the chest plate nicely to control opponent as a run defender and can stack-and-shed with bent knees and active hips to keep a steady base without growing too upright.

Davis was compared by some to Oregon’s DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, of the 2016 and 2015 drafts, respectively. Armstead was a bananas athlete with elite scores in the vertical and broad jump for a defensive lineman; Buckner was elite in arm length and hand size. Both were first round selections by the San Francisco 49ers, both were compared to Calais Campbell, and both have found some solid success at the NFL level.

Davis is neither Buckner nor Armstead. He just isn't the same athlete, even when you adjust for his stupid size. Accordingly, for all of his technical prowess, Davis is going to struggle to handle NFL athletes who will out-leverage him at the snap, and even when he wins with his foolish length, he's not going to turn tight corners or create instant penetration. This is a two-gapper through and through, and when Bill Belichick grabs him int he second round, we're all going to groan but he's one of the few coaches who will get the most out of him.

I have a third-round grade on Davis, a player I thought was a first-rounder coming into the year.