It seems like the 2020 NFL Draft just happened, but we move fast here at The Draft Network.
Currently going through summer evaluations for the 2021 NFL Draft class, our scouting team of Kyle Crabbs, Joe Marino, Jordan Reid, and Drae Harris are meeting up every day to discuss prospects, traits, and concepts. New to TDN is a daily scouting roundtable where we go through and identify the most important points of conversation from that day’s meeting.
On Wednesday, we analyzed wide receivers, highlighting the main traits you need to look for while scouting the position.
One of the initial talking points brought up in the discussion about wideouts was the term “competitiveness.” Different evaluators have different definitions of the word, but each revolves around the willingness and effort that the player can provide.
“A big part of examining someone’s competitive toughness at wide receiver is examining how they block,” Marino said. “They exist to run routes and make plays down the field, but can they get after it and finish reps? You know you’re not getting the football, but can you still make an impact?”
Harris followed up by discussing a receiver’s ability to create after the catch.
“For me, a very good way to gauge a wide receiver is with his RAC,” he said. “Does he have the desire to do something with the football once he gets it? His ability after the catch is a good indication of how competitive he is.”
Crabbs ended the discussion by mentioning his interpretation of the term.
“I think my favorite way to gauge a wide receiver’s competitiveness is on balls above the rim,” he said. “You don't have to be 6-foot-5, 225 (pounds) to high-point those balls and win at the catch-point. Sure, it helps, but it makes it more impressive when you’re a dude who’s 6-foot-1, 190 (pounds) and you’re just savvy enough to get that real estate and play through contact when someone is draped on your back.
“Do you know how to say, that’s my football?”
As fast or as big as a wideout is, it means nothing if they aren’t able to consistently corral passes. The TDN staff thought just as much, elaborating on the importance of quality hands at the position.
“A lot of times, players trap it against their pads”, Reid highlighted. “A great example of this is Charleston Rambo at Oklahoma, who was utilized down the field but caught balls with his forearms. Of course, that's alarming, because at some point you’re going to have to use your hands.”
“The ability to extend and catch balls outside of their frame is extremely important,” Harris added. “In the NFL, (catching within your frame) turns into pass break-ups because DBs are just too good nowadays. You want guys who can extend and consistently display strong hands.”
Separation vs. Route-Running
It was an hour-long discussion packed with plenty of information, but one of the other key talking points in Wednesday's meeting was the difference between pure route-running and separation.
“I love that everybody has echoed separating separation from specifically route-running,” Crabbs said. “That’s a pretty common thing to just see bundled together and I think they are definitely separate things.”
For example, players like D.K. Metcalf won’t ever be thought of as terrific route-runners, but he can get plenty of separation on slants and comeback routes due to his size and speed keeping defensive backs honest.
Just like how a quarterback’s ball placement varies from his general accuracy, separation and route-running are two separate entities. There’s usually a correlation between the two, which is why they’re often lumped together, but it’s important to view each as its own specific trait.