From here until the draft, I'll occasionally be taking a look at each position and giving a quick rundown on how badly we need to upgrade at that position and give a handful of prospects that we might be able to obtain that could help us at that position. This time, I'm checking out who might be able to help us at wide receiver.
The Falcons are evidently taking a good, hard look at receivers. Naturally, I think we all knew that was happening, but it certainly bears repeating. We're definitely in need of SOMETHING at WR, if only just another highly talented body to push Jenkins into a slot role and HD into a field-stretching specialist.
This assumes, of course, that HD does not improve at all from last year. HD didn't exactly come from a football factory, so I highly doubt he's going to sit on his rear this offseason and do nothing. If HD does improve to be a solid WR this year AND we draft/sign a talented WR, we could be talking about a nasty Falcons offense next January.
But for now, let's put our hopes and dreams aside and talk some receivers. Jump with me.
(I'm going to copyright the term "The Packer Effect" because it seems like a good team has 4 really good receivers and has the 4th one go off at random times because opposing teams don't have 4/5 DBs that are of equal skill. Really, teams can't afford that many good DBs because they're SO EXPENSIVE. That's the Packer Effect. More good receivers than you have good DBs, and the fourth/fifth receiver goes bonkers every game because you can only cover the top 3. That'd make for an interesting post, actually.
As far as free agency is concerned, there have been peepings about Mike Sims-Walker and Sidney Rice. Personally, I'd be alright with either one of those. Also, Lance Moore has been suggested on here. It seemed like Lance Moore was the one scoring all the TDs for the Saints, and yet, Moore could probably be considered the fourth option. The Packer Effect. It'd be nice if we could figure that one out for ourselves.
Anywho, let's hit up the potential draftee WRs and see who might be a winner for us.
Jon Baldwin: This guy keeps on falling. He was once considered the best WR in the draft not named Green or Jones, and his fail work ethic and attitude issues keeps the guy's stock on the downlow. I'm pretty sure there have been players like him who have been drafted and done super things in the league, but I don't know any off the top of my head unless Randy Moss had both of those (Probably did).
Breaking down a highlight film, he definitely knows how to use his size to his advantage. His hands appear to be good (though I think he failed hard at the combine) but he looks like he doesn't put forth any kind of effort at all. He has absolutely no initial burst whatsoever. His top speed is probably excellent - he's very tall - but he appears a little timid over the middle and he appears slower than a linebacker on some of his cuts. He may do great things in the league, but I'd stay away from this kid unless he falls to the third round. Highlight vid here.
Randall Cobb: Ball Hawk's personal favorite, Randall Cobb is one of those tweeners who has some Wildcat experience but is still a very viable receiver. He gives a great interview and has little in the way of character issues, and that's certainly something that will be noted on his draft notes. He played on a rather poor Kentucky team, but he did play against SEC defenses, so you know he's plenty capable of playing at the next level.
This kid can motor, and his 2010 highlights proved just that. The video I watched is a bit choppy, so his apparent top speed is a bit deceiving. He looks extremely fast, but he did get run down a few times. He made several catches in traffic, as well as several catches over the middle. He didn't look to be afraid of contact, either. He appears to have harnessed his top potential speed (his open field running is like that of a track runner) so I wouldn't expect him to be much faster. He has great weight control and has some lightning fast direction changes. He's not likely to be drafted too, too high. I think if the pick is right, he'd be a good pickup. Highlight vid here.
Dwayne Harris: The Falcons have shown some interest in Harris, a WR out of East Carolina University. I don't know much about him, so I'll break down a highlight film of him. He doesn't look the part of a receiver. He looks more like a larger running back sizewise (Adrian Peterson comes to mind, though he's not quite as big from looking at him). I believe they said he's 5'10" 205. That's RB size. He doesn't appear to have outstanding speed, though he doesn't appear to be slow and his cuts are similar to a similarly sized RB. He has the ability to break tackles and he appears to be pretty strong. The Falcons like versatile players. Again, if the pick is right, I'd say take a chance. 4.53 40 isn't that bad considering his size. Highlight vid here.
Titus Young: My personal favorite, Titus Young is a small framed receiver with a huge motor. He also gives a good interview and I don't believe he has any character issues. I don't know if the Falcons have given him any attention or not.
On film, his speed and hands are evident. Heck, he showed up catching a ball with his hands inside out as well as laying on the ground with one hand. It might seem show off-ish, but if you want to show people what you can do, you've gotta show them what you can do. His running style makes him look like he's running for his life. His turnover is a bit slow, which actually makes him look slow. That said, he always seems to have a step on his defender in his deep routes (poor defensive quality, perhaps?). Young possesses good cutting ability and, unlike Cobb, I think he hasn't reached his top speed potential yet. If he strengthened his lower body a bit more, he could increase his turnover and he'd be a real threat. I like the guy's hands, but I wouldn't pick him above our 2nd round pick. He looks a tad slow on film. Highlight film here.
Torrey Smith: This guy, for the life of me, is the second coming of Michael Jenkins. First thing I noticed on his highlight film was just how much he was using his body to catch the ball. That is Rule #1 of what not to do as a WR. He possesses decent speed, though he doesn't appear to run with any sense of urgency like Cobb and Young do. He runs well in the open field, and he seems to have good awareness of who is around him both when he does and does not have the ball. All-time ACC kick return yardage leader is misleading - Maryland was a bad team, which meant they gave up a lot of points aka had lots of kickoff returns - so I would take that with a grain of salt. I have a bad feeling about this guy. He might be fine in the NFL, but I think we should stay away from him. Highlight vid here.
Leonard Hankerson: I've recently started taking a look at this guy and found that he has a chance to be really, really good in the NFL if he lands on the right team. On film, he is deceptively fast. He appears to be tall, which makes him look slow, but on this particular film, he hits the afterburners a couple times and absolutely leaves the defense behind. The problem with Hankerson is that he reminds me so much of Randy Moss. He appears lackluster in some of his route running and his hard cuts on routes don't appear to be very crisp. That could be a product of his height, since being that lanky requires so much more strength and effort to be quick. He has better run cuts than Baldwin, and I'd even argue that he looks better than Baldwin as a whole. If he doesn't have an attitude/work ethic issue, I say we pick this guy up if we can. He looks like he could be really good and his straight line speed would easily stretch the field for us. Highlight vid here.
Vidal Hazelton: This is the kid from Cincinnati whose dad is a diehard Falcons and who personally would love to play for us. Unfortuately, there aren't any highlight videos of him that are recent. It's pretty likely he won't even get drafted or may even get drafted late in the draft. I do know that we're sending at least one person to check out his Pro Day (props for doing that, guys). His style has been likened to Terrell Owens and I really hope we give this kid an opportunity to play for us. A motivated man can do many, many more things than a man who isn't motivated, and just imagine how great it would be to see someone like him play for us, especially with all he's been through. Here's to hoping he's awesome enough to be worth a legit look from us!
Did I miss anyone? If so, or even if not, let's talk receivers!