Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson (ICON Sports)

Let’s look at what scouts look for when grading the top college wide receivers.

Today’s list of wide receiver attributes was assembled using the wisdom found in two articles on the topic published by two extremely credible NFL professionals; that of Greg Gabriel, and his nearly 30 years of NFL scouting experience, and that of the late, great 3-time Super Bowl Champion coach Bill Walsh.

Speed. Gabriel’s opinion on the importance of speed at the wide receiver position:

…obviously speed is the most desired trait — the faster the better. Good speed can be defined as anything under 4.50. We read about all these guys who are 4.3 types, but in reality there are not that many who are legitimate 4.3 receivers.

Related: Workout for Wide Receivers Part 1

Bill Walsh’s take on speed differs a little from Greg’s:

Pure speed is helpful, but full-stride speed becomes important. You would like a receiver with the ball in the open field to be able to keep the separation with the closing defenders until he gets over the goal line. He doesn’t have to outrun them. He doesn’t have to gain ground on them. He just has to get there before they do so he scores. So it doesn’t have to be sprinters’ speed, but full-stride speed.

Related: What Everybody Ought to Know About Improving Football Speed

Hands. Scouts want receivers that can consistently catch the ball away from their body, using their hands-only, and not relying on their bodies or pads.


Good footwork. Coordinated, quick feet are helpful in every position on the football field.  Receivers change directions a lot and need to be nimble-enough to avoid and confuse defenders.

Good footwork also helps receivers keep their feet in-bounds on receptions along the sidelines.  The better your feet, the more precise your routes will be. Speaking of routes…

Route running. Scouts look for receivers that run crisp routes that are sharp and not rounded-out.  Receivers need to be able to consistently run their routes at the right yardage.

Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers is a great example of what the NFL looks for in wide receivers when it comes to hands, speed, and route running. He ran a 4.42 in the 40 at the 2006 NFL combine.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers. (ICON Sports)

Related: 40 Yard Dash Training – STRETCHING to Improve Your 40 Time??

If you can, go on YouTube and lookup Greg Jennings’ highlights.  He’s one of the best route runners in the league right now, hands-down.

You’ll find that most NFL wide receivers have great feet, Greg Jennings is no exception.  His feet are coordinated and quick.

Leaping ability.  The better your vertical jumping ability, the more likely you are to be able to win jump ball situations against defensive backs.

Release. When scouts look at a receiver’s release, they pay close attention how well, and how consistently, they’re able to get off the line of scrimmage.

They want to see explosion and quickness off the line, which, along with strength, is required to beat press coverage.

Calvin Johnson has the ability to release from the line of scrimmage easily, and can out-jump most defenders due to his ability to catch the ball at the highest point, his height, and his 45-inch vertical jumping ability.

Click below to check out part two.

Wanna Be One of the Top College Wide Receivers? Here’s What NFL Scouts Look for in Receivers. Part 2

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