Welcome to Part 2 of our look into what scouts look for when grading the top college wide receivers.
Again, in case you want to check out the articles that this information came from, be sure to check out 30-year NFL Scout Greg Gabriel’s Scouting Wide Receivers and Tight Ends, and How I Evaluate Each Position: Wide Receiver, by legendary NFL coach, Bill Walsh.
Strength. Walsh on strength:
You need to power through players. When you are bounced into players you must be able to keep your feet, regain your balance and move into position and continue your pass route. So there has to be a certain amount of strength, as Jerry Rice or John Taylor demonstrated so often with the 49ers.
Agility. There’s not a place on the football field where scouts don’t look for agile athletes. Scouts expect NFL-caliber receivers to be able to move at full speed and make the cuts and body adjustments necessary to make plays against NFL-caliber defenders. This ability, or the lack thereof, is one of the areas that separates average receivers from the great.
Agility/Strength combination. Walsh goes on to explain why he always looked for players that had both great agility and strength:
…in reality, most catches are made with the ball and the defender closing at the same instant and the receiver having to reverse his body into a totally different position, get your hands up and catch the ball and be hit at the same moment. That is the key element in greatness — agility and strength together.
Body control. Receivers that have the body control that scouts look for don’t have to motor down when they make their cuts. Gabriel points out that receivers that have optimal body control can modify their speed and their pace of movement to throw off the defender. He adds that receivers with the absolute elite body control can actually continue to accelerate “while” cutting.
Focus. This might be one of the most overlooked attributes for receivers. Walsh said that when he looked at film on receivers, he made it a point to look for plays that show situations where the receiver shows that he had to find the ball, focus on it, and mentally isolate it from everything else that was going on at that moment-in-time.
Running skills. Gabriel’s definition of a receiver with great run instincts:
…a player who has a feel for where defenders are and has the quick feet to change direction and make the defender miss a tackle… a receiver who can turn a 10-yard catch into a 20 to 25-yard play is the perfect guy.
Run after the catch. For obvious reasons, scouts want receivers that can get additional yardage after the catch. A major part of this is the ability to catch the ball in stride without losing speed or breaking stride. This is closely related to running skills.
Start. Scouts want to see explosion off the line as you get into your route.
Field awareness. Consistently knowing where the first down marker is, and making sure your routes are deep enough for the first down. Overall, field awareness means having the instincts to know exactly where you are on the field at all times.
At the 1:55 mark, check out the body control displayed by Larry Fitzgerald. The average person doesn’t have the body control to jump and turn in the air like that; let-alone the body control to make sure both feet come down in bounds after he’s made the grab.
That play, amongst many others in the video, shows Larry’s extreme focus and hand/eye coordination. As a child, his grandfather put him through exercises to strengthen his hand-eye coordination. Without question, that has definitely helped his game.
At the 2:58 mark, check out the moves he puts on the defenders after he made the grab, his movements resemble that of an NFL-caliber running back. This is a great example of what scouts look for out of receivers when it comes to running after the catch and running ability out of a receiver.
And anybody that knows anything about football knows that Larry Fitzgerald is strong. No question, Larry has the strength/agility combination that Coach Walsh talks about… there’s displays of both all throughout the video.
Durability. Receivers get hit a lot, and they get hit a lot by guys that are bigger than they are.
Blocking. Scouts pay close attention to a receiver’s attitude, effort, and physical strength when it’s time to block.
It’s rare to find a wide receiver that blocks with the tenacity and attitude of Hines Ward. At the :50 mark in the video, Bill Cowler speaks on Hines’ blocking ability. He’s hands-down one of the most durable and tough wide receivers in NFL history.
What do you think, did I leave out any skills or attributes? I don’t proclaim to be a know-it-all. Leave a comment, and share your knowledge!
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