There are platefuls of steak tartare that are less raw than Brandon Shed but it’s impossible to look at his tape without being excited by his potential. The vast majority of his routes at Hobart ask him to do little more than run past slower, smaller DBs – and he does it with great success. At the same time, the jump from Division 3 to the NFL is vast and he is the epitome of the piece of clay, needing to be moulded by a good WR coach. The positives, though, are clear and obvious: he is a big, physical wide receiver, with an impressive catch radius, who consistently makes the contested catch. NFL scouts will be particularly impressed by how he attacks the ball at its highest point, enabling him to maximise his natural advantages of height and strength. I’m not convinced that he has explosive speed; he looks on tape to be a 4.5-4.6 sort of guy. You can certainly make a living in the NFL by running at that speed, though, and, if he is invited to the combine, he’ll be one of the players in whose numbers I’ll be most interested. The phrase “diamond in the rough” could have been coined for Shed and, at the moment, I can certainly see him intriguing enough teams to be drafted somewhere on Day 3. With a more polished senior season, he could easily find himself rising up boards.
Moore has some traits that can get you excited. He is tall, fast and is coming off a 1000 yard receiving season in the SEC. That speed is for real – just look at how he blew away Georgia’s Dominick Sanders in a race for the end zone in 2016. At the same time, there are some major question marks about Moore as well. He has never been a firm favourite of the Missouri fan base – he was one of the leading figures in the race protests that were later shown to be a canard, raising some doubts about his judgement. His hands are also quite erratic; whilst he can make some circus catches, he is also prone to a disproportionate number of relatively simple drops. He has the productivity and the measurables to attract the interest of NFL scouts but he needs to show that he has a) improved his concentration and b) developed into a team leader if he is going to surge up draft boards. He also needs to circle the games against the top defensive backfields in the SEC. Against Louisiana State and Florida in 2016, he had only two catches in eight quarters of play – if he is going to be drafted, he will need to make a conspicuous improvement in his performance against the strongest opposition.
A short, squat, powerful WR, Gray’s running style is so distinctive as to be almost comical. It’s difficult to watch his tape without thinking of Wile.E.Coyote chasing after Roadrunner, given his short, choppy strides and the way in which his head tilts almost backwards at times. Gray plays pretty much exclusively outside and shows good, strong hands and the ability to run through contact. He’s got a decent change of direction, some big play potential and a nose for the end zone. He gives good effort as a blocker but sometimes makes the wrong reads, with regards to whom he was intended to block; he certainly is not going to overwhelm anyone in this part of the game. His speed is OK but far from elite and, given his build, it’s hard to see where he is going to win in the NFL. If he is going to stick on a roster for a couple of years, he will have to earn his bread on special teams, where he certainly has value. He can offer some return potential at a pinch and his effort and desire in this phase of the game has seen him record blocked punts at Mississippi State. He looks like he has some intangibles; he chirps a lot and seems to take genuine delight in his teammates’ successes. At this point, however, I think Gray is a late round pick at best and it would not surprise me if he were to go undrafted.
Were D.J.Chark to conceal himself on a kindergarten shelf and attach an eraser to his own head, he could easily pass for a pencil. No one will confuse this man with a muscle-bound Adonis, for he is very, very thin. Nevertheless, there is much to like about Chark’s game. He is an explosive receiver, with great speed, who has a knack of making big plays. LSU’s QB play has been a metaphor for sustained misery over the last few years and Chark has certainly suffered as a result of their collective incompetence. The positives, though, are myriad. His hands and body control are exceptional. When he is given the ball in space, he has the vision and quickness to make big plays. Equally, in traffic, he shows the ability to make contested catches under pressure. I will be fascinated to see Chark in 2017 but there are a number of Ifs here. If he has spent the off-season in the weight room. If he becomes a featured part of LSU’s offense. If LSU’s quarterback play becomes vaguely serviceable. If these Ifs are no longer Ifs, Chark could see his stock climb pretty rapidly in the 20017 season. I’m not always the biggest fan of NFL comps but this guy really reminds me of a slightly more athletic – and braver – Todd Pinkston.
The first words and phrases that spring to mind when you watch Ridley are uniformly positive – competitive, gamer, great effort, athletic. He could well end up being a more successful pro WR than he was a college one. Watching his tape, it is evident that he makes quick breaks, runs accurate routes and has the speed and niftiness to get open on a regular basis. He has not been helped, however, by QBs, over the last couple of years, who are skittish in the pocket and slow to make a decision. He has a lot of experience playing in the slot and running jet sweeps. He could carve out a very successful career in the slot but I also see a scheme versatility in Ridley – I have every confidence in his ability to win outside as well. He is fluid and twitchy off the line and will make the circus catches, as well as the competed ones – his hands seem very reliable. His tape suggests a real love of the game and this is especially evident in his blocking. At 6-1 and only 188, you might justifiably expect him to be a speedbump in the run/screen game. In fact, however, he is willing and able as a blocker. He is very good at everything; I’m just not sure he’s sufficiently elite at anything to warrant a 1st round grade. I do, however, see him as a productive NFL player and, with a good 2017, he could leap into 1st round consideration.
As a receiver, Kirk is a lump of clay, waiting to be moulded by a good WRs coach. The modus operandi at Texas A&M, quite understandably, is to get him open as soon as possible and there is little that is subtle or crafty about how they do it. His suddenness and quickness, however, are striking and suggest that he could be a really effective slot receiver in the NFL. As a kick returner, that quickness – allied to an impressive intuition – make him an exceptional prospect. He does not have elite speed but, otherwise, he has everything you’re looking for in a kick returner; decisiveness, courage, elusiveness and understanding of his blocking scheme. He reminds me of a slightly thicker, more powerful Tyler Lockett and, because of that extra power, I can see him having an even more productive NFL career than Lockett. Kirk will attract the interest of a lot of teams looking for an instant impact in the slot; he has an excellent work ethic, is a natural leader and I can see him going in the middle of Day 2, should he decide to declare this year.
An extremely productive deep-ball threat, Washington had an incredible junior season, catching 71 balls for 1380 yards and 10 TDs, at an eye-watering 19.4 yards per reception. What stands out for me on tape is his body control – Washington has the ability to contort his body, at full speed, into some almost grotesque shapes, in order to enable him to make the catch. He is elite in this area – other parts of his game are very good without being outstanding. His speed is very good but not exceptional – I would expect him to run in the mid 4.4s at the combine – and the same goes for his hands. He certainly benefited from having Mason Rudolph as his QB but that was probably what they call in Biology 101 a symbiotic relationship; Washington’s ability to snare passes above his head did wonders for Rudolph’s completion percentage as well. As a blocker he gives pretty good effort. Not many people will mistake him for Hines Ward in this part of his game but nor is he a liability. His route tree in the Oklahoma State offense is pretty unsophisticated but he did show some really nice hips when running double moves. Going into his senior season, I have a borderline 1st/2nd round grade on him – he looks to me like a player with the ability to have a very nice NFL career as a WR2.