With the NFL Scouting Combine now squarely in our sights — the event kicks off in just four days — we at Acme Packing Company continue to look ahead to the measurements and workouts to see which players are expected to light up the leaderboard.
After examining the edge rushers on defense earlier this week, we turn our attention over to the wide receivers today. The Green Bay Packers may indeed be in the market for a receiver on day 2 or day 3 of the draft, and there are plenty of names who could end up being good fits as targets for Aaron Rodgers. There is also a very good chance that the fastest 40-yard dash of the entire Combine comes out of this group.
Here are several wideouts to keep your eye on throughout the week and on Saturday in particular, when the position group takes the field for workouts.
John Ross, Washington
Ross is one of the early leaders in the race to run the fastest 40 in Indianapolis is Ross, the blazing-fast receiver for the Huskies. Ross is not a terribly large guy — he’s expected to measure in around 5’11” and 190 pounds — but that speed and his route-running can make him lethal. He claimed this week that he was laser-timed at 4.30 seconds, so his 40 should be must-watch TV for any fan of the NFL Draft process.
Chad Hansen, California
After transferring from Idaho State, Hansen had a breakout season in 2016, catching over 90 passes for more than 1200 yards. He has a mold and physical profile that fits well with the Packers, and claims route-running as his greatest skill for the time being. Hansen has been steadily getting more and more discussion as a potential day-two draft pick, and a good performance in Indy could solidify him within that draft range.
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
Kupp came to the Senior Bowl in January with little fanfare and exploded into the national spotlight. He is the career leader among all NCAA football divisions in receiving yards, bringing that in a 6’2”, 200-pound package. Like Hansen, route-running is one of Kupp’s distinctive skills, but he’s got speed as well — according to AL.com, GPS recorders tagged him as the fastest player at the Senior Bowl. If his 40 time backs that up, that should lock him into a day-two draft slot.
Zay Jones, East Carolina
Isaiah “Zay” Jones caught 158 passes in 2016 for the Pirates.
Read that again. It’s not a typo.
With his Senior year production addressed, it’s on to his physical tools and measurements; he’s another prospect around 6’2” and 200 pounds. NFL Draft Scout’s estimate puts his 40-yard dash in the mid-4.5s, but if he can crack into the 4.4s that will be a great time for him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
One of the youngest players in the draft, Shuster’s trajectory and physical build compares a bit to Davante Adams’. He broke out as a true sophomore in 2015, nearly hitting 1500 receiving yards, before seeing his production slip just a bit as a Junior last season. Likely to measure in around 6’2” and 220 pounds, Smith-Schuster should be a big possession receiver with just enough speed to threaten defenses deep on occasion. If he runs the 40 in less than 4.50, that would be a terrific time for him.
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread had this to say about Taylor before the 2016 college football season:
The Hilltoppers star can broad jump 137 inches, which would have been the best broad jump of anyone at the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. He's also been clocked at 4.33 in the 40-yard dash and can vertical jump 39 1/2 inches.
Yep. His workout will be a must-watch when he takes the field next Saturday. One other thing to watch is whether he ends up measuring in at the full 6’1”, 195, which is how the Hilltoppers listed him this season.
Curtis Samuel, Ohio State
Samuel is sort of an inverse of Ty Montgomery, in that he started as a running back but became more of a slot receiver as his career went on. He’s coming to the Combine as a wideout, but he’ll be best used by a creative offensive mind as a hybrid weapon out of the backfield - much like the Packers used Montgomery and even Randall Cobb over the past few years.
Samuel’s build and physical measurements should be in between those two players, too, lending himself even more to that hybrid role. My expectation is that he ends up with blistering times in the 3-cone and the shuttle drill, as his change-of-direction ability is exceptional on tape.
Other names to watch
Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech
Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
Stacy Coley, Miami (FL)
KD Cannon, Baylor