Ben Fennell is an Emmy Award-winning producer, editor and researcher across several media platforms, including NFL Network, ESPN College Football, The Athletic and Eagles Game Plan on philadelphiaeagles.com.
He is analyzing the 2019 NFL draft for The Inquirer, breaking down the best player, the riser and the sleeper at each position.
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- Lots of variables to the Eagles’ draft, but an early-round defensive tackle seems like a strong possibility
- NFL draft: For all the work the Eagles and other teams put into scouting, how can they get top picks wrong?
Today, in part 11 of our series, he looks at “size” and “speed” receivers.
You can follow him on Twitter at @benfennell_NFL.
Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
6-5, 227 | Arms: 35 ¼ inches | Hands: 10 ¾ inches | 40 time: 4.48 seconds | Vertical jump: 36.0 inches | Broad jump: 10-8 | 225 bench press: 18 reps
Round projection: 1 (12-22)
Ben’s take: “Butler’s out of the Plaxico Burress-A.J. Green mold. People questioned whether he had the speed at 6-5 and 225. Then he went to the combine and ran a 4.48 and broad-jumped 10-8, which is crazy at that size to have that kind of lower-body explosion and long speed, being a long strider.
“He’s an explosive receiver who can win different areas of the route. He can win underneath, down the field, at the catch point, in the red zone. He averaged over 22 yards per catch on 50 catches last year. Had six plays of 50-plus yards and 10 of 40-plus.
“The one big criticism of him is the bad drops. He had some drops on passes right in the bread basket. But any type of volume receiver is going to have drops.
“They used him a lot inside last year. He ran a lot of his routes in the middle of the field, almost like a tight end. He had to use some route-running finesse to get open in the middle of the field.
“He’s very aggressive at the catch point. Aggressive after the catch. Stiff-arms defenders. Drags them up the field. Has great body control. I think he’s the complete package.’’
D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
6-3, 228 | Arms: 34 7/8 inches | Hands: 9 7/8 inches | 40 time: 4.33 seconds | Vertical jump: 40.5 inches | Broad jump: 11-2 | 225 bench press: 27 reps
Round projection: 1
Ben’s take: “He helped himself a lot at the combine with his eye-popping performance there. He was primarily a left receiver at Ole Miss. Had a limited route tree. He’s what I call a stop-and-go receiver. He can run stop routes and go routes. He’s on a linear track. That’s the type of receiver he is.
“He’s not a real good change-of-direction guy. He’s not good at getting in and out of breaks. The bigger you are, the tougher it is to have good movement skills.
“He ran a 4.33. So he’s a fast straight-line guy. But he can’t do everything. He’s a buyer-beware guy. Is he David Boston? Is he too rocked-up, too stiff? Is he working out too much? Twenty-seven reps on the bench press is terrific. He obviously has great play strength to get off press coverage and win in the route against smaller defensive backs.
“You just question the production. You question the limited route tree and his ability to make the conversion to an NFL offense. In the NFL, it’s a lot of sight adjustments [for a receiver], a lot of route conversions, a lot of having to read defenses on the fly pre-snap, and being on the same page with the quarterback. I’m not saying he can’t do that. I’m saying I don’t know if he can do that.’’
Jazz Ferguson, Northwestern (La.) St.
6-5, 227 | Arms: 34 ¼ inches | Hands: 9 ¼ inches | 40 time: 4.45 seconds | Vertical jump: 37.0 inches | Broad jump: 10-3 | 225 bench press: 8 reps
Round projection: 6-7
Ben’s take: “Ferguson, whose brother Jaylen is a projected first- or second-rounder at defensive end, is one of just six 6-5, 220-pound guys since 2000 to run a sub-4.5 40 at the combine. He was a five-star recruit who went to LSU, had some issues there and transferred to Northwestern State.
“He obviously has speed. He has the athletic ability. He has the route-running ability. He’s great in the red zone. A lot of people have compared him to DGB [Dorial Green-Beckham] in that he’s the same kind of boom-or-bust prospect.
“He has the athletic upside. The bigger concern with him is the off-the-field stuff. The maturity issues. But somebody is going to take him on Day 3 and see what he can do, unless more off-the-field stuff comes out or teams just decide he’s a complete knucklehead.’’
Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
5-9, 166 | Arms: 30 ½ inches | Hands: 9 inches | 40 time: NA | Vertical jump: NA | Broad jump: NA | 225 bench press: NA
Round projection: 1-2
Ben’s take: “Brown had January surgery to repair a Lisfranc foot injury and didn’t work out at either the combine or Oklahoma’s Pro Day. He’s out of the T.Y. Hilton-DeSean Jackson mold. A vertical threat. Can take the top off a defense. Very quick. Great [ball] tracking. Can play in the slot.
“There’s concern about his small frame. But the speed is intriguing. He has that instant speed that you just can’t teach. I don’t think his size is going to affect his draft status. There are enough case studies of small, slight receivers being successful in the NFL.
“It’s your fault if you get a small guy like Tavon Austin and tell him to line up outside the numbers and run verticals. Don’t put them in that position. Put them in tight splits. Put them in the slot. Put them in stacks and bunches and things like that. If you put an 5-9, 170-pound receiver outside the numbers and tell him to go beat a 6-1 corner, it’s your fault for using a guy like that.’’
“I think there’s going to be a run on edge rushers and interior D-linemen early on. And quarterbacks always get bumped up. So that could cause him to drop a little. Worst-case scenario, he’s one of the early picks on Day 2.’’
Parris Campbell, Ohio State
6-0, 205 | Arms: 32 ¼ inches | Hands: 9 ½ inches | 40 time: 4.31 seconds | Vertical jump: 40.0 inches | Broad jump: 11-3 | 225 bench press: 11 reps
Round projection: 2-3
Ben’s take: “Campbell is a track star playing receiver. Explosive speed. Knocked everybody’s socks off at the combine. Ran a 4.31 40, had a 40-inch vertical jump and broad-jumped 11-3. You saw the explosive elements he brings to the table.
“But he wins differently than the other down-the-field receivers because, despite his speed, he’s not a down-the-field receiver. You think 4.31 [and say], ‘Oh, he’s going to take the top off a defense. But he had just two catches with 20-plus air yards in his entire career.
“When I put his numbers on Twitter, people were like, ‘What was Ohio State doing? Why weren’t they sending him down the field?’ Well, mainly because they knew what they had. Despite the speed, he’s not a good deep receiver. He doesn’t track the ball well. He doesn’t understand route stems very well.
“But there are other ways to get him the ball. Jet sweeps, end-arounds, spacing concepts, slants. The second he gets the ball, you just see the angles get taken away from pursuit defenders.
“You don’t just stretch a defense down the field. You stretch it horizontally as well. You’re seeing more and more of that in the NFL. And that’s what Campbell can do. He’s very raw in the general receiver sense. But he has the track speed. He’s an explosive athlete. There’s definitely a place for him in the league.’’
Penny Hart, Georgia State
5-8, 180 | Arms: 31 ½ inches | Hands: 8 7/8 inches | 40 time: NA | Vertical jump: NA | Broad jump: NA | 225 bench press: NA
Round projection: 6-7
Ben’s take: “Hart wasn’t invited to the combine even though he performed very well at the Senior Bowl. He was a productive player at Georgia State, but he’s small. In that Taylor Gabriel-John Brown mold. Despite his size, though, he can win inside or outside.