Chris Godwin stunned many at the 2017 NFL Combine by running a 4.42 40-yard dash. His draft stock was already on the rise prior to the Combine, but that time might have increased it some more. Speed is desired for wide receivers as it can affect traits like separation quickness and yards after catch. However, while straight-line speed may indicate an ability to separate vertically downfield, it doesn’t always equal optimal separation on all routes. A receiver may also create separation by setting up defensive backs within the route and then quickly breaking it off using their athletic ability, mental savvy, and/or physicality.
While at Penn State, Godwin displayed the ability to separate from defenders routinely. On this play against Michigan State he’s able to beat the corner one-on-one after the run fake took the safety out of the equation.
It’s 2nd and 7 for Penn State on Michigan State’s 39-yard line leading 24-12 with 2:15 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Trayce McSorley (#9) receives the snap and fakes the run, fooling safety Montae Nicholson (#9) and leaving CB David Dowell (#28) all alone to cover Godwin. Dowell is playing off coverage with his body positioned inwards looking toward the quarterback. As the ball is snapped Dowell turns to face Godwin.
Dowell is still slightly shaded to the inside to defend Godwin. Godwin, who understands how to set up the defensive back, uses a head fake toward the boundary. This forces Dowell to turn his hips slightly to defend the outside, causing him to lose his balance.
In a desperate attempt to slow down Godwin as he breaks inside, the defender grabs onto him momentarily, but Godwin frees himself quickly. Now Godwin has inside positioning and is able to get behind the defensive back with a lot of room to work with in the middle of the field.. As McSorley delivers the pass to Godwin, you can see the Penn State product’s speed to separate here as he pulls away from the defender. Godwin tracks the ball in the air and has to slow up slightly to reel in the catch. Once the ball is secured, he gets back to top speed quickly to score the touchdown.
Godwin is excellent at creating separation, doing so with both his athletic ability and mental processing. He displays this ability on comeback, dig, out, and post routes, like the play above. While Godwin’s ability to separate is very good and translates well to the next level, there are other traits that must be evaluated. If you’re interested in reading further on Chris Godwin and/or other draft prospects be sure to check out the 2017 ITP Draft Guide.
Check out more of Joseph’s work here, including a look at Kareem Hunt’s superior balance, James White doing his job in Super Bowl LI, and the Dak Prescott’s unappreciated skill.
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All film courtesy of Draft Breakdown.