Senior Bowl 2018 Wide Receiver Recap

What an incredible week. This was my second time attending the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and it was even better than the first. I was able to meet a bunch of incredible people including the notorious Michael Kist who truly is an American treasure. I know that last sentence seems contradictory, but you’ll have to just trust me on that one. Kist and I hugged it out after he spilled some of his Miller lite on my pants while slamming his beer onto the bar stand at the infamous Mobile hot-spot Veets. Mike often says that it’s an honor to be recognized by me for reasons I don’t understand, but personally it’s an honor to have met Mr. Kist. I’ve often said that.

I was also able to catch up with some of the ITP team I met last year: Mark Schofield, Michael Nuttle and Dan Hatman to name a few. I had the pleasure of rooming with Mark once again this year. Mark is truly a great person who I admire, look up to and am honored to call my friend. Rooming with Mark also means that I’ve grown accustomed to listening to “Toto by Africa” or “Africa by Toto” (I am still unsure which order it is at this point – admit it, it’s confusing) despite Mark having trouble getting his Alexa app to work. The brand is strong in that one.

I’m not sure I’ll get, “I bless the rains down in Africaaaaa” out of my head ever again. But I do know this – I have some 2018 Senior Bowl Wide Receiver takes to report.

Top Performers

DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State, North Team WR

Hamilton was called up to Mobile after having an excellent Shrine Game Week. He was the best receiver all week showing excellent foot quickness at the line of scrimmage into his release. Hamilton kept the North team cornerbacks off balance not allowing them to get their hands on him when trying to Press by leaning his torso back and selling his fakes. He was extremely deceptive when selling his routes with head fakes and hard plants. It was unfair to an extent of how Hamilton could be looking one way with his head while cutting to the opposite direction with his lower half. He was also very reliable in contested catch situations shielding the defender away from the ball and coming up with strong catches. As of now I think he’s worth a mid 3rd round pick. We’ll have to see how well he tests at the Combine to have a more accurate round projection.

James Washington, Oklahoma State, South Team WR

I was not very high on Washington coming into this week. I thought he was tight hipped and that would make it difficult for him to create separation into his breaks. However, he proved me wrong this week and changed my opinion of him completely. While I didn’t think he was all that flexible in individual cone drills he consistently beat his man in 1 on 1’s and scrimmages using explosiveness and suddenness. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Washington has the highest ceiling, but he’s going to wind up being a good NFL receiver. He does three things extremely well. He can run the post, the go and has strong hands to win contested catches. He’s excellent at stacking the CB and tracking the deep ball. Washington may not be the fastest straight line runner, but man, does he does have great play speed. Zebra Technology was tracking the player’s this week with chips inserted into their pads. On Tuesday, Washington was recorded at 21.25 MPH – the fastest player on the field between the two practices that day.

D.J. Chark, LSU, South Team WR

Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to make of Chark after watching a couple games of his tape due to how LSU uses their wide receivers sparingly. I thought live exposure would help allow me to form a better opinion of him. It did and I came away with a very positive opinion of his game. Matty Brown and I raved all week about Chark’s ability to separate using suddenness and excellent footwork. I think more people would be talking about him if his quarterbacks were more accurate when throwing him the ball as he was open a ton during practice this week. He confirmed my initial evaluation that he has excellent acceleration to test a defense over the top with great straight line speed.

Byron Pringle, Kansas State, South Team WR

I hadn’t seen much at all of Pringle on tape prior to the Senior Bowl. This was my first real exposure to him and I liked what I saw. He displayed excellent quickness and hard break ability to create separation. As well as the ability to test CBs deep in 1 on 1 drills. I liked his double move as he would deceptively stutter after he beat the CB to make the defender believe he was going to comeback before taking off deep. On day one of practice he did this and I thought he was grabbed by one of the corners. After sitting in the film room at the Renaissance Hotel reviewing practice I learned that it was his stutter step on the double move. Pringle also did an excellent job to stack the CB and tracked the ball extremely well over his shoulder. He’s another receiver worthy of a 3rd round grade.

In Need of Improvement

I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down at practice and speak with New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman on Thursday. He was very engaging and I was thankful for the time and words of advice he shared with me. A piece of that advice was to remember that in an All-Star game environment you shouldn’t grade a player negatively, only positively. Though, it could also help confirm what you saw on tape.

Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State, North Team WR

Scott disappointed me this week. He was the player I was most excited for because I thought he was going to really rise his stock after this week. However, he really just showed me more of what I saw on tape than anything else. He struggled adjusting to the low throw on the move and was inconsistent with his hands. That’s a result of his technique rather than concentration as he often sets his hands too wide apart and claps on the ball. He didn’t attack the ball on passes down the field instead letting it come into his body which resulted in drops. I still like him overall and what he could be, but as of today this who Scott is. He’ll just need to clean up some areas moving forward.

Allen Lazard, Iowa State, North Team WR

Like Scott, Lazard also confirmed many of my initial evaluations of his play. He wasn’t fluid in the cone drills and looked slow overall. Lazard also didn’t show much effectiveness with his attempts at deception on his releases and at the top of his routes. He struggled early with his hands, but improved throughout the week. Lazard was really impressive in the red zone drills making contested catches leaping on fade routes over the North Team CBs. There was some talk in the Ladd-Peebles’ bleachers about him being a tight end. That’s an interesting projection that I can get on board with. He’s not that fluid, but he’s a fast enough to consistently beat LBs and he blocks really well. Plus he’s also shown the ability to play from the slot while at Iowa State. I see no issue with him being able to line up in line and then play the Y position on some downs winning up the seam. Ultimately, I don’t think it matters all that much where he plays considering he can be moved all over the field. Lazard is going to be a solid player in the NFL.

Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State, South Team WR

Coming into the week I thought Ateman was the Oklahoma State WR that had the most NFL potential, but I’m changing my tune a bit. Ateman did some nice things this week. He showed good suddenness on slants to quickly gain separation on his break and made catches away from his body. However, he was inconsistent with his hands technique and didn’t show great speed to separate against corners going deep. There aren’t many with his size and length – so the potential is there. It’s just if he can find an environment to develop his hands.

Tre’Quan Smith, UCF, South Team WR

This is surprising to me because after day one I thought Smith had one of the best practices out of all the receivers behind D.J. Chark. But he regressed throughout the week displaying inconsistencies with his hands after creating separation and in contested catch situations. What I liked out of Smith was his ability to beat press coverage using his hands to fight through contact. Overall, he’s an average receiver in this year’s class.

Somewhere in the Middle

These receivers didn’t necessarily have great weeks, but they displayed some good ability that warrant your attention.

Michael Gallup, Colorado State, North Team WR

Gallup had an odd week. He made some really nice grabs displaying strong hands, but he also had some drops that confused me. Gallup also flashed explosiveness in his routes. I had some questions about his effort after giving up on some passes down the field during practice, but I didn’t see anything on tape that would suggest he didn’t play with strong effort. I’ll chalk it up to him not wanting to potentially injure himself during an All-Star game practice.

Braxton Berrios, Miami, North Team WR

Berrios was the purest slot receiver of the group down in Mobile. He didn’t measure that well during the weigh ins, but I thought he had himself a good week of practice. Berrios consistently showed great effort – a quality you want to see in an undersized slot receiver. He also had CBs turning in the wrong direction after deceptive head fakes and plants mixed with stutter steps and hard breaks. Berrios has good hands and would be a reliable target over the middle in traffic. He’s a day three player and would get a 5th round grade from me at this point in the draft process.

J’Mon Moore, Missouri, South Team WR

Moore was good this week, but not as great I expected him to be. He was good at fighting through contact with arm bars and stacking on top of the CB. His hands were solid and he was consistently explosive when coming back to the ball.

Justin Watson, Penn, North Team WR

Watson had the most to prove out of any receiver at the Senior Bowl coming from a FCS program. He looked the part physically at 6’2”, 213 pounds and practiced well too. Watson made a few spectacular one handed grabs. One on Tuesday and another on Thursday during the red zone drills. I currently haven’t seen a game of his yet, but I’m intrigued with his ability after seeing him live.

Cedrick Wilson, Boise State, North Team WR

Wilson was essentially the same player I saw on film while preparing for the Senior Bowl. He ran excellent routes and displayed good hands. He struggled fighting through contact and didn’t win enough against the press because of a lack of use of with his hands. Wilson is a solid player that should be a good contributor in the NFL if he can refine and develop his ability against press coverage.

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