The NFL is a league that keeps adapting. Now it is a league where passing has become more important than ever. Sam Monson of PFF has calculated that teams pass on 61% of their plays. Teams are calling more and more 3 wide sets, and as a result the slot receiver position is as important as ever. Some of the NFL’s best players dominate on routes in the slot.
Players like Julian Edelman, Doug Baldwin, T.Y. Hilton, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, Jamison Crowder, and Cole Beasley are all instrumental to their offenses success, and all run a majority of their routes from the slot.
With the NFL going to so many three wide sets, the question is why the slot positon goes so undervalued in the draft. Yes, the outside receivers of the world are the most coveted of all receiver prospects because they have the rarest skill set. Every team wants a Julio Jones, a player who dominates wherever he goes on the field and has to be double and triple teamed.
There are only two receivers in the 2017 draft, Mike Williams and Corey Davis, who project as number 1 receivers. After those two, the burner John Ross is the consensus number 3 receiver, but he doesn’t project as a true number one receiver.
With the lack of receivers who can develop into number one options, it is astonishing that the safest receiver in the class gets no buzz. I realize the term “safest” is normally hyperbole when assigned to a prospect, or it’s reserved for a top 10 pick who has a perceived high floor. But I am willing to make an exception for Ryan Switzer and call him the safest prospect in the draft.
Nothing about Switzer’s look screams NFL player. He is knocked for his size and rightfully so at 5’8” and 181lbs, running a 4.51 40-yard dash. He will always have a small catch radius, and will never be able to play on the outside. But what he will do is win in the slot consistently for whatever team drafts him, and be one of the best players in the league on third downs. His ceiling may be capped, but he can be an essential part of an offense and help a team win games. That is exactly what I want out of a player In the third round or fourth round, which is where Switzer is projected to go.
What he does well
The phrase quicker than fast is often thrown about, but it applies with Switzer. He combines excellent acceleration and has lightning quick feet, with the ability to cut on a dime. His change of direction skills are terrific, and he runs exceptional routes. He mixes in cuts and head fakes to win on double moves. Switzer will consistently be matched up with slot corners, safeties, and linebackers. His change of direction skills will be too much for opponents to handle and he will become a quarterback’s best friend.
This showed in his senior year when he caught 96 passes for 1112 yards and 6 touchdowns when he played with a better quarterback. He is not just a man beater, since he has an excellent understanding of zone coverage as well.
I may be the leader of the Ryan Switzer fan club. pic.twitter.com/09VWhafs0X
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 24, 2017
Switzer is not only consistently open, but he also rarely drops a pass. He shows strong hands, and maximizes his catch radius by being able to catch passes above his head and behind him. He may be small, but he isn’t scared. He is fearless running across the middle and will hold onto the ball through contact despite his small frame.
Fourth down and 7 with the game on the line. This is the catch that Ryan Switzer makes. pic.twitter.com/X817KigZlv
— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) March 25, 2017
Switzer also brings run after the catch and punt return ability. In his career, Switzer averaged 10.9 yards per return and returned 7 punts for touchdowns. He is an elusive open field runner who can make people miss and shows good vision to get the most out of every play. He will never be one to break or run through tackles, but his lateral quickness will keep defenders off balance and give him a chance to make them miss. His added dimension as a punt returner is a welcomed addition for a team as well. A player that helps with field position and converts third downs is needed on every team in the NFL.
Switzer is silly quick pic.twitter.com/WNrHeEe2OP
— Eliot Crist (@EliotCrist) February 19, 2017
Ryan Switzer had 7 career punt return touchdowns and averaged 10.9 yards per return pic.twitter.com/bmXVwSKedL
— Eliot Crist (@EliotCrist) April 4, 2017
Switzer is a player who will drop in the draft since he can only play in the slot and lacks the size to develop into a target on the outside. However, with the NFL passing well more than half the time and with slot receivers being such a crucial part of most teams’ offense, Switzer’s skill set can be utilized in any offense. Switzer is a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of player; you know exactly the skillset and talent you are getting. That shouldn’t make him fall in the draft, it should make him rise. He will help any team that drafts him win games, and that is everything you want in the NFL.