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Several NFL Draft-eligible wide receivers dominate in Week 1

AUG 31 Ohio State at Indiana
Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Several NFL Draft-eligible wide receivers dominate in Week 1

Both Kyle Crabbs and I agreed entering the season that in order for the 2018 NFL Draft crop of receivers to have more appeal, several players would need to emerge. After one week, a number receivers did exactly that and had prolific outings, demonstrating quality exciting NFL traits.

While several of the expected names performed well, a few others emerged (and re-emerged), giving us exactly what we hoped for entering the season. Here’s a recap on how the best wide receiver outings from the weekend that was in College Football:

Deebo Samuel, South Carolina – 5 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TD’s. 97-yard kick return TD.

A popular name over the course of summer scouting, Samuel quickly turned heads by taking the opening kickoff from NC State to the house. On that return, Samuel made three tacklers miss while showing outstanding field vision and burst. He also made a terrific TD reception over his outside shoulder and secured the ball with one hand. The Jake Bentley-to-Deebo Samuel 2017 connection is off to a great start. National Scout Benjamin Solak further detailed his performance:

Immediate impact as a returner, manifested in great vision. Illustrated nice flexibility as well, returned opening kickoff 97 yards for touchdown. As a receiver, did well adjusting to and attacking the football. Good quickness/hesitation move to create space on first touchdown reception. Highlight reel one-handed snag for a touchdown at full extension–excellent concentration and tracking, as well as ideal long speed and acceleration. Absolutely took over the game as a big-play threat. 

Simmie Cobbs Jr., Indiana – 11 receptions, 149 yards, TD.

After missing all of 2015, Cobbs had a dominant return against the Ohio State. The Buckeyes tried to stop him with several different defenders, including Denzel Ward, but it didn’t matter – Cobbs had his way. Showing terrific body control and ball skills, Cobbs overwhelmed the OSU defensive backs at the catch point. National Scout Roger Dixon offered his take:

He dominated the game with his 6’4” frame and elite body control to track and haul in jump passes. He showed immense concentration on the ball, following the passes all the way through the catch. He has the body control to twist his body midstride, which was very valuable during back shoulder throws. His hands are strong enough to snag a pass with all hands. If he keeps climbing the ladder for passes, he’ll be a hot commodity for the NFL.

James Washington, Oklahoma State – 6 receptions, 152 yards, 2 TD’s.

Washington and quarterback Mason Rudolph picked up right where they left off in each of the last two seasons with a monster performance in Week 1. Washington again illustrated his ability to stretch the defense vertically and explode at the top of his routes to make big plays. His ball tracking and ability to adjust was also on display. I detailed the Rudolph-to-Washington hookup over the summer:

The Rudolph to Washington combination is among the most productive in college football and a big season should be store. Washington and Rudolph compliment each other perfectly. Rudolph excels at pushing the ball vertically down the field and delivering touch throws. Washington is a crisp route runner that knows how to create separation and attacks the football in the air with an alpha mentality at the catch point.

Dante Pettis, Washington – 3 receptions, 85 yards. 61-yard punt return TD.

Pettis only caught three balls but it was the traits that he showed on those receptions that wowed our staff. Pettis is a smooth athlete and his hands are outstanding – the dude catches everything! He has a natural feel for hauling in the football and the game slows down for him when the ball arrives. Kyle Crabbs went in-depth on his performance:

Creating separation easily on the boundary, especially on long routes. Has some subtle nudges and hand fighting to establish a crease. Smooth athlete in the return game; good cuts and loose lower half to swerve and pick around blocks.  Tremendous effort on long punt to stick foot in the ground and explode through first line of defense on way to a PR touchdown. Showed good field vision to weave to sideline and finish long run back.  Carries momentum through deep out route well. Playing through contact to uncover, again showcasing high point skill; which was a strength in 2016. Just missed a tremendous reception for a touchdown in the back of the end zone but again showcases hand eye coordination and length. 

Calvin Ridley, Alabama – 7 receptions, 82 yards, TD.

Perhaps that stat line didn’t blow you away but what if I told you Alabama completed only 10 passes for 96 yards? Ridley was the passing offense for the Crimson Tide whenever a play though the air needed to be made. While his route-running was fantastic as usual, he showed burst that I hadn’t seen before from Ridley. National Scout Ben Solak further explained his outing:

Understands coverage and can synthesize/settle into throwing windows for QB. Caught with hands away from frame. Elite acceleration/deceleration allows for success on go/curl concepts. Tracks ball well and gets under it with easy speed. Works nuance into routes to win release/leverage. Works well with scrambling QB to create throwing window.

D.J. Moore, Maryland – 7 receptions, 133 yards, TD.

Kyle Crabbs labeled Moore as a breakout candidate over the summer and so far Kyle is spot on. Moore impressed with his smooth route-running, hands, ball tracking and ability to create after the catch. National Scout Roger Dixon offered his insight on Moore’s season debut:

He runs deep routes with great speed and smoothness; not wasting extra steps during rounded transitions. Adjusted to an underthrown pass during deep route to complete an explosive catch. Strong hands; caught two high passes with all hands. Dangerous after the catch. Punt returner as well.

Other Notables

Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame – 4 receptions, 80 yards, TD.

Ben Solak praised St. Brown over the summer and like Ridley, he was the catalyst behind Notre Dame’s passing offense.

Darren Carrington, Utah – 10 receptions, 127 yards, TD.

Carrington recently joined the Utes after being dismissed from the Oregon program in July. It hasn’t taken him long to adjust to his new teammates and his senior season is off to a terrific start.

Allen Lazard, Iowa State – 8 receptions, 108 yards

While I am not as high on Lazard as others, there is no denying the consistency he’s had in terms of production throughout his career. That continued in the Cyclones opener and Lazard is another big-bodied wide out that offers quality possession receiver traits.

Joe Marino

Marino began his career as the Assistant Editor for USA Today Digital Properties Draft Sites Network in 2011. A member of the FWAA, Marino writes about the NFL, College Football and NFL Draft for FanRag Sports.

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