2014 NFL Draft: Wide Receiver Rankings, Part 3

Kevin C. Cox

The final chapter of my rankings... for now.

Part 1 and part 2.

Ideal picks at 64

12. Kevin Norwood (6-2 198) - Alabama

Surprised? Not familiar with him? That's fair. Scroll down and watch a little game film before reading this.

You back? Now think about what you saw. Think about the offense's emphasis on the run. Think about the talent he had to compete with for the few targets available. Norwood was given scraps. The leftovers. So is 38 receptions for 568 yards and 7 TDs starting to sound any better? It should. That's efficient production. Damn efficient production.

Norwood ain't flashy on film, especially with all the terrific athletes around him. It's really no wonder why draft pundits so woefully underrate him. Still, he's an NFL caliber athlete who really makes the most of his skills - extremely reliable with some big play ball skills. While he won't set the league on fire, he'll probably be some quarterback's best friend.

Releasing against press is the single area of real concern in Norwood's game. He shows some nice technique here but needs more physicality to avoid getting pushed off his route. He'll never excel in this area but he's overall such a savvy player that I'm confident he'll work his way up to "functional. " I can't see it holding him back for long.

Once into his route he accelerates smoothly to top speed. There's almost zero head movement in his running motion. This makes it difficult to tell when he's gearing down to cut and gives his deep speed a deceptive quality. He sells his routes with subtle head nods and there's very little wasted motion at the top of his stem. His breaks are incredibly crisp and precise. He works the sideline and the slot with equal savvy. He'll "ghost" defensive backs on broken plays and always works back to the football. Easily an NFL caliber route runner already.

Norwood possesses outstanding body control and adjusts to the football in the air. Concentration is solid and he catches the ball cleanly with huge, 10" hands. While his vertical is nothing to write home about (33"), he consistently seems to maximize that number in jump ball situations. He made some truly fantastic acrobatic catches in college. Despite an unheralded career and modest production, he's one of this class's best receivers at converting catches in tight coverage.

He didn't get many opportunities to run with the football in college but he's quick and tough and takes what's available. As a blocker, he brings adequate attitude. Could be better.

Norwood might lack the upside for Seattle to spend an early round pick on him. On the other hand, he fits beautifully into the offense as a master of the 50/50 deep ball. Russell would quickly recognize him as an extremely reliable target underneath. I think he has enough athleticism for them to strongly consider him with the 64th pick.

All you Seahawk fans hoping for Jarvis Landry might consider jumping ship to board the USS Norwood. He approaches Landry's skill in all his best qualities: route savvy, ball skills, and toughness. Now consider that he's 3" taller, has 4.48 speed, and elite agility (tied for third in the three-cone at 6.68). You get the same type of player but he isn't restricted to the slot and there's just oh so much more to work with from an athleticism standpoint. Landry's a fine player. Norwood is better.

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Game film here. No highlight reel available (he'd have a great one) so here's a tough catch for a TD instead.


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13. Allen Robinson (6-2 220) - Penn State

Allen Robinson is a pull-my-hair-out type of player. He's a big, strong receiver with average speed who tries to play like he's 30 lbs lighter with lightning speed. While this approach isn't entirely misguided given his foot quickness and fluidity, these should be complimentary qualities that make him more than your typical possession receiver, not the foundation of his game.

Beating press is the one area where Robinson consistently shows the physicality his build suggests. He's quick and active with his hands, fighting for position throughout the early phase of his route. The head fakes can be excessive but this isn't a serious concern. Against off coverage he comes off the ball with a determination to eat his man up.

At this point he becomes a finesse player. On the red line he'll willingly give up the position he fought so hard for. This constricts him to the sideline and he often has to fight his way back to the ball. Over the middle he gets "jumpy," unnecessarily elevating for the ball in fear of getting hit. This often limits his YAC potential.

Again, the finesse game isn't all bad. He shows some really nice route savvy. He convincingly sells his routes and runs them precisely as well - a feat many collegiate receivers struggle with. Getting open isn't a problem, despite only average speed. He doesn't threaten much over the top but he could be a force in the red zone.

Robinson possesses reliable hands. Body control and leaping ability are both positives so his catching radius inspires a lot of confidence from his quarterback. He flashes the ability to catch the ball through contact but doesn't do so consistently. The real problem here goes back to how he'll willingly relinquish good position.

Running with the ball is where his "I'm a speed guy" attitude is the most detrimental. He has smooth cuts to force arm tackles instead of direct hits and good vision to hit the crease. It looks sexy on tape and Penn State wasn't shy about getting him the ball in space. By all means he should be a dynamic YAC player. Sadly, play after play he'd get the ball, juke, and fall down/forward on first contact. He leans so far forward on his moves that the tackle is almost a foregone conclusion. He probably has good balance and leg drive but they're completely untapped at this point.

Blocking is inconsistent. Occasionally he jumps forward and handles his assignment with ease. Most of the time he seems disinterested.

Robinson needs to re imagine himself as the tough guy he demonstrates with his release. If he can, he'll quickly become a starting possession receiver and a possible #1. If he can't, he'll be a pretty-to-watch role player who fans complain should play a bigger part in the offense. The Seahawks will appreciate his potential but not his finesse attitude. The talent is there though and that can't be discounted.

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Game film here. Combine workout here.


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14. Bruce Ellington (5-9 197) - South Carolina

Ellington has a sturdy build and springy athleticism. While not especially sudden with his movements, speed and agility are as you'd hope for from a player his height. He's new to the position (quarterback in high school) and technically pretty raw. Not many bad habits though and definitely a coordinated athlete. Most scouts see him as a utility knife destined to remain in the slot. I'm a bit more optimistic about his potential to play the perimeter.

Mostly playing the slot in college, Ellington didn't face much press. However, he has the quickness and strength to win at the line and enough speed to capitalize. With his routes he's pretty basic. This will probably limit his production in year one but there's nothing to suggest he can't dramatically improve with good coaching. On the plus side, he shows some urgency yet never appears out of control.

Ellington's physicality matches his natural strength. He holds position against contact and has the concentration to win in tight coverage. He could use his hands better to create space for himself but that's a common learning area for inexperienced receivers.

His hands are solid. There are some body catching issues, another common problem, but nothing too debilitating. He has the hand strength and coordination to reach over his head and snatch the ball out of the air. That's a big plus given his height. It will become an essential skill if he's used at all on the perimeter. He didn't see many jump ball situations in college but a 39.5" vertical suggest there's potential there.

Put the ball in his hands and Ellington can make things happen. He's bouncy in the open field and tough to bring down in traffic. I don't think he's explosive enough to be a real game-changer here but he's certainly good enough to put up consistent YAC and warrant creative looks. He has some experience as a returner and will probably see opportunities there. Blocking is raw like everything else.

If the Hawks are looking for a similar player to the departed Golden Tate, they need not look farther than Ellington. He's a similar spark-plug type player with downfield big play ability.  He'll need a similar amount of development before contributing too. Here's to hoping he'll take a more professional approach to learning the game from the start. In any case, he's one to watch if he lasts through the second round.

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Game film here.


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