The Seahawks have selected Alabama WR Kevin Norwood with the 23rd pick of the fourth round. Norwood is a guy that's been on my radar during the pre-Draft process because while his production at Alabama was middling, his tools are intriguing. The Seahawks got speed at the receiver position with the Paul Richardson pick in the 2nd round, but now add a player that can go up and pluck the ball at its highest point, box out smaller corners, and is best known for working back to the football when plays break down. Obviously, this is a big deal with Russell Wilson at quarterback and I would wager it's one thing the Seahawks loved in particular.
Much like Keenan Allen in 2013, Norwood doesn't flash high-level explosiveness or electric change of direction on the field, but he is one of the strongest jump-ball catchers in his class. He has strong hands, very good body control, he tracks the ball well and times his jump. Many would say that these types of attributes are not teachable, which is why I've rated Norwood higher than some.
Watch this play below from Alabama's matchup with Tennessee:
Not only does Norwood make the spectacular grab, which is enough on its own to warrant a closer look -- what's impressive about this play to me is how he willed himself back into the play when AJ McCarron breaks the pocket and the designed scheme goes off the rails.
McCarron heads back left, sees Norwood coming back to him, then signals for his receiver to head back downfield. Norwood obliges. With the corner on his inside, he's looking toward the middle of the field with his back to the sideline, expecting, perhaps, for McCarron to loft a jump ball deep and toward the back of the end zone. However, McCarron throws a back-shoulder throw to the outside.
Norwood adjusts incredibly well to the ball, pivoting while simultaneously gaining separation, and gets one hand on the ball to reel it in to his other. Put together, it demonstrates awareness, determination, and fluid athleticism and balance. Impressive.
This play below against Kentucky shows that he's strong on jump balls as well, as he splits two defenders, goes up high to attack the football and comes down with a huge gain. He double-catches it slightly, but demonstrates the concentration to come down with it.
A player with Norwood's skill set and attributes projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 WR who could eventually become Russell Wilson's best friend on third down or in the red zone. He also will play special teams, which is huge for the Seahawks.
Here's what Nolan Nawrocki had to say at NFL.com:
STRENGTHS Solid build. Good hands and concentration -- extends outside his frame and makes the difficult catch. Fine route savvy -- sells his routes with stems and nods. Understands how to get open. Good sideline awareness -- dots the "i." Established rapport with the quarterback is noticeable (is the first receiver sought on broken plays) and keeps working to come free. Very solid personal and football character. Trustworthy, accountable and dependable.
WEAKNESSES Has short arms. Does not pop out of his breaks or create separation with burst and acceleration. Struggles some defeating the jam. Can show more urgency as a blocker in the run game. Breaks few tackles after the catch.
BOTTOM LINE Quicker-than-fast possession receiver with trusted hands a quarterback cherishes in critical situations. Could develop into a reliable, third-down option route runner. Is best with free releases in the slot.
STRENGTHS: Flexible body type with adequate height and hand size. Good speed for the position with sharp footwork and leverage in his routes. Quick-starter with short-area burst. Smooth body control and excellent mid-air adjustments to twist and look the ball into his hands. Very good concentration and a natural hands-catcher. Nice awareness to locate and pluck, working back to the ball and aggressively attacking it. Never quits on his quarterback. Smart with an alert sideline sense. Knows where the sticks are. Good football character and known as a reliable option on and off the field. Positive attitude and carries himself like a professional. Already has his master?s degree.
WEAKNESSES: Lanky build and average-at-best muscle tone. Needs to get stronger and dedicate himself to the weight room. Tends to play too high and struggles vs. press and physical defenders at the start and peak of routes. Lacks great start/stop explosion and not very creative as a ballcarrier. Much improved blocker, but still has room to grow in this area. Needs to improve his ball security and be a better finisher. Older prospect and will be a 25-year old NFL rookie. Below average career production at a school with a talented quarterback and average receivers ? only one career 100-yard receiving game and never led the Tide in receiving.