The draft is getting closer and it's a good one for wide receivers. There is talent available all the way to the 4th and 5th round and it just so happens that we could certainly use one or two if not more.
I love Baldwin and his smart and savvy play. He is a very valuable asset for this team. He is also best suited to play the slot reciever.
I love Kearse for his spirit and his effort but between his mediocre hands and his inability to come down consistently with the challenged catch I can't see him any higher then WR3/4. He doesn’t have the speed or size to have a meaningful upside at this stage of his career. What you see is what you get.
Then there is PRich. He is half of the lessons regarding our future picks. PRich has speed. He does not have size. He has played a full season as our top pick in the last draft. This is how a speedy rookie receiver looks playing for our offense. He did get some separation mainly when he ran short hooks taking advantage of single cover cushion respecting his speed. He did not have a big impact. He did not "stretch the field vertically" or draw double coverage etc. If you think the next speedy smurf will do much better then that I beg to differ. Speed does not seem like an attribute we can easily exploit.
Why is that?
To use the kind of separation that a speedy receiver can get you need to place the pass accurately at the right place on the right time. RW has proven that he can be very accurate. However, timing has not been his strong suit in his first 3 years. There are many possible reasons for that –
- RW does not have the proper vision and anticipation to read those routes and get the ball out on time.
- RW is suffering from poor Oline protection and can not be regularly ready to pass on time while he avoids constant pressure.
- RW has been instructed to protect the ball at all cost and will not risk passing until he has his receiver clearly open. Those passes need to leave his hands before the receiver is open trusting that his speed will enable him to reach the ball ahead of the corner.
- RW is too short and needs to get clear viewing lanes before he can properly use his reads and that complicates timing passes.
- RW never had a superior speedy receiver he can build rapport and chemistry with and once he does he will be great using it.
Whatever it is, the fact remains that in the past 3 years we have rarely seen RW making great use of speedy targets.
That brings us to Matthews and the SB. Based on this one game we can not say much about his quality and potential. One game is just one game. (The Atlanta game didn't turn Miller into a 1,000 yards receiving TE within our offense)
However, we did learn something important from Matthews at the SB. RW can take advantage and exploit a radical size mismatch. Until NE shifted BB to cover and erase Matthews in the 3rd quarter it seemed like RW can find him at will. There are actually two lessons to be learned here. RW can find and exploit size mismatch and teams can counter it by shifting their taller/bigger corner to cancel that advantage.
Here comes Jimmy!!!!!!!!!!
Graham is the size mismatch incarnated. At 6-7 he has radical size advantage over 6-2 corners. His speed will have him wide open immediately when covered by LBs. He is dangerous enough to merit being the focus of any defense we will face. He will draw the tallest and fastest cover personal and the safeties will always account for his whereabouts.
Great. But, what does that have to do with the draft and Matthews at the SB?
It has everything to do with them. Jimmy Graham starts a chain effect on the field that should affect our potential picks at the draft. With Graham on board teams will dedicate their biggest, tallest, fastest cover personal to shadow him over the field. Very few teams have the kind of corners/safeties that can actually cover such a tall target and he will get his share of chance to use that. If you have a BB or a Sherman or a Peterson you'd place them right there on Graham. You will not shift them from him to cover a Matthews on the 3rd quarter. Nobody in the NFL has a 2nd corner big enough to cover another big receiver other than maybe the seahawks.
Does that imply that Matthews is about to have a SB type of performance every game this year? I have no idea. He could or he can prove to be a one time "rabbit out of the hat".
IMO, it implies that "A Matthews" can be used to take constant advantage of the attention Graham will get. A big target that can abuse a much shorter corner in single cover and come down with the high contested catch regularly can have a "Matthews in the SB" kind of performance on a regular basis when Graham is on the field.
The draft is less then 4 weeks away. We have 11 picks this year. IMO 1-2 of those picks should be a potential "Matthews". In the Graham era we need a 6-4 plus athletic target that can come down with the high contested catch. We need this guy starting at the X/Z position. He does not need to be lighting fast or a polished route runner at first. He needs to be able to run down the sideline with a 5-10 corner, locate the high ball, go up, catch it over the corner and come down with it. Forget about everything else, just go up and get it.
There are ample guys in the draft that will be available in the 3rd-4th rounds and could fit this description. Waller and Conley are my immediate suspects but there are others.
They will need to compete with Matthews in training camp and by the time the 2015 season starts we should have one big WR starter and another big WR backup. They will benefit from the Graham effect and if successful they will in turn help Graham avoid constant tight double coverage.
Once those chess pieces are in place, defenses will need to dedicate the proper manpower to counter those threats. It will pull some size and numbers out of the box and will help the running game too. The message for me for this draft is clear -
SIZE OVER SPEED.
Go get them, hawks.