Late Round Wide Receiver Bargains in the NFL Draft
As the NFL draft gets closer, everyone is focused on what will happen with the early round wide receivers like Amari Cooper, Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman and Jaelen Strong. But there’s value to be had for teams that have receiving needs in the later rounds (just like there are for running backs). And I don’t mean just second and third rounds, I mean fourth and later.
So let me provide you with one wide receiver that I think receiver needy teams should target in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
Kenny Bell – Nebraska
Projected Draft Round – Fourth
There’s everything to like with Kenny Bell, and some team is going to find a real value here as he gets overlooked for bigger names in the draft.
Bell is Nebraska’s all-time leading receiver, having 181 total catches and 2,689 receiving yards. He also was an effective kick returner with an average of 25 yards per try in college. Bell showed good acceleration and the ability to adjust to throws on the fly in college. His speed, both straight line and in routes, is supported by a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at the Combine (good for 7th among wideouts) and a 6.66 second 3 cone drill (good for 3rd among wideouts). He also had an impressive 41.5 inch vertical at the Combine (good for 3rd among wideouts), which will allow him to elevate to high point balls.
There’s no doubt that the physical skills and football IQ are there to be a successful receiver in the NFL. Some feel that his size (197 pounds) and wiry frame may put him at a disadvantage against stronger corners, or from being hit by safeties and linebackers. But heck, how are you going to hit him if you can’t catch him? In the fourth round, I don’t see any better bet to make at receiver.
Ty Montgomery – Stanford
Projected Draft Round – Fifth
If you follow me, you know that I like Ty Montgomery. He’s a guy that was on the rise through 2013 (leading Stanford with 61 receptions for 958 yards and 10 TDs) and looked like he would break records in 2014. Unfortunately, due to a shoulder injury, he never looked 100% and ended up with only 603 yards and 3 TDs. Many NFL Draft pundits were quick to discard Montgomery as perhaps a simple late round flyer, but I think he’s more than that.
In short, I’m willing to give 2014 a pass and project Montgomery to trend up from what we saw in 2013. He has experience in a pro-style offense which allows him to more easily adapt to the NFL. And although he had a relatively average 40-yard dash of 4.55 seconds at the Combine, he’s demonstrated the ability to go up and get contested passes in the air, supported by his 40.5 inch vertical (good for 6th best at the Combine among wideouts). In addition, he’s also a gifted kick returner, garnering consensus All-American honors in 2013. This versatility, and his potential demonstrated in 2013 should overshadow some of his issues with drops in 2014 and make him an intriguing fifth round pick with significant upside.
Josh Harper – Fresno State
Projected Draft Round – Sixth
I’ve discussed Derek Carr before. And what I see is an exceptional college quarterback that has potential in the NFL, and could be the long term answer in Oakland. But people forget that before he was drafted, he wasn’t a one man show. In fact, one of his partners in crime, Devante Adams, moved on to have a modicum of success himself in Green Bay. But another one of his receivers, Josh Harper, actually stayed for another year in Fresno State.
As a reminder, Harper had a terrific Junior year catching passes from Carr, totaling 79 receptions for 1,011 yards and 13 touchdowns. And in 2014, without Carr or Adams around, Harper led Fresno State with 86 receptions for 1,072 yards. Sure, his touchdown numbers dropped, but that has more to do with surrounding talent than Harper himself.
Harper primarily lined up at flanker in college, which gave him some versatility in motion. He’s is a strong receiver who accelerates well and can take the top off defenses, making him a good play against opposing corners. But he also excelled at running slot type routes across the middle and making yards after the catch. We know that he came from a system that accentuated the pass, but the upside of that is that he’s gotten plenty of reps in college. There might be concern over his speed since he only had a 4.64 second 40-yard dash at the Combine, but he improved to 4.52 seconds at his Pro Day, which is acceptable. All in all, if he can be had in the sixth round, he’d be a steal, but I’d consider moving up a round from that if there was need for a flanker or slot receiver.
DaVaris Daniels – Notre Dame
Projected Draft Round – Seventh or UDFA
In the seventh round, you’re just looking for upside. And I think there’s significant upside, along with significant risk, with DaVaris Daniels.
Notre Dame fans will remember him as a solid receiver that ran good routes with terrific hesitation moves allowing him get open. He was a clutch receiver in 2013 (49 receptions for 745 yards and 7 TDs) that projected to be Notre Dame’s number one threat in 2014. Then, of course, the academic suspension derailed all of that. The Irish went on to be respectable without him, but one can’t help but wonder what could have been had he played. Now he’s entering the draft and although he hasn’t demonstrated any standout physical skills at the Combine (below average 4.62 second 40-yard dash and only a 37 inch vertical), I think the skills we saw on the field in 2013 are better than that. He has good acceleration and was able to consistently beat corners down field. And he demonstrated more than once that he has the ability to adjust to the ball to make athletic catches over the shoulder and in front of defenders. He has great hands and was never prone to drops in college.
The way I see it, if you can get what we saw in 2013 for a seventh round pick, why not take Daniels? The upside is all there to have been a third or fourth round pick, but not playing in 2014 due to academic suspension depressed his draft value significantly. Like to gamble? Here’s your bet.
There are certainly other wide receivers available, but if these four don’t go in their respective projected rounds (or even a round earlier), I’d be very surprised.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time I was surprised by something that happened in the NFL.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) April 21, 2015