Who to Watch at the 2019 NFL Combine – Wide Receivers
By Ha Kung Wong
For Wide Receivers, I’m generally looking at the same drills and making direct comparisons. The drills I think are most informative for Wide Receivers are the Vertical Jump (clearly tells ability to get up to high point balls, lower body explosiveness and expanded catch radius), 40-Yard Dash (burst off the line in the first 10-yards and straight line speed for the remainder) and 3-Cone Drill (ability to change directions when running routes and after the catch in the open field). And of course, I’ll watch position drills, but not for ability. Rather, I’ll be looking for chemistry with the Quarterbacks, as he’ll likely be receiving passes from a number of different players with different release, velocity and timing.
Don’t forget to check out our most recent podcast as senior staff writers Ryan Whitfield and Joey Alibro, as well Dan Thury of Beer Fueled Fantasy Football, discuss who they’re watching at the NFL Combine.
Now let’s turn to the Wide Receivers that I’ll be watching.
Parris Campbell – Ohio State
Parris Campbell had an interesting journey, as he started as a kick returner, capping off with third-team All-Big Ten honors in his sophomore year. But then moved to wide receiver and finished off his senior year with first-team All-Big Ten honors, leading the Buckeyes with 90 receptions for 1,063 yards and 12 TDs.
At 6′ 1″ and 200 lbs., he has the right height and frame to fight off defensive backs and makes him tough to bring down. He exhibits strong route running and terrific acceleration. Plus he brings extra value as a kick returner, so he can be an immediate contributor on special teams while working his way into the wide receiver rotation.
The problem is he played exclusively in the slot in college and had some issues with drops. He’ll have to deal with stronger and faster defenses in the NFL, and in the slot will have to secure the ball to avoid fumbles and drops, as he’s almost certainly going to take hits. His size offsets that somewhat, but won’t insulate him. I’m not as worried about the 40 with Campbell, as he has plenty of speed and acceleration, but he may be a guy that I actually monitor in position drills for drops.
D.K. Metcalf – Ole Miss
D.K. Metcalf looks to be the real deal, but has been bit by the injury bug numerous times throughout his college career. He was going to play his freshman year, but broke his foot in the second game and sat out the rest of the year. He then managed a solid first true season in 12 starts, ending with SEC All-Freshman honors after snagging 39 passes for 646 yards and 7 TDs. He was then on his way as a sophomore to a huge season with 569 yards and 5 TDs in 7 games, but then suffered a neck injury ending his season once again. So you can imagine the concern teams might have regarding Metcalf’s injury history.
At 6′ 4″ and 225 lbs., he’s got the height and frame to box out defenders while also exhibiting strong route running and blazing speed. His catch radius is ridiculous as he’s “out-OBJ’d” OBJ with plenty of one-handed catches, and he has a terrific ability to find soft spots in zone coverage. There’s some concerns with drops on routine passes, but the most significant concern is health, as 21 games in 3 seasons isn’t a terrific track record.
In addition to what I note above, I’ll actually pay attention to his flexibility tests and making sure he passes all of them. Failing one might indicate potential for more injuries in the future. Honestly, Metcalf can only hurt his draft stock in the Combine as the hype is ridiculously high considering his injury history. So if he doesn’t excel, it’ll be interesting if he slides out of the first round.
N’Keal Harry – Arizona State
K’Neal Harry was hot out of the gate as a true freshman, starting 12 games and leading all freshman nationally with 58 receptions. He didn’t slow down in his sophomore season earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors in part by leading the conference with 87 receiving yards per game over 13 games. He then repeated first-team all-Pac-12 honors as a junior after covering 1,088 yards and scoring nine times on 73 receptions in 12 games.
At 6′ 3″ and 210 lbs., Harry has the prototypical size for an NFL receiver. He demonstrates strong hands and has been exemplary at tracking and adjusting to throws downfield as well as making contested catches with strong hands. In fact, that may be of the best parts of his game as he can use his big frame to box out defenders and play on 50-50 balls. In addition, he’s a terrific blocker and can use his size to consistently stalemate or knock defenders off coverage.
The primary concern is his lack of burst and acceleration off the line. He has enough speed to beat defenders on fly routes, but he has trouble getting separation early. Plus, there’s concern regarding the limited variety of routes he ran in college and the precision with which he would run more complicated routes.
With that said, I’ll be very interested in the Vertical Jump and the 40-yard dash, both at the 10-yard mark and complete. He can really help himself in the draft if he shows well there or at least ends up in the middle of the pack.
Kelvin Harmon – North Carolina State
|*2016||North Carolina State||10||27||462||5||0||0||0|
|*2017||North Carolina State||13||69||1017||4||0||0||0|
|*2018||North Carolina State||12||81||1186||7||0||0||0|
|Career||North Carolina State||177||2665||16||0||0||0|
Kelvin Harmon had a productive 3 years at NC State. In his sophomore season, he became the first NC State receiver to exceed 1,000 yards since 2003 and garnering second-team All-ACC honors by amassing 69 receptions for 1,017 yards and four TDs. He then repeated the feat in his junior year by again exceeding 1,000 yards and this time getting first-team All-ACC honors by leading his team with 1,186 receiving yards and seven TDs on 81 receptions.
At 6′ 3″ and 214 lbs., Harmon has great size for a receiver, both for beating defensive backs in the air and for blocking, which he excelled at. He’s particularly skilled at creating separation on routes. He doesn’t have significant burst, acceleration or speed, but is efficient when moving down field and shows solid body control and hands to be a reliable target.
I’ll be focusing on the 40-yard dash again for Harmon, both at the 10-yard and 40-yard marks. A demonstration of better than average burst and speed will significantly increase his draft stock.
David Sills V – West Virginia
I’ve actually discussed David Sills’ story before on the podcast, which is relatively well-known in college football circles. He was offered a scholarship by USC at the age of 13 to be a quarterback and started on varsity as an eighth-grader, but unfortunately had an injury to his throwing hand and ankle that knocked him out for most of his senior high school season. So he instead accepted a scholarship to West Virginia and eventually moved to receiver for his freshman year, making seven catches for 131 yards and two TDs. But he still wanted to play quarterback, so he transferred to El Camino College, where he was all-conference with 1,636 yards and 15 TDs. Not having any offers from the FBS to play quarterback, he returned to West Virginia to continue playing receiver. It was then he broke out as TD magnet leading the nation in 2017 with 18 receiving TDs, resulting in being a finalist for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, second-team Associated Press All-American honors and first-team All-Big 12 honors. He did it again in 2018 being second in the nation with 15 receiving TDs, garnering him Associated Press third-team All-American and first-team All-Big 12 honors.
What can I say? I really like Sills’ moxie. He’s 6′ 4″ and 204 lbs., so he has the height, but he could use more strength. He’s getting more comfortable running routes and does a terrific job high pointing 50-50 balls, as well as exhibiting body control to adjust to throws. And, as you can tell from the numbers, he’s amazing in goal-to-go situations running slants and fades in the end zone.
But there are concerns about his lack of speed and his issues with drops. Surely, he’ll improve as he’s only played receiver for essentially two seasons in college, but he certainly is trying hard to improve and it’s shown. Plus, he actually played in his team’s bowl game, unlike many of the other prospects who skipped out to start preparing for the Combine and Draft. Maybe it’s gut, but I think there’s solid character traits here that would make Sills a great team player in the NFL who could excel in certain systems.
Sills really needs to show well at the Combine to get drafted. So I’ll be watching all of his drills, but with the concern on speed, I’ll pay particular attention to the 40-yard dash, vertical and broad jumps, and with the concern on strength, I’ll be watching his bench press. And perhaps most importantly, I’ll be interested to see how he does in position drills since there’s widespread concern over drops.