by Dave Syvertsen, Ourlads’ Draft Analyst
Watching the wide receivers run at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis has reminded me of a notion I’ve held on the position for a few years now. I will always prefer the quickness over the size/speed combination. This brings me to a debate of two players that I have graded pretty far apart.
Mike Evans from Texas A&M is having a great day in Indy. His unofficial 4.50 time in the forty yard dash is very impressive considering he measured in at 6’5/231 with 35+ inch arms. A quarterback can throw the ball just somewhat near him and Evans will have a good shot at getting his hands on the ball. He has impressive ball skills on tape, especially near the sideline on back-shoulder passes. Evans is an impressive athlete that is a tough cover for smaller cornerbacks, however there is a “but” here. Evans doesn’t run crisp routes, nor does he have the short area quickness separate from NFL cover men. As big as he is, a QB doesn’t have space as an asset when throwing the ball to Evans. Corners won’t have a hard time sticking with him all over the field. The A&M/LSU game this past fall was the tape I really put a downgrade on Evans. He was matched by their Tigers’ corners physically, who really made the effort to push him around in press coverage. As a result, Evans didn’t have the impact we were used to watching. NFL teams will see that tape and put their physical corners on him at the point of attack. I think Evans can be a solid receivers in the pros but he doesn’t have the dominant, take-over-the-game talent that many are talking about.
My top graded receiver on tape this year is much smaller and plays a different game than Evans. Brandin Cooks from Oregon State is the kind of receivers that can shine at the next level as long as he has a quarterback that can consistently deliver the ball accurately. His size (5’10/189 with 31 inch arms) is underwhelming to say the least. But if you watch a few OSU game tapes, his lack if size rarely appears on film. They still threw the ball to him downfield and in traffic. His ball skills are near the elite level when it comes to attacking the ball with his hands at the apex of his leap. Beyond that, Cooks has the best short area quickness and explosion of any receiver in this draft. He goes from 0-60 in a few steps, making him impossible to cover underneath. The IQ shows up as well with his ability to putting defenders on their heels when running short routes, giving him that initial advantage when changing direction. His 10 pounds of muscle added after the 2012 season gave him the extra power and presence with the ball in his hands to break tackles and make him the complete package after the catch.
The comparison between these two almost seems unfair. Despite playing the same position, they do completely different things for an offense. Evans is an outside-the-numbers guys and Cooks is best suited for the slot. But when it comes to their final grade, Cooks can do more. His game translates to the next level and his impact will likely be faster.