2014 NFL Draft: Big and tall receiving options on Day 3

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Part 1 of this series addressed the players currently on the Pittsburgh roster. And we all have read far too much about the receivers who might be available at picks 15 and 46. But who might the Steelers go after if the receiver pick falls to Day 3?

Part 1 of this series addressed the players currently on the roster. This article will focus on the later-round prospects who might develop into that long-desired tall receiver and red zone threat. Part 3 (and maybe 4 if length requires it) will address the options for shifty slot receivers, scatbacks, and receivers who would compete as overall #3's rather than specific role-fillers.

First things first. YES, the dividing lines between big and tall receivers, shifty slot guys, and possession guys are both fuzzy and artificial. And YES, almost any successful NFL receiver will cover at least two of those categories. But at the same time, a series like this needs some kind of organizing principle and the size/speed/utility approach works as well as anything else.

Size is an asset, especially in the red zone where the limited amount of room can help to negate speed and quickness. Yes, a good 5'10 receiver will win more red zone battles than a bad 6'4" one. But a good 6'4" will do even better and that's the limit of the point. Yes, size helps in the mid-field too but there's no denying that speed and shiftiness keep a defense from loading the box. And as for "possession" receivers who don't excel in either category - there's a reason the college award for best receiver is named after Fred Biletnikoff. If you ever want proof that a lack of measurables does not have to limit success, just say that name aloud: Biletnikoff. Raider or not, the guy was a breaker of backs and spirits.

Which way will the Steelers lean in this draft? Will they go for two fast and shifty receivers (Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton) plus a tall one? Two fast and shifty receivers plus a Mr. Reliable? An overwhelming team of three Antonio Browns? My answer is this: they'll go for the best player available regardless of category. The bigger question, and the one I'm hoping to answer with this series, is what they might do if defensive picks dominate the first two days and the team is forced to address the receiver question on Day 3.

So ... assume the perfect storm. Anthony Barr or your choice of CB in the 1st; Mosley, Shazier, Tuitt, or Hageman in the 2nd. A tumbling pass rusher or other irresistible bargain in the 3rd (Bishop Sankey? Niklas or ASJ?). Now, at last, comes the time to address wide receiver. Who will the team be looking at?

Here is the chart of available WR's who have the size and leaping ability to win the jump-ball game. The first version is organized by height and weight. The second contains the same players but is organized by the round where that player might be a Pittsburgh pick. TE's are listed separately in both charts. ALL CAPS AND RED TEXT indicates a player who is already on the Steelers' roster. Having them there makes comparisons a lot easier.

Big & Tall Receiving Options, Organized By Size

PLAYER

HGHT

WGHT

POS

Brandon Coleman

6-6

225

WR

Kelvin Benjamin

6-5

240

WR

Mike Evans

6-5

231

WR

DEREK MOYE

6-5

210

WR

Cody Hoffman

6-4

223

WR

Marcus Lucas

6-4

218

WR

Martavis Bryant

6-4

211

WR

L'Damian Washington

6-4

195

WR

Jeff Janis

6-3

219

WR

Jordan Matthews

6-3

212

WR

JUSTIN BROWN

6-3

209

WR

Alex Neutz

6-3

205

WR

Devin Street

6-3

198

WR

Quincy Enunwa

6-2

225

WR

Donte Moncrief

6-2

221

WR

Allen Robinson

6-2

220

WR

DARRIUS HEYWARD-BEY

6-2

219

WR

Cody Latimer

6-2

215

WR

Davante Adams

6-1

212

WR

Sammy Watkins

6-1

211

WR

TE Troy Niklas

6-7

270

TE

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

6-6

262

TE

TE Crockett Gilmore

6-6

260

TE

TE Jace Amaro

6-5

265

TE

TE HEATH MILLER

6-5

256

TE

TE Arthur Lynch

6-5

258

TE

TE Rob Blanchflower

6-4

260

TE

TE Richard Rodgers

6-4

257

TE

TE Blake Annen

6-4

247

TE

TE DAVID PAULSON

6-4

246

TE

TE Eric Ebron

6-4

245

TE

TE Joe Jon Duncan

6-3

268

TE

Big & Tall Receiving Options, Organized By Draft Grade

RND

PLAYER

HGHT

WGHT

POS


DEREK MOYE

6-5

210

WR


JUSTIN BROWN

6-3

209

WR


DARRIUS HEYWARD-BEY

6-2

219

WR

1

Mike Evans

6-5

231

WR

1

Sammy Watkins

6-1

211

WR

1-2

Kelvin Benjamin

6-5

240

WR

2

Jordan Matthews

6-3

212

WR

2

Donte Moncrief

6-2

221

WR

2

Allen Robinson

6-2

220

WR

2

Cody Latimer

6-2

215

WR

2

Davante Adams

6-1

212

WR

4-5

Brandon Coleman

6-6

225

WR

4-6

Martavis Bryant

6-4

211

WR

4-6

Devin Street

6-3

198

WR

4-7

Quincy Enunwa

6-2

225

WR

5-6

Cody Hoffman

6-4

223

WR

5-6

Jeff Janis

6-3

219

WR

6-7

L'Damian Washington

6-4

195

WR

6-7

Alex Neutz

6-3

205

WR

7

Marcus Lucas

6-4

218

WR


TE HEATH MILLER

6-5

256

TE


TE DAVID PAULSON

6-4

246

TE

1

TE Eric Ebron

6-4

245

TE

2

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins

6-6

262

TE

2

TE Jace Amaro

6-5

265

TE

2-3

TE Troy Niklas

6-7

270

TE

5-6

TE Crockett Gilmore

6-6

260

TE

5-6

TE Arthur Lynch

6-5

258

TE

5-7

TE Rob Blanchflower

6-4

260

TE

5-7

TE Richard Rodgers

6-4

257

TE

5-7

TE Blake Annen

6-4

247

TE

5-7

TE Joe Jon Duncan

6-3

268

TE

So who are these guys? We've discussed the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rounders to death so this article will focus only on the Day 3 options.

Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers (Round 4-5) - 6'6", 225 lbs. Brandon Coleman has amazing height and good size (an inch or two taller than Moye and 15 pounds bigger), paired with questionable hands and moderate production. The big question is whether that lack of production can be explained away by circumstance ... and the answer is, it might. Most of Coleman's drops can be traced to his interaction with some very inadequate QB's. Receiver runs to a spot; ball arrives a foot or four off the mark; receiver fails to make the catch; and it goes into the books as a drop. Do you blame the receiver who failed to adjust or the QB who made an errant throw? Unfortunately, fans like us are in a poor position to answer those questions. OTOH, teams and professional scouts should be able to do it. So the bottom line is this: from our point of view the boom could be dream worthy, the bust could be awful, and Coleman could easily range on various teams' Boards from a solid-2nd to a UDFA. It doesn't help that Coleman had some genuine boners to pair with all those other drops that might be explained away.

Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh (Round 4-6) - 6'3", 198 lbs. I thought long and hard about whether Devin Street should be on this list of jump-ball-capable receivers. He certainly has the height, but he is extraordinarily thin (10 pounds lighter than Brown or Moye) and battling for disputed balls isn't the best part of his game. Street excels most when used as a Biletnikoff-type possession receiver who wins by using his great ability to magnetically attract any nearby ball into an iron grip. In other words, he has fantastic hands. I'm neither an expert nor a prophet, but I'm going to climb out onto a limb and pretend to be both for purposes of this article. Fred Biletnikoff may have been the greatest route-runner ever. If Devin Street has the mind, dedication, and physical ability to master that art - not just route-running, but precision route-running - I believe he could be a genuine great in the NFL. But if Street can only learn to be a "good" route-runner I believe he will ultimately lack the bulk and strength to be more than a #3 receiver. He's a Pittsburgh boy and I wish him well, but that's a fairly tall order.

Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson (Round 4-6) - 6'4", 211 lbs. Let's be clear up front: your author wouldn't draft Martavis Bryant in any round because of all the question marks, but someone surely will. I acknowledge the amazing physical gifts of height, speed, hands, and general athleticism. But then there are all the flaky bits, and the lack of production even in an elite passing offense with Sammy Watkins drawing double coverage and more on the other side... People like to say that Kelvin Benjamin and Johnny Football are the most divisive players in the draft, and that Rashede Hageman offers the biggest boom-or-bust. Martavis Bryant beats them all for both categories, and he does it in a single body. Enough with the analogies. How does he compare to what the Steelers have on staff? Physically, he looks a lot like Derek Moye (very tall and thin) with vastly better speed and athleticism. Everything measurable makes him look like a 1st or 2nd round pick. It's the intangibles and question marks that will make the difference. Judge on your own.

Quincy Enunwa, WR, Nebraska (Round 4-7) - 6'2", 225 lbs. Enunwa is a guy who has only recently made it to the public eye. I urge you to follow the links at the BTSC Big Board to learn more about him because it makes for a fascinating story. Here's the gist: not one, but several detailed reports make dead serious comparisons between Quincy Enunwa and players such as Terrell Owens, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, and Brandon Marshall ... and then every one of those reports concludes by ranking him as a Day 3 option. Huh? Can you explain that? I honestly cannot. This is a prospect who has me totally confused. The physical upsides are size, speed (4.45 at the Combine), and an amazing ability to gain yards after the catch. Then there's the consistent reports of high character and leadership qualities (team captain), plus the fantastic results in "secret" metrics like red zone success (10 of 12 TD's in his senior year came in the red zone). And don't forget the Steelers-friendly attitude that leads him to block often, eagerly and well on running plays. So what could possibly drive a guy like that all the way down to a 5th round pick? From what I can tell it all comes down to the lack of usable receiving film because Nebraska was so run-heavy, plus the occasional boneheaded, inexcusable drop. Drops, interestingly enough, that can also be blamed on Owens, Crabtree and Marshall as well. Bottom line: Quincy Enunwa's boom could be off the charts. A young T.O. without the attitude would be the steal of all time. The bust could be total, complete, and Sweedlike. But based on character alone I'd take a chance on him over Martavis Bryant any day. He also brings 15 pounds of bulk to the position that is lacking in both Moye and Justin Brown.

Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU (Round 5-6) - 6'4", 223 lbs. Here's the thing to remember - Cody Hoffman isn't just tall, he's also big. Where Moye and Brown look like tall, skinny toothpicks Hoffman looks like a normal human being who just happens to be higher above the ground than the rest of us. The scouting reports make him sound like a very unfinished but even bigger Anquan Boldin: good size, very physical, good route runner, and good work ethic, but only average when it comes to long speed and not a quick accelerator. The downside is that he lacks that certain violence that guys like Boldin and Ward brought to the position. I'm not sure if that can be taught, but if it can than Hoffman would benefit greatly from learning it. This is doubly true because, as the NFL.com scouting report put it, he can be a "monotone route runner" who displays "limited agility to shake defenders releasing and does not create in space." Or to put it another way, Hoffman's primary asset is size and if he wants to succeed he'll have to learn how to use it because he's not going to fool anyone. So to sum it all up: Hoffman has a lot of tools, and his bulk would add something to the Steelers roster that isn't already there. But like most mid- to late-round picks he won't contribute in his rookie year, and he may not ever contribute if he can't learn how to bully small NFL corners much more thoroughly than he ever could with their college counterparts. That adds up to another decent bet in the late-round sweepstakes.

Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State (Round 5-6) - 6'3", 219 lbs. Janis is another receiver who brings some physical talents to the table that the Steelers currently lack. He's the same height as Justin Brown but 10 pounds heftier, a good step faster, and a bit more agile as well. At the Combine he ran in the 4.4 range, so the measurables add up to 1st- or 2nd-round talent. But talent is pretty much all he has to offer because Saginaw Valley State is a tiny Division II school and Janis will therefore require at least one redshirt year to simply learn the basics of the NFL game. For example, while I have no idea if his coach required the receivers and QB's to learn a full route tree and adjustments, it would be no surprise if the answer was "no." And even if that is a bad specific example, there will be similar concepts that Janis will have heard about but never actually experienced. Combine that will all the subtle details required to turn a talented athlete into a professional wide receiver, and you have someone whose ultimate results call for a lot more projection than someone like Kevin Norwood. Nevertheless, with those measurements Janis has all the upside you could ever hope for. And if you want to put a positive spin on it, he has very little to unlearn.

Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama (Round 5-6) - 6'2", 198 lbs. The biggest knock on Kevin Norwood is that he's a 5th year Senior who never managed to stand out even though opponents were so terrified of Alabama's run game that he almost never had to deal with double coverage. OTOH, how much could he have stood out when the Crimson Tide were going to be a run-first offense no matter who as playing outside? Maybe it balances out ... And if it does, Norwood offers some attractive assets. He has good (if not monstrous) size, absolutely top-notch hands, and he's been well trained in a pro-style offense. In many ways he's the opposite of a player like Janis: very high floor, somewhat limited ceiling, and almost instant ability to contribute.  He's also much more of a possession receiver than a jump-ball artist, so putting him on this list may be a disservice.

Alex Neutz, WR, Buffalo (Round 6-7) - 6'3", 205 lbs. I wish I could write something helpful, but Neutz is like the Internet's invisible man. The only reviews I can find say stuff like, "Decent size, good hands, no speed." Beyond that it's a mystery.

L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri (Round 6-7) - 6'4", 195 lbs. In other words, he his tall and thin. According to this scouting report, he also suffers from having good long speed (ran a 4.46 at the Combine) but poorer agility (only a 4.35 in the 20 yard shuttle) and a severe lack of polish. For better or worse, Washington has also had to play in the long shadow cast by his Sophomore teammate, the soon-to-be-a-1st-round-pick Dorial Beckham-Green. Still, that kind of height is hard to teach. In any other year he'd probably go in the 5th.

Marcus Lucas, WR, Missouri (Round 7) - 6'4", 218 lbs. Solid height, decent size, and a reputation for good hands keep Lucas on every team's radar screen. What keeps him toward the bottom are a failure to play as big as he is, and some real limits on both speed and quickness. But with the right coaching ... who knows?

THE TIGHT ENDS

That was a pretty long list, and it only covers a third of the receiver class who will probably get drafted on the third day of the draft. In other words, all those statements about the depth of the receiver position were not exaggerations: potential gems about from top to bottom, from the 80-90% band of "guarantees" who'll go in the first round or two all the way through the boom-or-bust fliers who will be available deep into Day 3. But as for their red-zone counterparts, the tight ends ... not so much.

Maybe it comes from being spoiled. People forget that Heath Miller was a top-10 talent who fell to the Steelers at #30 because of a serious injury (a sports hernia). Rob Gronkowski fell to the Patriots at #42 overall for very similar reasons. In other words, the kind of athleticism it takes to be an elite tight end in the NFL isn't hard to see, and it costs expensive draft picks and/or injury risks to obtain it.

There are only three tight ends in this draft who have, or might have, that kind of athleticism: Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. You could maaaaaaybe add in Troy Niklas. But after that the pickings get very slim, very fast. If they're lucky the Steelers might be able to find a solid contributor on Day 3, but it won't be the next Heath Miller or even a decent facsimile. More like a crayon version.

Sigh. Here are the options they'd be looking at.

Crockett Gilmore, TE, Colorado State (Round 5-6) - 6'6", 260 lbs. All the news reports said basically the same thing. He is a very good pass catcher, a good blocker, and an okay route runner who lacks the speed and athleticism that would move him into contention for a top-100 pick. Gilmore probably has a better chance of building an NFL career than any of the other receiver-capable TE's who will be available after Ebron, Amaro, ASJ, and Niklas are off the board.

Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia (Round 5-6) - 6'5", 258 lbs. Lynch is a balanced tight end prospect who should be available on Day 3; in other words, a prospect who isn't particularly good at either blocking or receiving but has a decent chance to be useful in the right situation. The size is there but so are the athletic limitations.

Rob Blanchflower, TE, U. Mass. (Round 5-7) - 6'4", 260 lbs. Same. He's okay as a pass catcher, and a little bit better than that as a collegiate-level blocker, but both skills would need significant work before he could contribute at the NFL level and there is a real ceiling on how could he could end up being.

Richard Rodgers, TE, California (Round 5-7) - 6'4", 257 lbs. Pass catching yes. Blocking ... not so much. Think David Paulson with an extra 10 pounds to assist in learning some blocking skills. A Paulson who blocks would be a welcome sight indeed.

Blake Annen, TE, Cincinatti (Round 5-7) - 6'4", 247 lbs. Ridiculously fast and agile for a TE, but without any production to match the numbers. But it could have been the system... Again, the known abilities and measurables look a lot like David Paulson and the chance of getting a Paulson who can block may be worth a Day 3 pick.

Joe Jon Duncan, TE, Dixie State (Round 5-7)- 6'3", 268 lbs. Duncan may have the most upside of this group. Yes, he's "only" 6'3" but he's also close to 270 pounds, which makes him pretty darned giant for a fireplug. He's also been an offensive machine at his tiny Division II school on the occasions he managed to stay out of the training room. It's one of those cases where rawness and injury risk are pushing down the draft stock of a superior talent - a lot more potential for boom to pair against the overall likelihood of bust.

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