NFL Draft Talk Volume XLV
As the NFL draft draws closer and closer here are some questions that are circulating that pertain to prospects and their draft stock as well as their potential and projected impacts at the next level. Who are some under the radar pass catchers that scouts and General Managers are keeping their eye on? Top receiving targets such as D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry and the pair of talented tight ends from Iowa in TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant have received all of the attention in the headlines this offseason throughout the pre-draft process. However, there are some under the radar pass catchers that have not been or sparingly covered and highlighted by the media that front office decision makers will be keeping their eye on during day two and three of the draft later this month. Here is a list of prospects that have flown under the radar to this point but have the potential to be viable and impactful threats in the passing game at the next level: • WR KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State: He is dynamic in the open field after the catch and can take a quick or bubble screen for big gains and even the distance. Johnson routinely gets separation at the top of his routes, possesses a great release off the line and makes great adjustments to the ball on fades as well as back shoulder passes. He scored eight touchdowns and topped 1,000 yards receiving in back to back seasons for the Bulldogs including a career-high 1.340 yards on 95 catches for a 14.1 yard per catch average. • WR Anthony Johnson, Buffalo: The small school product is a big play waiting to happen to anytime he gets the ball in his hands. He runs crisp route all over the field and is an absolute dynamo after the catch who can cut on a dime, make people miss and get upfield with great acceleration. Johnson is a threat to take the top off a defense with tremendous breakaway speed but can also come back and go up for contested as well as underthrown balls. In his two years with the Bulls, he recorded 2,367 receiving yards, 133 receptions, averaged nearly 18 yards per catch (17.8) and hauled in 25 touchdowns. • TE Kahale Warring, San Diego State: The former walk-on was the most clutch and dependable pass catcher in the Aztecs offense. He runs finds and sits down at or near the line to gain in zone coverage, provides his quarterbacks with a sure-handed target that will get the first down and move the chains. Warring excels at getting open on corner and out routes and stretches the seams down the middle of the defense. He is a matchup nightmare for linebackers in coverage and defensive backs in the open field. He can go up for jump balls that his quarterbacks heave in his direction and in the red zone he boxes out defenders for contested catches like a post player in basketball. • WR Dillon Mitchell, Oregon: He is an explosive playmaker that didn’t run a wide variety of routes for the Ducks but is capable of breaking the game open and scoring from anywhere on the field. Mitchell is very elusive in the open field with the wiggle and agility to leave defenders grasping for air as he coasts into the endzone or up the sideline. He is a speedy vertical threat that can blow past his man in single coverage and split the safeties down the middle of the defense. Mitchell can also make great adjustments to the ball to make the catch and exhibits terrific body control along the sideline on out-breaking routes as well as in the back of the endzone when he needs to get two feet in bounds. He broke out in his junior season for career-high 75 catches, 10 touchdowns, and 1,184 yards receiving. • TE Josh Oliver, San Jose State: He has the potential to be an immediate impact player in the passing game and could prove to be a steal as later round pick out of San Jose State. The athletic tight end routinely makes tough catches in traffic with defenders draped all over him in coverage. He finds the soft spots in zone coverage like a receiver at the intermediate level and provides a vertical threat down the seam of a defense. His production exploded in his senior season with the Spartans setting career highs in receiving yards (709), catches (56), touchdowns (four) and yards per catch (12.7). • WR Keelan Doss, UC Davis: He’s arguably the most underrated receivers in this entire class but he possesses many of the key intangibles that are desired and coveted for pass catchers at the NFL level. Davis has strong hands that help him snag the ball out of the air and make those contested and concentration grabs in traffic or when he is being played tight in coverage. He is a savvy route runner who can shake loose and get open on both in and out breaking routes. He isn’t afraid to catch passes over the middle and is just as proficient running routes out of the slot position as he is lined up out wide. He recorded 1,345 receiving yards, nine scores and caught 118 passes in his final collegiate season.