At the risk of sounding like a nut, I would like to posit a revolutionary idea. Guys that are big, fast and can jump high tend to be good at catching touchdown passes in the NFL. I will give a second so everyone can pick their jaws up off the floor.
Using that revolutionary idea, I created what I call the Adjusted Explosiveness Index (AEI) prior to last year’s draft. The index adds together a player’s height, weight, vertical jump and broad jump and divides the sum by the player’s 40 time. Using the index, I was able to identify Donte Moncrief as an athletic freak that was likely being undervalued in the pre-draft process.
The index is not completely predictive in that a low score does not guarantee a player will fail in the NFL. Jarvis Landry, for instance, was near the bottom of the index last season but put together a solid rookie campaign.
What the index can do is identify high-upside receivers with the physical attributes to dominate in the NFL. Of the nine wide receivers who scored above 106 on the index from 1999-2014, one is Moncrief, five are Pro Bowlers and three look like future Hall of Famers. Unbelievably, three players in this year’s draft class scored above 106 on the index.
Of the three players on this list, UCF WR Breshad Perriman scored the “worst” on the index, but he is unquestionably the most interesting talent. Standing 6’2, 212, Perriman ran a stunning 4.24 40 at UCF’s Pro Day. He also logged a 127-inch broad jump that would have been good enough for fifth best at this year’s Combine. Taken together, Perriman scored a 106.01 on the AEI, good enough for twelfth best since 1999.
The athleticism Perriman showed at his Pro Day is evident on tape. He is a smooth accelerator that can create separation with ease underneath and get on top of corners quickly. Some poor quarterback play -- more on that later -- limited the number of true 50-50 balls I saw on tape, but Perriman showed nice body control adjusting to a constant barrage of off-target throws. Perriman’s tendency to be pushed around in his routes is a concern when it comes to contested situations, but has the profile of someone who could be successful in that area of the game.
Perriman does have some glaring negatives. Chief among them are his hands, which when going by drop rate alone were some of the worst in the country last season. That drop rate shows up on tape as well, with Perriman routinely getting eaten up by balls he actually catches and committing both concentration and technique drops far too often. That said, at least some of Perriman’s struggles came down to the inability of the UCF quarterback to consistently put the ball in catchable spots. Perriman still looked like he was fighting the ball when Blake Bortles was throwing to him two seasons ago, but better quarterback play would make his hands look marginally better.
Perriman’s other main concern is his route running, which can most generously be described as sloppy and unrefined. Like another athletic freak in this class, Dorial Green-Beckham, Perriman has been able to use his size and athleticism to win his entire life. He will need a lot of work to become a consistent route winner in the NFL. Like DGB and other tools-projection receivers, Perriman’s work ethic will go a long way in determining how close he comes to touching his sky-high ceiling.
The most eye-opening performance of the Combine belonged to Georgia WR Chris Conley. Conley paired a stunning 45-inch vertical with a not-so-shabby 139-inch broad jump and ran a 4.35 40. Those numbers matched with his 6’2, 213 pound frame gave Conley an AEI of 108.27, the fourth-best score since 1999.
The performance was so stunning because Conley was not a household name going into the Combine. Limited by a spread-the-wealth and run-heavy offense at Georgia, Conley never topped 45 catches nor 700 yards. He did manage to snag eight touchdown catches last season, but Conley’s biggest claim to fame was a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab against Tennessee two years ago. It was a catch even Odell Beckham could admire, but more importantly, it shows the type of ball skills the uber-athletic Conley possesses.
Conley did not score as well in the agility events at the Combine, and you can see some stiffness in his game as he needs a little more time than desirable to gather before making cuts and was slow at times transitioning up field after the catch. He did, however, show the ability to track the ball and good instincts down the field in the limited game tape I was able to find. He also had a telling stutter and go against zone coverage which hinted at an above-average ability to find open spaces against zone.
The picture is far from complete with Conley, but looking at his impressive measurables and the limited tape available, he has the look of a player that could outshine his draft position. Conley will be a player I target in Dynasty drafts this summer.
Though the 6’6-giant Darren Waller scored better than Perriman and almost as well as Conley on the AEI, he is not a player I will be targeting this draft season. Waller’s size makes him a very interesting player no doubt, and when it is matched with his impressive 37-inch vertical jump one can see a future in which Waller dominates in the red zone.
The problem is Waller is coming from a Georgia Tech offense in which he was required to do basically two things: block and run nine routes. Waller did almost all of his damage down the field winning contested catches against smaller corners, but that will be more difficult in the NFL. Georgia Tech’s play-action game played a big part in Waller’s ability to get open downfield in college. He may not have that benefit at the next level, and he does not have the initial burst to really threaten NFL defensive backs deep on his own. He did have some success on comeback routes outside the numbers, but it is difficult to see a guy with his limited movement skills developing into anything more than a situational wide receiver.
The good news is the situation Waller will be the most useful is the one fantasy players care the most about. He has the size and athletic ability to be a touchdown machine, but he will have to be good enough in the other aspects of the game to even be given the chance. I am not sure that will happen, but he may be worth a flier in deeper Dynasty leagues if the price is low enough.