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|Indiana receiver Cody Latimer catching attention
When Indiana receiver Cody Latimer declared for the draft in January, it would have been easy to second-guess the decision.
Production wasn’t an issue. Latimer was coming off a junior season in which he racked up 72 catches for 1,092 yards and nine touchdowns. And at 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds, he certainly looked the part of a muscular NFL receiver.
However, he also decided to come out in a year in which the draft is stacked at his position, and for a player who received little buzz or fanfare nationally, that — plus the third-round grade he received from the NFL’s draft advisory board — would have seemed to confirmed the perception that he made a mistake, especially when he was unable to run at the combine as he recovered from a broken bone in his foot.
Not that Latimer was concerned about perception.
“The ultimate decision was mine at the end and I had (the Indiana coaching staff’s) support,” Latimer said. “This was a hot year for receivers so I figured I’d give it a try. I had three years at IU and enjoyed every year of it and just thought I was ready to go.”
Then, Latimer’s pro day rolled around in March, and he proceeded to run an eye-popping 4.38 40-yard dash and post a vertical jump of 39 inches. Take those numbers and add them to the 23 reps he posted on the bench press at the combine — the most of any receiver, by the way — and that’s how you get a late riser, someone who went from being a mid-round pick in March to a player all of a sudden being mentioned as a possible first-round pick by multiple draft analysts, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.
“When you’re 6-2 1/2 and you’re 225 pounds and you run a 4.39 and you’re one of the strongest wide receivers you’ll ever come across, and you have real good hands and natural pass-receiving skills, that’s gonna push you up,” Kiper said.
Kiper said seven teams at the bottom of the first round who need a receiver, including Kansas City at No. 23, certainly doesn’t hurt Latimer’s cause, either.
“I think people are saying ‘OK, with another year, he goes in the top 10-15,’ and now you’re projecting him at 22 to 32,” Kiper said. “A lot of teams need wide receivers in that range. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t go in the first round.”
Of course, this is also the silly season in the NFL, the time of year where a player’s stock rises and falls almost inexplicably, and executives across the league scramble to disseminate as much misinformation as they can, so it’s safe to say Latimer is no lock for the first round. Though Latimer’s timed speed is excellent, some scouts, including NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki, question his ability to play to it, and say he struggles to separate vertically.
However, if the number of teams who showed up to Indianapolis on Friday to watch Latimer perform on-field drills is any indication — NFL.com’s Gil Brandt said representatives from 25 organizations witnessed the 16-minute workout — the buzz around Latimer may be real, after all.
Need more proof? Latimer was also one of 30 prospects invited to New York to attend the draft, an honor only bestowed upon those that have a better-than-reasonable chance to go off the board the first day.
To be sure, Latimer has come a long way since he first declared for the draft in January.
“The fact he has the physicality, the hands, he’s run well and he’s back to where he used to be physically (after the injury), I think that’s all come together for Latimer,” Kiper said, “which is great to see.”
Top 15 prospects for the Chiefs
1. Sammy Watkins, 6-1, 211, Clemson
Bio: Three-year starter who caught 101 passes for 1,464 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. Is 20 years old. 32-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.43 40-yard dash. 16 bench reps. 34-inch vertical. 126-inch broad jump. 6.95 3-cone drill. 4.34 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Has elite acceleration and vertical speed. Also has very good hands — he can high-point and track the football. Is threat to run after the catch and has some return ability, too. Needs to improve his route running. Needs to do a better job of taking care of the ball — lost four of seven fumbles in his career.
2. Mike Evans, 6-5, 231, Texas A&M
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 69 passes for 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2013. Is 20 years old. 35 18-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.53 40-yard dash. 12 bench reps. 37-inch vertical. 7.08 3-cone drill. 4.26 20-yard shuttle. 11.58 60-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Excellent size and length. Has great ball skills — knows how to track the ball and win contested throws. Strong hands. Showed up when it mattered. Repeatedly bailed out Johnny Manziel on tape. Long strider who will not run away from NFL defensive backs, so he will be forced to box out defenders and win contested balls. Is very competitive and tough and must learn to keep his emotions under control on the field.
3. Brandin Cooks, 5-10, 189, Oregon State
Bio: Two-year starter who caught a Pac-12 record 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013. Is 20 years old. 30 3/4-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.33 40-yard dash. 16 bench reps. 36-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 6.76 3-cone drill. 3.81 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Productive, athlete slot receiver with the courage to go over the middle. Has reliable hands and can track the ball. Is durable, which is important considering lack of size and length. Doesn’t play to his timed speed. Must be more consistent as a blocker.
4. Odell Beckham Jr, 5-11, 198, LSU
Bio: Three-year starter who caught 59 passes for 1,152 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2013. Is 21 years old. 32 3/4-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.43 40-yard dash. 7 bench reps. 38 1/2-inch vertical. 122-inch broad jump. 6.69 3-cone drill. 3.94 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Comes from a family of LSU athletes — his father played football and his mother was a track star. Has been productive since he stepped on campus. Can create separation and has good hands, but needs to be more consistent catching the ball. Has been productive as a kickoff returner. Scouts are divided on whether he has elite top-end speed.
5. Marqise Lee 6-0, 192, USC
Bio: Three-year starter who had his best year as a sophomore, when he caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012. Is 22 years old. 31 3/4-inch arms. 9 1/2-inch hands. 4.52 40-yard dash. 38-inch vertical. 127-inch broad jump. 4.01 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Big-play threat with experience in a West Coast offense. Runs good routes, knows how to create separation and has the extra gear to be a vertical threat, despite average frame. Has the vision and speed to be a run-after-the-catch threat. Durability is a significant concern — was beat up physically the last two years. Drops some balls he shouldn’t.
6. Cody Latimer, 6-2, 215, Indiana
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 72 passes for 1,096 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Is 21 years old. 32 5/8-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.39 40-yard dash. 23 bench reps. 39-inch vertical.
Consensus: Good size, is comfortable working on short routes, though timed speed doesn’t always show on vertical routes. Wins contested balls. Has very reliable hands and a big catch radius. Shows strength as a runner and shows promise as a tough, physical blocker.
7. Davante Adams, 6-1, 212, Fresno State
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 131 passes for 1,718 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013. Is 21 years old. 32 5/8-inch inch arms. 9-inch hands. 4.56 40-yard dash. 14 bench reps. 39 1/2-inch vertical. 123-inch broad jump.
Consensus: Super-productive West Coast offense receiver with very reliable hands and good athleticism. Can track and high-point the football. Knows how to create separation in his routes and wins contested balls. Scouts are divided on his ability to beat the jam.
8. Kelvin Benjamin, 6-5, 240, Florida State
Bio: First-year starter who caught 54 passes for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns for the 2013 national champs. Is 23 years old. 34 7/8-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.61 40-yard dash. 13 bench reps. 32 1/2-inch vertical. 119-inch broad jump. 7.33 3-cone drill. 4.39 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Elite frame and length. Has the potential to be a matchup nightmare. Can high-point the ball, as he showed on his game-winning catch in the national championship game. Does not have good speed and will absolutely have to win contested balls in the NFL on a regular basis. Drops passes he should catch. Is a raw route runner. Can be an elite blocker but his focus wavers.
9. Jordan Matthews, 6-3, 212, Vanderbilt
Bio: Four-year starter who caught 112 passes for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Is 21 years old. 33 1/4-inch arms. 10 3/8-inch hands. 4.46 40-yard dash. 21 bench reps. 35 1/2-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 6.95 3-cone drill. 4.18 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Cousin of former San Francisco star receiver Jerry Rice. Very productive in the nation’s toughest conference. Great size and length. Can track the ball and has solid hands. Doesn’t create a ton of separation, despite timed speed. Could stand to improve his route running and will have to win some contested balls in the NFL. Willing blocker who is competitive.
10. Jarvis Landry, 5-11, 205, LSU
Bio: First-year starter who caught 77 passes for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013. Is 21 years old. 31 3/4-inch arms. 10 1/4-inch hands. 4.77 40-yard dash. 12 bench reps. 28 1/2-inch vertical. 110-inch broad jump.
Consensus: Good route runner who catches the ball with his hands and knows how to high-point the ball. Very reliable hands — can win contested balls. Tough and competitive. Team leader and willing blocker. Is not a burner but can create separation underneath. Is not a vertical threat.
11. Allen Robinson, 6-2, 220, Penn State
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 97 passes for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns in 2013. Is 20 years old. 32-inch arms. 9 1/2-inch hands. 4.60 40-yard dash. 39-inch vertical. 127-inch broad jump. 7.00 3-cone drill. 4.00 20-yard shuttle. 11.36 60-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Good size and production. Knows how to create separation, despite average speed. Hands are OK, has experience in a pro-style offense. Projects as a solid possession receiver. Needs to improve strength. Has size to win deep balls but won’t outrun anybody.
12. Bruce Ellington, 5-9, 197, South Carolina
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 49 passes for 775 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. Is 22 years old. 31-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.45 40-yard dash. 15 bench reps. 39 1/2-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 6.69 3-cone drill. 3.95 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Very good athlete — was also the starting point guard for South Carolina’s basketball team and flashes good athleticism and quickness on the gridiron. Tough, respected player who leads by example. Has reliable hands, is a solid route runner and projects as an intriguing slot receiver. Isn’t a consistent vertical threat due to size but some ability in that area and definitely knows how to do damage as a short-to-intermediate target.
13. Kevin Norwood, 6-2, 198, Alabama
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 38 passes for 568 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013. Is 24 years old. 32 1/8-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.48 40-yard dash. 8 bench reps. 33-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 6.68 3-cone drill. 4.32 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Old for a rookie. Has big, reliable hands and is a savvy route runner. Possesses good intangibles — apparently has a professional work ethic. Knows how to go get the ball but is not a vertical threat. Needs to improve his effort as a blocker. Could develop into a good possession receiver.
14. Ryan Grant, 6-0, 199, Tulane
Bio: Two-year starter who caught 77 passes for 1,039 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Is 23 years old. 31-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.64 40-yard dash. 8 bench reps. 35 1/2-inch vertical. 119-inch broad jump. 6.68 3-cone drill. 4.11 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Has very reliable hands and knows how to go get the football. Can track the deep ball and make the tough catch. Possesses good acceleration but is not a consistent vertical threat. Overall strength needs to improve. Scouts are divided on his consistency.
15. Robert Herron, 5-9, 193, Wyoming
Bio: Three-year starter who caught 72 passes for 937 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Is 22 years old. 30 1/2-inch arms. 9 3/4-inch hands. 4.48 40-yard dash. 18 bench reps. 35 1/2-inch vertical. 125-inch broad jump. 6.84 3-cone drill. 4.27 20-yard shuttle.
Consensus: Flashes good speed and quickness and possesses solid hands. Decent ball skills, can run some after the catch. Scouts are divided on whether he’s comfortable working the middle of the field and his effort as a blocker. Was dinged up some in college.