Welcome to this year’s draft overview series. In this series I take a look at five possible options at each position that Detroit could end up taking in this years NFL draft. Last week I looked at running back, this week’s position is wide receiver.
Entering last season, the biggest question on everyone’s mind was “How do we replace Calvin Johnson?” Well, Bob Quinn went out and spent money on Marvin Jones to come in, along with veteran Anquan Boldin to help take over the number three role. Jones had a career year, getting 930 yards on four touchdowns, but he became second fiddle to star wide receiver Golden Tate, who lead the team in catches and yards with 91 for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns. A question that fans and experts wondering when Jones signed with Detroit, was “who is the number one receiver?” While Jones was supposed to have been that when we signed him, Tate took that role during the season.
Anquan had a great year in Detroit, getting 584 yards and eight touchdowns. He did announce that he would play another season in the NFL, but no word has been said where he will play and when he will sign. Andre Roberts had only 188 yards and one touchdown as the number four receiver, but he was one of the best punt returners in the league, with questionable kick return skills. He has left and signed with the Falcons, so now Detroit is down two receivers. With the draft coming up, this may be the place to possibly replace Boldin if he signs elsewhere, or get a number four receiver that can take over for Boldin after the 2017 season.
1. Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington)
The best possible replacement for Anquan Boldin is Cooper Kupp. At Eastern Washington, Kupp put up impressive numbers, ending with 6,464 yards on 428 catches and 73 touchdowns.
Kupp can make plays when the original ones breakdown and he is tough to bring down. He has solid hands and impressive quickness. His blocking could improve and he can’t create the best separation between him and the defender. He does have good ball tracking skills and can compete with 50/50 balls.
Cooper would be a great addition in the second round if Detroit doesn’t get Anquan Boldin to return in 2017.
2. Zay Jones (East Carolina)
Talk about production. In his time at ECU, Zay Jones was able to put up the record for most receptions in FBS history. In his four years at ECU, he caught 399 passes for 4,279 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Jones has some of the best hands in the NCAA and he can snag the ball outside of his frame. His footwork is impressive and he can jump up and compete with those 50/50 balls. His blocking could improve, and while he did run a 4.45 40 yard dash, his play speed seems slower on tape. One reason he was able to get those 399 catches was because a good part of his production came from screen and short passes, so while he can play the outside and inside, he was mostly used for certain types of plays. He returned kicks as a junior, so he can play receiver and be a return man.
Jones has been rising on draft boards, but if he slips into the third round, Detroit would be crazy to pass him.
3. Amara Darboh (Michigan)
While Darboh doesn’t put up the number of catches like Zay Jones or Cooper Kupp, he can still produce when needed. In three years of playing time at Michigan, Darboh was able to accumulate 151 catches for 2,062 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Darboh sacrifices his body to make catches and he can make some tough grabs. His size is good for the NFL and with experience in the pro style offense, his knowledge is there. He isn’t the fastest receiver and he isn’t consistent when it comes to his quickness in press coverage. While he can make tough catches, he uses his body for most of them and one good hit can knock the ball loose. Darboh knows when his quarterback needs help and can adjust his route to make it easier on him. His blocking is impressive as well.
If Detroit takes Darboh in the fourth round, it could mean that he will replace Boldin, or Boldin will return and Darboh could be the number four wide receiver.
4. Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M)
Josh Reynolds can score and contribute to the teams efforts. In three years at Texas A&M, he was able to get 164 receptions for 2,788 yards and 30 touchdowns.
When the ball is in the air, Reynolds can turn on another gear to get up and snag it. He can track the ball well and try and stay in bounds if the play is near the sideline. In the redzone, Reynolds can be dangerous with his height. While he is tall at 6’3, he is thin and can get knocked around easily. He does have a drops issue and needs to work on his blocking. Reynolds can run routes correctly and his hand-eye coordination is great. The 50/50 balls that get thrown to him, seem to turn into complete catches over incomplete catches.
Reynolds would be another possible fourth round pick and a good one at that.
5. Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma)
Another Oklahoma player with a tough background. Dede Westbrook was accused of domestic violence against the mother of his two children in 2012 and 2013. While he was never convicted of the crime both times, he has addressed the issue and said that it is all behind him. With that past, he is falling on boards, despite being clean in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Westbrook was able to produce for the Sooners that he could be a first or second round pick if his past wasn’t sensitive. In just two years at Oklahoma, Westbrook had 126 catches for 2,267 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Dede isn’t like most of the receivers on this list, where they are at least 6’2 and up, Westbrook is 6’0. He is a great route runner and with his speed, clocking in a 4.34 at his pro day, he is another small slot receiver for Detroit. Once he catches the ball and he has space, he can destroy a defense. If his quarterback is facing trouble, he creates his own route and tries to get open. He could struggle in the NFL with his size and contested catches could end up in the defenses favor. Westbrook didn’t have many physical challenges, so the NFL could be a wake up call for him. Westbrook can do deep if needed and he is successful at it, and he can also do punt and kick returns.
Westbrook’s stock has taken a huge dive, Detroit could land his talent in the sixth round and it could be a great addition for a high round talent.