As the director of college football scouting for ESPN, Todd McShay has the task of evaluating players and assigning grades for them when it comes to where they should fit in the NFL Draft.
Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon was one of the many players McShay talked about during a conference call with members of the media on Thursday afternoon. Blackmon is scheduled to participate in the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine next weekend in Indianapolis.
“In the last five years, when you look at the elite receivers, Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green were in that elite category,” McShay said. “I can’t really give a wide receiver a higher grade than I gave those two and the second tier would be Julio Jones, Dez Bryant in terms of the physical tools. (Bryant) had some of the off-the-field baggage that came along with that, and Michael Crabtree as well. I think when you look at Blackmon, he’s in that second tier.”
Blackmon caught 121 passes for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2011, the second consecutive season he eclipsed the 100-reception, 1,500-yard, 15-touchdown mark. During his sophomore season, Blackmon caught 111 passes for 1,782 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also ran for a score and returned one punt for a touchdown in 2010.
Blackmon stands 6-foot-1, weighs 215 pounds and is widely considered the top wide receiver available in April’s draft.
McShay said of Blackmon, “He compares to Julio Jones in that, he’s a physical receiver that’s ready to come in and I think he can contribute right away, knows how to use his body very well to shield defenders from the ball and position guys away. He’s got strong hands, but still, every once-in-a-while, has a focus drop and Julio Jones was the same way. I think Jones attacked the ball a little bit better. He belongs in the top of the class at wide receiver this year and in the top 10 picks, I believe.”
McShay sees Blackmon as part of the wave of bigger wide receivers that are starting to appear around the NFL, as opposed to the smaller, quicker players that many teams utilized in recent years.
“More teams went that route and now, we’re back with bigger receivers,” McShay said. “In this year’s class, there are a lot of big guys that will fit that mold and sometimes, it’s just coincidence. Justin Blackmon is only 6-1, but he plays like he’s 6-3 and after that, you’ve got Michael Floyd, a 6-3 receiver coming out of Notre Dame. Alton Jeffery is 6-4 and probably put on too much weight. It’s not a deep class, but there are some good pass-catchers at the top of the board.”
In his evaluation of wide receivers in the 2012 NFL Draft, McShay cited South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery as one of the best behind Blackmon.
Jeffery played at South Carolina for three seasons and the 6-foot-4 receiver caught 49 passes for 762 yards and eight touchdowns in 2011. As a sophomore, Jeffery hauled in 88 passes for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns.
“Outside of Blackmon, nobody’s as good as Jeffery when the ball’s in the air,” McShay said. “He does a good job of using his body. He does a great job of timing his jumps. He has strong hands when he goes up to get the ball in traffic, great on the jump ball, has the size that you look for, but he’s got to take off some weight and he’s got to improve his agility and suddenness. When you have that size, you don’t have to separate with your feet all the time, but you’ve got to be able to do it a little bit better than he does.”
MOVING UP FOR RG3
McShay was asked about the possibility of moving up in the order to draft a player like Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. He did not mince words when talking about the prospect of drafting the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.
“I wouldn’t do it for any other position, but I would do it for quarterback,” McShay said. “It may not fit the value chart. It may seem like you’re giving up too much, but I’d much rather nail it at the quarterback position than sit there, miss out on a good quarterback, get Trent Richardson at running back and Michael Floyd at wide receiver and still not have anybody that can get them the football.”