I’m going to complete this early look at the 2012 receiver prospects with two other names that are worth monitoring this year: Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Juron Criner (WR, Arizona).
Sanu is one of my favorite prospects who will be available for next year’s draft. For me, he’s one of the most explosive playmakers in college football and a potential top-20 pick. I watched him several times as a freshman in 2009 and he absolutely blew me away with elite athleticism, perfect size and all-round playmaking ability. He showed sure hands catching the ball, an ability to create separation, blazing speed and a competitive streak when asked to block. Quite aside from that, he offered a real threat as a wildcat quarterback, often taking direct snaps and running for big gains (755 rushing yards in 2009-10).
Unlike the more orthodox receivers we’ve looked at over the last couple of days, Sanu is a guy you utilise in many different ways. Maybe he run 7-8 times in a game? Have him run screens and underneath routes to take advantage of his ability in the open field. You can ask him to run deep and open things up. The sky’s the limit really, he’s possibly the most exciting raw talent I’ve watched since Percy Harvin, yet Sanu has a major size advantage at 6-2, 218lbs.
However, he’s off the radar a bit due to a distinct lack of production during his sophomore campaign. After such a productive year as a true-freshman, big things were expected in year two. A 727 total yard season with six touchdowns wasn’t what the Rutgers fans were hoping for. We need to appreciate the situation he faced, which was far from ideal. Tom Savage entered the year also a true sophomore after a great start to his career at quarterback. He had everything – size, arm, talent. This was a key note commitment for Rutgers and he appeared to be destined for a great college career and eventually a move to the NFL. I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong in 2010.
Savage got injured early and lost his job to Chas Dodd, a smaller and more mobile quarterback who could deal with the porous Rutgers offensive line. At times it was ugly to watch the Scarlet Knights passing game and the skill players like Sanu suffered in a big way. He had highlights (including a 91-yard touchdown run against Tulane) but his production suffered almost entirely due to the inconsistency at quarterback. Savage appears to be ready to transfer from Rutgers and is currently plotting his next move to get back on track. We can only hope that whoever starts at QB next year can make the most of Sanu’s brilliant potential.
So what is he capable of? It’s hard to find guys capable of making explosive plays that impact games, but that’s what he brings to the table. The early mocks have him posted as a late first rounder but I have no issues putting him higher up the board.
Juron Criner is a player who almost declared for the 2011 draft but eventually opted to stay at Arizona. He’s Nick Foles #1 target (1233 yards and 11 touchdowns last season) with ideal size at 6-4, 211lbs. He was very consistent last season and he offers a major bonus in the red zone. Arizona uses a funky short passing game and Foles’ lack of arm strength makes it difficult to judge how good Criner’s straight line speed is – that could define his stock over the next 12 months. He has shown the ability to compete for the ball, make difficult catches and show some YAC ability.
With Foles returning for the Wildcats too, there’s no doubt that health permitting Criner will have another +1000 yard season. That’s an advantage that perhaps some others such as Sanu won’t have and it can only help his stock. I have tape from Arizona @ Stanford from last season, a game where Criner caught nine passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. I’ll review the tape not only to keep an eye on Sherman, but also to get another look at recent Seahawks addition Richard Sherman.
It’s a tight group of receivers heading into 2012 with a lot of depth and potential first round quality. Alshon Jeffery is the clear #1 heading into the new college football season, but doubts about the future of Stephen Garcia in South Carolina could hit his production. He could be the top 10/15 talent from this group, but it’s interesting to note there are two senior prospects in Texas A&M’s Jeff Fuller and Justin Criner who could also go in the top-25. It’s rare to have that quality of senior prospect at the receiver position. Both have the kind of size teams will look for in round one, while Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon will have production on his side. Mohamed Sanu is the X-factor in the draft, but don’t rule out the possibility of all five being taken on day one next year.
It doesn’t end there either. Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame) has courted controversy at Notre Dame recently. He’s a talented player with a lot of potential, but the light needs to switch on if he’s going to make the most of his ability. Greg Childs (WR, Arkansas) is another big name to watch out for and Chris Owusu (WR, Stanford) will provide Andrew Luck with a playmaker.