This piece was partly inspired by a reader comment on Sunday. ‘Bobk333′ wrote in the Gavin Escobar article that he considered Robert Woods the most underrated player in the draft, stating:
Woods has all the markings of a *great* – as in all-pro, as in hall-of-fame potential – NFL receiver. Speed is important for an NFL wideout, but the importance has been taken to the extreme. Skill in catching the ball, running routes, fooling defenders, along with intelligence, timing and body control, are more important than raw speed in the 40-yd dash. Woods reminds me of skilled, smooth, intelligent, crafty receivers like Lynn Swann, Jerry Rice and Steve Largent who had extraordinary hands and extraordinary attitudes, who were hard working and ran perfect routes with perfect body position, with the god-given talent of being to fool defenders with seemingly minimal effort.
Robert Woods is the Russell Wilson of this year’s draft. He has the most potential for greatness not only among the receivers but among all the players coming out this year.
It’s easy to forget just how highly rated Woods became before Marqise Lee burst onto the scene at USC. He exploded as a true freshman and started his sophomore year putting up crazy numbers. 17 catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota, 14 catches for 255 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona, twelve catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. He was on fire.
Yet as Lee emerged as a true freshman in 2011, Woods’ role diminished. By 2012 he was no longer the focal point of the passing attack And while he still had some big games, it was Marqise Lee making the headlines and breaking the records.
When Woods declared for the 2013 NFL draft, he delivered the following knockout quote: “If the coaches wanted to keep me another year they would have probably got me the ball.”
He’s since claimed he was mis-quoted and I’m told even tweeted the reporter who wrote the story to make that point.
The point is, Marqise Lee is probably going to be a top-15 pick one day. He is insanely talented. That’s what people were saying about Woods. His stock appears to have fallen simply because USC had two studs for Matt Barkley to throw to instead of one. Let’s say Lee commits to another college team. If Woods continued his strong production from early 2011, he would’ve probably won a Biletnikoff by now. He’d be the superstar receiver in Southern Cal. And his stock would probably be much higher.
He ran two unofficial 4.44′s at the combine (later moved to a 4.5 officially). He’s not Tavon Austin, but he’s certainly faster than a lot of the other receivers at the combine. He looked good at 6-0 and 201lbs. In many ways he’s Percy Harvin-lite. I suspect Pete Carroll saw that comparison physically. He maybe saw a little Percy in Robert Woods.
If you look at mock drafts these days you’ll see Woods in the second or third round range. I still think he could and maybe should be a first round pick. And if you can get him any later than that, make the pick and feel good about it. Would I consider him at #56? Sure. Why not? Sometimes you just can’t look a gift-horse in the mouth. The Seahawks don’t need an army of receivers in the 5-10-6-1 range, but they do need as much talent as they can find. Woods will improve any roster.
Watch the first video below and the first thing that stands out to me is his competitive nature. The athleticism is there for everyone to see. He can run, he can make plays. Yet it’s the way he competes in the air that’s so impressive and may attract him to Seattle despite their depth at receiver.
0:21 – he makes a difficult grab over the middle in tight coverage, high pointing the ball and showing strong hands with a defender draped all over him.
2:06 – Barkley makes a high throw off his back foot. Woods knows he’s going to get drilled, but makes a fingertip grab. Despite a suplex from the UCLA defensive back, he somehow maintains possession of the ball.
2:40 – Woods lays out over the middle, diving at full stretch to make an athletic catch. Again, he risked his own health (defender also diving for it) to get the first down.
3:17 – This is one of the best touchdowns you’ll see from the 2012 season. I still don’t know how he completes this catch at the back of the end zone. He was well covered (so much so, the ref’s called pass interference) and showed such amazing concentration, hands and body control. Superb.
4:29 – Another example of high pointing the football, showing complete control through the catch and not hearing footsteps from the defensive back.
6:28 – Thrown over the middle. Woods is being tackled in mid-air before the ball even arrives. No problem. He still maintains concentration, corrals the football and makes a first down.
There are other throws in the videos below where you’ll see further evidence of a guy who plays with a spark. He competes to make difficult grabs. He’s not 6-4 and 220lbs, but he plays above his listed height and weight. I like the way he reacts after a catch. He’s pumped up. It’s an all-round attitude that’ll serve him well at the next level.
Can he be a #1 receiver? I believe he can. I think he can run any route, make any play. I think immediately he’ll be a threat as a kick returner while also fitting into a NFL offense. When a play breaks down he finds a way to give his quarterback an option — an underrated feature not often talked about with college players. Woods shows strong hands (not too much of a body catcher) and he can make plays away from his frame.
He’s not a flawless player by any means — he had frustrating days at USC with occasional mental errors. He lacks the truly elite size. While Harvin has shown the ability to run away from players with ease, Woods struggles to go up through the gears quickly. He won’t be a big time YAC threat or a great downfield receiver. He’s not a home run hitter.
However, he’s suddenly plummeting down draft boards because he’s unfashionable. He’s a USC guy (when did that become such a negative?) without prototype size. Whatever. He should be in the early second round discussion at worst. I’d happily spend a pick in the late first to get him on my team if I needed a receiver. At any stage beyond that the value seems too good to pass.
If he does fall as far as #56 (perhaps unrealistic) the Seahawks could be ready to pounce. By 2014 Sidney Rice’s contract might be untenable. We don’t know whether Golden Tate will be retained (he’s a free agent after 2013) or whether Doug Baldwin can continue to factor in the offense. Even despite the Harvin trade, it’s not ridiculous for Seattle to consider drafting another playmaking receiver. Planning ahead is going to be crucial for this team to stay ahead of the curve. The eventual savings made by replacing Rice, Zach Miller and others on the cheap will help keep some of the teams underpaid stars in Seattle.
I can see a future where Harvin and Woods are Russell Wilson’s answer to Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. For those wondering, both Harrison and Wayne are 6-0. And yet they created a dynamic combination for Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. I see no reason why Harvin and Woods cannot do the same in Seattle. Frankly I doubt he does make it to #56. Personally, I hope he does. And I hope the Seahawks are ready to take advantage if it happens, even with needs elsewhere.
As Bobk333 said on Sunday, he might be this years answer to Russell Wilson. He might be the most underrated player in the 2013 draft.