Receiver preview part 3: Mohamed Sanu & Juron Criner

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).

To see reports on Justin Blackmon, Jeff Fuller and Ryan Broyles click here. For my preview of Alshon Jeffery click here.

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.


  1. Jay

    Mohamed Sanu is nasty with those blocks.

    • Rob

      ‘Beast mode’.

  2. ba_edwards24

    Love the format so far. You gonna look at the leos next week? Watched Devin Taylor earlier today against Tennessee and Georgia and I was not impressed. He’s JPP lite- great athlete but no awareness/technique. Coples was amazing in the game I watched today although he seems like a weird fit for the leo. He lined up inside a bunch and that seemed to be where he was most comfortable rushing the passer as well as transferring speed to power from the outside. Not just a speed guy out there which would seem to be what the Hawks would look for at that spot. Agree?

    Keep it rolling Jobin.

    • Rob

      Tomorrow it’s a handful of defensive guys – Jenkins, Coples, Paige-Moss. There’s a few corners to look at, defensive tackles and we’ll round this early look off by reviewing the running backs. Lot’s to get through, lot’s of talent.

      Coples is certainly going to be a 5-technique at the next level, which will limit his stock a bit. I prefer him to Paige-Moss. Not sure how Coples fits in Seattle to be honest, he isn’t an obvious Red Bryant type or LEO. Overall the early indications are that there won’t be top end D-line talent available in R1 next year, but there could be good elite talent and also depth at QB, OT, WR and RB.

      • ba_edwards24

        He’s only 270 right now-why do you think he’s limited to 5 tech? I could see him as a stud power end. He’s a lot more explosive than Cam Jordan who will be playing LE in NOLA. I like him as a Justin Tuck-esque base LE and 3rd down 3 tech. Regardless, I agree that there is not a lot of elite pass rushers. Certainly no tackles that offer a pass rush. Haven’t seen Andre Branch yet. We’ll see how he does w/o Bowers. Jenkins just went up yesterday so I’ll watch him next.

        • Rob

          I’ve got him at 275-280lbs. In fairness I think there are some similarities to Jordan, who I projected as a 5-tech throughout. He’s been drafted by New Orleans as the power end, which in itself lends itself more to the run. Jordan wasn’t an ideal fit in Seattle because they don’t use a true RE, in fact it would’ve been interesting to see if they would’ve drafted him at #25. Coples is in the similar situation really. I expect he’ll add weight rather than lose it and he’s got a good frame for the 5-tech. He could end up being a more explosive JJ Watt.

          • ba_edwards24

            I know I really would love to see if they are willing to use a traditional 5 tech in their base packages like Watt or Jordan if they presented enough value (being available at 25). That’s a good and bad part of this regime-we don’t know much about their draft tendencies yet. It seems as if they don’t discriminate against many types of players except maybe assholes at QB and small corners. Anyone weighing between 275 and 290 would seem to not have a spot in our defense.

  3. Derek

    Do you think the role Sanu would play in the Hawks offense is too similar to Tate’s supposed role? Or is next year a make or break year for Tate? Sanu obviously has the size advantage and could easily line up on the outside, correct?

    Also, did you watch the 30 minute presser with PC and JS on I think it showed a lot of insight in what they look for in players, which could be helpful in previewing prospects. For example, a CB’s ability to play in press coverage is huge. Also players that add something new and unique to the roster. For example PC commented on how there were a lot of receivers available when they picked Durham, but most of them didn’t offer anything more than what they had in Obomanu.

    • Rob

      Certainly it’s a big year for Tate. It sounds like they’re going to get him more involved – personally, I couldn’t project him as an orthodox receiver. He needs to be Seattle’s Dexter McCluster – kick returns, occassionally run, slot work, screens. A guy who can make things happen in the open field, but isn’t necessarily going to run consistently great routes or be Mr. production.

      Sanu is a much greater physical talent but unlike Tate, he’s not playing in a settled offensive scheme that serves up great stats. As things stand today the Seahawks need more playmakers, but it’s too early to speculate on whether that is a direction they would go.

      I did see the presser and the one thing I took out of this draft is we’re still trying to work out what constitutes a likely pick by this organisation. Clearly they have much more freedom with prospects than Ruskell ever did. That’s a major positive in my view.

  4. Nate Dogg

    Sanu reminds me of Arrelious Benn.

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