Who the hell will they draft 2008: Richmond WR Arman Shields

They are called the Richmond Spiders. If the Colts draft Richmond WR Arman Shields, I will call him Spider-Man. Consider this fair warning.
It's funny, but last night on ESPNews' Football Friday, analyst (and former Colts QB) Shaun King said that Tulane's Matt Forté would sneak into the first round and become 2008's Joseph Addai. I wonder if Shaun reads Stampede Blue, because I had only just hours before done a whole profile on Forté.

Maybe I'm just over-estimating my importance.

Anyway, like Matt Forté, another skill position players is slowly but surely rising up the draft boards. Since we've only profiled one WR to date (Louisville's Harry Douglas) we'll now add another WR to our list of Who the hell will they draft 2008: Richmond's Arman Shields.

I didn't even know Shields existed until I read BlueVol03's diary on WR's in Draft. I read up on some of the others, including Arkansas' Marcus Monk, but it was Shields that caught my attention. What's important to note here is the Colts look for very particular kinds of people to play receiver, because (in all honesty) Indy is not an easy place to catch passes. Oh sure, the Colts have the best QB in creation, but that just adds to the pressure receivers feel when they play in Indy. an example is last year's first round pick Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzo was interviewed recently and here's what he said about Peyton Manning last season:

Q: What did you find out about Peyton Manning that you didn't know before?

A: There's little about Peyton Manning that the general public doesn't know. But I will say, he's got a better sense of humor than you'd probably think. I mean, the Saturday Night Live skits opened people's eyes to it. Outside of football, he's a pretty funny guy.

...

Q: As for the football side, what did Manning expect of you?

A: I found out fairly easily, because I just asked him. There was a point in preseason where I said to him, 'I get the sense that I'm not doing what I have to do. What is it you're looking for me to do?' And he said, 'I need to know that you are going to get open every single time, and that you are going to catch everything I throw to you.'

Speed, leaping, size, cone drills, return ability, etc. are all great. If he can't run great routes and catch the f&*king football, go play for someone else. Indy don't wantcha. The Colts look for guys that work hard, run the routes exactly the way they were drawn up, and catch whatever The General throws at them.

A guy like Arman Shields fits the mold of a receiver Indy likes, and Shields might just be around in rounds 4-6. Shields attended Richmond, which is not a big school with a big-time program.  However, at Richmond, he dominated. Small schools can produce great talents, such as Howard's own Antoine Bethea. What you look for in a receiver is speed, hands, and route running. Shields seems to fit the bill:

Nice size and bulk...Good timed speed and can get some separation..Decent route runner...Excellent hands...Good body control...Is tough and aggressive..Works the middle of the field....Adequate blocker...Consistent and productive...Return ability?
Shields' stock is on the rise because of his outstanding performance at the NFL Combine. One thing TheSportsGuru and I always like to yack about over Skype is the importance of the NFL Combine. Guru, and I'm speaking generally here, thinks Combine numbers are over-rated. He prefers to see big-time players performing at big-time programs. If they can succeed in those environments, they can succeed in the pros. I take a different approach. The Combine can help players like Shields, who no one heard of until he blew away guys like Mario Manningham at the Combine. Shields needed a strong Combine performance because he missed all but one game in the 2007 season to a tough knee injury. If not for that injury, Shields would likely be a first day pick, because his positives are exactly what teams like the Colts look for:
Lanky frame with room for additional growth. ... Has the straight-line speed to challenge deep and is able to generate consistent separation from defenders due to his burst out of his breaks and effective upper body fakes. ... Reliable receiver who catches the ball with his hands. ... Hard-worker who takes his role as a downfield blocker seriously.
Gotta love that last part, which I highlighted. It's hard not to root for a kid who works his tail off at a small school, looking to get drafted by a NFL club looking for a diamond in the rough receiver.

Shields' negatives mostly involve his lack of a burst, or his ability to do much after the catch, according to NFL Draft Countdown. The NFL Combine noted that while he works hard, physical play can re-route him. Despite his lack of a burst, Shields is a definite deep threat. He did struggle a bit catching balls over his shoulder, but his willingness to work the middle makes me think Shields could be an excellent slot receiver. Slot receivers don't usually run fly routes, or the like. Slants are the bread and butter of slot receivers, and Shields excels at those routes.

As Shields develops his strength and works on beating physical play, the slot receiver area might be the best place for him to start. Colts receiver Reggie Wayne was known to lack burst when he was drafted in 2001, and spent two years playing slot receiver. Now, he's one of the top 5 receivers in football, and yes, I consider Reggie Wayne better than Chad Johnson (numbers are similar, and Reggie never threw a punch at a coach during a playoff game, thank you).

It will be interesting to see where Shields falls in the draft. Whatever happens, after reading his Combine results and seeing highlights of his play (see below), this kid has what it takes to play in the NFL. It would be nice to see the Colts take him. He's the kind of guy who could give Peyton what he demands: Always get open, and always catch everything I throw at you.

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