Over the last 15 years or so, the Colts have done really well selecting Wide Receivers high up in the draft, taking two future Hall of Famers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. They built their success by taking these highly talented guys, letting them grow in their early years, then they exploded on the scene. One of a few guys in the 2013 draft that has some similarities to these two guys is Markus Wheaton of Oregon State.
Wheaton saw action in all four seasons in Corvallis, and led the Beavers in reception in each of his final three seasons, including a 91 catch, 1244 yard season a year ago. Add in 16 career touchdowns, eleven in 2012, as well as 631 career rushing yards (lots of fly sweeps, and really good too at 7.6 Yards/Carry), and you have a really complete WR. It certainly helps that he can fly in a straight line (4.45 speed), as well as change directions extremely quickly (4.02 20 yard shuttle, 4th best WR at Combine). He was easily Oregon State's biggest playmaker, as he is the school's receptions leader with 227 for his career.
His size and speed make a lot of people automatically think he's a slot guy, but I wouldn't be so sure about that. Remember when the Colts took Anthony Gonzalez, who is basically the same size as Wheaton, and everyone wanted to force him into being a slot guy, even though it was clear he was much better on the outside? I think the same thing is true of Wheaton. NFL.com, as you can see below, compares Wheaton to Antonio Brown, another very good comparison, even though people want to say he's Mike Wallace, because of his speed and vertical ability.
Wide Receivers can get a reputation of being loud-mouthed and diva-esque, which is true about quite a few Receivers. However Wheaton doesn't handle himself that way. When asked about it at the Combine, he said:
Q: You also play with a lot of swagger. Do you feel that's necessary too at the next level?
A: Yeah, I feel like to play any professional sport, you have to be confident.
Q: But you don't strike me as the classic wide receiver diva.
A: I'm more humble. I'm not too outspoken. If you see me outside of something like this, I don't talk too much.
But I just enjoy the game. I just enjoy playing football.
That sounds all too familiar to me as a Colts fan. Why does he play this way?
Q: Who are guys that you like to watch at the next level?
A: One guy that I have watched a lot is Marvin Harrison.
Oh right, that's where I remember that from.
Here's the big problem with Wheaton with respect to the Colts: he's being projected as a second round pick, which the Colts don't have. We have several options then if the Colts think Wheaton is their guy. First would be to grade back to the 35-40 range and select him there while picking up an extra pick or two. Second would be to move up if he falls far enough into Round 2, but that would most likely mean losing a pick from next year. The third option would be to just take Wheaton at #24, and if he's your guy you have to be comfortable doing that. The WR group doesn't have any clear standouts, so while it might be a surprise for him to go that high, it's not totally out of whack. He'd start immediately Week 1 opposite Wayne, and the Colts would be almost set with weapons at Andrew Luck's disposal.
His quickness is blatant and dangerous. Whether taking off from the slot or outside, his feet are literally a step ahead of his defender on everything from speed outs, crossers, to jerk routes. Displays the flexibility to grab throws behind him or over his shoulder when running deep. He’ll also extend away from his body to bring in high or wide throws, and will stutter on the sideline to ensure he makes the catch in-bounds.
While he can elude defenders in the open field, he’s not necessarily elite making men miss after the catch. Too often he will let the ball into his frame as opposed to attacking it. Will round off deeper pattern that consist of him coming back to the quarterback.
STRENGTHS: Very good straight-line speed that translates well onto the gridiron. Eats up the cushion due to his quick burst off the snap. Has a good arm-over swim move and the lateral agility to elude when pressed. Very experienced against press coverage due to the fact Oregon State uses this technique with their cornerbacks.
WEAKNESSES: Possesses a narrow frame and is especially thin in his lower body, leading to some concern as to where he'll fit best in the NFL. Owes much of his statistical success to Oregon State's quick-hitting passing attack, which features a lot of screens and other short routes.
COMPARES TO: Bernard Berrian, WR, ex-Chicago Bears/Minnesota Vikings -- Like the former Fresno State product, Wheaton can blame the so-called East Coast bias for his lack of national coverage despite proving himself to be a playmaker over his career. Like Berrian, Wheaton is a big-play threat whenever the ball is in his hands, but his spindly frame could keep him from reaching his maximum potential.
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