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Scouting Notebook: Potential Colts wide receiver prospects

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With the Colts weak at WR, who should you be watching on Saturdays?

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts finally notched their first win of the Frank Reich era with a 21-9 victory over the Redskins. As that win breeds optimism into this fan base and young team, its never too early to look at the college prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. Last week we highlighted a couple of high profile players from high profile schools. This week we are focusing on just one position — wide receiver.

The WR depth on the Colts is not great. TY Hilton is a top tier receiver in the NFL and looks to be back to his old form with the return of Andrew Luck. After that though, its a bit shaky. Ryan Grant has played well but he is a free agent after this season. Chester Rogers appears to have a budding chemistry with Luck but he has yet to break out. Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson are both young players but it is unclear what their status in the future of the team may be.

Even if a promising rookie like Deon Cain is able to come back from an ACL tear and be a factor next season, the Colts would be wise to at least explore the possibility of drafting a play-making receiver in this potentially loaded upcoming draft class at the position.

Today’s Scouting Notebook will be looking at four wide receivers who are a bit under the radar in college football. Our guest analyst this week is Brad Kelly of The Draft Network. If you have not checked out Brad’s work on wide receivers I highly recommend you do so as he is quickly rising to the top in terms of receiver evaluation. Without further ado lets jump into this week’s wide receiver themed Scouting Notebook


Damarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss (6’2” 205):

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Overview:

Damarkus Lodge is a bit of an underrated name for the 2019 draft class. Playing alongside potential first round picks in DK Metcalf and AJ Brown, Lodge hasn’t put up the huge numbers you would expect from a player with his skill set. The former 5-star recruit put up his best collegiate season last year as a junior as he reeled in 41 catches for 698 yards and 7 touchdowns. His 17.0 yards per catch led the team.

Lodge has a very unique skill set that translates very well to the NFL. He’s a very gifted athlete with a well-built frame. He has the ability to blow by defenders for deep passes or break down on crisp routes underneath. My personal favorite trait of his is how he attacks the ball on curl and underneath balls. He always fights his way back to the ball and helps his QB. His most impressive and translated traits though are his insane vertical and body control. I’ve rarely seen a player with his ability to contort in the air and come down with difficult catches in traffic.

Film Review:

This is a personal favorite play of mine as Lodge runs a 10-yard curl here. Notice how far he comes back to the ball to help his quarterback. It may be a very unspectacular looking play but this attention to detail by Lodge to know to come back to the ball is very key, and it isn’t something every NFL receiver does.

This is that natural athleticism and body control I was talking about. First the vertical to go up and get this ball is insane. But to also be able to turn his body around completely in the air and toe tap on the sideline is unteachable. This natural ability to make a play like this is what potentially makes Lodge special.

Lodge (top of the screen) flies past Alabama corner Tony Brown, the same Tony Brown who ran a 4.35 40-yard dash, here for the catch. Notice again how Lodge attacks the ball in the air and contorts himself to make the difficult catch. Not many players can make this play in traffic but Lodge can. I also really like the stutter-and-go at the line of scrimmage to get the corner on his back heels.

Lastly, I’m just going to drop Brad’s video right here comparing Lodge to Brandon Lloyd. Its excellent and I highly recommend watching it.

Fit with the Colts:

Lodge would be a perfect compliment to T.Y. Hilton on the Colts. With his size and frame and ability to line up across the formation, Lodge would be a matchup nightmare for teams trying to limit Hilton. Lodge’s ability to make contested catches along with his ability to work his way back to the quarterback would be a huge asset for Andrew Luck as well. Overall, I think Damarkus Lodge could be everything Colts fans hoped Donte Moncrief would have been. Keep an eye on this guy the rest of the year.

Brad Kelly’s Analysis:

Lodge may not currently be as highly regarded as his Ole Miss wide receiver counterparts, but I’m drawn to his game the most. With a solid frame, Lodge is versatile enough to move around the formation, and he plays the game with an edge. As a route runner, his loose hips allow for crisp breaks. Lodge’s best weapon is the body control, as he’s able to adjust to passes and make acrobatic plays look easy.


Stanley Morgan Jr, WR, Nebraska (6’1” 200):

NCAA Football: Nebraska at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Overview:

Stanley Morgan Jr. is a very early draft crush of mine this year. The Nebraska star was one of the top receivers in college football last season and seemingly surprised a lot of people when he decided to return for his senior season. In his junior year, Morgan had 61 catches for 986 yards and 10 touchdowns. That big season also included a monster 7 catches for 185 yards and 2 touchdowns game against Penn State where the Cornhuskers nearly pulled off the major upset.

Morgan may be the most polished wide receiver in this 2019 draft class. He’s very sudden and precise with his route running and creates easy separation off of the line of scrimmage. He is excellent at beating press coverage too as he rarely gets misdirected and uses his hands very well to break the press.

His hands are top notch as he rarely drops passes and hangs onto most balls in traffic. He isn’t an elite athlete or the best jump ball receiver but he will always create separation at the top of his route and that is so key in today’s NFL.

Film Review:

Morgan showing off his sticky hands here as he reels in the slight overthrow from QB Tanner Lee. This is an impressive play to create that slight separation at the top of his route too which left Lee just enough space to fit that ball in there.

Notice how sudden Morgan is on this route. A quick flip of the hips on the slant route gives the corner in off coverage no chance to make a play. Nice body control here on the poor throw as well, reaching back and controlling the ball.

This play is beautiful. The quick footwork beats the initial press then he swipes the hands of the defender to create more separation. Cap it off with a quick flip of the hips for sudden separation and its an easy throw for the QB to make.

Notice the quick jab here to beat the press again, the CB has no chance. Great body control on the catch as well as he shields the defender away from the ball.

Fit with the Colts:

Morgan could step in immediately from day one and upgrade Ryan Grant’s role on the team. With his top notch suddenness and polished route running, Morgan would be a nightmare to cover underneath with the threat of Hilton over top. Morgan would also be a perfect fit in Reich’s scheme as he would feast on all the open underneath opportunities.

Brad Kelly’s Analysis:

Morgan is one of, if not the, best route runners in the class. The nuance that he possesses in his stems, such as slight angle adjustments and pacing, make him a nightmare for defensive backs to handle. His polish will generally allow him to attack clean catch points, using plus ball skills to pluck the ball out of the air.


Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor (6’3” 207)

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Overview:

Denzel Mims quietly dominated college football last season for the 1 win Baylor Bears. Playing in the Big 12, wide receivers typically have inflated stats but Mims put on a show last year. In his first year as a starter as a sophomore, Mims had 61 caches for 1,087 yards and 8 touchdowns. His 17.8 yards per catch is absolutely insane for a number one receiver.

Mims is a very interesting prospect. He has the size and speed that you look for in a receiver and he is an effortless long strider who flies past defenders. His body control and ability to high point the ball are huge positives as there aren’t many receivers with the length and control in the air like him.

He is also a natural hands catcher who keeps the ball away from his body with his long frame. For a guy who plays in Baylor’s offense, I also think he has the ability to be a great route runner as well. If he can show evaluators that he can run every route in the route tree — Baylor typically just asks receivers to know fly and slant routes — I could see Mims flying up draft boards this year.

Film Review:

Watching this play you would think Mims is 6’7”. The vertical is just effortless here as he plucks the ball out of the air. This is natural talent that you get from Mims.

This is why Mims is a matchup nightmare for corners. His long frame is hard to stick with and even if a corner is running even with him, he can accelerate at the last second and reach the ball with his long arms. Also notice how he eats up the corner’s cushion here quickly with his long strides.

This is just another example of Mims’ effortless speed. He finds the soft spot in the zone as catches the slant and races up field. Notice how easy he makes it look to blow past these defenders.

Fit with the Colts:

If any of you Colts fans liked Daurice Fountain last year, this is your type of receiver. Mims is an excellent athlete who can eat up cornerback cushions in a heartbeat. His vertical combined with his ability to time his jumps and pluck the ball out of the air make him virtually uncoverable in man coverage. For the Colts, Mims could be the perfect big bodied receiver to pair with Hilton.

Brad Kelly’s Analysis:

Possibly the most impressive athlete in the wide receiver class, Mims will have NFL scouts salivating. His size and speed combination, along with potentially the best ball skills in the class, makes him matchup proof. Mims is still dealing with slight technique issues, but his athleticism will often trump those issues and still allow for efficient cuts.


Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Oklahoma (5’10” 170)

NCAA Football: Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Overview:

Last but certainly not least is Marquise (aka) Hollywood Brown. The electric Brown has been a spark plug on Oklahoma’s offense under Lincoln Riley. After receiving no college offers out of high school due to his size, Brown played a year at the JUCO level and absolutely dominated which granted him with a scholarship to Oklahoma. Last year, Brown tallied 57 catches (19.2 yards per catch!!) for 1,095 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Brown definitely has some question marks entering the NFL but man is he fun to watch. Like Tyreek Hill, he is practically un-guardable as his speed is too much for any one player to cover. Often times he even races past an over-the-top safety as they struggle with his speed even with a 30-yard head start. As a pure receiver, Brown is actually improving a lot. His suddenness and quickness out of his breaks stem from his natural athleticism and he creates separation with ease. His hands are very good and he rarely drops passes.

Film Review:

This speed is just silly. Slight hesitation here on the slant combined with Brown’s quickness creates instant separation that is huge. After that, its all natural ability that gives Brown the touchdown. His athleticism is no joke.

Not just a run around you guy, Brown can make contested catches. Here he tracks the ball very well and makes a good adjustment to the ball here on the catch. Not bad for a player with his size and frame.

This is how he opens up an offense. When even a safety over the top can’t keep up with a receiver, you know he’s fast. He has at least 5 yards of separation at the time of the catch.

Fit with the Colts:

Obviously Brown has a little ways to go before being a starting receiver in the NFL. His frame is very small and he has no chance of holding up in the league without gaining weight. That aside though, he is an absolute weapon. He can line up at either slot or outside and test a defense in ways that a player rarely can. With Brown on the team, it could also open up more plays for TY Hilton over the middle as well and give more space for the elite receiver. Overall, Brown would be an electric edition that would make the Colts, along with Hilton and Nyheim Hines, one of the fastest offenses in football.

Brad Kelly’s Analysis:

“Hollywood” Brown has that lightning speed that NFL offenses are beginning to covet more and more. His shiftiness with the ball in his hands and ability to remove the top from any defense will give him an immediate role at the next level. Brown needs to continue adding some bulk and work on his hands, but he already has the tools to be a dynamic homer in threat from the slot.


Final Thoughts:

Overall each of these four receivers have great potential to be contributors if they were selected by the Colts. In an upcoming receiver class that is potentially stacked with NFL talent, the Colts must take advantage. I think any one of these guys would be an instant upgrade to the current core of receivers.

That’s all I have for this week’s Scouting Notebook. As always if you all have any comments, suggestions, or prospects you want to watch, comment below on this article. Although the Colts are competitive now and look to have turned a corner under Frank Reich, its never too early to be scouting the draft.