Kendall Wright

Draft Grades: Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans are stuck in limbo. They’re not in full rebuilding mode, but they aren’t legitimate contenders. As a result, they had a tough decision to make in this draft: address immediate holes, or draft for the future. Based on their early selections it seems as though they chose the latter, which was probably the right decision.

The Titans shocked a lot of people with the selection of Kendall Wright. Receiver was not viewed as an immediate need, but the Titans apparently viewed him as one of the best values on the board. Wright is a perfect compliment to Kenny Britt, and the Titans now have two legitimate weapons in place which will ease Jake Locker’s transition whenever he takes over for Matt Hasselbeck.

Zach Brown is an elite athlete who fell down draft boards due to a lack of production in 2011 at North Carolina. He’s undersized and not very physical, but the Titans defense is one of the few units that tends to favor athleticism over size and Brown should fit right in.

Mike Martin could be a steal in the 3rd round. He’s limited athletically, but is a tough, physical player who can anchor a defensive line. He’ll have to fight for playing time on the Titans crowded defensive line, but he’ll force the coaching staff to find a role for him as part of the rotation.

If the Titans were drafting purely for need, cornerback is an area that should have been addressed earlier. Coty Sensabaugh adds depth, but he doesn’t even begin to replace Courtland Finnegan.

I love the selection of Taylor Thompson in the 5th round. He played defensive end at SMU, so we have no idea what lies ahead for him as a tight end, but he has all the physical attributes necessary to play the position at an elite level. He’s obviously a project, but his upside makes him well worth a 5th round selection.

Markelle Martin should provide some much needed depth in the secondary. He’ll likely backup Michael Griffin at free safety and play on special teams.

Scott Solomon will compete for a backup job at defensive end. While the starters are locked in, there’s very little depth at the position which should allow him to earn a spot on the roster.

This was a solid draft haul for the Titans, but don’t expect it to allow much improvement on their 9-7 record in 2011. This class was about putting the pieces in place to ensure a smooth transition from Hasselbeck to Locker. With the added weapons and offense and the depth added on the defensive side of the ball, the Titans should be able to avoid the typical dip in production when ushering in a new franchise quarterback.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Titans Comments Off

Browns wanted Kendall Wright, settled for Weeden

A quarterback should never be your fall-back option in the 1st round, but that’s exactly what happened to the Cleveland Browns.

According to Adam Schefter, the Browns were prepared to take Kendall Wright at No. 22 and were disappointed when the Titans surprisingly grabbed him at No. 20.

Brandon Weeden felt like a 1st-round reach to begin with, but this report further calls into question the strategy being used in the Browns war room. If you have a similar grade on a quarterback and a receiver in the 1st round, you always target the quarterback. Quality receivers are found in the mid-to-late rounds every year. Quarterbacks are not.

If the Browns were targeting Wright at No. 22, they obviously felt comfortable moving forward with Colt McCoy. Now it’s possible that they could have landed Weeden at No. 37 or traded up to get him, but you certainly can’t count on that option. If they took Wright at No. 22 they had to be OK with McCoy as their starting quarterback.

So if they were willing to move forward with another year of McCoy, why make Weeden the backup plan?

This entire situation makes it looks as though the Browns panicked, and calls into question just how much confidence they have in their new franchise quarterback. This is definitely not the type of publicity Mike Holmgren’s front office needs when they’re already losing the confidence of the fan base.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns Comments Off

Tennessee Titans select Kendall Wright, Grade A

The Tennessee Titans didn’t fill a need with this selection, but it’s a great value pick. I had Kendall Wright in the top 10 on my draft board, so the Titans obviously did a nice job getting him at 20.

Wright is an explosive deep threat and will complement Kenny Britt well in Tennessee. Jake Locker has to be feeling great about this selection.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Titans Comments Off

Panthers targeting receiver in 1st round?

Most mock drafts have the Carolina Panthers matched up with a defensive lineman in the 1st round, but their recent pre-draft visits may indicate another strategy.

Visits don’t necessarily translate to genuine interest in a player but when teams take a closer look at multiple players at the same position, that’s usually a good indication of where their interests lie.

The Panthers have already arranged visits with Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Kendall Wright – the only three consensus 1st-round receivers.

This certainly doesn’t mean the Panthers are locked in to this approach – they’ve also visited two two potential top-10 defensive linemen – but it does indicate they’re at least entertaining the idea of upgrading the talent around Cam Newton.

Personally, I think it would be a wise choice. After spending two 3rd-round picks on defensive tackles in 2011, there’s no need to bring in another rookie so soon. This is Cam Newton’s team, and they would be wise to give him all the support he needs to flourish.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers 2 Comments

Browns Offseason Priority: Find Some Playmakers

While most Cleveland Browns fans would prefer to blame Colt McCoy for disappointing offensive performance, the fact is no quarterback could have salvaged the Browns offense in 2011.

Could Griffin be the Browns superman?

Aside from rookie Greg Little, who showed some promise, the Browns simply lack the playmakers necessary to consistently put points on the scoreboard. And the issue goes beyond the wide receiver position. While a healthy Peyton Hillis will help (if he’s re-signed) even he isn’t a true playmaker. What the Browns need is someone their opponents need to game plan for, someone who can change the course of the game in a single play.

The easiest solution to this problem would be to add Robert Griffin III. While I believe Colt McCoy can be an effective starter if surrounded by a strong supporting cast, he will never have Griffin’s playmaking ability. McCoy can win with the right teammates, but Griffin has the potential to turn his teammates into winners.

But if Griffin is off the board, hope is not lost. The Browns still own three of the top 37 picks, and could acquire another if they trade down – which would make sense if the lose out in the bidding for Griffin.

If the Browns move back 5-10 slots to the middle of the 1st round they could potentially add Kendall Wright, who would immediately add a new dimension to their offense given his ability to stretch the field.

Then, either at No. 22 or in the 2nd round, the Browns could add another weapon – perhaps a playmaker at running back (Doug Martin or David Wilson) or a pass-catching tight end such as Coby Fleener or Ladarius Green.

The bottom line is this: the Browns have some glaring holes, but also have the ammunition necessary to address their areas of concern. Adding Griffin would help, but all will not be lost if they’re forced to return with Colt McCoy as the starter in 2012.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Browns 1 Comment

Rams Offseason Priority: Get Bradford Some Weapons

The St. Louis Rams have holes all over the place, but one area of concern stands out above the rest: wide receiver.

The midseason acquisition of Brandon Lloyd was a futile attempt to turn the league’s worst receiving corps into something that Sam Bradford could work with. And while Floyd was an upgrade over Mike Sims-Walker, he made little noticeable impact and is now set to become a free agent (and more than likely will take the first chance to sign elsewhere).

That leaves the Rams with Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas (who has excellent hands and should be use more), Austin Pettis and Danario Alexander – not exactly a crew Bradford can get excited about.

So what can the Rams realistically do to improve this group?

Obviously they’ll try to spend some money in free agency, but it can be tough to attract any meaningful veterans to a 2-14 team with a struggling third-year quarterback.

In reality, the Rams will be forced to address this need in the draft, and it could start in the 1st round. Most assume that Justin Blackmon will be high on the Rams wish list, and he is definitely an option. However, Kendall Wright may actually be the better fit for new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s offensive scheme.

While Wright is smaller than Blackmon, he is far superior in his ability to stretch the field, a key component in the Schottenheimer scheme. One of the reason’s Schottenheimer’s offense struggled in New York was due to his inability to find the right quarterback-receiver combo to stretch the field – something which he will likely be hoping to develop early in his tenure in St. Louis.

 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Rams 1 Comment

Kendall Wright to the Carolina Panthers?

The Carolina Panthers clearly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but to what lengths will they go to surround Cam Newton with more talent?

Justin Blackmon would be an obvious choice if he were on the board, but it seems unlikely that he would slip past the Rams, Redskins and Jaguars. That leaves the Panthers with two options if they wish to address this need in the 1st round: Kendall Wright and Michael Floyd.

The top 10 may be too early for either, but it would be a risky move to trade down in hopes of landing one later in the 1st round. While No. 8 or 9 may seem early, they could easily both be off the board by No. 15.

So which one could be worth the risk in the top 10?

Conventional wisdom says go with Floyd, the more traditional No. 1 receiver due to his size. Wright is only 5’10″ and there is not a strong track record for receivers under 6’0″ who are selected in the top 10. While Joey Galloway and Terry Glenn achieved some measure of success, Ginn, Warrick, Howard and even Hilliard fell well short of expectations.

But Wright may be different.

In recent years, more teams are making smaller receivers the focal point of their offense. This past season seven receivers listed at under 6’0″ were the leading receiver on their team, including Wes Welker and Carolina’s Steve Smith.

Now one could argue that Wright is too similar to Smith, which would make it difficult to find starring roles for each in the offense. To a certain extent this is true, but Smith turns 33 in May and can’t be relied upon much longer. And who better for Wright to study under than Steve Smith?

Taking Wright in the top 10 definitely goes against the grain, but could prove to be an excellent long-term investment, and one which Cam Newton is sure to appreciate.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Panthers Comments Off

Jaguars Offseason Priority: Find a No. 1 Receiver

The Jacksonville Jaguars offense struggled in 2011, that’s no secret.

Much of the blame was placed on rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, but a closer look at some advanced statistics reveals that perhaps Gabbert was simply a victim of poor play from his receivers.

AdvancedNFLStats.com tracks the Win Probability Added (WPA) of each play throughout the season, and assigns the final WPA to each player involved. Over the course of the season, they also track a stat called Success Rate, which is simply the percentage of plays resulting in a positive WPA.

On any given play, the reason for the positive or negative WPA could be attributed to any number of players. As a result, Success Rate should certainly be taken with a grain of salt. However, over the course of the season one would expect the numbers to even out to a fairly accurate representation of a player’s true value. If you’re wondering if this stat passes the “eye test” here are the top three receivers for 2011: Marques Colston (71.4%), Wes Welker (66.2) and Jorday Nelson (65.7).

This stat also confirms that the Jaguars have a very serious issue on their hands at wide receiver. In 2011, the Jaguars three primary targets – Mike Thomas, Jason Hill and Jarett Dilliard – each ranked among the 14 worst receivers in terms of success rate. And only Eddie Royal struggled more than Thomas and Hill.

One could still argue that these low numbers are a result of poor quarterback play. But if that’s the case, we should see similarly poor success rates from the receivers of quarterbacks with similar statistics to Gabbert. According to WPA, the three worst quarterbacks this past year were Gabbert, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez. However, only one of the qualifying receivers in St. Louis and New York, ranked worse than any of the Jaguars three primary targets (St. Louis’ Brandon Lloyd, 42.0%)

So with this in mind, how should the Jaguars approach the draft?

While they certainly have other holes to fill as well, it would be tough to justify not putting a wide receiver at the top of their draft wish list.

Justin Blackmon – who I currently have heading to Jacksonville in my latest mock draft – would seem to be an obvious choice if he’s on the board at No. 7. But what if he’s gone?

One option, in the event that Blackmon appears unlike to fall, would be to trade up. Here’s one plausible scenario: the Redskins trade up to No. 2 and select Robert Griffin. This leaves the Browns without the quarterback they covet, making them a candidate to trade down. The Jaguars could then jump the Rams, who would be at No. 6, and move up to No. 4 for Blackmon, likely parting with a 2nd-round pick in the process.

The second option would be to settle for the next best receiver, either Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright. Both would be a slight reach at No. 7, but could be worth it to fill a glaring hole.

The third option is to trade down in hopes of landing Floyd or Wright later in the 1st round. The Cowboys could be a potential trading partner, who may be interested in moving up for Dre Kirkpatrick.

For the same of Jaguars fans, I hope GM Gene Smith address this need in free agency, or in the 1st round. Because if he doesn’t, you know that some small school sleeper will land in Jacksonville in the 2nd or 3rd round and, like Cecil Shorts this past season, will likely have minimal immediate impact.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Jaguars Comments Off

Evaluating the top receivers in 2012 draft class

I’ve spent some time over the past couple days going over the top receivers in this year’s draft class. There are five guys who clearly stand out above the rest and, barring any dramatic events in the upcoming months (arrests, injuries, etc), I’ve setting on my rankings for each.

1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Blackmon is the obvious top choice. He’s a physical freak who has the size and speed to dominate from Day One. The only thing that can keep Blackmon from developing into a Pro Bowl receiver is himself. He was arrested on a DUI charge in 2010, and his effort on the field hasn’t always been 100%. But he appeared to step up his game in 2011, staying out of trouble and staying more focused on the field.

Wright is a legitimate top-20 talent

2. Kendall Wright, Baylor
Michael Floyd and Alshon Jeffery have been No. 2 on most boards throughout the season, but after watching Wright dominate in some of his toughest matchups this season (vs Oklahoma, Texas), I’m bumping him up into this slot. Five years ago it would have been tough to rank Wright this high. But the NFL passing game has been changing in recent years and we’re seeing more undersized receivers emerge as a legitimate No. 1 targets (Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson, etc). Wright has all the tools necessary to join that group and be a game-changer at the next level.  Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft Comments Off

Kendall Wright scouting report

Kendall Wright WR Baylor #1
Ht: 5’10″

Wt: 190

 
Strengths:
Elite speed; can consistently stretch the field. A playmaker with the ball in his hands; quick and shifty; elusive in the open field. Does a nice job adjusting to poorly thrown balls. Experienced and efficient running a variety of routes; can stretch the field with his pure speed, but also uses quickness to get open on other shorter routes. Tough for his size; not afraid to go across the middle. Reliable hands and good technique; catches the ball away from his body and then brings it in. Good fundamentals as a runner; secures the ball. Elite all-around athlete; played basketball at Baylor as a freshman.
Weaknesses:
Slightly undersized; will struggle against more physical cornerbacks if jammed at the line of scrimmage. Played in a spread offense at Baylor which allowed him to frequently get open in space; rarely forced to make plays in traffic. Limited experience on special teams, where some teams may want to use him.
Comments:
Wright has the potential to be a game-changer on offense, the only question is his size. Fortunately for Wright, he’s entering the league at the right time. The NFL is continuing to become a more passing-friendly league, and undersized receivers such as Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson are among the most feared receivers in the league. Wright has all the tools necessary to be in that class of receivers if he lands in the right system.
Videos:
2011 vs Washington (bowl game)
2011 vs Texas
2011 vs Oklahoma
2011 vs TCU 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 1 Comment