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April 22, 2010 @ 5:00 am
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Carlson: Top Receivers For Freeman

Written by Jeff
Carlson
Jeff Carlson

Jeff
Carlson

Contributing Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Which wide receiver prospects in the 2010 NFL Draft would be ideal players to pair with Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman? Former Bucs quarterback and PewterReport.com contributing analyst Jeff Carlson explains which receivers would work well with Freeman and would be assets for Tampa Bay's offense.
Jeff Carlson is a regular contributor to PewterReport.com. In his regular columns, Carlson will share expert analysis and insight regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL based on his previous playing experience with the Bucs and in the league.

Carlson played quarterback in the NFL from 1990-92. He spent two seasons (1990-91) with the Bucs and one season (1992) with the New England Patriots. The former Weber State signal caller originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick with the Los Angeles Rams.

Since his NFL playing career ended, Carlson has remained active and busy in the Tampa Bay area by heading up America's Best Quarterback, which is a clinic that trains quarterbacks privately or in groups in Tampa year round. To inquire about America's Best Quarterback, visit AmericasBestQB.com, e-mail
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
or call 813-789-9255.

In addition to his work with Americas Best Quarterback, Carlson is a regular host on Bright House Sports Network, which is PewterReport.com's television partner.

When I look at the wide receivers I like Demaryius Thomas from Georgia Tech. That is -3, 229 pounds and runs really well. Thomas consistently gets separation from defensive backs. His exact 40-time is unknown because he couldn't run before the draft due to an injured foot, but on film you can see that he is a fast football player. He rarely gets caught from behind and that's the key.

Thomas averaged 19.5 yards per catch over his career with a total of 120 receptions for 2,339 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons of playing time. His best season was in 2009 when he averaged an amazing 25 yards per reception. Thomas caught 46 passes for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

I think that Thomas' skill set would work great with Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman. Freeman is a huge guy that can play off defenders in the pocket, and Thomas would be able to provide explosiveness that would take advantage of Freeman's ability to push the ball downfield. You can't underestimate Thomas' size. Who is going to win the battle when the ball comes when you have two guys running down the field together? Both have in the range of 4.4 speed and are running stride for stride together.

That's the thing I liked about Thomas when he went downfield – he was winning the battles against cornerbacks. I think it gives the quarterback a lot of confidence that he can put the ball up in the air and he knows that his receiver is going to either grab it or knock it down. He's not going to just be a speed guy that runs fast but when you put a ball up for him you run the risk of throwing an interception. Thomas is the kind of player that can make big plays downfield, and Josh Freeman could use a player like that in the Bucs' offense to provide a lot of needed firepower.

We've talked about Freeman improving his accuracy in the past, and I think that Thomas could help Freeman with that. It would be great if there were huge windows to throw into if you're going to be inaccurate, but that's not the NFL. Thomas is the type of receiver that won't let the defender make a play and come away with the football. That is so important for any quarterback. You may have a pass rush in your face, get hit as you throw, have a throwing lane obstructed, you name it. But you want your receivers to battle for the ball and not give up on the throw just because it isn't perfect.

When I watched Thomas on film I saw a guy that was catching the ball at the highest point, and was catching it with his hands. He was knocking defenders away to get the ball. I like a lot of the receivers that are projected to go early in the draft, but Thomas stands out from the rest.

Another guy that I think could be a good addition for the Bucs in the mid-rounds is Clearwater, Fla. product in Riley Cooper. I've watched him for years at Florida and prior to that. After seeing Cooper play for a long time and I've come to really like the way that he plays football.

At Florida, Cooper had 81 catches for 1,496 yards (18.5 average) and 18 touchdowns. His best season came as a senior when he had 51 receptions for 961 yards (18.8 average) and nine touchdowns.

He is another guy with size and speed. He catches with his hands well. There are some detractors that say he doesn't get off the line well. He's 6-3 and 222 pounds, so there are times that can be the case at the line of scrimmage. I think a good coordinator can move him around and get him space to help him get off the line of scrimmage.

He'll fight for the ball and do the little things that it takes to get open. There is a knock on Cooper about dropped balls, but I don't have a real problem with that. I think he has innate athletic ability to overcome that. Now that he's committed to playing only football (Cooper was also a professional baseball prospect) I think he'll be a phenomenal receiver. Everybody drops passes – everybody – but he has the ability to make great catches. I don't think it is a glaring issue compared to any other guys.

It shouldn't be understated how physical receivers like Thomas and Cooper are – not only in fighting for receptions, but in the run game. Cooper and Thomas are excellent blockers. They'll pop guys downfield. They are big trucks that can catch and can run.

Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley (5-11, 193) is another impressive player, and he will probably get drafted after Thomas and before Cooper. I think he is going to be very popular with a lot of teams. Wes Welker and Austin Collie have shown what effective slot receivers can do for an offense. Shipley fits in that category of the real quick and shifty receiver. I don't know if you can say he will be as good as those guys, but I think he'll have plenty of teams targeting him. I can see why Freeman has said that he likes him.

As a junior, Shipley had 89 catches for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns. Last year he improved on those big numbers with a stunning 116 catches for 1,485 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Shipley can play outside, too. I think that comes down to the offensive coordinator and using three wide receiver sets where you line him up outside and create mismatches depending on who your receivers are. I don't think Shipley will have any kind of problem playing different receiver positions in the NFL.
 
Now for some final quick observations. Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn looks good, but he can be difficult to evaluate because Illinois struggled at the quarterback position and they didn't throw him the ball as much as the should have. From what I have seen he looks pretty good and I like him.

Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant is at the top of the draft board for talent, and he is very talented, but you wonder about him when you see him not giving it 100 percent when he is asked to block. He also doesn't give it 100 percent if he knows the play is going away from him. That kind of an attitude will trickle into if it is not a perfect pass the guy may not give his full effort to fight for it. I think those things happen. There is nothing wrong with Bryant's talent, but I'm concerned about his judgment that resulted in an NCAA suspension and his lack of desire when the ball isn't thrown his way.

By Jeff Carlson as told to PewterReport.com editor-in-chief Charlie Campbell.


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