Greg Cosell: Justin Hunter is “Most Physically Talented Wide Receiver”

It’s often good news for a player to receive a glowing review from NFL Films veteran Greg Cosell–and that’s just what Tennessee receiver Justin Hunter was credited with in one of Cosell’s most recent Yahoo! Sports features.

Cosell’s view of receivers in the NFL today is that there are no longer designations like ‘X’, ‘Y’, or ‘Z’ on the offense — rather most top-level receivers must be able to fill the “Joker” role, which is all about flexibility and confusing defenses by lining up in many different spots on both the outside and inside (and even the backfield, as Cosell noted with Atlanta receiver Roddy White).

In his piece, Cosell labels Hunter as the “most physically talented wide receiver” while additionally calling the former Volunteer “the most intriguing receiver on the board” and being “most explosive as a route runner” of the receivers in this year’s NFL Draft. Cosell compares Hunter to both A.J. Green in several aspects (including “fluidity” in movements) and even to Randy Moss due to Hunter’s vertical (Cosell does temper these comparisons with the acknowledgement that Hunter will need some develop to match the contributions of Green or Moss in the NFL).

Hunter has both size and vertical ability in his favor (with the best vertical of receivers at the NFL Combine), while also flashing a 4.44 40-yard dash time for scouts in Indy.

Cosell makes it clear that he expects Hunter to be off the board within the top-32 next Thursday night — even if he acknowledges lingering effects from a 2011 ACL injury and a tendency to have easy drops at the collegiate level (which he balances out by claiming his “acceleration and vertical explosiveness clearly projects to the NFL”).

Just from watching film clips of Hunter’s past season at Tennessee shows after the catch ability, a drive to get yards after contact and an ability to make plays over defenders on balls thrown up by quarterback Tyler Bray–in fact, he was often asked to make catches in traffic during his time at Tennessee.

Hunter isn’t the only prospect that Cosell talks up. Unlike many scouts, who have concerns about injuries and slow 40-yard times, Cosell is very optimistic about the NFL future of California product Keenan Allen.

While Allen may not be as fleet-footed as other receivers in the class, Cosell claims Allen exemplifies the Joker receiver that coaches are looking for — he can play in the slot and outside in multiple roles due to his receiving abilities and good size at 6’2″ and 206 pounds.

Cosell specifically admires Allen’s run after the catch abilities and versatility, as he states that Allen “looked like a big running back” and can contribute both as a returner and out of the backfield. In fact, Allen draws comparisons to Reggie Wayne from Cosell due to his ability to do just about everything required of a receiver.

Allen is a “fluid route runner” with deceptive body movements and possesses both “excellent quickness in-and-out of breaks” and “short space burst” according to Cosell — something that often sets apart top receivers from solid, but unspectacular, receivers. When combined with excellent catching skills and technique, Allen’s size and his vertical ability, Cosell makes the argument that Allen’s straight line speed and physicality are deceptive enough to make him a legitimate deep threat as well (all 40-yard time concerns aside).

Cosell’s not alone in having Allen near the top of the draft board. While West Virginia’s Tavon Austin excited with speed and Olympic athleticism at the Combine, his relative inexperience and Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson’s maturity questions led some others (Brian Billick and Taylor Jones) to believe Allen could very well be the top receiver in the draft.

There are a number of other receivers that Cosell praises, including Texas Tech’s Da’rick Rogers –who Cosell specifically notes for having schooled LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu out of the slot back when Rogers played for the University of Tennessee in 2011. With subtle, yet excellent, route running and body movement combined with solid catching abilities, Cosell claims Rogers could be a receiver climbing draft boards behind the scenes.

Mathieu gives Rogers a fight the entire way in their matchup, but it’s remarkable to see the success that Rogers had against a top collegiate corner (who would be a higher pick if not for character concerns).

To see Rogers’ game clip versus LSU, go to 2:56 in the below video.

The numerous other receivers mentioned are DeAndre Hopkins (Clemson), Chris Harper (Kansas State), Aaron Dobson (Marshall) and Aaron Mellette (Elon University). Cosell goes as far as saying that several of these receivers (notably Hopkins, Harper and Rogers) are not far from last year’s first-round crop of receivers (Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and A.J. Jenkins) in many scouts’ eyes.

Cosell’s piece, although a bit lengthy, is definitely worth a read.

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