By Adam Caplan
April 23, 2012
When I noted via Twitter last fall that I was starting to do some research on Baylor University QB Robert Griffin III, some of my followers told me to make sure I got a good look at his top passing target, Kendall Wright. Some of them said he could wind up being the one of the first wide receivers selected off the board in April’s NFL Draft.
So, heeding their advice, I watched several games, and one thing became very evident—Wright was a playmaker. In fact, as one veteran personnel evaluator told me recently, Wright is the most explosive wide receiver available for this draft. But what surprised me is his willingness, despite his size (5-10, 196), to go over the middle. And watching his performance last season, his play reminded me of Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith, as others have noticed as well.
Wright’s senior season game tape, according to several personnel sources I've talked to, is arguably the best of any wide receiver for this draft. But despite that, a recent story from Pro Football Weekly stated that he’s “parked in the third round on a number of draft boards.” So, this being the season of smoke screens and misinformation put out by NFL teams leading up to the draft, I decided to cut through all the smoke by getting answers straight from the soft spoken wide receiver myself.
“Sometimes I’m open and sometimes I’m not. But when you’re my size, you have to try to play big. I try not to let my size dictate anything,” Wright told Thesidelineview.com.
Wright, during his time at Baylor, played inside and outside.
“One team that I had a visit with said they saw me as a “Z” receiver (flanker/outside), but I can pretty much play both (inside and outside). In fact, most of the teams I visited had me as a “Z.”
The “Z” receiver, in the West Coast scheme, is the No. 1 receiver—the same position Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice played. However, in other schemes, the “Z” receiver plays in the slot. So which side of the field he plays and where he lines up will depend on which team winds up drafting him.
Wright is a rarity these days—he finished his career at Baylor as a four-year player. And he’s coming off a monster season (108 receptions, 1663 yards, 14 touchdowns), which could explain why he’s so highly thought of by many personnel evaluators.
However, he posted less than blazing 40-yard dash times (anywhere from 4.49 to 4.57 hand timed/4.61 electronic) during February’s NFL Scouting Combine. Wright erased doubts about his 40-speed at the Baylor pro day when he was hand timed at 4.41 and 4.46 by NFL teams in attendance. But luckily for him, wide receivers in the NFL don’t start out of a track stance and they do wear football pads when they play. No one has questioned Wright's game speed on film, and some personnel evaluators have suggested that Wright's ability to play that fast in pads comes from the strength and explosiveness in his lower body.
Profootballweekly also stated that Wright’s body fat percentage was at 16 (presumably at the Combine), so I asked the wide receiver about that late last week.
“One of the teams that I visited this week (the Jets) and gave me a physical, tested my body fat and said I had 8.4 percent,” Wright said.
Regardless of which number is accurate, Wright's weight has remained about the same over the last year (scouts weighed him at 194 pounds last spring before his senior year, and he weighed 196 at the Combine and 197 at the Baylor pro day), and it hasn't affected his playing speed.
Wright has seven visits (Carolina Panthers, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, New York Jets and an undisclosed team) and three private workouts - the Titans earlier this month and two teams that called him this week for last minute workouts. He had a private workout with the Rams, and he had a workout and two hour chalkboard session on Monday with an AFC team’s offensive coordinator that also requested confidentiality. Rams GM Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher attended Wright's workout last week. QB Tom Brandstater threw to Wright, according to a source.
According to several NFL executives Thesidelineview.com spoke to in recent weeks, Wright is widely expected to go off the board somewhere within the first round. Regardless of the smoke screens that NFL teams are putting out this week, the bottom line is that teams go back to the film before they make their draft decisions. This time of year NFL evaluators frequently say "the eye in the sky doesn't lie" when asked if a college player will make a good pro, and most NFL personnel executives that I've talked to say Kendall Wright's film is as good if not better than any receiver in this draft.