What I give up in immediate offering on NFL talent in Mock Drafts the days following any NFL season, I try to make up for in close study of players all you draft fanatics bring to my attention. What many of you may not know, is that I'm a "research junkie". Yet, as tied as I am to statistics and video of the players you all send my way to consider, there's always a player who catches my eye, and seems to slide by others to a certain extent. This year, my official favorite player is Aaron Dobson of Marshall University. Yes, I've mentioned him once or twice in comment threads with a "Dobson Rules!", more often than not just to have something to say as you draft wunderkind espouse the virtues of other players. It's my version of trying to play with "the cool kids".
Over the next month or so, I'll be coming up with my version of "Top Five" players at every position leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft. I doubt the Mike Mayocks of the world will agree with me for the most part, but what the hell...
Aaron Dobson first came to my - and your - attention after seeing "the catch". Take a look at the video, and you'll understand why this became the jingle of the draft keys moment that caught my A.D.D. addled mind.
While it's true many player have their Andy Warhol 15 minutes of fame moments and nothing else, this catch showed me something I just couldn't forget. It was the combination of athleticism and concentration - combined with amazing hands (or "hand"?) that's made me keep Dobson at the forefront of my mind. While I rate Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin higher on my list, I actually have Dobson ranked higher than Kennan Allen, or Robert Woods who I rank higher than most of you.
In my mind, I think Patterson is a poor man's Julio Jones. Austin is this year's DeSean Jackson comparable. Dobson though, holds a special place which, more than often, doesn't work out all that well: the dreaded Terrell Owens/Michael Irvin comparison. Dobson is a big body receiver without the big body. At 6'3", 210 lbs., he lacks the size of both Irvin or Owens, but I think he can grow into their physical aspects. He has the speed to surpass both of these great NFL receivers. Hobbled by a hamstring and a minor knee issue, most experts see him running a 4.5-ish 40 yard dash. But the researcher in me thinks we could see a low 4.4, or even a high 4.3, at his pro day.
Another thing that elevates Dobson for me is, he's arguably had the worst quarterbacks throughout his college career when compared to whose been throwing to Austin or Patterson. This should be something you really need to move up your decision making paradigm. No one would mistake Rakeem Cato for Andrew Luck. While I wish the young man well in his post college life, I can't tell you how many passes I watched him throw that were quite literally Pop Warner-esk wobbly ducks floating in the air.
SUMMARY - Dobson has tremendous hand size and arm length to go with prototype size for the position at the NFL level. He is an exceptional athlete who displays outstanding speed, body control and balance. He is a legitimate vertical threat on every snap of the ball. He has rare hands and makes extremely difficult catches look easy, and he extends his long arms and plucks the ball away from his frame consistently. He has great reach and uses his body to shield defenders away from the ball. He is going to be a big red zone threat in the NFL. He has elite ability to track, locate and adjust to the ball in the air, especially down the field and in the end zone. He has great hand/eye coordination and does a masterful job of adjusting to poorly thrown balls. He can win against all types of coverage. Dobson won't explode off of the ball, but he does run crisp routes with the football IQ to quickly break off a route and sit into an open area. He has the strength and toughness to generate a lot of RAC yardage. He is not a consistent blocker in the running game, but he is willing and could benefit from NFL coaching in this area. Overall, he deserves second-round consideration because of his physical tools, red zone skills and ability to stretch the field. He looks a lot like a poor man's version of A.J. Green coming out of Georgia except that he lacks Green's explosiveness and top end play-making speed. He is a legitimate No. 1 WR prospect for the NFL level.
A.J. Green comparisons? I'm not really buying it. I think he's more like a Anquan Boldin or Miles Austin, with a tad more speed. Another thing that's caught my eye is his field awareness. If you watch video of him on plays where the ball goes away from him, you'll see him working back toward his quarterback on every play. He doesn't quit until the whistle blows. What's more, everything I've read says this is a confident, yet humble young man. He's a team player. I think one of his hidden assets is how "coach-able" he'll be at the next level. Pro scouts are watching this young man, and I have little doubt the Marshall pro day will be attended by more teams than last season, specifically to study Dobson.
While many think he'll go in the 3rd or 4th round, I don't see him lasting beyond the middle of the 2nd round. I've said before that I feel the 2013 draft class is a "Best Player Available" draft. Again, my thinking may be a tad off, but its not because I feel there's so much a lack of talent in this draft, as much as the talent doesn't have a great deal of separation at most positions. That can be a good thing too, but it will mean the teams who are most successful in this year's draft will be those with the best scouting department. Teams will have to put more time into gleaning which players hold true value and fit their franchises long term goals. I also have little doubt this draft holds more "diamonds in the rough" than in the past. Les Snead and Jeff Fisher have a challenge before them this April they won't forget for a long time. Success in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounds will mean a great deal - like every other year - but I'd add the caveat that 2013 could wind up being the year where more late round players become NFL stars than every before. I think Aaron Dobson is one of those special players, masked by an underachieving quarterback and offense. I'll leave you with this video of Dobson's highlights, and my recommendation the St. Louis Rams trade down from #16 to add a high second round pick and take Dobson. Crazy, eh? It might well be, but it's what I do...