Now that the Senior Bowl is in the books and the college all-star games/workouts are winding down, the Los Angeles Rams scouting staff can stop and take a breath before Pro Days and the Combine take center stage.
Winners and losers lists from Senior Bowl week are out and speculation about which top rated player might fall to L.A. at pick #36 has already begun. One of things most interesting about the Senior Bowl workouts was how well the smaller wide receivers showed out. With both safeties and cornerbacks rotating in the 1on1 coverage drills, the receivers did have a marked advantage, but three players stood out with burst, footwork in/out of breaks, and hands.
All three consistently beat man coverage all week, on both short and deep routes. They all also do double duty, returning kicks as well as corralling passes. The Rams could use some speed in the wide receiver room. While It should not be the telling factor, being fleet afoot teamed with open-field running ability should command some real attention.
Jayden Reed- Michigan State
Reed had a standout season in 2021 and was considered a late Day2/early Day3 draft pick, but decided to return to school. Although his redshirt senior season was solid enough, he slipped under the radar after battling lower body injuries and getting caught up in the Spartans mediocre season. His performance at the Senior Bowl workouts refreshed and revived his draft interest. If the Rams were to receive a compensatory draft selection in the third or fourth round, a conscription decision like Reed would bolster both the return game and the receiving unit with speed and open-field running skills. In other words, a weapon.
Over 31 college games, he amassed 3222 all-purpose yards and 23 touchdowns receiving, rushing and returning both punts and kickoffs. At 5’ 11” 191 lbs., he looks to be well-proportioned and have a strong lower body. Small enough to be a darter, with enough strength to break arm tackles. His length, 30 1/2” arms and 73’ wingspan, while not elite is proportionate and adequate.
Uses cat-like quickness to create separation off the line of scrimmage and has shown that he has the long speed to outrun the coverage deep. Tracks the ball well and appears to snatch passes away from his body with hands. He doesn’t latch on with bear trap hands, his are soft and sure. He transitions well from catch to run and as a runner, is balanced and follows blocks. His competitive nature shows up in contested catches and willingness to block.
He fits in with the Rams because of his experience in multiple looks and formations. In college, he lined up on the outside/boundary, in the slot, out of the backfield and on the move in various motions. He is considered a good route runner and is bigger than the typical “small guy”. It may be a stretch, but I could see him filling a role similar to what Robert Woods did for L.A.
Here is every one-on-one rep for Michigan State WR Jayden Reed from the first two days of the Senior Bowl: pic.twitter.com/WPpLCXQSHX— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 2, 2023
Nathan Dell- Houston
No matter what level you play the game, getting accolades as an All-American means something. Dell earned this tag from Associated Press, Sporting News, American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Foundation, and Pro Football Focus. His stat tally for 32 college games was 3390 all-purpose yards and 28 scores on only 243 touches.
Turned a lot of heads at the Senior Bowl workouts. Dell is small, 5’ 8” 163 lbs. with 30 1/8” arms and a 72 3/4” wingspan. At his size, it is logical to think that he would struggle against press coverage against the better competition of the workouts, but he was too slippery and quick off the line. In space, he consistently turned defenders around.
Stops, starts, and cuts on dime. The type of open-field runner who can stack multiple moves and break ankles. Great burst and an extra gear that accelerates into stellar long speed. Good hands, does have some drops and doesn’t have the route chops of the other two candidates.
With Sean McVay’s creativity, Dell could find plenty of touches in space and that where he’s best. For as fun as he is to watch with the ball in his hands, he likely won’t run wild as a pro. While some draft pundits have him as a possible second round pick, that seems a little rich, he’ll be 24 next year and with the drops, limited route tree and size contributing to a lack of contested catches might lead him to the fourth or fifth round. At that sweet spot, Dell’s playmaking ability, even predominately as a return specialist, would seem a fine addition.
Tank Dell is not being talked about enough so far for the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft— Marissa Myers (@Marissa_M27) January 26, 2023
Over his 3,354 career yards, 1,409 came after the catch and he forced 44 missed tackles
He has a knack for getting open and tracks the ball extremely well!
Make @Tankdell4 a name to know pic.twitter.com/E6EWAubVfo
Tre Tucker- Cincinnati
Over his college career, Tucker shared the Bearcat receiving spotlight with 2021 second round pick Alec Pierce and this years possible third tight end off the board, Josh Whyle. He impressed scouts and fans all Senior Bowl week. His size will likely keep him in the mid/late rounds and he offers value in that area. Even if he did not show out in the workout 1on1’s, his prowess as a returner would rate a late pick. Oh yeah, he also played on coverage units during his Bearcat tenure.
On 199 touches over 50 games, tucker gained 3283 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged 25 yards per kick return, 12.8 per catch, 9.2 per carry, and as a senior 15.3 on punt returns. At 5’ 9” 187 lbs., he does it with speed, according to Cincinnati Bearcats official site, Tucker ran a 4.29 forty. His length leaves a little to be desired with 28 5/8” arms and a 70” wingspan, but he wins on foot speed, not catch radius and contested grabs. He was named to the Feldman’s Freaks list, so he he should get another bump up at the NFL Combine.
A unique aspect to his game is that it’s north/south and somewhat physical. He not a dancer, when he transitions it is straight upfield. He has a nice hesitation move, but the go-to move is swiveling his shoulders and subtle cuts at speed. Like most good returners, he see the field as it opens up. Tucker has good hands, tracks the ball well, and can adjust to off-target passes. He is fearless over the middle and according to John Vogel at nfldraftblitz.com, has 10 drops over his career.
Late round draft picks are normally for special teamer’s and developmental prospects, any added value is gravy. Tucker has already shown he can cover and run back kicks. Sean McVay likes tough receivers who are good route runners, what Tucker lacks in size, he makes up in these areas.
Do the Rams even need another small receiver/returner?
The role could easily become redundant. Not only because of Tutu Atwell’s presence as the “speed” receiver and his possible future as the primary returner. Should the Rams decide to re-sign Brandon Powell, the return game is handled.
Of the Rams wideouts currently on contract and who saw extended action last season all except Atwell and Austin Trammel are over 6’ 1”. And while there are a couple of proven playmakers amongst the group, none have open field running skills to be a threat to take it to the house on any given play.
All three candidates are athletic, fast, and electric with the ball in their hands. Reed hit 20.05 mph, Tucker 20.24, and Dell 20.16. Contributing on special teams would allow the Rams to develop them as receivers and get some some value in the here and now.