Josh Norris

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Best Big Play Wide Receivers

Wednesday, November 8, 2017


Each week I’ll be looking at a group of draft-eligible NFL prospects under certain parameters. I just don’t currently have the time to watch every prospect, so coming out with a top 10 list would be disingenuous. Instead, this allows me to focus on a few players with the goal of finding where they might impact the game.


Top Big Play Running Backs

Top Red Zone Wide Receivers

Top Receiving Running Backs


Team Big Plays returns with pass catchers who lead the nation in 20-plus yard receptions. Receivers win in one of two ways: Big (contested catches) and Small (creating separation, sustaining it and winning after the catch). However, creating these long gains typically require a stand out trait if an individual effort can be cited.


The rookie class has not lived up to expectations with the three pass catchers selected in the top 10 all dealing with injuries, so let’s see who tops the list in big play catches.


Colorado State’s Michael Gallup (6’1/198) - 17 catches of 20-plus yards


Gallup’s skills can be subtle. He creates separation with his hands as well as his feet, especially early in routes to get off press coverage.



Look at that move against one of the more impressive corners in the country. Inside lift, cross over face, create separation, catch. And there are plenty of other impressive receptions. One touchdown stood out, as Gallup face inside, adjusted to a target on his opposite shoulder and extended over top of tight coverage.


As far as “big play” skills, one standout quality is not apparent. Gallup is solid and his game should translate to the NFL.


Miami OH’s James Gardner (6’3/212) - 17 catches of 20-plus yards


50-50 situations are like 75-25 for conversions for Gardner. He makes so many contested catches. While I love receivers who can convert in close quarters, it does raise separation questions for pass catchers who constantly fight corners at the catch point, target after target. That seems to be Gardner.


Oklahoma State’s James Washington (6’0/205) - 17 catches of 20-plus yards


Yes, here is your uber productive Big 12 receiver. Oklahoma State is so smart in how they create space for Washington to operate. A few examples… In four receiver sets the school likes to stack twins on each side on the numbers, with on receiver taking an underneath route and the other sprinting upfield for a one on one situation. Another example stacks five offensive linemen, the quarterback, a running back and an H-back in the box, forcing eight in the box defensively. That leaves one on one matchups on the outside with a single safety over top.


Washington has obvious speed. If he’s even, he’s leaving. And the spacing, cushion and isolated situations aid his game. He’s not a creative yards after catch type.


New Mexico State’s Jaleel Scott (6’5/214) - 16 catches of 20-plus yards


Scott is an acrobat. Twisting, twirling, one-handed catches. He produces a highlight at least once per game. Scott is a rebounder in the end zone. Post up, box out, high point, secure the catch. This is the area he shines, so the bigger question is if Scott can be useful in the other 80 yards of the field.


Penn State’s Daesean Hamilton (6’1/206) - 15 catches of 20-plus yards


Hamilton is doing his best work in the slot. His vertical routes from that alignment were productive against Michigan, and he is not afraid to elevate and square up for a contested catch.


SMU’s Courtland Sutton (6’3/218) - 15 catches of 20-plus yards


Now things get interesting. Sutton’s ceiling tops every other player on this list, as he has a chance to win big and small, an uncommon combination. Sutton is ridiculously fluid for his size. Just look at this.



Winning after the catch with that build, while doing it on screens and longer completions, is a nightmare for defenses. Plus, as a route runner Sutton accelerates and decelerates, shifting gears to create separation with his feet and movement. As you can tell, most receivers on this list win in one single way. Sutton has a chance to be multiple. He will be a favorite of many.




Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris



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