DeAndre Hopkins is one of my favorite players in the draft, but today's combine performance proved that he is the near total opposite of the kind of player John Schneider targets at WR in the draft.
Golden Tate: Fast (4.42 forty), quick, elusive, undeveloped,
Kris Durham: Fast for his size (4.46 forty), tall, undeveloped, low number of starts
Doug Baldwin: Fast for a UDFA (4.49), quick, moderately low number of starts
Schneider recently revealed that his scouting department first evaluates by athleticism before later evaluating on tape and team fit. Seattle tends to draft athletes first, trusting their coaching staff for their ability to coach up players. Tate and Durham were both undeveloped, and while Baldwin had some polish he didn't see significant reps until his final season. All of them were fast in a straight line and had quick feet that could help them change directions very well.
Schneider learned his craft in Green Bay, and if you look at WRs they drafted you will see a similar trend- speed and YAC ability first and foremost. Randall Cobb ran a 4.39 forty. Greg Jennings a 4.42. Donald Driver a 4.45. Jordy Nelson a 4.51. James Jones a 4.54 (listed 4.59 some places).
Hopkins is clutch, polished, and experienced. He's a really good player, but he's more of a football player than an athlete (he ran a 4.57 time today, which is about what I would have guessed he'd run). I think the world of Hopkins, but even I know that he doesn't have a ton of untapped potential. While Hopkins is really good, he's one of those "what you see is what you get" players. I think Seattle likes drafting players who's best football is still ahead of them, and that may even mean drafting players who might have an issue or two on tape but have special upside if they figure it out.
Being raw is not a requirement, as Doug Baldwin shows. I think a more accurate statement would be that polish factors so much less than potential that it ends up being overshadowed in the evaluation. You strip away Hopkins clutchness and savvy, and you are left with a pretty average NFL WR. If you evaluated a WR with polish mattering more, you'd love Hopkins, but if you evaluated a WR from the vantage point of believing athleticism matters more, you'd merely like him.
I am not basing this opinion on a sub-par forty time, but his combine performance has served to confirm something that I have suspected about Hopkins' athleticism. He doesn't get high in the air in football games and there is usually a decent though not ironclad connection between how high a player jumps and how explosive they are.
I think the player that really helped himself out today in terms of boosting his chances with Seattle was Ryan Swope. When I started watching his tape more closely several days ago I noticed that he had very quick feet and was almost like a poor-man's Golden Tate after the catch. I already knew he was an excellent deep threat. I knew he was faster than people thought. I didn't know he'd be that fast though. Running a 4.34 in a 6'0" 205 pound body is pretty uncommon- you don't see that every day especially for a WR with tape as good as his. Again, hate to play the race card, but if he isn't white I think the conversation about him would have been very different from the start. Certain positions, like white WRs and black QBs will always have to battle stereotypes.
Cordarrelle Patterson is another player I'd watch. He's more of a "moves" player after the catch than a burner, but 4.42 in a 6'2" body is still pretty damn good. Seattle loves players that can make moves after the catch anyway. He's raw but I don't think Seattle cares.
Keenan Allen didn't run, but if he posts a good time at his pro-day I imagine he'd be high on the board as well. He's very similar to Golden Tate after the catch. You'll notice that I will refer to Tate often in this post. I think he's kind of the classic example for what this FO looks for in a WR prospect.
Marcus Wheaton helped himself by running a 4.45. That's definitely fast enough and his good tape can only help him. Pac-12 connection.
Keep an eye on Kenny Stills. After the catch he looks like a Golden Tate clone, and like a young Golden Tate he's very undeveloped and often frustrating. Today he ran a 4.38 while standing 6'0.5" tall. He just screams PCJS when I watch him, not because of good tape but because he fits the mold like a glove. Could be a 7th rounder for us.
Justin Hunter might be an option too- he ran a 4.43 while standing nearly 6'4". Then again, when I watch Hunter's game tape he has extremely slow feet- he takes huge strides to produce his speed, so I think he's more of a deep ball guy than an NFL YAC guy.
Corey Fuller (4.43) and perhaps Chris Gragg (WR/TE hybrid who ran 4.50) might have raised their stock with Seattle as well.
My guess is that Seattle's big board at WR starts off Patterson, Allen, and Swope (edit: also, Austin is probably up there too). Maybe not in that order, but I think it starts with those three. I wouldn't overlook Swope. He checks every box Seattle needs (among them he's a great competitor), has great tape, and pretty much sealed the deal today with a 4.34 forty and a 37" vertical. I'm really curious to hear where Swope's draft stock will end up after this weekend. He NEVER should have been a 4th rounder, and that was before what he did today.