Dec 27, 2014; El Paso, TX, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver Jaelen Strong (21) jumps in the air to catch a pass against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2014 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Jaelen Strong is the poor man’s Kevin White, or maybe even the poor man’s Marques Colston. At 6’3″ and 212, he is a big, physical wideout who has demonstrated ability time and time again to beat defenses deep as well as come up big in crunchtime. He caught a miracle Hail Mary pass against USC to give the Sun Devils the win over the Trojans, all part of a monster three-game stretch against some of the PAC-12’s better defenses – USC, UCLA and Stanford – in which he caught 30 passes for 423 yards and four TD’s, including three against USC. After transferring from junior college, he has put together two great years for the Sun Devils, with two consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons, and a total of 157 receptions and 17 touchdowns.
Strong presently is projected as a late 1st round or 2nd round pick, perhaps lower, and the combine will be an opportunity to elevate that stock. He can do that if he has a strong showing in a few specific drills,
1. 40-yard dash: a player with Strong’s size and strength doesn’t need to blow away records in the 40-yard dash, but he can certainly improve his draft stock with a strong performance, preferably something below a 4.55. If he can stay in the low 4.5 range, he can put himself on par with a number of NFL receivers with similar size and speed who are all productive in the league. If he shows poorly – say a 4.6 or slower, he could drop down boards, since all the size in the world cant help you if even a slow NFL cornerback can sit on top of you.
2. The Gauntlet: the Gauntlet is a drill that scouts love and coaches hate: receivers catch two balls thrown from opposite sides in quick succession, then run straight down a single yard line across the field and catch balls thrown from both sides as they move,with the final ball coming at the boundary, where they must make a boundary reception and, if possible, turn it upfield. The Gauntlet requires quick, solid hands, quick head and eye movement, and good body control on the run as well as on the boundary. Strong has shown that he can jump high and get open but has been inconsistent with his hands and with his body control in college. If he can turn in a strong performance in the Gauntlet, he can put those concerns to bed somewhat.
3. 3-cone drill: another knock on Strong is that he’s a big wideout with bad feet, and bad feet means you’re a one-route pony as an NFL receiver. Like Kevin White, Jaelen Strong can put those concerns to rest if he does well in the three-cone drill: a guy who can do well in this drill can probably run a crisp comeback route and a strong square-in or square-out, as well as get separation with a jab step or fake in route at the beginning of other patterns. Also, there is the benefit of training for the 3-cone drill making Strong a better football player in the long run, not just a better workout warrior.
Next: WR to Watch: Ty Montgomery