While Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III was emerging as college football’s biggest star in the fall of 2011, his top wide receiver was emerging as a standout himself. Kendall Wright is one of the most explosive playmakers in the 2012 draft class.
Wright had a tremendous senior season at Baylor. He had 1,663 receiving yards, which ranked third nationally. His 108 receptions and 14 touchdowns both ranked sixth nationally.
Wright has many great aspects of his game that make him a top prospect for the 2012 NFL Draft, but he also has flaws that could adversely affect his draft stock. Both his strengths and weaknesses are evaluated in the slides to come.
Controversy erupted at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine when Wright’s official 40-yard dash came in at 4.61 seconds. Not only was this a very slow time for a wide receiver, but almost all unofficial stopwatch times had Wright running a time between 4.4 to 4.5 seconds, putting into question the legitimacy of the NFL’s electronic timing.
Wright further backed up his actual speed with a strong performance at his pro day, as reports of his unofficial times were between 4.4 and 4.5. However, all one needs to do to confirm Wright’s speed is to watch his game tape.
While combine and pro-day measurables can be deceiving, the best way to evaluate a player’s athletic ability is to watch him actually playing football. Wright shows his speed on the field by burning opposing defensive backs to separate downfield and get open for big gains.
Wright’s contradictory combine 40-yard dash times could deter some NFL teams, but the team that drafts him will be confident it is getting a receiver who will use speed as one of his major assets to be a playmaker at the next level, just as he did at Baylor.
When Wright is the intended receiver on a play, he usually stands out very positively for the things he does to get open downfield and make plays when the ball is in his hands. However, with a closer look at what he does when he is not the intended receiver, he is cast in a negative light.
A great wide receiver should be involved in any play that comes his way—even if the ball will never touch his hands—becoming a downfield blocker and shielding defenders away from the player who does have the ball in his hands.
This is not a skill that Wright has displayed at Baylor. When the ball is not in his hands, he can often be found standing still during a play, or running around aimlessly.
This should not be a complete indictment of Wright; Baylor’s offensive scheme did not ask much of its receivers in terms of blocking. That said, his NFL coaches will expect major improvement from him in this area.
Kendall Wright, as an athlete, is about much more than a 40 time. While Wright’s straight-line, downfield speed may be his biggest weapon, his lateral athleticism and ability to elude defenders is just as impressive.
Wright is very good at making subtle, quick cuts that can send a defender going in the wrong direction. He can make crisp double-moves without slowing down and has the ability to make defenders miss with spin moves.
Wright’s shiftiness makes him a tough player to tackle in the open field and enables him to run very clean routes. As a slot receiver, this strength really projects well for Wright.
Although Kendall Wright had a good vertical jump of 38 inches at the combine, he does not have an impressive vertical aspect to his game. At only 5’10’’, Wright’s height is a weakness.
Wright can extend to make tough catches, but is not known to be a receiver who makes leaping grabs.
Among the 39 wide receivers who participated in the vertical jump at the combine, Wright’s measurable verticality, which I calculated by adding height and vertical leap, was in the bottom half. Wright’s total comes out to 9'.25", which is low compared to other top receivers, including Alshon Jeffery (9'3.38"), Michael Floyd (9'3.13") and Nick Toon (9'3.38").
Wide receivers are often best known for their ability to make big plays, and Wright certainly has the ability to be a big-play threat at the next level.
Wright consistently found ways to be a playmaker at Baylor. Last season, he ranked second nationally with 19 receptions of more than 25 yards. Wright consistently came up with long gains that scored touchdowns or led to the scoring of six points, and displayed the ability to break a defense down with a great jump from the line of scrimmage en route to freeing himself for the catch.
Wright found other ways to make plays as well; he was occasionally used as a runner on reverse end-around plays and ran them effectively. He also passed for a touchdown on a double-pass play last season.
At only 196 pounds, Wright is a small wide receiver. He also lacks the power to beat defenders with his strength. He will have to rely on his athleticism to beat man-to-man corners in physical coverage because he will not be able to use his body to break them down.
Wright has short arms, but still struggled mightily with the bench press at the combine, only putting up 11 repetitions of 225 pounds. While this number is not an issue for a receiver, it is far from being a strength.
Kendall Wright is not going to be a prototypical sideline NFL receiver, with great size and length combined with vertical ability and strength. However, Wright’s combination of speed and shiftiness makes him a very dangerous playmaker who could excel as a slot receiver.
Wright may not be quite the route-runner that Wes Welker is out of the slot, but he has great speed and is able to make quick moves while maintaining that speed. Wright’s athleticism is going to present mismatches for opposing secondaries, and while his productivity may never match his statistics from his senior season, he should emerge as a top playmaker on his team at the next level.
Wright is well worth a late first-round pick and should be off of the board in the early second round at the latest.
Wright’s Grade: First-to-second round
Position Rank: No. 3
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 26
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