Chris Owusu: 5 Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of NFL Draft Prospect's Game
I consider Chris Owusu to be one of the most underrated receivers in this year's NFL Draft.
As we will discuss in a minute, the problem for Owusu is his concussion history. Otherwise he is a smart player that trained at a smart program, possesses ridiculous measurables and speed and shows strong hands.
If I were a team that needed some receiver depth, I would begin looking at Owusu in the middle of Day 3. Without the concussion history, he would be rated much higher.
At this year's 2012 NFL Scouting Combine, Chris Owusu showed up about a half-inch shy of 6'0" and weighed 196 lbs. He ran an "official" time in the 40-yard dash of 4.36 seconds.
That time tied with Stephen Hill and Travis Benjamin for fastest 40-yard dash. During the live telecast of the Combine via the NFL Network, the simulcast of the three players racing one another suggested that Owusu may have actually been faster than either of the two other wide receivers.
He did not stop there. He jumped 40.5 inches vertically, with a 10'9" broad jump, a 4.11 second shuttle drill and a 6.85-second cone drill.
His explosiveness and speed tend to show up on tape the most when he has the ball in his hands and is accelerating for some run-after-catch.
Weakness: Concussion History
It is a simple matter of record that Chris Owusu suffered three bad concussions within a 13-month period.
Two of the three hits were blatant helmet-to-helmet, and one of the hits carried with it a sheer magnitude of force that few players would walk away from unscathed.
The good news is that, in a way, the fact that all of the concussions came from big and borderline (or fully) illegal hits is encouraging. That sounds counterintuitive, but what would really be scary is if Owusu suffered concussions from low-level hits.
Boston University neurosurgeon Robert Cantu has in the past been a vocal critic of the NFL's concussion policies and standards. However, he wanted to make it clear that, despite his being unfamiliar with Owusu's medical file, he does not believe the number of concussions should make teams worry. He notes that quick recoveries from the concussions (as was the case in all three) are encouraging, and he wants to make sure Owusu is given "a fair shot".
To that end, a leading neurosurgeon has cleared Owusu to resume his career, as per the above article.
One has to appreciate that the players that come out of Stanford may not always look the most talented on the football field, but they seem to come to the NFL and show a knack for making rosters and making plays.
I watched Ryan Whalen in person on the practice fields in preparation for the East-West Shrine Game. It was clear that he did not necessarily have good athletic ability, but he stood out consistently in practices because of what a technician and smart player he was.
Doug Baldwin went undrafted out of Stanford and was arguably the Seattle Seahawks' most consistent receiver in 2011.
Most people think of Stanford graduates as smart. Trust me when I say that I am not praising Chris Owusu's intelligence because of the name of the school on his diploma. He plays the game with a high IQ, and you can see that on the game film. When he runs a corner route, he reads the leverage of the deep-cover man and makes an instantaneous decision about how he should run the top of the route.
On a deep catch against Duke, he recognized immediately that to maximize his space in the zone, he should take down his speed to about three-quarters, almost as if he were playing decoy. He knew he couldn't beat the safety vertically because he had begun to bail very early and turned his hips to maintain over top leverage.
Owusu knows how routes need to be run in order to get open, and he is able to use his athletic ability and intelligence to manipulate defenders.
Weakness: Adjusting to the Ball
There is a subtle difference between what I am talking about here with Owusu's ability to adjust on the ball in flight and what I will get to in a moment as far as Owusu's pure ball skills.
The weakness I have noticed in Owusu's game is a lack of coordination while having to run under a throw while looking up for the ball in the air.
Owusu may have been the fastest wide receiver at the NFL Scouting Combine, but some have noted that he does not seem to play up to this timed speed. In my opinion, this is why. When Chris has to look up for the football in the air, he has to slow down in order to keep his eyes fixed on it. He is not able to smoothly concentrate on multiple things at a time.
You can see this weakness in several ways. Strictly speaking, he can and will track the ball in the air successfully and most times catch it. However, there will be times when Chris will not run under a deep pass as well as you would imagine because he is slowed by his attempting to track the ball in the air. You may also see him trip or make some other careless mistake because he seems unable to multitask in this manner with great efficiency.
Strength: Ball Skills
Now that I have criticized Owusu's ability to track and adjust to the football in flight while maintaining speed and balance, I can praise him for his pure ball skills.
One of my favorite aspects of Chris Owusu's game is his ability to catch the ball consistently with his hands outside of his frame and go up for the ball with strong hands when necessary. He can catch the ball off his shoe tops. He can go up and high point the football. He can haul in the football over his shoulder, and he can make tough catches in traffic.