They say that the best way to go out is on top.
Well, that's exactly what the University of Missouri's top wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is doing. After catching the touchdown that would lead the Tigers to an Alamo Bowl victory over Northwestern and a second consecutive season with at least 10 wins—Maclin declared for the NFL Draft.
Maclin, a 6'1” 200 pound red-shirt sophomore, is now looking to take his explosive speed and electrifying play-making ability to the next level. The only question that remains is how high will his stock rise or fall after the combine?
The most obvious role for Maclin's freshman campaign on any team will be mainly punt and kick return duty.
In just two seasons at Mizzou he returned two kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns, matching the number of returns Chicago Bears star Devin Hester had in his college career. Take those numbers and add the 5,600 plus all purpose yards and you'd have to be crazy to think he's not up to par with the competition.
Maclin captured 16 school records, including: receptions in a single season (102), receiving yards in a single season (1,260), receiving touchdowns in a single season (13), as well as all purpose yards in a single season (2,883).
He is a two time All-American and also holds the record for all-purpose yards for a freshman with 2,776 yards.
While his college numbers look good on paper, Maclin has one other thing that pro scouts love—potential. Because of Mizzou's spread offense, Maclin was running only one of three routes; a screen, deep out route, or short slant route.
Because of this, he will need to develop better route running as he makes the transition into a pro offense. He has also struggled with injuries, but seems to recover well and they have had no lasting effects on his ability to play. Once he learns how to run routes properly and stay healthy, he has the ability to be a legitimate number one guy in the NFL.
Although Michael Crabtree is hands down the number one wide out heading into the NFL draft, Maclin can certainly make a case for being the number two wide out on the big board.
While Maclin certainly lacks the size of other receivers entering the combine, he makes up for that with his great hands, ability to make things happen with the football, and of course his amazing speed.
Maclin was clocked running the 40 in 4.35 seconds and has even touched 4.29 previously. With speed like that, matched with his amazing ability to go up and get any ball thrown, he has a distinct advantage over the other wide outs in the pack.
Maclin is very comparable to Roddy White when he entered the NFL as they share similar size and abilities. Not only do they share similar size attributes, but their college numbers are eerily similar as well. White was able to be a big part of the Atlanta Falcons franchise revival this season and I believe that Maclin can have a similar impact on a franchise in need.
A lot of experts have Maclin going number seven overall to the Oakland Raiders. I think this is very possible as they lack a decent receiver, and could use Maclins play-making ability to reboot their team.
However, many in St. Louis would like the Rams to keep him at home and pick him number two overall. The Rams could most certainly add Maclin to their already impressive young wide outs Avery and Burton. But are also in desperate need of help on their offensive line so it would be a stretch. If Maclin somehow falls past there, I see him ending up in Baltimore to help out an aging Ravens receiving corps.
A close friend of mine at Mizzou has informed me that Maclin has been training like a madman to prepare for the combine and upcoming draft. So be prepared for Maclin to put up big time numbers and turn the heads of everyone in the NFL.