When Ryan Broyles suffered a torn ACL in November, it seemed certain that his draft stock would take a huge hit and he would be unlikely to make a big impact in his rookie year. The Detroit Lions still took Broyles in the second round, and according to CBS Sports' Rob Rang, they believe he can be back on the field full-time for training camp. What should we expect to see when Broyles does get on the field?
Broyles shared in his post-draft conference call that he actually got an email of encouragement from New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker, who similarly shocked observers by coming back from an ACL tear before anyone expected it. Broyles insisted that he shouldn't be pigeonholed as a Welker-type slot receiver, saying that he can play inside and outside and that they rotated him for "basically (his) whole career" at Oklahoma.
Does Broyles' tape reflect his statement?
Not quite. The following cut-ups of three of his 2010 games shows that Broyles does most of his damage either in the slot or lined up off the line of scrimmage. He catches a lot of passes near the line of scrimmage on the Oklahoma version of a wide receiver screen.
Broyles does create separation downfield, but with his routes (such as the double move on the touchdown at :59 or the penalty draw by selling the out in the out and up at 2:21) more than blistering speed or quicks. When a defensive back is not fooled by his route running, Broyles struggles to create separation (see 8:31).
In general, Broyles' footwork stands out, both in his routes and his ability to work the sidelines. He is tough for a smaller wide receiver, putting his head down and taking hits at the end of receptions (see :24) and working the middle of the field without fear (see 1:25). He also displayed great concentration on the catch at 3:51, but has at least one drop in each of the three games.
This does bring up the question of whether Broyles will do well vs. press coverage. Fast forward to the Red River Shootout vs. Texas last year, and Broyles does show some quicks to elude tighter coverage at 1:13.
Broyles may not want to be compared to Welker, but judging by his tape, he will be the heir to Nate Burleson in the slot. He doesn't have Calvin Johnson's size or Titus Young's speed, but he is a more consistent hands catcher than Young, and he is an efficient get-upfield immediately runner after the catch, which is perfect for the slot receiver role in Detroit's offense. He should be part of an offense that will run four-wide sets as soon as his knee can handle it, and Broyles is likely to open the 2013 campaign as the starting slot receiver for the Lions.