Weight: 218 lbs
40-Yard Dash Time: 4.53 Seconds (4.43 Best)
Player Comparison: Marques Colston, Malcom Floyd, Kevin Walter.
A job that demands remarkable mental and physical gifts, wide receiver is an expensive position for NFL teams to draft and develop.
Generally, if a team wants a first-rate pass catcher and playmaker like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Percy Harvin, they need to use a high pick and then spend significant time and resources building the player's knowledge of an NFL offense.
Slot receivers and flankers can be had later in the draft, but true wideouts are tough to come by. The position demands peak coordination, size, speed and the mental prerequisites for precisely timing their routes.
Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette has the tools to break this norm. A massive receiver, standing 6'3" and weighing at 218 pounds, Mellette has the ideal size, hands and speed for the modern NFL split end. But, as a small school (DI-AA) product, he's also not considered a top-100 prospect by most analysts. Instead he's projected to hear his name called as late as the sixth round.
A former basketball star, Mellette didn't starting playing football until his sophomore year of high school, and didn't play varsity ball until he was a junior. But almost as soon as his feet hit the gridiron, he drew the eyes of scouts. A local school, Elon coaches offered him a scholarship immediately after watching him play, believing they found a superb, under the radar prospect.
Because of his inexperience and the presence of FCS star receiver Terrell Hudgins, Mellette red-shirted in 2008. After a year on the scout team, he got his first taste of college ball in 2009, catching 12 balls for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
After getting the starting gig, Mellette broke out in 2010. He led the Phoenix with 86 catches, 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns, and his 7.82 receptions per game ranked sixth in the nation. Against Richmond on Sept. 18, he hauled in 18 passes, the seventh highest mark in FCS history. He was voted first-team All-Southern Conference by coaches and earned further recognition as an AP second-team All-American.
Last year, Mellette not only managed to improve upon his excellent starting debut, but his performance made history.
The Phoenix managed a disappointing 5-6 record, but Mellette's play was worthy of the Walter Payton Award (he ended up coming in fifth place). He caught an incredible 113 passes for 12 touchdowns, and his 1,639 receiving yards broke Terrell Hudgins' school and SoCon record. He finished the year by taking home first-team All-American and All-SoCon honors.
2012 is more of the same. With one regular season game remaining, Aaron leads the FCS with 17 touchdowns and he ranks third in receptions (88) and receiving yards (1,210). His success is even more impressive considering Elon's struggles as a unit.
They've managed a 3-7 record and their 250 points is the Southern Conference's worst mark. However, Mellette's contributions have salvaged the squad's passing offense, which will finish the season rating atop the conference.
As a Division I-AA receiver, no matter how good his record-breaking career has been, Mellette's success will be met with a skeptical eye from NFL scouts. Plus, he'll turn 23 in December, making him a bit on the old side for a fairly raw, player development challenge.
But make no mistake, Mellette's talent warrants a top-50 pick. He'll likely fall just out of the third round on the big day, making him a potential late round steal for a smart team seeking a playmaker.
Mellette is a fairly complete receiver, but his size and hands separate him from his peers. He lines up primarily as Elon's split end, and he has little trouble breaking through the initial jam at the line.
When he's pressed, he rarely needs to kick his speed in to high gear for separation. Instead, he'll maintain his timing and simply use his huge reach and strong hands to catch the ball in traffic.
Down field, he provides a massive target for his quarterback, and combined with his surprisingly nimble feet, that makes him a great receiver off of the hitch and deep crossing routes (across the defense).
Mellette lacks true breakaway speed, and despite his 4.5 40-times, he doesn't have those kind of wheels come game time. Instead, he's a top-notch possession receiver with just enough legs for the position (split end) in the NFL.
Similar to Marques Colston, another former FCS receiver, he makes his money with great hands, leaping ability and extraordinary body control. He makes tough catches from all angles, and his reach and vaulting ability makes him extremely difficult to cover down the sidelines and in the red zone.
He's also used to making many of his catches over the middle, and he's strong enough and brave enough to continue to do that in the pros.
Aside from experience facing top competition, Mellette's biggest knock is his lack of top end speed. His athleticism has backed most of his opponents off from using press coverage, so he hasn't often needed to turn on the jets for down field separation.
Most of his film shows him using his quick feet to get his release, or simply bullying the coverage with his size. In the NFL, unless he finds another gear, he'll need to work on his technique and moves if he wants to develop into an impact-level wideout.
Aaron has the physical ingredients and the aptitude to develop into a first-tier NFL wide receiver. Because he's played in a simple offense, and he hasn't been asked to run precise or complex routes against tough coverages, he'll need some time to hone his skill set after he's drafted. But ultimately, his hands and size make him a safe bet to be a quality pass catcher.
Mellette won't be the first DI-AA star to take his career to the NFL. Not at all. A former Mississippi Valley star, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice's name litters the FCS record books, and current and past NFL receivers like Randy Moss, Wayne Chrebet, Marques Colston, Laurent Robinson, Jerome Simpson and Marc Mariani are all veterans of the division.