Every spring, as the NFL Scouting Combine ends and pro days across America come and go, players jockey for position on draft boards. For some, poor workouts set the stage for a draft-day drop.
Other youngsters, however, are headed in the opposite direction, and there may not be a player in all of college football climbing draft boards faster than Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer.
As Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller pointed out, Latimer has a slew of visits with NFL teams lined up over the next several days:
#Indiana WR Cody Latimer has 7 visits lined up (PHI, DET, OAK, SEA, SD, CAR). Eagles & Panthers are both planning workouts with him.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 7, 2014
Miller also feels that Latimer has already done enough to merit a look on the first day of the draft, May 8:
Cody Latimer generating big buzz now that he's close to healthy. Lot of teams bringing him in here soon. Late 1st/Early 2nd possible.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 30, 2014
Mind you, it's not like Latimer was invisible as a junior at Indiana.
Per CFB Stats
The 6'3", 215-pounder finished the 2013 season third in the Big Ten in receiving yards and tied for fourth with nine scoring grabs. His 15.2 yards-per-catch average was second in the conference among players with over 70 receptions.
Still, Latimer was regarded by many as partly a product of the offense in Bloomington, an athletic but raw prospect likely slated for a Day 2 pick.
Then the workouts started. Foot surgery in January prevented Latimer from running at the combine, but as Miller tweeted, it didn't prevent Latimer from making an impression in Indianapolis:
Indiana WR Cody Latimer will not run or do drills. Led WRs in bench reps. Recovering from 5th metatarsal fracture. Is walking without a boot— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 23, 2014
As February turned to March, buzz started to grow around Latimer. Bleacher Report's Ryan Riddle mentioned Latimer as a underrated prospect as Indiana's March 26 pro day neared:
Perhaps as a result of his basketball background, Latimer is one of the more explosive receivers I’ve scouted over the years. This explosion shows up all over his tape as he cuts, jumps and moves with incredible power and quickness. In addition, he possesses the type of breakaway speed that can really stretch a defense.
Latimer didn't disappoint in Bloomington:
39" vertical and sub 4.5 times for Cody Latimer should help separate him in a strong class. If you can, check out what he did to Penn State.— Ryan Lownes (@ryanlownes) March 26, 2014
Latimer actually broke 4.4 seconds on some stopwatches. Coupled with his impressive vertical leap, it was an outstanding performance, especially given how recently Latimer had surgery.
It isn't just Latimer's athleticism, either. Latimer is also one of the better blocking wide receivers in this year's draft. As Eric Edholm of Yahoo! Sports reports, it's a skill Latimer says the coaching staff hammered home at Indiana:
That’s something that Coach [Kevin] Johns and our strength coach [Mark Hill] put an emphasis on. We’re a big receiver group, and we’re strong. If we had small corners [opposite us], we felt like we’re not going to let them stop us when we come after them.
It was mostly pride, though. We did a lot of things. We knew that [blocking] would help us be more successful, and that was one of our main focuses: be aggressive.
Still, for all the positive buzz surrounding Latimer, like any young player, he's far from perfect. In the words of Derek Stephens of CBS Sports, "Though Latimer exhibits burst and hip-sink to separate out of cuts, he seems to lack a second gear when asked to pull away vertically and may struggle to consistently threaten the top of the defense."
It's a refrain that was echoed by Shane Hallam of DraftTV:
Just wonder if Cody Latimer will get the separation to live up to workout numbers. My guess is it will take some definite development first— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) April 1, 2014
However, once again it looks like Latimer is on the case:
Indiana WR Cody Latimer impt facts: 1.Has trained with Brandon Marshall all off-season in Weston, FL. 2. Wants 2 improve separation ability.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) April 7, 2014
That willingness to attack a perceived weakness (coupled with his blocking acumen) would appear to belie the sort of work ethic that will appeal to many NFL teams.
Sure enough, Bleacher Report's Luke Easterling reports that a few clubs have informed Latimer he's on their first-round radar:
According to a source close to his camp, WR Cody Latimer has been told by as many as 3 #NFL teams that they would draft him in the late-1st.— Luke Easterling (@NFLDraftReport) April 7, 2014
Even so, the odds are against Latimer being drafted on May 8, and it really doesn't have that much to do with Latimer himself.
What round should Cody Latimer be drafted in?
There's size in Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin. There's speed with Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks.
And that's only scratching the surface of a receiver group that is positively loaded. It's a numbers game, and one that may bump Latimer into at least the second round.
Of course, as the saying goes, "It only takes one team." After all, no one thought A.J. Jenkins of Illinois would be a first-round pick two years ago. But, the San Francisco 49ers saw something they liked, enough so to make Jenkins the 30th pick in 2012.
It might be a minor upset, but it wouldn't be nearly the stunner the Jenkins pick was to hear Cody Latimer's name called before draft's first day is done.
Because loaded class or no, if the last couple of months are any indication, Latimer is going to open some eyes in the NFL.