Is Indiana WR Cody Latimer a Legitimate 1st-Round Prospect in the NFL Draft?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 7, 2014

Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer (3) checks over his shoulder as he rushes the ball into the end zone during an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Bloomington, Ind. Indiana defeated Illinois 52-35. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
Doug McSchooler

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:

Miller also feels that Latimer has already done enough to merit a look on the first day of the draft, May 8:

Mind you, it's not like Latimer was invisible as a junior at Indiana.

Cody Latimer 2013
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:

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:

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:

However, once again it looks like Latimer is on the case:

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:

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.

In a draft class that Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert called "the deepest in 30 years," according to Miller, the wide receiver position may well be the deepest of the bunch.

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.


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