When studying day three talent in an NFL draft, teams are looking for those sleeper players, those who do not have the name recognition, but have the possibility of making an impact.
Those who put up good numbers in college are further scrutinized in this case to see if their productivity will carry over. This is the case for Alec Lemon, the Syracuse WR who put up over 1,000 yards last season.
Can Lemon be a productive NFL player? Find out below.
Lemon has a great track record at Syracuse. He was a starter for four seasons, and he put up great numbers. He finished his collegiate career with 201 receptions and 2,596 yards. His 72 receptions in 2012 is a school record. He knows how to run routes and has great hands as well, so he could be a good possession receiver at the next level.
The numbers that Lemon put up at the combine were rather poor. He had a paltry seven reps at the bench press, which draws his strength into question. A 32-inch vertical leap and broad jump under 10 feet are also near the bottom of the barrel for wideouts in the draft. Aside from his numbers at Syracuse, there's little that translates positively for him to the NFL.
The 6'1" receiver doesn't have any physical attributes that stand out. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at the combine, 7.04 in the 3-cone drill and a 4.29 20-yard shuttle. While those are nice numbers, they are not eye-popping, and many put up better.
Lemon has that type of quality that is very difficult to put a finger on, but I believe he's better than his film and combine workout shows. He's a receiver that can get things done when needed, even though when you watch him on film, there is not much to see.
He has not been in any trouble and appears to have a good head on his shoulders in interviews, so at least he doesn't carry any baggage to a team.
Either the system worked in Lemon's favor during his time at Syracuse or he's a much grittier receiver than he looks when watching him in the combine. I see it as being a bit of both.
Syracuse's system is more uptempo, which accounted for better numbers, both for Lemon and quarterback Ryan Nassib. The no-huddle offense means that Lemon has to memorize and study the playbook a lot more closely, which can only be good for him moving forward.
When running off the line of scrimmage, Lemon maintains good balance and is able to move quickly enough. His first step is a bit slow, which could prevent him from getting open to make a play. Once he's off the line, however, he is able to find the openings in the field.
Lemon is a somewhat polished route runner, though he did not have to go anything overly complicated at Syracuse. Generally he ran on the edges and moved inside to catch the ball, going from there, and on those plays he had little trouble.
When he does run routes as a wideout that's closer to the center, however, his routes are noticeably less polished. He can still make plays and synchronize with the quarterback, but he moves in a choppier manner and does not move cleanly. It's effective if it's by design, but that's not likely.
One of Lemon's best traits as a wide receiver is his catching ability. He has sure hands, and is not going to drop passes. He will bobble a deep ball once in a while, but as long as he is running a slant route then he should have no trouble catching passes.
Lemon does not have much in his arsenal in terms of evading defenders. He has good body control when running routes and catching the ball, and he is able to hold on to the ball well.
As for any high steps or stiff arms, or anything to shrug off a defender, he does not have those skills honed. If a defender catches up to him, he's not going to be able to move his way out of the defender's grasp.
Run After Catch
It's a good thing that Lemon's skill set is that of a possession receiver, because those types need to be able to run and pick up yards after the catch. Lemon has no problem picking up the yards.
He is able to turn corners after the catch smoothly, and when tackled he doesn't just fall to the turf. He is able to drag defenders behind him and pick up a few extra yards, never giving up on a play.
As a receiver who is somewhat lean, Lemon was rarely asked to block at Syracuse. Suffice to say, that's not something he's going to be asked to do at the NFL level. As long as he can get past the first defender coming after him, that's what matters.
If he is able to make the transition to the NFL, it will be solely as a possession receiver. Lemon is not someone who can stretch the field or take a hard tackle up the middle like a tight end. He can, however, get open and be a sure target for a few yards if a quarterback needs to dump the ball off.
Due to a lack of strength and aggression, he's not someone who can fit in particularly well in special teams, meaning that if he wants an NFL career, he will have to develop that possession receiver mentality.
Naturally, the team that drafts Ryan Nassib could pick Lemon up as well late in the draft since the two have a history. He could also fit well with the Buffalo Bills since new head coach Doug Marrone has experience with him.
As for where he should go, unless he's in an environment where he can develop a quick connection with the talent on the team (in other words, follow Nassib or Marrone), then I don't see him as a player to draft. He's someone to pick up as an undrafted free agent to see if his skill set carries over to the NFL from college.