Heading into the predraft season, LSU receiver Jarvis Landry was one of the most promising prospects. However, he followed that up with a series of bad workouts, beginning at the scouting combine, that may have harmed his draft stock.
Landry had the worst 40-yard dash time among receivers at the combine, running it in 4.77 seconds. His vertical leap was the second worst at the position. He blamed the poor 40 time on a pulled hamstring and then did not participate in drills.
Things didn't get better at his pro day. According to The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson, Landry dropped a few passes, and his 40-yard dash time improved only slightly.
On top of that, he measured in at 5'11" at the combine, while LSU had him listed at 6'1". Put all of this together, and Landry's draft stock may have plummeted. After all, this is a deep class at receiver, and black marks like his undersized frame and poor workouts could influence teams to pass on him for another, seemingly more promising prospect.
However, these workouts don't tell the entire story. Landry is better on the field than these in-a-vacuum numbers would indicate. Based on what he accomplished at LSU, Landry still looks like a top-tier, NFL-ready receiver. Teams that pass on him based on what he did or did not do in February through April will be making a big mistake.
Landry had a breakout 2013 season for the Tigers, catching 77 passes for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns and averaging 15.5 yards per reception. He was a solid slot and possession receiver complement to fellow 2014 draft prospect Odell Beckham Jr. and outpaced him on the year in catches, yards and scores.
|Jarvis Landry's LSU Stats|
Of course, collegiate production does not guarantee success in the NFL, particularly for receivers who have a steeper learning curve than most when transitioning to the professional game. However, there are indications that Landry can hit the ground running and go beyond being a first-year contributor to become a first-year playmaker.
The reason? Two words: route running.
Landry is one of the better route-runners among the receiver class. Being "polished," as NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki describes him, means he'll be able to play for his new team from Week 1, even as a starter. Raw route running means a receiver has to rely only on his speed, or on his strength, to make plays in his first season.
Being able to run the entire route tree is usually a skill that needs to be developed. It's the hallmark of a true game-changing receiver. Some never master the ability, like Mike Wallace. But those who come into the NFL with it turn heads more quickly, like Keenan Allen did in his rookie 2013 season with the San Diego Chargers.
Strong route running combined with reliable hands—which Landry also possesses—means quarterbacks will be able to trust he'll be where they need him to be. It makes up for his size not being as initially advertised or for his speed being less than ideal.
Granted, those drawbacks might prevent Landry from being a team's No. 1 receiver, but it doesn't prevent him from being its highest-impact one. His combination of size and speed makes him better suited to be a possession and slot receiver, but that also means he can be a more versatile weapon on the field.
The most important thing to note about his poor workouts and slow 40-yard dash time is that they don't really give much indication as to what a player can do on the field. In-game situations are very different from a straight-line run in shorts.
While speed may make the difference when it comes to which round Landry is drafted in, it won't matter as much when he's actually playing in a game come September. What Landry has proved at LSU should be the true measure of his value in the NFL.
As Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport noted, "It's not like Landry was a blazing speedster for the Tigers whose quickness suddenly evaporated. The 196-pounder didn't win battles against SEC defensive backs all season long in 2013 by being faster."
Because of the depth of this receiver class, Landry doesn't look like a first-round prospect. However, it doesn't matter when Landry is drafted—what matters is the team that takes him. He could easily start as a rookie with a good training camp and a little weight gain.
Landry might be a niche receiver, but he has a place in the NFL. With the right team, he can make plays from his first professional snap.