For a brief moment, it looked like Carolina Panthers wide receiver Corey “Philly” Brown was going to be caught. Being trailed close by a defender after catching a pass in the first quarter of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals, the undrafted wide receiver shed the wimpy tackler and was gone.
As soon as the defensive back covering him was on the turf, Brown had scored. He turned on the jets, accelerated to his top speed in an instant and turned a close game into a blowout with an 86-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
His overall skill set as a receiver might be lacking — it wasn’t a mistake that no team drafted him a few years back — but he has more than made up for it this season with the Panthers by having a skill you can’t teach: Brown is explosive.
Few players are explosive at the top level, but it is a valuable talent the NFL looks for in its prospects, none the less. Another example is Arizona running back Chris Johnson, who was an All-Pro in the early stretch of his career based on his unrivaled ability to turn an average play into a score in an instant.
Heading into draft season, scouts will be on the lookout for players who display the explosiveness Brown did in his game-changing touchdown last Sunday—and they will not be disappointed. Let’s take a look at some of those players in this year’s draft.
|2016 NFL Mock Draft|
|1||Tennessee Titans||Laremy Tunsil||OL||Ole Miss|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Jared Goff||QB||California|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Joey Bosa||DE||Ohio State|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Myles Jack||LB||UCLA|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jalen Ramsey||DB||Florida State|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Ronnie Stanley||OL||Notre Dame|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Laquon Treadwell||WR||Ole Miss|
|8||Miami Dolphins||DeForest Buckner||DE||Oregon|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Shaq Lawson||DE||Clemson|
|10||New York Giants||Vernon Hargreaves||CB||Florida|
|11||Chicago Bears||A'Shawn Robinson||DT||Alabama|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Mackensie Alexander||CB||Clemson|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Emmanuel Ogbah||DE||Oklahoma State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Leonard Floyd||LB||Georgia|
|15||Los Angeles Rams||Paxton Lynch||QB||Memphis|
|16||Detroit Lions||Taylor Decker||OL||Ohio State|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Reggie Ragland||LB||Alabama|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Jack Conklin||OL||Michigan State|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Robert Nkemdiche||DL||Ole Miss|
|20||New York Jets||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||Ohio State|
|22||Houston Texans||Carson Wentz||QB||North Dakota State|
|23||Minnesota Vikings||Michael Thomas||WR||Ohio State|
|24||Cincinnati Bengals||Kenny Clark||DT||UCLA|
|25||Pittsburgh Steelers||Eli Apple||CB||Ohio State|
|26||Seattle Seahawks||Darron Lee||LB||Ohio State|
|27||Green Bay Packers||Jarran Reed||DT||Alabama|
|28||Kansas City Chiefs||Sheldon Rankins||DE||Louisville|
|29||Arizona Cardinals||Noah Spence||DE||Eastern Kentucky|
|30||Denver Broncos||Jonathan Bullard||DE||Florida|
|31||Carolina Panthers||Jason Spriggs||OL||Indiana|
Most Explosive Prospects in the Upcoming NFL Draft
RB Ezekiel Elliott
It might sound like a bit of a joke, but when you really put some thought into it, there is no better running back in the world than Ohio State Buckeyes' Ezekiel Elliott when he has a wide-open hole in front of him. That might sound like something John Madden would say that the Internet would make fun of him for, but watch this play against Alabama, and you will see why that is so important:
The instant Elliott hits the line of scrimmage on that play, he might as well be in the end zone, because no player on the field is going to catch him—and that was just one example. He pulled off similar feats against Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Indiana, Rutgers and Notre Dame.
Plays like that happening once can be a coincidence, but when they happen over and over again, it can be treated more like a skill than a fluke. And Elliott has more of that skill than anyone else in the league.
Even if he is paired with a mediocre offensive line in the league, Elliott is still an elite every-down running back who is at the top of the class,. But his best skill is his ability to turn a five-yard gain into a touchdown in the blink of an eye. If he can do that in the NFL, he immediately will become a huge success.
WR Corey Coleman
Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman has a lot going against him when it comes to his transition to the NFL. He isn’t the size that scouts in the league usually look for. (He is 5'11", 190 pounds.) Some see him as a system receiver coming out from under the watchful eye of Baylor head coach Art Briles. And he has had issues with drops in the past.
But for everything negative that scouting reports are bound to say about Coleman, there is one thing they cannot deny: He can accelerate like nobody in the game.
There is a reason Coleman was a top-three receiver in college football last year: It was his ability to go from nothing to his top speed in a step or two and make defensive backs who are trying to keep up with him look silly.
Without crisper route running, there will be limitations to what he can do in the NFL. But every team could use a player who can take the top off the defense at any time. Coleman will provide just that as a late-first-round, early-second-round pick.
DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Explosive is usually a term reserved for offensive skill-position players who can score almost anytime they touch the ball. But watch a defensive end come around the edge and make the tackler look silly, and the word takes on a whole new meaning.
Of the current crop of defensive ends heading into the NFL draft, perhaps the most explosive of the bunch is Oklahoma State edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah. Although he has the build of an end who plays using his strength—which he has in droves as well—it is his speed that makes him a truly elite prospect.
Finishing No. 12 in the nation as a sophomore with 11 sacks, Ogbah improved on his output in 2015, tallying 13, which was good for No. 2 in the country. Watching the big defensive end play for the Cowboys, there were times when tacklers were barely out of their stances, and he was already in the quarterback's face.
His ceiling might not be at the level of Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa and his floor not near that of Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner, but Ogbah is a great prospect who can turn into a great NFL player if the cards fall right.
And there isn’t much more you can ask for from a mid-first-round pick.