After the recent 'opportunities camp' i think it is appropriate to have a look at the rest of our receiving core that were given an opportunity to be noticed on Friday. Gaffney, Royal and Lloyd were given the day off so that the second year players and rookies were given the chance to step up. What can these relatively unknown receivers bring to our team? In this post i will take a look at two second year players that we have seen next to nothing from, McKinley and Willis and also give a breakdown of the UDFA class that is on our roster.
It is probably also sensible to discuss, as i did in Part 1 of this series, the likely hood of these guys making the final cut to the 53, or failing that being placed on the practise squad for a year so they can learn their craft. I suggested that Gaffney, Royal, Thomas, Decker and Lloyd would be the main core of our receiving squad this year and that Stokley would be in competition with McKinley and Willis for the last spot on the roster. I leant towards favouring McKinley for the spot and i will explain why more fully in this post.
However, there was also another possibility that i only briefly touched on in the last post, and that is that Thomas progresses faster than i expected and he is able to learn his roles quickly and become the main deep threat on our roster. If that is the case then, and only then, would it bring Lloyd's position on the roster into question. As i said in the last post, with Josh trying to emphasise the vertical aspect of our offense this off season and it becoming a more frequently called aspect on game day, having deep threat players on the roster becomes invaluable. While Thomas was out Lloyd was that deep threat and Thomas has a lot of work to do before McDaniels even considers taking Lloyd out of the equation. Of course that is all just my opinion so take what you will from it.
Before we go any further though, i think it is wise to familiarise ourselves with the current roster rules, if i may direct you to KaptainKirk's detailed break down here, and also this overview of the practise squad rules. They are important to understand because we will see some of these players be moved to the PUP list, e.g. any one with injuries (Stoley may be an obvious option if his injury needs more time to heal.), or signed to the practise squad if they are eligible.
Thanks to DizzeeBronc who replied in part one to my question about McKinley and Willis being considered for the practise squad.
Practice Squad Eligibility
According to league policy, only certain types of players are allowed to sign to the practice squad. Players cannot have played more than nine regular season games or been on the active roster for an entire year, nor can players be allowed to spend more than two seasons on the same team’s squad unless that team’s active roster never dips below 53 players.
According to denverbroncos.com, McKinley only played in eight games with no starts. He was also placed on IR on Dec. 28, so he was not on the active roster for the final game. Based on the league policy highlighted above, I believe that McKinley does qualify for the practice squad. This is just my interpretation, though, so take it for what it is.
However what was also pointed out in the replies was that the player would have to be cut before being signed to the PS and at that point any team could sign the player to their active roster. The overall opinion seemed to be that McKinley would never make it to the PS, but, i believe Willis may stand more of a chance so it at least give us another option in case of injuries later in the season.
Anyway, without further ado, part 2.
McKINLEY AT A GLANCE:
- A wide receiver who played 47 games (41 starts) and accounted for 207 receptions for 2,781 yards (both school records) and 19 touchdowns in his four-year career with the Gamecocks.
- Played with several starting quarterbacks as University of South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier called him best receiver he has ever coached.
- His 207 receptions placed third in Southeastern Conference annals, becoming just the fifth SEC player to amass more than 200 catches in a career.
- Earned Third-Team All-America honors by The NFL Draft Report and honorable mention from College Football News in 2007 as his 6.4 receptions and 80.7 receving yards per game led the SEC.
- Received All-County honors as a junior and senior at South Cobb High School in Mableton, Ga.
- Selected by the Broncos in the fifth round (141st overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft.
QUICKLY: McKinley, who was selected by the Broncos in the fifth round (141st overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft from the University of South Carolina, played in eight games (0 starts) on special teams and finished third on the club in both punt return (32) and kickoff return (158) yardage.
2009: Recorded the first touches of his career with two kickoff returns (49 yds., 24.5 avg.) vs. Dal. (10/4)... Recorded a special-teams tackle vs. Pit. (11/9)... Injured his knee at Phi. (12/27) and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 28.
(Yes i know more highlights, you either love them or you hate them.. guess which one i am? Oh and sorry about the hiphop firstfan, finding country and western synced highlights is pretty tough.. lol)
As you can see in the highlight video he has quick feet, sure hands, is a very good route runner and is dangerous in space (Not outer-space.. duh! Only the mighty Zoltan is dangerous there..). That all sounds great, but what are his drawbacks? Well he is a bit skinny and may need to or may have gain/ed a bit more bulk to withstand the punishment of the NFL, as demonstrated by him getting injured in December last year.
Here is what MHR's Jeremy Bolander had to said when we drafted him last year in April:
Pros: Good initial quickness off the snap. Not a real physical player, but uses his hands and lateral quickness well to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage. Savvy route-runner. Good short-area burst and is a cognizant route-runner. Varies his speed and utilizes his good body control to generate separation against tight coverage. Reliable hands for the reception. Strong hands to snatch the ball out of the air. Good body control to contort in space and make the difficult reception. Knows where the sticks and sidelines are. Can take a pop and hang on. Wastes no time getting upfield after the reception. Good vision in the open field and can generate positive yards after the reception.
Cons: Lanky, almost skinny build that could use additional mass, but not at the expense of losing speed, another area of concern. Lacks the straight-line speed to challenge deep or to break away after a short or intermediate reception. Can be caught from behind. Characterized as a tough player, but can be intimidated with a good pop early. Can get alligator arms going over the middle.
In Emmett Smith's tales from the sunnyside series, he suggests that,
Denver's depth at receiver is one concussion away from needing a new slot receiver. Since many studies show that each succeeding concussion is more easily induced, Brandon Stokley's time with the Broncos could be brief. Given the magic that Stokes has wrought over the years, a best-case scenario would have Stokley lasting for another two or so years while mentoring and training McKinley as the Sorcerer's Apprentice.
But If Royal and presumably Decker playing the slot position what role would McKinley Play? My thoughts on this subject are that because McDaniels has repeatedly said that he wants our receiving core to be able to play all positions and that they will move around a lot i can see McKinley playing a similar but smaller role to Gaffney and if, god forbid, Gaff got injured McKinley would come in in his place. Although in some of the 4 WR sets McKinley could come in in the slot as another weapon if he could create a good mismatch on the field. He also has the speed (4.40 40 time) to be a good deep threat as well which adds another reason to think he might be on the roster this year.
I think the guys we have out there competing right now - we have some different players who haven't played a lot - Kenny McKinley, who played a lot on special teams last year and Matt Willis. Both of those two players are two of our fastest players on the team and add a different element to us
So as well as all his qualities as a receiver, he also has potential in the returns game? YUP!
As McDaniels said the # 5-6 need to be able to contribute in the kicking game to make it make sense for them to be on the roster because they will get limited action at WR, McKinley certainly fits that description. Even though he had a couple of hiccups in the return game last year, i think it will be a totally different story this year, he will be more confident and more comfortable in his shoes, and with the additions of Cox and Squid Thomson and the guys already on the roster, Royal, Arrington and Zho Smith, the competition for return duties should help them all improve. I could see McKinley as one of the main contributors their because the other guys may have more responsibilities elsewhere. Again just my opinion, which coincidentally was confirmed by the practise blog on DB.com.. "Kenny McKinley, Cox, Smith and Syd’Quan Thompson took turns returning kicks, in that order."
The blog also mentions that McKinley was definitely taking his 'opportunity' in camp on friday.
Speaking of the red zone, when the offense and defense squared off in 7-on-7s near the goal line, Quinn and Tebow got their revenge. First it was Quinn who completed his first three passes, the third of which was a touchdown to Kenny McKinley.
The other second year guy is Matthew Willis, he was on the practise squad until week 17 last season but he didn't see much action in that game so we know little about the guy.
WILLIS AT A GLANCE:
- A second-year wide receiver who spent the final week of the 2008 season on Denver’s practice squad after a brief stint on Baltimore’s practice squad early in the year.
- Saw time in five games for the Ravens as a rookie in 2007, totaling one tackle on special teams along with an 11-yard reception.
- Began his rookie season on the Ravens’ practice squad in 2007 before seeing time in five of the club’s final seven games that year.
- Played two seasons of football at UCLA after competing on its track team and finished his Bruins career with 24 receptions for 248 yards (10.3 avg.) with three touchdowns in 21 games (3 starts).
- Joined the Broncos as a practice-squad signee on Dec. 23, 2008.
- Entered the NFL with Baltimore as a college free agent on May 4, 2007.
Quickly: Willis played in one game (1 start) after spending the first 16 weeks of the regular season on Denver's practice squad, he recorded one special-teams tackle in that contest.
DB.com recently put up an introductory post on him in which he does a quick interview as well here are a couple of highlights.
You were on the practice squad for every game in 2009 -- until the last one. What was that feeling like, getting on the field and in the starting lineup?
"It was unexpected. I knew we had a four-wides package and if we were going to run it, that's where I was going to be on the offense. To have it be called as the first play -- I wasn't expecting it. I was like, 'Four wides? OK.' Then to start the game, it was a good experience to get my first start. It was great."
How would you describe being on the practice squad?
"It's rough, because you're sort of the legs. You do all the running. You might play offense if a guy is hurt or can't practice, then go play show-team offense, then go to special teams. So you're moving and running around, so it's hard, but it just makes you better. You fight through it and you understand that that's what you have to do to get to where you want to be."
Do you feel being able to contribute on special teams gives you an edge?
"I don't know if it's an edge, but if that's my role on the team, special teams and offense, then that's what it is. Special teams adds value to me as a player. I can do special teams, I can return kicks, cover kicks, and as they say, the more you can do, the more you can do."
Have you set goals for yourself?
"Absolutely. Short-term goals, long-term goals, and being on the roster opening day is one of the big ones. That's sort of my focus. Right now it's an everyday kind of thing, but when camp rolls around, that's my big goal -- being on the roster."
Coach McDaniels said you and Kenny McKinley are two of the fastest players on the team. Would you agree with that assessment?
"I like to think I'm faster than Kenny. With my track background, my track coach always said that whatever sport you're going to play, you're going to have to run, jump or throw something. I run now."
Could you take Kenny in a race?
"We'll save it for one day. Maybe we'll have a race."
Unfortunately i don't seem to be able to find any highlights of this guy in action, i know, i know, i have let you guys down.. do you think HaraKiri (Seppuku) is an acceptable form of redemption.. haha.
I'm not sure i can see a place on the 53 man roster for Willis, unless both Stokley and Lloyd get cut, which i find unlikely. It is more more plausible to me that he has another season on the practise squad, of course it would be not as good for him but it might mean we wouldn't need to look to the draft or free agency for WR depth next season, which could free up resources for other positions. I do definitely look forward to seeing what he can do in camp too see if his talk of making it to the final roster could be something he could realise, his other problem is that he has another 4 UDFA guys hot on his heals.
The first of them that i want to look at is Alrick Arnett.
• POSITION: Wide Receiver
• COLLEGE: West Virginia
• HEIGHT: 6'2"
• WEIGHT: 189
Arnett was a two-year starter at West Virginia, totaling 78 receptions for 1,052 yards with nine touchdowns for the Mountaineers, after competing at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona in 2006 and Butler Community College in Kansas in 2005.
After redshirting at West Virginia in 2007 due to a thumb injury, he led the team in receiving yards as a junior in 2008 and ranked second on the team in both receptions and receiving yards and tied for the team high in receiving touchdowns as a senior in 2009.
One handed catches, plenty of deep touchdowns, not afraid of going over the middle, tall, fast, good hands. I like it! Oh AND he is used to being thrown to by a left hander.. anyone see where i'm going with that one.. lol.
Here is a scouting report.
2010 NFL Draft Prospect Scouting Report:
Alric Arnett, WR, West VirginiaAlric Arnett has not had a long career in Morgantown with the Mountaineers of West Virginia, but it has been a relatively productive one.
During 2005 and 2006, Arnett was playing receiver at a couple of junior colleges. In 2007 he sat out the season due to a thumb injury. In 2008, Arnett finally got his chance to hit the big stage. He started all 13 games that year and, while he was not the team's leader in receptions, he was the big play threat. On the year, he ended up with 35 catches for 466 yards and six touchdowns. That is an average of 13.3 yards per catch.
Through ten games of the 2009 campaign, the numbers are pretty similar. Arnett is now averaging 14.1 yards per catch and has cemented himself as the team's big play receiver and main deep threat. While fellow starting receiver Jock Sanders will get a lot more catches, it is Arnett who is always a threat to take a score with every touch of the ball.
Arnett's combination of size and speed is what makes him a decent NFL prospect. Most 6-2 receivers in college are not as fast as Arnett. While the speed is nice, he has to add some more weight or he will get beat at the line of scrimmage by stronger NFL corners.
2/21 Update: Arnett proved that he could be a deep threat at the next level during the East-West Shrine Game and the preceding workouts. Yet, he is not a receiver that has all the tools necessary to be a top selection (at least not at this point in his career). He will have the opportunity to move his stock up at the NFL Combine. If he fails to do so, he will probably be a fifth or sixth round selection.
Don't know about you guys but this guy looks legit to me, and he seems to have been making a name for himself in camp.
When Tebow stepped under center, his first pass was a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone to Alric Arnett, drawing a big fist pump from Josh McDaniels.
His second pass was another touchdown connection with Arnett on the opposite side of the end zone, but the defensive backs on the sideline claimed it was offensive pass interference.
See the left hander connection?
Again i look forward to seeing more of this guy in TC and part of me hopes he can push Lloyd of his spot because i really like his upside and obviously youth and bronco career longevity are attractive things. I'm not sure if he would be a guy that other teams would grab if we tried to move him to the PS but from what i've seen i tend to think they would, which would leave us with a tough roster decision.
Next up Patrick Honeycutt
• POSITION: Wide Receiver
• COLLEGE: Middle Tennessee State
• HEIGHT: 5'9"
• WEIGHT: 172
Not much out there on Honeycutt, he does have a pretty cool name though!
Patrick Honeycutt, the three-year starter at Middle Tennessee State University totaled 116 receptions for 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. He leaves the Blue Raiders ranked fourth in school history in receptions and ninth in receiving yards. He received third-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors from Phil Steele as a senior in 2009 after leading the team in receptions.
And this from DB.com blog:
Toward the end of practice, Quinn lofted a pass downfield for Patrick Honeycutt, who leaped in the air to haul it in. Meanwhile, Syd’Quan Thompson was closing fast, and the two collided in midair going for the ball. Honeycutt came away with the reception and Thompson helped him up after a few seconds on the grass. The big play earned Honeycutt a fist bump from offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
That's is pretty much it, that i could find anyway. If anyone knows any more about him please post it in the comments and i will add it to the post.
Height / Weight:
5-11 / 190
BIOGRAPHY: Three-year starter who played in just six games as a senior and totaled 33/264/2 before tearing two ligaments in his right knee, which ended his season. Junior totals included 56/655/7 after 50/822/9 as a sophomore.
POSITIVES: Reliable possession receiver with solid hands. Easily adjusts to the errant throw, looks the ball into his hands, and is elusive running after us the reception. Displays focus, exposes himself to the big hit, and holds onto the pass in a crowd. Solid blocker who gets results downfield.
NEGATIVES: Displays marginal speed and a minimal burst to his game. Must prove he's back to full health after returning from the knee injury.
ANALYSIS: Lyons was a slowish possession wideout with marginal size before his injury last season. He'll have a tough time making it even as a team's fifth receiver.
(Hey firstfan.. it's not hiphop.. not really sure what it is tbh.. :-/)
Not sure what hope there is for this guy with all our players that are potential slot receivers. He doesn't even strike me as quick enough in the return game, but the Broncos signed him for a reason so i guess we will just have to wait and see.
Again if any of you guys have anything to add on him please feel free.
• POSITION: Wide Receiver
• COLLEGE: Maine
• HEIGHT: 5'10"
• WEIGHT: 174
Williams played in 42 career games with 30 starts for the Black Bears, totaling 142 receptions for 1,679 yards and 23 touchdowns, and tacking on five rushes for 70 yards, 19 punt returns for 151 yards and 24 kickoff returns for 505 yards.
He tallied the fourth-most receptions in school history as a senior in 2009. That season, he set single-game school records in receptions -- 18 -- and receiving yards -- 239 -- against Rhode Island to go along with his three touchdowns.
(Advise you to switch the audio off on this one, it gets choppy and weird at points.)
Interview from draftnasty.com:
WR Landis Williams received All-CAA accolades after his record breaking performances last season. The speedy receiver hauled in 71 receptions for 779 yards and 9 touchdowns, increasing his numbers from his junior season. In addition, Williams finds time to be a track standout for the Black Bears. As DraftNasty.com continues to find its hidden gems, get to know Landis Williams and his expectations for his pro day on March 12th.
Q: This season your role increased within the offense. You doubled the number of catches and receiving yards from your junior season. What brought about this change for your numbers increasing this year?
A: I felt like I could have been doing this all along, but we were more run oriented the last 3 years. We also had 3 running backs that could really play. When we started losing people to injuries, I went to coach and told him I was ready to step up. I always believed in my ability and the coaches took a chance and did that this year.
Q: It seems you have a great deal of knowledge on how important it was to stretch the field. Why do you feel it is important to do this from a personal and team standpoint?
A: I understand the versatility you have to have in football. I help the running backs and they help me. When the opportunities came I had to take advantage of them. By me running down the field, I was able to open lanes for my running backs. Teams couldn't tell if I was a decoy or if I was involved in the route.
Q: What were your thoughts after you received the news of making the 1st team All-CAA?
A: I have goals and initially it was to be an All-American. I felt like I let myself down despite how good of a season people told me I had. I know what I am capable of doing.
Q: You are currently competing in indoor track, how has running the 60 meters helped you prepare to run the 40 at pro timing day?
A: Well, I've been running track since my freshman year. I was also a three sport athlete in high school. Track has put my body in condition for pro day. And even if I am asked to workout for a team I will be prepared. It also has kept me competitive.
Q: As the NFL draft approaches what are some of the things going through your head each day?
A: Just trying to stay calm, focus, and not beating myself up. Just have to let the day come. After speaking to a lot of other people, they just told me to let that day come and focus on the day to day training.
Q: When and where will you be doing your pro day at?
A: At Maine on March 12th. And I may be participating in the one at Rutgers.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish at pro day?
A: The major goal is to run in the low 4.3 range. I know I'm capable of that and hopefully it will open up some eyes that day.
Q: Former Clemson WR Jacoby Ford made this comment at the NFL combine, "I happen to be a football guy running track." Would you say this applies to you also?
A: I would totally agree with that. My former track coach told me the same thing. I happen to be a fast football player running track.
Q: What is you most memorable game in your career?
A: My last home game. It was senior day, my mother got a chance to attend, last time in front of fans, and I broke 2 school records.
Q: If I was an NFL GM and I asked you what is the biggest asset you will bring to the organization, what would you say?
A: I would have to say my competitive nature and football savvy.
Q: Tell us something most people wouldn't know about you.
A: My teammates describe me as the Lamar Odom of football because I eat candy nonstop.
Q: Earlier you mentioned the possibility of running in the low 4.3 40, how confident are you when you say this?
A: I know I am capable of doing it especially after the way I have been running. I think if I run anything high in the 4.3 range I will be disappointed in myself.
Obviously being looked at as a deep threat kind of receiver, not really much more to say than that. Look forward to seeing what he can do in camp and maybe see him on the PS this season if he does well.
Ok so that's it, i know it is a bit top heavy but the UDFA aren't really highly scouted players, i.e. they have flaws in their game that prevents them from being taken high in the draft and i guess it means they are natural choices for the PS because they need time to learn and work on those weaknesses. Of the Bunch i think Alric Arnett could and should have the most impact. I also think that McKinley being on the 53 is a pretty sure thing but, in my mind, that does mean that either Lloyd or Stokley have to go, and as i said before i can only see Lloyd going if Thomas is realising some of his potential.
Like i said though if you have anything to add on these guys i would appreciate it, in my article on the RB's a couple of college fans gave their thoughts on the players and i thought that it was a great way to learn more about the players.
Anyway, thanks for your time hopefully you enjoyed Part 2.