This was the case in several games yesterday, most notably among wide receivers for the San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.
Loyal readers of NFLDraftScout.com and our weekly PDF Draft Slant certainly knew that the big plays from Seyi Ajirotutu, Andre Roberrts and Jacoby Ford , respectively, were no surprise.
I've been accused of tooting my/our own horn on occasion, and perhaps I do it too often. When I do it, though, I provide the evidence that what I say is true.
Ajirotutu, an undrafted free agent from Fresno State, impressed early last year in a Bulldog loss to Wisconsin (six catches for 83 yards, two TDs) and again at the East-West Shrine Game. Here is what I wrote in Slant about him:
Ajirotutu intrigues scouts in much the same way as former WAC standout Legedu Naanee (San Diego) did for Boise State - with great size, raw speed and physical play. His underrated straight-line speed (reportedly has been timed in the 4.3s) forces corners to respect him deep and his size and crisp footwork gives him easy separation on slants and dig routes. Ajirotutu has shown the ability to high-point passes, using his size advantage to "box out" smaller cornerbacks (see Wisconsin, 9/12). Ajirotutu's physicality also lends itself well as a downfield blocker. In fact, as his blocking Saturday night against the Warriors can attest, Ajirotutu is a significant contributor to the success of junior Ryan Matthews, the nation's leading rusher. Fresno's focus on the running game will keep Ajirotutu's number modest (4-48 yards against UH), but with patience, he has the raw talent to blossom in the pros.
Ajirotutu caught four passes from Philip Rivers for 109 yards and two touchdowns in the Chargers 29-23 win over Houston.
Andre Roberts and Jacoby Ford, two undersized receivers mischaracterized by some as strictly big play threats, impressed me during Senior Bowl practices. In fact, in this Senior Bowl practice (Tuesday) review I lavished praise on both.
A receiver on the rise is [Andre] Roberts . Scouts expected him to be closer to 5-10, 180 pounds, but he measured in at 5-11, 192. His quickness has not been hurt by the added weight, and his routes were outstanding. Roberts has the feet to run effective comeback routes, the suddenness to free himself on slants, and the vertical to leap up and grab a high pass on the sideline. Typically one FCS receiver is selected in the top 100, and it looks like Roberts fits that ball in the 2010 draft.
Roberts played very well during the Senior Bowl practices. He only caught two passes for the Cardinals in their 24-27 loss to the Vikings, but his 30-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter gave the Cardinals a 14-10 halftime lead.
Ford flashed a week earlier in the Raiders' blowout victory over the Seahawks. Against the Chiefs and one of the better young cornerbacks in the league (Brandon Flowers), Ford was dynamic. Ford returned the opening kickoff of the third quarter for a 94-yard touchdown and caught six passes for 147 yards. If you can believe it, he was even better on tape than he was on the stat sheet, as several of his catches were highlight reel-worthy.
Again, this wasn't a surprise. Here is what I wrote about Ford following the same Tuesday Senior Bowl practice:
Clemson's Jacoby Ford is proving among the more secure handed receivers at the Senior Bowl this week -- a bit of a surprise to some who had labeled as only a big-play threat. Though short, the 5-9, 181-pound Ford has good strength to gain his release off press and has the speed to eat up the cushion. He has impressed scouts so far this week with his ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and haul in tough catches.
Rather than focus any more attention on these rookies, let's look ahead to this year's senior crop of wideouts. A few underrated receivers that I see slipping a bit on draft day, surprising with a big day (or five) as rookies causing NFL announcers to stumble a year from now include:
Denarius Moore, Tennessee
Vincent Brown, San Diego State
Greg Salas, Hawaii