04/30/2012 - Wide receiver Juran Criner, the second of two fifth-round picks, has heard the criticism about his top-end 40-yard dash speed but isn't overly concerned about the stop watch. "I would just say that there's a difference between playing on the field and having field speed rather than straight-line speed," Criner said. "I don't feel like I would have a problem." - The Sports Xchange
For all of the talk surrounding Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley and their respective passing attacks, the combination of Nick Foles and Criner was as dangerous as there was in the Pac-10 over the past three seasons.
Criner flashed as a freshman, even starting three games, but really put his stamp on the program as a sophomore turning in nine of his 45 catches for 582 yards into scores. As impressive as that total was, Criner picked up his play in 2011, enjoying one of the best seasons ever by a Wildcat receiver. Criner earned First Team All Pac-10 accolades with 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns. Proving his breakout junior campaign was no fluke, Criner posted similar numbers in 2011, registering 75 catches for 956 yards and another 11 scores as a senior.
Some of Criner's production is a result of Arizona's spread offense. Many of his grabs come off of quick slip screens, giving him the ball in space to rack up yards after the catch. While scouts can question if he'll be able to match his collegiate success in the NFL, what is clear is that Criner has the size, strength and hands the NFL is looking for. His final draft status might hinge on his time in the 40-yard dash and health.
Release: Rarely challenged in press coverage due to scheme. Good build-up speed, but isn't explosive off the snap. Good lateral agility and strength to get into his routes.
Hands: Among his better traits. Possesses soft hands to pluck the ball outside of his frame. Good concentration to make the catch in traffic or when he feels a big hit coming. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder (Toledo) and demonstrates very good body control to adjust. Doesn't often enough use his size and vertical to his advantage and shows only average timing on jump balls, overall.
Route running: Typically lines up outside, but will be in the slot at times to use his physicality to move the chains. Not asked to run a variety of routes in this spread offense. Makes his hay using his size and physicality to gain an inside release on slants and crossers, as well as various screens. At least adequate build-up speed for the deep ball. Doesn't show a great deal of explosiveness out of his breaks.
After the catch: Good size, strength and physicality when running after the catch. Has deceptive speed, as he's a long-strider, but has only average balance and agility to elude. Good vision and will use his blockers effectively. Will lower his shoulder and attempt to run through arm-tackles.
Blocking: Good size and strength. Looks to help out his teammates, but is inconsistent in this area, overall. Gives a good initial shove, but too often doesn't stick with his assignment to complete the block.
Intangibles: Threw a scare into the Arizona program when he was hospitalized after undergoing neurological testing during the off-season. Though head coach Mike Stoops told the media that he expects his star senior to "be the same player -- or a better player -- than he was a year ago," scouts will certainly investigate the incident. Practiced as a punt returner in the spring of 2011 but never fielded a punt for the Wildcats as a senior.