BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The Buffalo Bills initially held the No. 8 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft, which was used to select a wide receiver.
That pick was made by the St. Louis Rams, who traded up eight spots with the Bills to select dynamic West Virginia playmaker Tavon Austin.
The Bills could have used that selection on a much-needed wide receiver, but instead waited until the second round. This was a smart move, as a player who will quite possibly be the 2013 draft class’ best wide receiver fell to their spot at the No. 41 overall selection.
Austin, Patterson and Hunter all have higher upside than Woods. All three wideouts have fantastic straight-line speed, while Austin and Patterson are terrific playmakers in the open field and Hunter has the size/speed combination to be an elite deep threat and outside receiver. But Woods is a better player now than any of them, and unless they truly maximize their upside, chances are good he always will be.
Hopkins makes a solid case himself for being the draft class’ top receiver right now — he is a big, physical wideout who is the class’ best route-runner, does a great job going up to make catches in traffic and has consistent hands — but he is not as dynamic or athletic as Woods.
The Bills had no excuse to overlook Woods. While coaching at Syracuse last year, Bills head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett got a first-hand look at the special talent Woods is when the Orange played USC.
That was as good of a game as Woods had in his career — he caught 10 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns, had a 76-yard run and also returned a punt 31 yards — and certainly made an impression that put him on Marrone’s radar.
What makes Woods a special talent who could quickly emerge as the NFL’s best wide receivers? Watching the video above should give you a good idea, but let’s break it down further.
No Catch Left Behind
Woods proved in his USC career that he can catch just about any pass thrown in his vicinity. While he has less than ideal length for a wide receiver (6’, 31” arms), he makes up for it with tremendous hands and body control.
He is very good at high-pointing the football in the air, as well as adjusting to throws that are not quite accurate. Throughout his USC career, he was known for fully extending to make challenging grabs, while he also does a great job coming back to underthrown balls.
If Woods is given any window of opportunity to make a catch, he can make an opposing defensive back pay, even if they have otherwise good coverage. He is effective at making grabs over defenders, while he is also good at getting himself in position to box out a receiver on a short throw or in the red zone. He also does a terrific job on sideline grabs of controlling his body in the air to get his feet down in bounds.
Plays Bigger Than He Is
While Robert Woods will be smaller than some NFL defensive backs at 6’ and 201 pounds, he makes up for his subpar outside receiver size with his ability to time the catch as well as his physicality and fearlessness.
Even when covered, Woods does a great job of going up and making plays on the football. He has a knack for high-pointing the football at the right time and extending away from coverages to finish a reception. He is a fearless receiver who does not hesitate to make plays over the middle of the field, and he can secures the catch even through hits from defensive backs.
He is also an asset in the run game as a willing blocker who takes on defenders. He does not have great strength and sometimes gets pushed back by bigger defenders, but he is aggressive in getting a body on defenders and giving full effort on non-passing plays.