James Snook/USA TODAY

Scouting Combine Research Series: Receivers (Part 3)

Who smashed Jerry Rice's records? Whose dad played in the NBA? Who wrote a letter to his dad father predicting he'd be a star? Those answers and more as we get to know the top receiver prospects.

Here are the 57 wide receivers who have been invited to the Scouting Combine. Players are listed in alphabetical order. Heights and weights come from CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com. All players are seniors unless noted

Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington (6-1, 198): Kupp was a consensus FCS All-American not just as a senior but all four seasons. He was a two-time national Offensive Player of the Year, the 2015 Walter Payton Award winner (equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and 2013 Jerry Rice Award winner (top FCS freshman). He was also a three-time Academic All-American. His 6,464 yards, 428 receptions, 73 touchdown catches, 124.3 average yards per game, 464 points and 1.40 average TDs per game were FCS records. The 6,464 yards is an all-divisions record; Rice held the FCS record. Kupp averaged a touchdown reception for every 5.9 catches in his career. He scored at least once in 43 of 52 games he played, Kupp caught at least two passes in all 52 games and, incredibly, had eight catches 30 times. The list goes on and on and on and on.

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An economics graduate with a 3.63 grade point average, Kupp piled up 117 catches for 1,700 yards and 17 scores as a senior, and accounted for two more scores passing, one rushing and one on a punt return.

Kupp’s father, Craig, was a quarterback who was drafted by the Giants in 1991 who threw seven passes for the Arizona Cardinals. Grandfather Jake Kupp had a better pro career, with the guard part of the Saints’ Hall of Fame and all-25-year team. Yet, the only scholarship offers came from Eastern Washington and Idaho State. "I was at a high school in an area ... that was not recruited heavily. We had 40 years straight of not having a winning season.”

The FoxSports.com headline said it all: “Meet Cooper Kupp: The best college football player you’ve never heard of.” He was a late bloomer size-wise. "My freshman year, I was 5-foot-4 and 115 pounds when I first weighed in. I remember because I was wearing ankle weights, so I was probably more like 112. But if you were to ask me then where I was going to be in four years, I still would have told you I was going to play at USC. That was just my mindset. I never had a doubt in my mind that I was going to play football at the next level, and not just play, but play at a big-time school."

Kupp made it look easy, but it was a byproduct of hard work.

Jerome Lane, Akron: As a redshirt freshman, Lane had five sacks as a safety and pass-rushing defensive end. “If I keep bumping around, I'll find my niche on this football team somewhere,” he said at the time.  Lane moved to offense at the start of fall camp as a sophomore, and caught 39 passes for 782 yards and eight touchdowns in 2015 and 62 passes for 1,018 yards and six touchdowns. That gave him a two-year total of 101 catches, 1,800 yards (17.8) and 14 touchdowns.

If Lane’s name sounds familiar, his dad was former NBA player Jerome Lane. Lane lives forever with a backboard-smashing dunk while at Pittsburgh, with commentator Bill Raftery famously saying, “Send it in, Jerome!” Lane Jr. has seen the highlight a “million times.” Football, however, would be the younger Lane’s path. “I told him, ‘If you ever want to go to the next level, (football) is the best fit for you,’” Lane Sr. said.

Keevan Lucas, Tulsa (5-9, 195): Lucas caught 240 passes for 3,250 yards (13.5 average) and 32 touchdowns, despite missing most of the 2015 season with a knee injury. Lucas caught 101 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore, then came back and caught 81 passes for 1,180 yards (14.6) and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore.

When he was 14, Lucas lost his mother and his grandmother within three days. They were crushing blows, with Lucas’ father in and out of prison. He has tattoos on his wrists marking the date of their deaths. “Nothing can compare to the hurt and the feelings and the pain, really.”

The injury in 2015, and another during his senior year of high school, were easy to handle by comparison. Two days before his mother’s death, they were at the movies. She had been complaining of headaches and told her son, “I want you to be good and graduate.' I didn't think much of it at the time.” At the too-young age of 14, he not only had to deal with the deaths but break the news to his 9-year-old brother, Keylon. “Sometimes, I'll have dreams at night where my mom's alive and walking with me. When I wake up, it's like a bittersweet moment. Those are the days when I usually am not in a good mood.”

Josh Malone, Tennessee (6-2, 200): Junior. Malone heads to the NFL following a breakout season of 50 catches for 972 yards (school-record 19.4 average) and 11 touchdowns. He finished his career with 104 grabs, 1,608 yards and 14 touchdowns. That’s a lot of production in a relatively limited number of opportunities. "I feel that I have made a lot of progression with the deep ball throughout the year. Just being able to be strong with my catch and just run the route the right way and perfect the technique running the deep route and fighting off and jostling defenders."

At Station Camp High School in Gallatin, Tenn., he was Tennessee’s Mr. Football in 2013. He is set to become the school’s first NFL player.

Gabe Marks, Washington State (5-11, 185): Marks caught 316 passes for 3,453 yards (10.9 average) and 37 touchdowns in his four seasons. He was productive throughout his career, though 28 of the touchdowns came as a junior and senior. After sitting out the 2014 season due to an illness, he caught 104 passes for 1,192 yards (11.5) and 15 touchdowns in 2015 and 89 passes for 894 yards (10.0) and 12 touchdowns in 2016. His 316 career catches blew away the Pac-12 record of 294,

At Washington State, he found a kindred spirit in his outspoken, pull-no-punches coach, Mike Leach. “He’s a brilliant guy. Very competitive. He thinks independently. He’s very smart,” Leach said. “I think people underestimate how smart he is. He has really evolved in impressive fashion, I think.”

As his former high school coach said, “there’s no filter” when Marks talks. There was this comment after beating UCLA. Before the game, UCLA’s players warmed up on the washington State side of the field. “I don’t know if they do that to everybody, but it’s just kind of like, you know, it’s just kind of douchey, you know? Is that, like, okay to say? I mean” — turning to a Washington State media staffer — “don’t cut that. Let’s be honest. It makes you look like you’re trying to be tough because everyone thinks that, you know, because you live in Westwood and you wear baby blue, that you’re not tough and it makes you look less tough, because you’re trying too hard. It’s just weird, you know? You don’t have to do that.”

Marks began playing football when he was 9 after his father was killed in a drive-by shooting. In a letter, the young boy wrote: “I’m going to be on TV ...  I know you’re going to want to see what your son has become...”

Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia (5-8, 170): Junior. McKenzie stuffed the stat sheet in his three seasons. After catching 16 passes in his first two seasons, McKenzie caught 44 passes for 633 yards (14.4 average) and seven touchdowns in 2016. He averaged 22.1 yards with one touchdown as a part-time kickoff returner, and 11.7 yards with five touchdowns as a full-time punt returner. Plus, he averaged 8.9 yards and scored four touchdowns on 37 career carries. The six return touchdowns set a school record. That all-around playmaking skill is why he was dubbed “The Human Joystick.”

Health and ball security were keys heading into the season and work with the training staff paid off. Coach Kirby Smart worried about McKenzie’s durability but saw how hard he worked. “The guy works every day. He runs more yards than everybody in practice on GPS. He runs faster than everybody and he competes. He does it every day in practice so why shouldn’t he do it in the game?”

Said his high school offensive coordinator: “Not all of us are raised the same way. He just didn’t have anything. I’m not in position to talk about his mom. He knows his mom, but I don’t think he knows his dad. But his grandmother is his world. ‘Grandma’ is definitely the center of his life. Isaiah is very grateful to those who have helped him out in his life. His grandmother has been the one constant. She’s always been there for him.”

Drew Morgan, Arkansas (6-0, 194): Morgan finished his career ranked seventh on the school’s all-time receptions list (138), 15th in receiving yards (1,763) and 13th in receiving touchdowns (14). His 65 catches (for 739 yards and three touchdowns) as a senior rank third on the single-season list and his 63 catches (for 843 yards and 10 touchdowns) as a junior rank fourth. Morgan caught at least one pass in his final 27 games. He was kicked out of his last college game, the Belk Bowl, after spitting in the face of a player from Virginia Tech.

Morgan is supremely confident even while not the biggest nor fastest on the field. In his opinion, he’s open on every play. "There's nothing in this world he doesn't believe he can't do," coach Bret Bielema said. "He plays every snap like it's last. If I could have 10 of him, I would." Confident or not, Morgan needed to be challenged by Bielema in 2015. And Morgan responded. “My freshman year I wanted to have fun, enjoy college. Same time I had to take on a role as an SEC wide receiver," Morgan said. “Sophomore season, I wasn't too happy with where I was at and what I tried to do. And it kind of dawned on me I was challenged to do better. Whenever I'm challenged I never back down from something.”

His brother, Grant, is a freshman linebacker on the Razorbacks.

Speedy Noil, Texas A&M (5-11, 200): Junior. Noil caught 46 passes as a freshman but a combined 42 his last two years, including 21 receptions for 325 yards (15.5 average) and two touchdowns in 2016. Noil had career averages of 23.0 on kickoff returns and 11.6 on punt returns.

Noil was suspended for the first two games of the 2016 season and again following a December arrest for marijuana possession. That was the third suspension and a disappointing final chapter for one of the nation’s hot recruits.

Zach Pascal, Old Dominion (6-1, 216): Pascal is the first player in ODU history to be invited to the Scouting Combine. He caught 234 passes for 3,198 yards (13.7 average) and 30 touchdowns in four seasons. He caught 69 passes for 975 yards (14.1) and eight touchdowns as a junior and 65 passes for 946 yards (14.6) and nine touchdowns as a senior. During those two seasons, he added 38 rushes for 310 yards (8.2 average) and one touchdown.

Pascal was a running back until his junior year of high school in Upper Marlboro, Md. Most colleges, including Old Dominion, saw him as a cornerback. "I never had a coach in high school to sit down and teach me wide receiver skills,. It was basically, 'Go out there and try to be an athlete, make sure you catch the ball.'”

James Quick, Louisville (6-0, 182): Quick had a solid final three seasons, with 36 receptions as a sophomore, 39 as a junior and career-best totals of 45 receptions for 769 yards (17.1 average) and six touchdowns as a senior. That gave him a four-year total of 126 catches for 2,032 yards (16.1) and 14 touchdowns. It wasn’t an easy road for the Louisville native — the “highest-rated recruit to ever sign” with the Cardinals, as his team biography states. Not only did he have two head coaches and three receivers coaches, but he caught passes from five quarterbacks in games.

Quick’s father played football at Louisville and his mom ran track in college. That DNA explains why Quick won state championships in football and basketball and set a Kentucky high school record in the 200-meter dash. It was his sister, however, that stoked the competitive fire. “It was real competitive between my sister and me growing up,” Quick said. “We always ran track together and I would always try to beat her, but she would beat me. I had to work hard to beat her when I was younger.”

Michael Rector, Stanford (6-0, 187): Rector caught 104 passes for 1,681 yards (16.2 average) and 15 touchdowns during his four seasons. His best season came as a junior — despite a suspension — when he had career highs of 34 receptions for 559 yards (16.4) and seven touchdowns. He fell back to 32 catches for 367 yards (11.5) and three touchdowns as a senior.

When he wasn’t working on his speed — Rector was the fastest player on the Cardinal roster — he was conducting stem-cell research as a human biology major.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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