2015 Draft: Receiver injury concerns

A few of the receivers eligible for the 2015 draft could have their status impacted by injuries, including two that could be picks in the first three rounds.

WIDE RECEIVERS
PLAYER SCHOOLCL HTWT 40-YDPRO RND
#ANDERSON, Dres Utah Sr 06:00.5187 4.536.2 2-3
#DIGGS, Stefon MarylandJr 06:00.2195 4.487.1 1
#KENNEDY, Malcome Texas A&M Sr05:11.4 2054.60 5.65
#MILLER, Matt Boise State Sr06:02.2 2224.59 4.77-FA
#RUFFIN, Ezell San Diego State Sr05:11.6 2164.47 5.65

Dres Anderson, son of former Los Angeles Rams receiver Flipper Anderson, missed the final five 2014 regular-season games after he suffered knee cartilage damage and a ligament sprain during the final moments of the USC contest on Oct. 25. While he will be ready for 2015 training camp, it was recently announced that he would not be able to play in the January Senior Bowl and probably will not participate in agility drills at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine.

Anderson’s loss could not have come at a worse time, as he was making a steady climb into a possible second-day draft selection. The big-play receiver is tied for sixth in school history with 17 touchdown grabs and is one of five players in Utah annals to gain over 2,000 receiving yards (2,077) in a career.

Anderson was coming off a 2013 season that saw him lead the Pac-12 Conference and rank 12th in the nation after averaging 18.91 yards per catch (53), becoming the seventh Ute to gain over 1,000 receiving yards (1,002) in a season. His seven catches for 50 yards or longer tied the major college lead.

While the 2014 campaign was not as plentiful for Anderson (22 grabs for 355 yards and four scores in seven games), Utah had serious injury issues at quarterback that were a direct result of those low numbers. They averaged 236.2 aerial yards per game in 2013, but with Travis Wilson sidelined a good part of 2014’s early schedule, they were averaging 175.2 yards per game this year before Anderson was injured.

Stefon Diggs was on the fast track to the NFL this year. One of the speediest receivers in college, Diggs had planned to leave school early and head to the NFL as a potential late first- or early second-round draft pick. While scouts love his big-play ability, staying on the field has been a major concern.

Diggs missed the final five 2013 regular season contests when fellow receiver Deon Long and Diggs both suffered leg fractures just plays apart during the Wake Forest contest. In seven games, he still finished second on the team with 34 catches for 587 yards last season. This year, a kidney laceration suffered vs. Penn State would draw his 2014 season to a close after nine games.

Diggs still leads the team with 52 catches for 654 yards and five touchdowns at the close of the 2014 regular season schedule. The injury might have ended his season, but his actions before the Penn State clash would have seen the receiver sidelined for at least one game after he was suspended by the Big Ten Conference office.

Diggs was one of the three captains who refused to shake hands with Penn State during the opening coin toss, and that action not only resulted in a suspension but saw the university fined by the league for the players’ actions. The Terrapins had gotten into a skirmish with the Nittany Lions before kickoff but went on to win the game 20-19. After the contest, the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty they drew after the coin toss came back to haunt them.

Malcome Kennedy’s plan was to fill the void created by the departure of Mike Evans to the NFL and serve as the Aggies’ go-to receiver. A shoulder separation on Sept. 27 vs. Arkansas knocked the senior out for the next two games, but he’s struggled to make the big catches since his return. He has 45 catches for 526 yards (11.7 ypc) and four touch-downs through nine appearances, certainly not Evans-like numbers.

Whispers within scouting circles are that Kennedy’s medical evaluation at the NFL Scouting Combine might reveal further damage in the shoulder. If surgery is required, he can be back on the field for 2015 training camp, but will likely keep him on most draft boards until the third day of the selection process.

Torn ligaments in his left ankle brought Matt Miller’s season and his Boise State career to a close nine games earlier than he had planned. A starter ever since he first suited up for the Broncos, Miller caught 62 balls with nine scores as a freshman, 66 more with five touch-downs in 2012 and reached the end zone 12 times with 88 receptions for 1,140 yards last season.

When he suffered the injury vs. Air Force on Sept. 27, he was leading the team with 28 catches for 461 yards and three scores through five appearances. Boise State was averaging 292.6 yards per game with Miller in the lineup, but the passing game has suffered a bit with his absence, averaging 269.25 yards the rest of 2014 with Miller out of action.

When San Diego State lost Ezell Ruffin for five games after the senior “Z” receiver suffered a broken collarbone on September 6th vs. North Carolina, they lost their primary offensive playmaker, but his presence and leadership was felt on virtually every offensive play, as he continued serving his role as the to the entire group of young receivers that were now charged with stepping up to collectively fill his role.

In practice, he praised them when they succeeded and barked when they didn’t get it right.
If they had a question about the playbook, he was their guy. If they needed a model for work ethic and attitude, all they had to do was watch Ruffin, who this year, in particular, carried himself with an air of quiet confidence.

Ruffin’s young charges feel terrible that he has been lost, but knew they had to move forward.

Those plans never materialized. Ruffin would return to play in the final five games on the 2014 regular season schedule, but in his absence the Aztecs averaged 129.2 yards per game receiving but somehow managed to win three of the five games he was sidelined. With Ruffin in the lineup, San Diego State averaged 214.0 aerial yards per game, with the senior accounting for 28.2 percent of that figure (still led the team with 28 receptions for 461 yards and three touchdowns).


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