Jamison Crowder is the classic case that big things come in small packages. The speedy receiver tied the school and Atlantic Coast Conference career-record with 283 receptions and ranks third in league annals with 3,641 aerial yards, the second-highest total by a Blue Devil. He turned 23 of those grabs into touchdowns and ranks second among active FBS players with four touchdowns via 65 punt returns for 869 yards (most by an active player). He’s gained 930 yards on 44 kickoff returns, as his 5,575 all-purpose yards rank third among players that competed in college in 2014, as that total is also third-best in ACC annals.
With Anthony Boone handling quarterback duties, Crowder soon became the passer’s favorite target, especially after the slot receiver returned as the only player among the BCS conference schools to have back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons (1,074 yards on 76 catches in 2012/1,360 on 108 grabs in 2013). He led the team with 85 more receptions, good for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in 2014, scoring twice on 22 punt returns for 260 yards.
Crowder has a small frame with marginal muscle development, thin hips, small lower leg structure and minimal room to add additional bulk without having it affect his speed. He compensates for a lack of size and bulk with very quick feet, excellent in-stride balance, very loose hips to generate stop-and-go action that makes the initial tackler miss and the body control to make adjustments to haul in the off-target throws. He shows very good flexibility on the move and has the timed speed and good movement ability to take the ball long distances.
Unless Crowder gets a clean release off the snap, he is can be defeated by the physical press. He has shorter than ideal arms (30 3/8-inch arms/72 5/8-inch wingspan) to extend and push off the defender and lacks the strength (10 reps at 225-pound bench press) to out-muscle the opponent. If he is left isolated wide, he can immediately challenge the deep secondary, but will be a liability trying to combat the bump-and-run.
While Crowder has a fearless nature going over the middle, he is too small and frail to combat for the ball in traffic. He is best utilized on deep routes, where he can ride up and eat the cushion with his explosion, but will get taken down by the initial tackle due to strength issues. On long routes, he can track and catch the ball with ease. He has the burst to stretch the defense and uses his loose hips and change of direction agility to turn up field quickly on screens and sideline routes.
Crowder is a dangerous route runner, especially when he gets a clean release off the snap. He has natural playing speed and good explosion to separate after the catch. He is agile and elusive racing past the second level and has the suddenness in his plant-&-drive to explode in and out of his breaks. Once he accelerates past the line of scrimmage, he can get into a cornerback’s cushion in an instant.
Crowder shows very good quickness in and out of his cuts, but tends to take soft angles in his routes. He is able to separate well, but needs to be taught how to be cleaner in his breaks and crisper in his route progression (tends to drift). He will never be able to power through tackles, but has the loose hips and stop-and-go action to make second level defenders miss. He has the quickness and awareness to separate underneath and the second gear to stretch the defense. He is much better when used vertically, as he doesn’t have the size to go horizontal across the field.
The thing you see on film is Crowder’s balance and body control running with the ball. He is beginning to realize that he is too small to operate over the middle of the field, but when he is isolated along the sidelines, he is more comfortable extending for the off-target throws (doesn’t have to worry about the defenders closing on him). He has the leaping ability to make plays in the air and shows the loose hip flexibility to plant-and-drive coming out of his breaks.
Crowder has very good timing and leaping ability, but because of size issues, he will struggle to compete for jump balls. He had twenty passes deflected against him in the last two years and needs to be utilized catching the ball in stride rather than having to leap and extend for the catch.
When working underneath, Crowder excels at opening his hips and generating a burst to quickly elude linebackers and safeties. He is a very dangerous open field runner whose quick feet and change of direction agility lets him separate after the catch. Once a defender gets a piece of his jersey, the battle is quickly over, though, as he lacks the power and leg drive to break tackles. He will go down from the initial hit, but if given room to operate, he has the hip shake and suddenness to accelerate and take the ball long distances.
Crowder is not going to scare any defender as a blocker and will struggle vs. strong press coverage, but if given room to operate, he has the loose hips, explosion and change of direction agility to be a dangerous open field runner. He is one of the finest punt returners in this draft class and he could make a very nice living on special teams at the next level. He is not as fast as Hester, but like former Bills’ Roscoe Parrish, he needs to be accounted for anytime he touches the ball, as he has proven to be effective on reverses, deep routes and also displays a strong arm for the option pass.
Jamison Crowder Scouting Combine measurables
5-8/185 (4.56 forty)
30 3/8-inch arm length
8 3/4-inch hands
37-inch vertical jump
115-inch broad jump
7.17 3 cone drill
4.32 20 yard shuttle
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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