Every team is always looking for that one play; that one fatal strike that catches the opposition off guard. These playmakers are a rare breed, but over the years teams have identified these talented game-changers beyond the first round. Players like Chad Johnson (2nd round, 36th overall in 2001), Steve Smith (3rd round, 74th overall in 2001), and Terrell Owens (3rd round, 89th overall in 1996) were all selected on Day One, but not as first-round selections.
Looking at the draft-eligible wide receivers for the 2008 draft, everyone is familiar with the top prospects such as Adarius Bowman, Limas Sweed, and Early Doucet. But what about the players that may be available later on Day One who can provide a team with a downfield presence?
Here are five downfield threats that will be available in the second and
Malcolm Kelly (Jr.), Oklahoma
Kelly is a big, physical receiver who can break a game open. Currently averaging 20.5 YPC and a touchdown every 2.3 receptions, he's been a major factor in Oklahoma's passing attack and their 4-1 start. Kelly gets off the line fluidly and uses his frame to his advantage. He gets vertical quickly and can make tough acrobatic catches. He gets off a jam very well and plays physical against a defender. He has the ability to go over the middle, make a tough catch, and get up field for a big play. Kelly's draft status is on the rise, but if the draft was held today, he would be a solid second-round selection.
Harry Douglas (Sr.), Louisville
Douglas has a lot of skills. He had a breakout season in 2006, recording 70 receptions for 1,265 yards (18.1 YPC) and six touchdowns. This season, he's continued his stellar play hauling in 38 passes for 679 yards (17.9 YPC) and five touchdowns. Douglas runs smooth routes and is quick in and out of cuts. He sets up defenders well out of his break and can get vertical quickly. He has excellent hands and body control that allow him to make tough catches. An aggressive receiver who attacks the ball and can make plays in the open field, Douglas also changes speeds well and is able to get separation against the opposition. He's an outstanding receiver that doesn't generate the star appeal of the top receivers in the nation, but if you're looking for a quality receiver who's a game-breaker -- Douglas fits the bill.
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D.J. Hall (Sr.), Alabama
Hall has nice size and speed and is a huge vertical threat for an offense. Hall has 23 receptions for 420 yards (18.3 YPC) and three touchdowns so far. He displays a great burst off the line and is able to beat the opposition with his variety of moves. A good route-runner who flashes sure hands, he immediately transitions from making the reception to running after the catch and displays good speed. Hall's elusive while running after the catch and following blocks down the field. He has excellent awareness and is fluid making the deep reception at full speed. A receiver who provides a team with a vertical threat and who can make an instant contribution, Hall's a solid third-round selection.
James Hardy (Jr.), Indiana
Hardy is a tall, athletic receiver with long arms and legs. He has excellent hands and great body control. Hardy averages a touchdown every 2.9 receptions, and has hauled in 20 catches for 400 yards (20.0 YPC) and seven touchdowns so far. At 6-foot-7, 220-pounds, Hardy doesn't possess great strength -- although it has improved -- but he's a smooth receiver who's able to get away from press coverage. His presence on the outside forces defensive backs to play off of him, because he's a long strider who's able to get separation. And when a defensive back plays off of Hardy, he's able to drive defenders back and come back for the ball. Hardy isn't a player who goes over the middle too often, which affects his status as a first-round selection, but his ability to get vertical and catch tough passes makes him a desirable prospect for a team looking to invest a second- or third- round selection.
Davone Bess (Jr.), Hawaii
Bess is small, but he is an athletic receiver that has quick feet and
excellent hands. In Hawaii's offense, quarterback Colt Brennan spreads the ball
around to all of his receivers, but don't let Bess' yards per catch fool you --
he's an outstanding vertical threat. Bess' ability to get separation from the
opposition is what makes him dangerous. Since he's been at Hawaii, he's been a
productive player who's posted huge numbers. So far this season, Bess has 36
receptions for 410 yards and five touchdowns. He has a quick release off the
line and is very shifty in his routes. He's a versatile receiver who can play
inside or outside. Bess' speed and agility give him the ability to get deep and
make plays downfield. That speed he possesses also benefits a team in the return
game. An explosive player that still has room to develop, Bess is a player who
may get overlooked in the early rounds because of the offense he plays in at
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his NFL draft analysis on the web and on the radio since 1999.