One player who has created quite a buzz is Indiana's Cody Latimer. The amazing part of his 72-catch, 1,096-yard 2013 campaign was the discovery that the slot receiver had a bone fracture in his left foot. While he did not receive medical clearance to perform at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, he put on a sensational show during the Hoosiers' March Pro Day.
Latimer did perform in the weight room at Indianapolis, where his 225-pound bench press mark of 23 repetitions led all the receivers in attendance at the 2014 Combine. His Pro Day 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds would have ranked third among the receivers at the Combine, while his 39-inch vertical jump and 10'06" broad jump would have placed tied for sixth and fifth, respectively, among those wide receivers.
What makes Latimer an intriguing prospect is that he is relatively new to the game of football. Even though his late father competed in the sport as a member at Bowling Green back in 1986, the youngster did not begin playing organized football until his junior season at Jefferson Township High School, giving him just five seasons of gridiron experience.
Body StructureLatimer has the ideal body frame you look for in a receiver, as he has a muscular upper body with very low body fat (4.4%), well-defined mid-section, very long reach (77 5/8-inch wingspan) good bubble and tapered thighs and calves. His frame could carry at least another 15 pounds of bulk without it affecting his impressive timed speed and acceleration.
Athletic AbilityLatimer has outstanding size and strength for his position. He has the timed speed to threaten the deep areas of the secondary, but with his strength and ability to shield the ball from defenders, he has been very effective as a possession receiver. He uses his hands well to defeat the jam at the line of scrimmage and has the loose hips and crisp cutting ability to make the initial tackler miss and gain separation after the catch. He is very good at settling underneath, showing the balance and body control to make the shoestring grabs or extend to catch outside his frame. He is very flexible in his route progression, showing the stop-and-go action to instantly redirect. He has the valid burst to get on top of the defense and shows nice body control adjusting to the deep ball in flight. He has the hip flexibility to drop his weight and the balance to change his stride without having to throttle down.
Football SenseLatimer is an instinctive route runner who does a good job of taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. He is alert to coverages and easily locates the soft areas on the field. He is able to adjust on his routes when on the move and is very alert to the sidelines, but it is his ability to set up defenders down field that sets him apart from others. It is very rare to see any hesitation in his play.
CompetitivenessLatimer is fearless going for the ball in a crowd. He has made quite a nice living attacking the middle of the field and knows how to get physical extending for the pass at its high point. He is an efficient in-line blocker with the balance and hand technique to provide solid crack blocks for the ground game. He has a true playmaker's mentality, as he will not hesitate to sacrifice his body (see 2013 Penn State, Purdue and Michigan games).
ReleaseLatimer might get a little bit erect in his stance coming off the snap, but he has that ability to get into his routes instantly, using his hands with force to push off the press. He is too strong to jam at the line of scrimmage and uses his hip swerve efficiently to avoid defenders to get into his route progression. He can elude second level defenders with his cutting ability and shows a fluid glide in his running style (see 2013 Penn State and Illinois games).
AccelerationLatimer is used a lot on shallow and wheel routes, as he has the strength to power his way to the ball in the crowd. He has the long reach to get under the fades and bubble screens and when utilized in crossing patterns, he can turn up field in an instant after the catch. He has made steady improvement extending for the ball with defenders all over him, and is effective at dropping his hips and separating out of his cuts. He has outstanding hand/eye coordination, seeing the ball as it arrives while generating the moves needed to uncover. On deep routes, he needs to utilize his second gear more and he will drift at times when going long distances. He has good turning motion to catch the ball over his outside shoulder, but does not turn as quick when having to look the ball in over his inside shoulder. He has that functional burst to separate at the line of scrimmage, but must utilize it more in attempts to separate on deep routes.
QuicknessLatimer's short-area quickness allows him to get to quite a few balls in the short-to-intermediate areas. He has the loose hips and acceleration to ride up on a defender, but could be more sudden trying to separate on deep throws. When he keeps his pads down instead of getting erect in his stance, he is much more effective at gaining and eating up the defensive back's cushion (see 2013 Missouri, Bowling Green, Illinois and Purdue games).
Latimer makes a catch against Ohio State. Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY
Route RunningLatimer continues to improve as a route runner, but despite his speed, he does not always run with a smooth stride (takes choppy steps, but this could have been his way of compensating for a 2013 left foot injury that would prevent him from competing at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine), especially at the top of the route. In the later stages of 2013, he did a much better job of planting and cutting out of his breaks (see Penn State, Illinois and Purdue games). He will turn and route his deep patterns at times, but when he drops his weight properly, he is much more effective at gaining separation.
Separation AbilityBecause he is used so often on deep routes, you can see on game film that Latimer has great separation ability, as five of his nine scoring grabs generated at least 30 yards in distance. He does a very good job of running at a proper pad level and coming out of his breaks cleanly when working underneath. With his timed speed, he should be capable of getting open in the deep zone often at the next level. Coupled with his size, wing span and exceptional leaping ability, he will create nice mismatches vs. smaller cornerbacks, especially in jump-ball situations. He uses his size well to shade the defender and demonstrates the balance and body control to catch the ball and turn up field without having to break stride.
Ball ConcentrationFew receivers have that keen sense of where to be on the field that Latimer displays. He is always alert to coverages and where his defender is. He does a fine job of keeping his feet when catching along the sidelines and plays with uncanny instincts to find the zone's soft areas. The thing you see on film is his ability to adjust to the thrown ball underneath (see 2013 Bowling Green, Missouri and Purdue games). He has the speed to get open when working in a crowd and blocks out all activity around him to concentrate on the ball in flight, knowing how to use his long reach and hands to extend and catch the pass at its highest point.
Ball AdjustmentLatimer's long reach lets him catch the wheel and crossing routes without having to break stride. He looks natural extending for the ball in flight and has the body control to get into position and make plays over his outside shoulder. He is not as effective looking the ball in over his inside shoulder (see 2013 Illinois game) on deep throws. When going over the middle for the short crossers, he does a good job of getting to the ball, as he knows he has the strength to power his way through a crowd and look the ball in.
Leaping AbilityLatimer's 39-inch vertical is one of the best figures in college football. Along with his 6:03 frame and long arm reach (32 5/8-inches), he is an inviting target for quarterbacks when working over the middle. He has very good timing on his leaps working in traffic (won 28-of-30 jump ball opportunities the last two years). Once he elevates, he has the strength and reach to get to most balls at their high point.
HandsLatimer possesses very good hand strength to gain position as a blocker and uses his upper body power well to defeat the jam and get into his routes. He will cradle a few balls, but when he extends for the pass, he will generally get to most throws. He is a natural hands catcher with the ball skills to make plays on it outside of his frame. He just needs to improve his ability to look the ball in over his shoulder on deep routes.
Run After the CatchLatimer is field-fast and elusive. He also has the leg drive to power through the initial tackle to gain valid yardage after the catch rather, but he can also execute a fake or a juke to elude. Even though the offense he played in failed to utilize his creativity, he has the speed and vision to make the big play, if he finds a crease (see 2013 Bowling Green, Missouri, Penn State, Illinois and Purdue games). He has NFL caliber hands, feet and vision, along with the patience to let his blocks develop when getting into the second level. He is a shifty runner with the stop-and-go action to set up and slip past defenders.
Blocking AbilityLatimer is an adequate in-line blocker, but is much more effective stalking or executing the cut blocks along the perimeter or in the second level. He competes to stay on his blocks and takes good angles to neutralize linebackers when playing in space.
Compares ToDwayne Bowe, Kansas City: Latimer is faster than Bowe, but both take great pride in their physicality on the field, as they have had great success powering their way through press coverage to come up with the clutch catch underneath. Latimer has impressive timed speed and impressive leaping skills, but with his size, you would like to see him better utilized as a possession receiver because of his ability to move the chains and get the tough first down.
Latimer has done a very nice job of refining his route running in 2013, especially on deep patterns, as he will no longer drift in and out of his patterns, and the result saw him turn five long receptions (at least 30 yards) into touchdowns as a junior. He is a smart, savvy player who knows how to settle into the soft areas on the field and use his frame to shade defenders from the ball. Much like the Broncos' Demaryius Thomas, Latimer will make a nice living going over the middle at the next level.
"Latimer has the quickest first step I've seen in a long time," one NFL general manager recently said. "He has really deceptive speed and great hands." Latimer is simply a very productive athlete who can also also provide great tackling ability on special teams, having recorded 10 tackles with two fumble recoveries as a gunner the last two years.
The Hoosier always competes for the ball and is very aware of the play action. He is a smooth, easy runner who consistently runs precise routes. He is fluid going up field after the catch and is a big target with good production in traffic. He will make defenders miss at the second level with his shake, but also has the strength to break arm tackles.
While the team was wise to utilize him in this area, with his acceleration and burst, he showed that he can become a legitimate deep threat at the next level, due to his ability to turn on his second gear to separate from the defense. He runs sharp up field routes with outstanding stride to cover ground fast. For a receiver, he is very good at delivering open field blocks for the ground game and has the hand placement skills to occupy edge rushers in pass protection.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.