NFL Draft Preview: The Receivers| View Comments
Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins had a ton of talented players to toss the ball to in his three years as the starting quarterback at Michigan State.
In 2011, B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin were a deadly combination, accounting for 145 catches, 2,083 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The more prolific receiver was B.J. Cunningham. At 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, he has never been the fastest receiver, but has quick feet and incredible burst. That, combined with his physical nature, allowed him to beat defenders and be MSU's main deep threat for Cousins.
He was also a guy unafraid to run crossing routes, making difficult catches while leaving his body vulnerable over the middle. That's where his strength and physicality came into play. Remember a 4th down catch against Wisconsin last year??? That's a prime example as he broke a tackle immediately after catch and raced to the endzone.
How about high pointing a football? He can do that too. Remember the shellacking the Spartans laid on Iowa in 2011? B.J. had a great high point catch for a TD in that one...among others.
All of these qualities helped Cunningham excel in the college game, ultimately rewriting the receiving records at MSU. In total, B.J. left MSU first in career receptions (218) and receiving yards (3,086) and second in career touchdown catches (25). He was also tied for first in single season receptions (79), tied for first with three touchdowns in a single game (Wisconsin B1G title game), and is the all time leader in most 100+ yard receiving games in a single season (8).
Then, there's Keshawn Martin, the other half of the dynamic receiving duo at Michigan State. Martin saved his best season for last, wracking up a career-high 66 catches in 2011, more than doubling his previous high (32 in 2010).
Before breaking out as a playmaking receiver a season ago, he was mostly known for his versatility offensively. While at MSU he was one of two active FBS players to account for touchdowns in five different ways (rushing, receiving, passing, punt and kick return).
At the NFL combine Martin finished 11th among wide receivers in the 40-yard dash with a 4.45 time, but it's not his speed alone that attracts scouts. Keshawn excels at varying his speed, which gives him the ability to make defenders miss and leave them in the dust with a quick burst of acceleration. Combine that with his ability to beat defenders deep or take bubble screens the distance and you can understand why scouts believe he'll be a good slot receiver at the next level.
Overall, because of Martin's speed and versatility, scouts believe he's a much more attractive receiver in the draft than Cunningham. But that in no way means that Martin will have a better career than Cunningham. I truly believe that B.J. has all the ability in the world to be a solid NFL receiver for years.
For more insight on Cunningham and Martin's draft prospects, along with those of Keith Nichol and Brian Linthicum, check out Jim Miller's NFL assessment of the former Spartans.
OTHER DRAFT DAY HOPEFULS
Yesterday, Jim Miller and I previewed former MSU free safety Trenton Robinson.
Check out that podcast here.