The 2007 wide receiver draft class has a myriad of decent prospects but no overall consensus as to how they rank past Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson who is unquestionably the cream of the crop.
University of South Carolina wide receiver Sidney Rice sits somewhere in a pool that contains anywhere from five to seven receivers considered to be second best to Johnson and are projected to go within the first two rounds of the draft. The position of these receivers and where they rank varies significantly based upon who you ask, which day you ask and what the weather is like at the time you ask.
Rice was highly recruited out of high school and is a native of South Carolina, which may have something to do with why he choose the Gamecocks instead of a bigger Southeastern Conference school, such as the University of Florida or the University of Tennessee.
Rice played two years at South Carolina, where he compiled 142 receptions and more than 1,000 receiving yards each year. He also averaged more than 15 yards per reception each of those years and scored 23 touchdowns, which is a testament to his big-play ability. Overall, Rice was very productive. Comparing his statistics over the past two years with five other top receivers entering the draft, he is second only to Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett in receptions, yards and touchdowns.
Naturally, these statistics can't be used as an equal comparison, because each one of the football programs these receivers played for has different supporting players, different offensive philosophies and different opponents. Had Rice played for one of the bigger programs and put up similar numbers, chances are his draft projection would be higher. In addition, some question Rice's decision to enter the draft this year after only two years in the NCAA. If he returned to school for one more campaign he'd unquestionably be entering the season as one of college football's top wide receiver prospects for the 2008 draft.
Not only is Rice among the top prospects in production over the past two years, he is also one of the tallest at 6-foot-3, which is a coveted trait for a receiver. His height does allow him an advantage in jump-ball situations, but height is not the only trait needed to catch those balls. Timing is also important, which Rice is not as good at but can get better with experience. At 6-foot-3, Rice's 39 1/2-inch vertical jump is outstanding, thought he could make a better play for a jump ball.
Rice shows aggressiveness and dedication on the field and he's able to challenge defenders in position and separation. He has good awareness of the ball, which combined with excellent arm and hand movement, gives him an advantage adjusting to passes. Rice does a phenomenal job at working the sidelines.
Perhaps the most-recognized aspect of Rice's game would be how sticky his hands are. Rarely dropping a pass, Rice usually comes down with anything he puts his mitts on.
One aspect not considered too often for wide receivers in comparison to a running back, for example, is the ability to secure the ball. Rice does a great job at hanging onto the rock in tight situations.
Although tall, he is thin, weighing in at just over 200 pounds. This could cause him problems coming off the line against the more physical defenders he'll run into in the NFL. Rice might also have difficulty playing across the middle, getting knocked off his route and disrupting play timing, which will limit his versatility. Rice has a higher center of gravity which could subject him to some rough hits and hard spills. In addition, tall and thin receivers tend have had a tougher time hanging on to the ball. Adding bulk to his frame would help much of this and is a definite possibility as Rice enters NFL camps and grows older.
Rice's 40-time does not compare as well with some of the other receivers mentioned earlier at 4.51 seconds. That by no means is poor and is also not a measure of game speed. It is also not indicative of NFL success where several athletic and mental factors are necessary. Despite that, it's one factor that keeps Rice further down on the ranking lists.
The range is wide open regarding Rice. His fate will hinge a lot on how individual teams rank him as well as how soon teams begin to siphon the pool of first-day wide receivers. There are so many available that are equal for all intents and purposes, teams may strategically pass them in the first round hoping one of them will be available in the second. However, if teams don't want to gamble on second-round availability and draft receivers in the first, they all may go a lot sooner.
Rice is unlikely to be drafted in the first round. He is much more likely to go in the early-to-mid second round. Teams potentially able to land Rice would be the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.
About Ryan Patterson
Ryan has been a KFFL contributor since 2004.
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