The final edition of TLS ends with... yes, you guessed it, another wide receiver. This time, I decided to dig a little deeper on star IU receiver, Cody Latimer. Latimer has been flying up rankings and mock draft boards ever since his pro day in late March. He did not run at this year's combine due to a foot injury, but he managed to hoist 23 bench reps, which was most among all receivers. At his pro day workout, Latimer was clocked in at unofficial times of 4.39 and 4.43. Going into the combine, he was a projected 5th round pick via CBSSports. Now, it's looking more likely that he will go anywhere from the 1st-3rd round. A pretty impressive jump for a Big Ten WR. Latimer has also been invited to attend the NFL Draft in New York. Usually that means you're going to be a Day 1 or 2 pick.
His spider-graph is pretty impressive, although he was unable to participate in some of the drills.
Latimer's stats don't exactly blow you away, but he had a nice steady increase in all categories throughout his career, including a pretty nice 2013 campaign. His best game came at home against Illinois, where he caught 11 passes for 189 yards and 3 scores. Latimer stands at 6'2 weighing in at 215 pounds, and provided a big red zone presence for the Hoosiers.
Latimer also had the 5th most catches against top 100 CB's in burn% and 4th most against top 50 CB's in burn%, via @JPSTATS
Top WR Prospects: 2013 Most Receptions vs. Top 100 CBs (Lowest Burn %) pic.twitter.com/1lpBQQsrXo— John Pollard (@JPSTATS) April 29, 2014
Latimer looks solid on tape, but I'm not willing to call him a 1st round talent like some experts are. He doesn't look as fast as his unofficial 40 times indicate, but he's still pretty fast relative to his size. Although he doesn't necessarily possess elite speed, he is still a great athlete. Latimer really knows how to take advantage of his matchups on smaller CBs. He's also considered one of the best, if not the best blocking WR in this year's class.
Latimer is one of the strongest WRs in this class, and it's a huge plus that he is a willing blocker. He may need to work a bit on his technique, but who doesn't at this level? Teams are going to love to see plays like these from him.
Against the top defense in the country, Indiana managed to score 28 points, which was tied for the most of any school that had a chance to play MSU. Latimer had a pretty good showing that day, and had 7 catches for 58 yards and a TD, along with this nice block on Trae Waynes, who some experts are already calling one of the top CBs in the 2015 class.
Catching in Traffic
Unfortunately, I was only able to find 5 games on Latimer last year. Some scouts will tell you that it's unnecessary to watch more than 4-5 games on a player, because after that, you might start to nitpick a little too much. I don't necessarily agree, but take that for what it's worth.
Anyway, I've seen multiple reports suggesting that Latimer has issues with concentration and drops, but I didn't see him drop a single pass in the 5 games that I watched. I could just be watching the wrong games, but I definitely didn't see a WR that has concentration issues. I saw him make a lot of difficult grabs, and a lot of tough catches in traffic that most WRs aren't going to make every time.
If this play doesn't get you a little excited about the idea of Latimer to the Lions, well I'm not sure what will.
Latimer abuses the BGSU DB on an out-and-up double move, only to get popped by the safety afterwards, but still manages to hold onto the ball. On the replay, you'll see that the first defender has his outside hip towards the middle of the field, so Latimer smartly breaks as if he's running an out route. Once the defender starts to turn towards the sidelines, Latimer makes his second break up the sideline, which leaves the defender off-balance. He creates a large gap between him and the first defender and keeps his eyes on the ball to make the catch while taking a huge hit from the safety.
Watch as Latimer catches 4 passes, including one for a TD on a single drive. Missouri's defense was ranked 11th in the country in yards per pass given up last year.
0:57: Starts off the drive with a 17 yard catch on a slant route in traffic, including some nice YAC.
1:21: Another slant route to Latimer, this time for a huge 3rd down conversion. Latimer is not phased by the defender draped all over him.
1:37: Slant route? Check. This time on a play-action draw, Latimer has no problem catching the ball with a defender charging at him.
1:48: So after 3 straight slants, what is Latimer going to do? Instead of going for the slant for the 4th straight time, he makes a cut outside and the defender doesn't have a chance. Latimer makes a subtle stem to fake the slant and cut to the outside, which creates enough separation to catch the ball and reach the pylon. He also shows great body control staying in-bounds and getting the score.
This may not be an NFL catch against PSU, but it still shows how great Latimer is at locating the ball in the air, while maintaining his body control and high-pointing the ball.
On a fake bubble screen to the right, Latimer is wide open towards the sideline, and makes an incredible diving catch on a poorly thrown ball.
Latimer will be a large target for any NFL offense. His height and arm length were in the 61st percentile among WRs, and he also had an impressive 39" vertical leap. I'm sure Stafford and the Lions would love to have a WR with a catch radius that big.
Red Zone Threat
If you're a strong receiver with a big frame like Latimer, then you better use it to your advantage and become a red zone threat.
In the play above, Latimer does a nice job boxing out the best CB in the nation in Darqueze Dennard. Dennard was known for being the best shutdown corner in the country, but even he couldn't stop Latimer from overpowering him.
Latimer isn't a very elusive player, but when you get him in open space like the play above, then he has good enough speed to outrun most players. He takes this play for 77 yards on Mizzou's defense, but gets tackled by the shoelaces at the 2 yard line.
I think Latimer will end up as a 2nd round pick when it's all said and done. That has a lot to do with his late rise up the draft boards. If I'm a college prospect entering the NFL draft, I want Latimer's agent. In a perfect world, the Lions would be able to draft Latimer as a 3rd or 4th round player, but they might have to reach for him at #45 overall if they want him. I would definitely get behind that pick, because I do like Latimer, but I still feel like there are better options out there.
Why We Should Draft Him
Cody Latimer just seems like the type of WR the Lions would love to have. An athletic, tall, strong, and lengthy receiver that would give Stafford another large target to look for. He has a fast and subtle twitch that allows him to get open with his large frame. He would immediately upgrade a thin position that needs all the talent they can get. Lions receivers struggled with drops all year last year, and Latimer showed that he has no problem catching throws away from his body, and also in traffic. It's been well documented that Jim Caldwell would like to add some innovation to the Lions offense, including some no-huddle looks. Latimer would fit right into that scheme after playing in Indiana's fast-pace offense for 3 years. Joe Lombardi said he will be bringing some ideas from New Orleans' offense over, and I see some similarities between Latimer and Marques Colston.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
The Lions signed Tate to be their #2 WR. They could move Megatron and Tate around and have them switch off on slot duties, but many say that Tate's production drops off greatly from the outside to the slot. I could see Latimer taking care of slot duties, but I see him more as an outside WR as well. The Lions might want to look for someone in the mid-rounds that is more seasoned to play the slot, rather than Latimer. He seems like a player that has just received way too much hype lately, and you begin to wonder why he was ever considered a 5th round prospect just a couple months ago. Latimer looks good, but not great on tape. Nothing really jumps out at you and makes you feel like he's a special player. The Lions may be forced to take him with their 45th overall pick, and that may not even be good enough with the recent hype of Latimer.
The Lions Select Series:
Welp, it was fun while it lasted. I had a lot of fun doing these, and I thank everyone for their kind words and support. Again, rec the post if you enjoyed it, and discuss below. The draft is almost here, and I'm sure everyone just wants it to happen already. Screw you Mr. Goodell.