By now, we've pretty much exhausted all viable possibilities for the Detroit Lions' first-round pick in the 2014 draft. Now it's time to dig a little deeper and see what the draft has to offer beyond the first day. I want to begin this series with an interesting prospect to fit the Lions' need for a receiver: Bruce Ellington.
Ellington was a two-sport athlete at South Carolina (football and basketball). In his three-year career as a wide receiver, he totaled 106 receptions for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns. He left South Carolina as a junior, but made a huge impact on his way out, amassing 140 yards and 2 touchdowns in his final game as a Gamecock in the Capital One Bowl.
Ellington's role in the NFL is pretty clear -- he's a prototypical slot receiver. At the NFL Combine, he ranked in the top five of all wide receivers in the vertical jump (39.5 inches), 20-yard shuttle (3.95 seconds) and 60-yard shuttle (11.12 seconds). His combine 40 time of 4.45 won't blow anyone away, but he's been clocked as low as 4.34, and his unofficial times at the combine were 4.31 and 4.37. At 5'9, Ellington doesn't seem like a physically imposing figure, but at 195 pounds with a wide frame, Ellington's game is surprisingly physical.
On film, Ellington is hard to miss. (Thanks to Draft Breakdown for their amazing work in providing film.)
His explosive speed allows him to burn defenders when matched up in man coverage (see: 1:49). He is completely unafraid of going over the middle and absorbing a big hit (0:02). And he has a knack for finding and securing the ball on poorly thrown passes (3:20 or see here). Additionally, he has incredible control over his own body. If you have the time, I highly suggest watching his entire game against Missouri and the video above. He single-handedly took over those games.
In addition to his receiving skill set, Ellington also has experience as a punt and kick returner. As a three-year kick returner, Ellington had a lot of success, averaging nearly 23 yards per return. As a punt returner... well, things didn't go quite as well.
The main knock on Ellington is both his size and his route running. His size isn't something that will change, although I'd argue that he plays much taller than he is. His route running definitely needs work. Often his routes take too long to develop, leaving his quarterback scrambling for more time. He frequently tries to play coy and then unexpectedly turn on the jets. While that may work occasionally at the college level, NFL quarterbacks don't have the time for that. With proper coaching, this could obviously change.
Currently, projections have Ellington as early as the second round and as late as the fourth round. If the Lions could snag him with their third-round pick (No. 76 overall), he would be great value, especially if they decide to do something crazy like pass over a wide receiver prospect in the first round for a defensive project.