Five players who stand out in space


The fourth annual edition of my All-Satellite team has arrived, offering up the five players from the 2012 draft class who are most dangerous in space.

These players present all kinds of danger in the open field and each has the ability to burn a defense for a touchdown with the ball in his hands. Here's how they break down, with prospects listed in order of their overall draft grade.

Baylor WR Kendall Wright
(Grade: 90)

Wright (5-foot-10¼, 196 pounds) isn't the fastest of the group, but he's not as slow as his 4.61-second 40-yard dash from the NFL combine would indicate. He improved that time to the mid-4.4 range at his pro day, and that's the kind of playing speed he shows on tape.

What really jumps out about Wright, especially when comparing him to other receiver prospects is his explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and when turning upfield after the catch. He goes from 0 to 60 faster than anyone in the class. And once Wright gets the ball in his hands, he shows good natural instincts as a runner. You can't give him a crease because he knows how to exploit it. His long touchdown against Oklahoma is a prime example, with Wright cutting to the sideline after bringing the ball and knowing just how long to follow blockers before cutting back to the inside.

It will be interesting to see whether Wright can translate that explosiveness and open-field ability to the return game at the next level. His ball skills are inconsistent at times and Wright averaged only 7.4 yards on five punt returns last season. But if he can become reliable as a returner, he'll be a real weapon in that facet of the game as well.

Wright might end up in the second round because of those inconsistent ball skills and rawness as a route-runner, but his explosiveness makes him attractive as a slot receiver and he still belongs in the top 40 overall. The Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers could have interest late in the first round; the Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and Carolina Panthers are possibilities early in the second.

Miami RB Lamar Miller (85)

Miller (5-10¾, 212) doesn't have the wiggle or make-you-miss skills of the other guys on this list, but he gets it done with impressive acceleration and top-end speed. Miller's 4.4-second 40 was the best among running backs at the combine. and the thing you notice on tape is his ability to plant his foot, then explode out of cuts. That explosiveness shows up in his exceptional 1.53-second 10-yard split in the 40. Once Miller bursts through a crease, he's not going to be caught.

He needs to improve in the passing game, but Miller played much of 2011 with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, so he can certainly improve in pass protection. And he's natural enough as a receiver to make a big impact when he gets the ball on the run in space. Miller's not quite Chris Johnson, but he's just a notch below and is the third running back on my board.

Boise State's Doug Martin and Virginia Tech's David Wilson might come off the board before Miller, but late second round or early third round is likely the worst-case scenario. Possible destinations include the Rams, Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants and Green Bay Packers.

Arkansas WR Joe Adams (76)

Adams' best 40 time of the predraft process was 4.51, but he did irritate a hamstring during the combine and, like Wright, he plays more like 4.4 on tape. However, it's his instant acceleration, good open-field vision and loose hips that make him such a slippery runner. Adams also has a big-time second gear once the ball is in his hands.

Adams (5-10⅝, 179) is still developing as a receiver, but he can stretch the field vertically from the slot and is a threat after the catch. He's also an electric punt returner whose skill set helped him lead the FBS with a 16.9-yard average on punt returns in 2011.

He's a third- or fourth-rounder in terms of receiving ability, but his impact in the return game drives his value as high as the early third round, when the Ravens, Saints, 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks could all be looking for help.

Florida WR/RB Chris Rainey (59)

Rainey's burst and change-of-direction skills are remarkable on tape, and he backed that up with a 3.93-second short shuttle at the NFL combine. His open-field running skills are undeniable with his ability to explode in any direction, then change direction in a heartbeat. Every time he gets the ball in his hands, it's a Code Red for the defense. Rainey also has impressive versatility and can contribute as a slot receiver, running back and kickoff/punt returner.

Durability is a major concern, however, and he also comes with character baggage. Rainey's lack of size (5-8⅜, 180) will also present a challenge and the team that drafts him will have to get creative in order to find space for him. He'll be a returner on special teams and likely take an occasional handoff, but his biggest value will be as a slot receiver; the offense will have to use motion and plenty of rubs/screens to get him free and prevent him from being washed out by press coverage.

Rainey is likely to come off the board on the first half of Day 3, when teams like the Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles could be in the market for a versatile weapon. And don't rule out the Washington Redskins, whose staff coached Rainey during Senior Bowl week.

Fresno State WR Devon Wylie (57)

Wylie (5-9¼, 187) is similar to Adams, but is not as durable and has not proved himself against the same level of competition. However, Wylie always seems to be at top speed, with his feet going 100 mph. He's a jitterbug type whose stop-start and change-of-direction skills are among the best in the entire class. He's a huge threat after the catch and can become a big-time return man if he stays healthy.

Playing dinged up has stunted his growth as a receiver, though, and Wylie fits somewhere on Day 3, with many of the same teams mentioned for Adams -- Bills, Saints, 49ers, Dolphins, Colts, Cowboys, Cardinals -- likely to show interest.