Answer: Childs got injured.
Now here me out now as I make a case for why Childs has just as much upside and talent as any of those three receivers selected in the 2nd round. You know who I'm talking about... Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, and LSU's Rueben Randle.
The Prologue: It was Day 2 of the NFL Draft and many Viking fans were hopeful our team would trade back up into the 2nd round to grab a receiver. I know because I was one of them. I wanted us to trade up for a impact receiver in the worst way. I didn't feel we could afford to sit back and rest on our laurels and expect to find a impactful starting caliber player with the 66th overall pick in the 3rd round. Especially when we had a plethora of picks in rounds 4 and 5 to work with, thanks to Cleveland, the Vikings could have offered a team their 3rd round pick (66), 4th rounder (118), and 5th rounder (139) in order to move up and get one of those last few receivers. Teams had been looking to move (down) the whole draft thus far because of the depth knowing they would be able to get a similar player later. While I was aware of the depth at receiver left in the draft I felt only three guys had #1 upside. Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery, and LSU's Rueben Randle.
Looking back after it had all gone down I'm sure you were just like me with your initial kneejerk reactions and questions for why the Vikings sat back and did nothing as Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, and Rueben Randle started to fall to the mid-to-late second round. The New York Jets traded up, using a 5th and 7th, swapping 2nd's with Seattle, and selected Stephen Hill. I thought well there goes the first one but that's okay because he was the one I wanted the least out of the bunch. The guy I wanted was South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery.
Then the unthinkable happened. Our division rival Chicago Bears were announced to be on the clock, having traded up using only a 5th and swapping 2nd's with St. Louis, and before I even saw the pick come in I knew... They would take Alshon Jeffery to pair with Brandon Marshall and in one fell swoop the Vikings would have the worst receiving corps of any NFC North team. I tried to convince myself everything would be okay because he's slow and can't create separation so Chris Cook should be able to cover him but I don't believe in all the hate on Alshon so to say I was distraught is an understatement.
Now we're moving along and running out of teams to trade up with and Houston is coming up. Surely they would take a receiver to pair with Andre Johnson right? Nope, they traded down. Now I'm starting to get hopeful that we might actually be able to get Rueben Randle. Our pick is getting closer, it would cost less and less to trade up now, but he may just fall to us. Then the Giants crushed my dream and selected him at the end of the 2nd round to replace what they lost in Mario Manningham. I was pissed!
Skip ahead a day, when the draft was finally over and I started to research the players the Vikings had selected and I wasn't so pissed anymore. I started to realize that hey, we got some steals at the receiver position. Two really talented players that came out of a Arkansas offense that was pretty good. I didn't feel so bad about not getting Stephen Hill, Alshon Jeffery, or Rueben Randle anymore. So now I'm going to try to make you not feel so bad about it either.
We'll start out by going over the first of the three to be picked in round 2, that's Stephen Hill.
Will Hill become the next big-time receiver to come out of Georgia Tech?
Who knows.. but what I do know is Hill is all potential and measurable hype. A Height, Weight, Speed specimen but nothing more at this point. The fact that he is 6'4" and running 4.36 with a fast 10 yard split doesn't make him a great WR. His combine numbers are imprressive. I'll give him that. He got anywhere from a 1.2-1.4 in the 10 yard split (NFL Network had his unofficial 10-yard split at 1.2), a great vertical jump 39.5", and a amazing 11'01" broad jump which is just three inches shy of the combine record. So the kid is a freakishly athletic specimen. I get that. But what's does that really have to do with playing receiver in the NFL?
He has a chance, and I stress the word chance to be a sensational deep threat in this league so I suppose that's enough to warrant #1 WR upside these days? If you ask me I'de rather have the guy who's going to catch the ball multiple times a game, move the chains, but still offers the upside with his athletic ability to stretch the field.
Speed alone isn't what makes NFL WR's. Even casual fans know the correlation between straight-line speed and NFL success is almost nonexistent. We know Hill can run fast but how good is he at getting in and out of traditional intermediate cuts? Sure Hill's as fast as Mike Wallace (40: 4.33 10 yard split: 1.43s) but there's so much more to Wallace's game that allows him to be the kind of player that he is.
How good is Hill at all the subtle things like avoiding a press and fighting to get off the line, running crisp routes, setting up double moves with shoulder/head fakes, going up and high pointing the ball, tracking the ball over his shoulder, working the sidelines, positioning his body on contested throws to shield out the defender, and is he willing to block and does he have good technique in doing so? We all know the NFL places a premium on WRs that can block. All of these areas are more important than speed in my opinion.
While Hill can do some of those things, mainly block and track the ball well with good hand/eye coordination, these are ALL things Childs excels at and has more experience with coming out of Arkansas. All I keep hearing is Arkansas' receivers are heralded for being pro ready in every way possible. Arkansas' offense features many of the same things we see in the NFL so Childs is already ahead of the curve having some experience with NFL route trees. I can definitely see that in some of Childs game tape from 2010. It will only help in his readiness to come in and learn the playbook which has me hoping he'll be competitive on the next level right away, if he's healthy.
So tell me again, why is Stephen Hill being praised as the better WR in this draft? I still wonder why was he drafted in the 2nd round when Childs was drafted at the end of the 4th round? I'll also go on record saying Hill's performance at the combine pushed him into the second round -- hell he was at one point even considered as a possible late 1st round pick. I'm just not a big fan of letting combine numbers determine draft status. If not for his sizzling combine performance Hill would've been a 3rd or 4th round pick I believe. The same area Childs was graded to be picked at.
I understand that Hill is arguably the most gifted receiver in this draft class. He is super fast with mid 4.3 speed, but he's also a taller receiver 6'4" which makes running that fast even more impressive. Stephen Hill may be raw in some areas of his game, now, but his upside is immense and that's why he was drafted high on Day 2. Yadda yadda yadda. Show me some results. He'll have to reach that potential if he's ever going to become worth the slot he was drafted in and I contend that Childs has just as much upside to his game as Hill does.
Childs is similarly fast (Vikings clocked him in at 4.39 at his Pro Day) considering Childs also ran at less than 100% so who knows how fast he really is. Plus Childs is basically the same height at 6'3" (Hill is 6'4" but what is 1 inch?). Where Childs makes up for being a bit slower and a tad shorter is he's 100 times ahead of Hill in terms of readiness to come in and play. The game tape doesn't lie. On tape Hill's speed compared to Childs speed isn't that noticeably faster either. While Hill's tape basically confirms his speed is there but the tape also brings him into question as a prospect overall.
He was a big-play threat in the Yellow Jackets' offense last year and averaged a whopping 29.3 yards a catch with a total of 820 yards on the season. The yardage number there is impressive when considered in correlation to the amount of catches Hill had. Of the 28 passes Hill caught last season 5 went for touchdowns. Stop, wait a minute! Did I just read that correctly? Hill caught just 28 passes last year and he's a 2nd round pick!
Yes, Hill has only caught 49 passes in his college career, 49! While playing in an option offense that barely used it's wide receivers at all one would come to expect something like this but it just goes to show you how unready he is to come in and contribute. It's not all bad though. While he lacks experience running NFL routes due to the offensive he played under in college on the flipside of that coin Hill is above the curve in his ability and willingness to run block.
The more I look at Hill, the more I realize he honestly doesn't have a whole lot of anything other than speed and size that will make him ready to come in and play. He has below average lateral quickness, so he’ll probably never run crisp routes, which means he’ll probably never become a good split end wide receiver. He could become a faster Marques Colston big slot type receiver who sprints the seam and beats coverages that way but that doesn't exactly scream 2nd round pick and #1 WR to me. The Jets are not the Saints, totally different offenses. Who knows if he’ll ever be a good route runner? He didn’t run them in college all too well – he ran straight since they don't exactly run an NFL route tree at Georgia Tech. He just has very little to no experience running NFL routes.
For what it's worth I'm sure Hill will contribute and he may even start for the Jets. After all Chaz Schilens is one of their starting receivers right now. Chaz Schilens! Also you draft not only for tomorrow but for down the road as well. When considering which player to take one doesn't simply consider how good the player can be next year, as a rookie, but also must consider 3 or 5 years down the road, how good of a player will they be then. And so even though Hill may not come in as a rookie and light things up he has a lot of potential and if he manages to reach that potential he may very well end up being one of the top receivers to come out of this draft.
He's a very similar prospect in these terms to Demaryius Thomas who came out of Georgia Tech a few years ago and just started showing his true potential with the Broncos after his first season in 2010 was marked with injuries. Also it's worth noting just because Hill is not ready to start day 1 doesn't mean he can't come in and contribute as a rookie. He can come in right way and bring the deep threat play to the Jets. Sure he may only catch 30 passes as a rookie but 6 could very well go for touchdowns. I clearly see why a receiver needy team like the Jets would take a player with tremendous upside.
All that being said when you're comparing him to Childs his game just doesn't measure up. By comparison Childs is clearly the more pro-ready player and might be able to become an immediate contributor in the league. Many teams still believe in level of competition too and by that standard Childs faced better competition than Hill. Hill is the only one who didn't play in the toughest conference in college football. Jeffery, Randle, and Childs all were star receivers in the SEC at one time or another.
While Childs may not be as fast as Hill that doesn't make him any less of a deep threat necessarily. Look at players like Sidney Rice who don't have the speed but have everything else to be able to make downfield plays. For Rice it's solely because of his size and body positioning. For Larry Fitzgerald it's his hands and leaping ability to high point the ball and snag it over defenders. For Childs, who's often compared to the New York Giants' Hakeem Nicks, thanks to his speed, size and ball control going up and elevating for the catch, it's just doing a little of everything to get the job done.
Childs understands how to use his body, he understands how to use & catch along the sideline, and in the short game he knows how to create the space needed to be effective. He does a good job getting off vs press and has enough speed to run past defenders and separate on vertical routes. He is also a sound blocker and is more than willing to throw the key blocks that spring backs to the outside. The only concern I have with him is he tends to body catch at times but that's just a coaching point and I'm sure that Vikings' WRs coach George Stewart, an Arkansas alum actually, can get him to break that bad habit.
He could have his best football yet ahead of him and that's saying something considering how good he looked in 2010. Before he got hurt he was widely considered one of the best, if not the best receiver in the draft. He could develop into the best split end in the entire draft. While I may need to temper my expectations for him, at least early in his career, I do feel he’s just now reaching the point in his development where he could begin tapping into his immense upside and start to grow into a greater player.
I feel that he is on the cusp of realizing his potential to be a long-time starter at the next level. I think he’s a future starter on the outside and a sound replacement for what we lost in Sidney Rice. It's funny how we got him with one of those compensatory selections at the end of the 4th round (134 overall) which we received for losing Sidney Rice in the first place. The thing is Childs may have been drafted in the 4th round but he’s NOT a 4th round talent. He would’ve been a 2nd pick had he never gotten injured. Countless times we’ve seen the lower round picks outplay higher round picks.
Here are some past examples of players drafted later that outplayed their draft position.
In the 2010 NFL Draft; The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Arrelious Benn 2nd round [39th overall] out of Illinois then took Mike Williams in the 4th round [101st overall] out of Syracuse. Williams fell to the fourth round because he was believed to have quit on his coach and was an off the field mess. Williams was suspended multiple times by Syracuse and was suspended for the entire 2008 season for academic reason. He ultimately decided to quit the team in the middle of the 2009 season. So there we’re even more question marks on him than Childs who just got injured and didn’t play well in 2011 due to playing through the injury.
Williams came in and led all rookies in receptions (65), finished tied for 19th in the NFL for receiving yards (964) and set the single-season record for receiving touchdowns (11) in Buccaneers history. A classic example of a first-round talent falling to the fourth round and coming in and outplaying all the higher selected players. I know you can’t entirely compare this situation to this year’s draft but Arrelious Benn [39th overall] compares to Stephen Hill [43rd overall], Alshon Jeffery [45th overall], and Rueben Randle [63rd overall] where Greg Childs drafted 4th round [134th overall] could compare to Mike Williams [101st overall].
The same draft, Antonio Brown was selected in the 6th round [195th overall] by the Pittsburgh Steelers and is now one of the better up-and-coming receivers in the league. In 2011, Brown became the first player in NFL history to have more than 1,000 yards receiving and returning in the same year. He finished with 69 receptions for 1,108 yards (16.1avg) and 2 receiving touchdowns and 737 (27.3avg) kick return yards + 325 (10.8avg) punt return yards for a total of 1,062 return yards. He brought one punt back for a touchdown.
In the 2009 NFL Draft Austin Collie was selected in the 4th round pick [127th overall] by the Indianapolis Colts. Collie led all NFL rookies in receiving TDs (7) and tied Percy Harvin for most receptions with 60 catches for 676 yards. Another fine example of a 4th round pick who was able to have an immediate impact in his first NFL season and finished his rookie season among the top statistical leaders for all rookies at the wide receiver position. Even if quarterback Peyton Manning did have a lot to do with it.
In the 2006 NFL Draft Brandon Marshall was selected in the 4th round [119th overall] by the Denver Broncos. Marshall got hurt in his rookie year before the regular season even began, suffering a slight tear to his PCL in a pre-season game but he was able to return and play 15 games (1 start) totaling 20 catches, 309 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns for his rookie year. While Marshall and fellow rookie quartberack Jay Cutler [1st round 11th overall] might have struggled in year one they quickly took off in year two. During the 2007 season, Marshall posted team-highs and career-highs in receptions (102), receiving yards (1,325) and receiving touchdowns (7). Up to that point he was only the fifth wide receiver in NFL history to have at least 90 receptions in his second season. It was only his first of many 100-catch 1,000 yard seasons to come though.
Only three players have had at least 1,000 yards receiving each of the last five seasons: Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White and Brandon Marshall. From 2007-08, Marshall had 206 receptions with (104) & (101) only Wes Welker [went undrafted] had more in that span with 223 (111) & (112). Marshall’s 2,590 yards ranked third behind Fitzgerald and Reggie Wayne as well in that span. He was clearly Cutler’s favorite target and for good reason. In 2008, Cutler targeted Marshall a league-high 179 times, 33 more than any other QB-receiver combination. That’s the most times a QB has targeted a player in a single season in the last four years.
I know overall the farther down you go the less likely they are to find good players. For every one of these guys there’s 10 that don’t pan out but the same could be said for 1st round picks, or any round for that matter. A 4th rounder can be just as talented as a 1st rounder. What round they go in in not exactly an indicator of their talent level. It is often determined by other things then talent like injuries, competition level they faced in college, and off the field problems. I honestly don’t think there is a big difference in how talented Childs is compared to any receiver in the draft.
Why am I making it sound like Childs is the best receiver in the draft? Maybe because he has the potential to be just that.
The top-rated wide receiver in the draft, Justin Blackmon, might not even be as talented as a fully healthy Childs. Okay, so that may be a bit of a stretch if you've ever watched the 6'1" Oklahoma State Cowboy receiver play or seen that episode of Sports Science but Blackmon's Oklahoma State pro day workout numbers and measureables still don't measure up to Childs'. He ran both his 40-yard dash attempts in the mid-to-high 4.4-second range. He vertically jumped 35 inches and broad jumped 10 feet 4 inches. Even though those 40 times are a good showing for a receiver who had questions about his speed they don't top Childs. They did help ease any concerns about him lacking the quick twitch and speed needed get consistent separation from defensive backs and helped Blackmon get selected fifth overall when the Jaguars traded up to draft him.
But again he doesn't measure up to Childs, who at 6'3" is two inches taller than Blackmon -- weighed in at 212 pounds -- he also has longer arms (34 1/8") than Blackmon (32 1/2") and massive (10 1/8") hands compared to Blackmon's (9 1/4") child hands. He also had a 10-foot-7 broad jump -- three more inches than Blackmon was able to do-- and he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 and 4.39 seconds. His officially clocked time was 4.41. To put that in perspective that's the same exact time Percy Harvin was clocked at in the NFL Scouting Combine when he came out. Harvin's only 5'11" and 184 though so this is more impressive due to his size just like I said about Stephen Hills time. That's not all that was impressive for Childs at his pro day though.
Childs demonstrated much greater explosiveness from what he showed less than two weeks earlier at the NFL Scouting Combine. There he showed his strength to fight off press and break tackles with a solid showing in the weight room, he tied for fifth among the receivers by bench pressing 225 pounds an impressive 19 times! I'm not sure what Harvin's numbers we're but I know that's close and we saw how he uses his strength to break tackles all the time. Childs also put up an equally impressive vert posting a 36.5" jump but at his Pro Day he improved upon that number greatly with an amazing 40 1/2-inch vertical jump that would have tied Stanford's Chris Owusu for third among all receivers tested in Indianapolis this year.
While he did quietly have a solid 40-yard at 4.55 seconds in Indy his improvements in the 40 time from 4.5 range to a high 4.3 / low 4.4 range and his significantly better vertical jump are indicators that perhaps he's regained the explosiveness that made him a star in the SEC before partially injuring the patella tendon in his right knee in 2010. He finished off his impressive performance by wowing NFL observers with his skills during an outstanding position workout as he caught passes from former Arkansas and current New England Patriots quarterback Ryan Mallett.
A high-ranking official from an an unnamed NFC team said, "Honestly, he looked better than he did before. I wouldn't have estimated him as a 4.40 guy based off of tape so this was great workout for him. There was a bit of a buzz about [Childs' workout] as we left." The performance made him easily the star of not only the Arkansas’ pro day but Pro Days scattered across the country. He stole the spotlight from Hill's combine performance so to speak and left scouts buzzing about how he was, and I quote, "He looked like he was back!"
His improvements from the Scouting Combine to his Pro Day is a good indicator that he's almost fully healthy and back to 100% after the injury that slowed him down this past season. Childs believes his performance at Arkansas’ Pro Day sent a strong message. " It was just mainly showing everybody that I was healthy again; showing everybody I was 100 percent," Childs told reporters following the Pro Day workout. "I came out here and I had some scouts tell me, 'You look 100 percent. You look as explosive as ever.'
Childs, before he got hurt, was as tremendous a college player as any receiver in the nation and looked like a future high round pick. Early in his career at Arkansas he led the Razorbacks in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns with 48 receptions for 894 yards and seven scores as a sophomore. The next year the junior appeared destined for All-SEC honors with 46 catches for 659 yards and six scores through eight games before a patellar tendon injury knocked him out for the final five contests. Though he reportedly didn't actually tear the patella, Childs did undergo surgery. After a productive, injury-shortened junior season, Childs was viewed as an ascending, possible "Day One" draft prospect, given his size, speed, and athletic ability.
Many expected that he'd miss the 2011 season but Childs returned in the spring and surprised the Arkansas staff and media when he elected to practice without so much as a knee brace. However, the senior appeared not fully recovered from injury during 2011 August camp, as his return to the practice field appeared to hit a small speed bump during Arkansas' first day of practice. He dropped several passes and appeared to be limping on his way back to the huddle after running several routes. Unfortunately, while his heart was in the right place to be willing to play his head wasn't and although he desperately wanted to be out there he should've sat out and got healthy.
Insisting he was ready to play, Childs suited up for the 2011 season opener vs. Missouri State, but got off to a slow start and had just three starts in 2011 as the team's third receiver behind Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. He missed time including missing the Troy contest following the death of his grandmother in September. He struggled to regain his form throughout the season during his recovery period and caught just 21 passes for 240 yards and he did not manage to score even a single touchdown. He just didn't look like the same player since he was still healing.
Don't look at his stats last year as any indication of the kind of player he is. If you must have a look at film from last year then watch his Cotton Bowl performance to see what he is capable of. That was really the only game of his senior year where he was even remotely healthy. Childs was very quiet in 2011 but was obviously uncomfortable when running routes it looked like he hadn't fully recovered from hurting his knee the year before. Childs is now gradually showing that he is improving from his previous knee injuries and is starting to show some of his old form. If he makes it all the way back to the kind of player he was before the injury we got a absolute steal!
Coming back too soon was a clear mistake. In doing so Childs hurt his draft stock when he fell from a Day 1 prospect to a Day 3 prospect. That being said after his Pro Day performance he moved back up to a possible Day 2 pick but as we know he was selected towards the end of the 4th round. I don't know why he fell and why teams felt that he was a fourth or fifth round talent but I'm glad we got him. When healthy he's a 1st or 2nd round talent with No. 1 receiver upside.
Now, as if you're even still reading this, [to those who are what are you crazy!?] the other two 2nd round receivers many fans wanted us to trade up and take were South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery and LSU's Rueben Randle. Honestly after all I just went over I don't see how either of these players could be considered far and away better than Childs. I don't even think either of them have more upside than Childs. They're not really any more talented than Childs coming out either. Right now, Childs is healthy. A healthy Childs is just as talented as any receiver in the draft. That being said I would still like to go over them.
Alshon Jeffery, who was once considered a 1st round pick and a high one at that, sort've fell into a slump last year. He had a down season but I felt it had more to do with his QB play and the fact their star RB went down to injury making it easier for teams to focus on him but he does deserve some of the blame. I think he has the skillset to come in and make an immediate impact for Chicago. He has a lot of questions surrounding him coming in like his weight and work ethic but the tape doesn't lie and he's made some of the best "wow" one-handed, acrobatic receptions I've seen. He has outstanding ball skills, showing very good hand-eye coordination, he tracks the ball very well to make tough catches look easy.
He has long arms and highpoints the ball well making many of his catches away from his frame with large hands -- won't drop many balls -- he feels that is his biggest asset is his ability to catch anything, as he has arguably the best hands of all the receivers in this draft class. He plays with a confidence and a swagger and just has fun when he's out there. From everything I heard he's a quality teammate, never complained when things didn't go right. His stats dipped this year but like I alluded to earlier that was more due to QB play and their star RB getting hurt making it easier for teams to focus on him and shut their one threat down.
Some believe after all the hoopla concerning his weight/work ethics and due to his inability to separate from NFL defensive backs that all of that combined would warrant him falling down the boards to potentially the third round. I didn't see that happening. Also he is a deep threat despite lacking the speed to get separation from NFL corners. He did average 16.6 yards per catch over three seasons in the SEC, which is outstanding. He's a long strider with build-up speed that does a nice job fighting for positioning and can go up and snatch the ball away from defenders like Larry Fitzgerald. In a lot of ways he reminds me of Hakeem Nicks too though, not quite the athlete as Nicks but Nicks had a very similar situation coming out. There were questions surrounding him about weight gain concerns but had great hands and a lot of highlight reel catches, just like Alshon has too.
The similarities to Dwayne Bowe are there a bit too, very similar stats coming out of the SEC to Bowe. Sidney Rice as well. Yes they both went to South Carolina and yes their both 2nd round picks but it goes further than that. His game is very similar to Rice. He's not the fastest but he'll likely be a threat in the redzone as a rookie and develop into a more complete player by year three. I think he's a strong possession target type who can move the chains on third down. Jay Cutler's got his favorite man back in Brandon Marshall who is another big target so it'll be interesting to see how involved Jeffery is in the offense as a rookie. I actually thought after showing so much interest in him that the Vikings would trade up to take him.
Rueben Randle is another big play receiver who I thought we would trade up for when he started falling. He ran a 4.43 at his Pro Day and averaged 16.8 yards per catch over his three-year career in the SEC. I like his ability to stretch the field but also be physical in the short and intermediate routes. He also has prototype size standing 6-foot-3, just like Childs. I wouldn't have minded the Vikings moving up a few spots to get him, heck during the draft I was cussing at my television because they hadn't, but if they had taken him then we wouldn't have Josh Robinson, and he's one of my favorite picks of the draft, so I see the value in taking the corner and getting Childs later on in the 4th round.
Bottom Line: The Vikings got a player that is just as talented as any receiver in the draft but that doesn't mean he'll live up to my high expectations. Childs only has the "potential" to outplay the draft position we selected him in and I hope he does reach that potential because if he does we'll have made out like bandits with this pick.
Well that's all I got folks. If you don't believe in Childs now... I'm sorry but you never will. Well until the first time he has a huge game and then you can jump on my bandwagon.
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out my complete;
Greg Childs BEAST MODE (via millertime6888)