Edmund Gates - WR
College: Abilene Christian (Division II)
Height: 6-0 Weight: 192
Projection: 3rd to 6th round
Gates is an amazing athlete who has taken a very unorthodox pathway to the 2011 NFL draft. He graduated from High School in 2004. His first love was basketball and he pursued this at Tyler Junior College until he was kicked off the team in 2006. A cousin of Bernard Scott (RB, Cincinnati Bengals), Gates ended up walking on as a basketball player at Abilene Christian (ACU) through a series of unlikely coincidences. Edmund never made the basketball team. Instead he talked his way onto the football team even though he had played very little football. His speed and quickness made him a natural at wide receiver and the friendship of Johnny Knox and Scott helped him develop at a fast rate. Soon Gates was a key part of the Abilene offense and a prospect for the NFL.
So why should the Browns consider Gates as a wide receiver prospect? Gates wowed scouts at the combine. He posted an amazing 4.37 40 time which tied him for first in the wide receivers category. And he did that with a lingering groin injury. His routes looked smooth and he played with confidence. Since starting to play football Gates has steadily improved. His number of catches over four years at ACU were 12, 31, 49 and 66 with 285, 716, 702, 1182 yards in those years. The most intriguing thing about Gates is that he is still learning to play WR. Gates runs well in the open field and is tough to bring down so he has also had success as a kick return specialist. With the improved coaching and conditioning that he should get in the NFL he could become a very good receiver.
Gates is very raw. Because of his detour to basketball, he'll be a 25-year old rookie. He has shown a tendency to drop some easy passes but he has also made some amazing circus catches. Being a Division II school, ACU doesn't exactly play against elite defenses; there is a question as to how Gates might perform against defensive backs at the next level. His route running and cuts will have to improve for him to become an impact player at the next level. Gates has also struggled with minor injuries to his hamstring, back and groin.
Gates is an interesting prospect for later in the draft. He is a somewhat risky pick but the later rounds are all about risk vs reward. If he has peaked, he'll probably be no more than a special teams player or backup receiver. But he seems to have a lot of upside. A man with a tough background, Gates' character would be an issue if he hadn't been influenced by excellent coaches and friends to overcome some of the challenges of his past. His story isn't as incredible as that of Michael Oher but it is inspiring none the less. There is a good synopsis here.