When Sashi, Andrew and the rest of the Browns braintrust grabbed 5 receivers in this years NFL draft, it's as though they heard Northeast Ohio's collective cries for talent at the position. When you stop and realize that 4 out of 5 of them are 6'1" or taller, it's as though they were laughing in the face of Ray Farmer's smurf-losophy.
Let's take a look at a player who I am extremely curious and excited about. A player that, quite frankly, is oozing athletic ability and big play capability. Let's take a look at the 114th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. The "2nd" of four Cleveland Browns' 4th round draft picks this year. And yes, I am chopping that up like that on purpose because I think this receiver can be an absolute "steal" for the Browns.
Let's talk about - Ricardo Louis
*** Toggle between the spider graph and the measurements / comparison by clicking on the links ***
Yes, you should be aware that Louis fills out the entire athletic web. For those willing, quickly click on the measurement and comparisons tab above. That's right, Louis is s a 90% match to Andre Johnson.
Then, consider what's below. From the 2016 NFL Combine data, you can see that Ricardo Louis sprinted with the best of them; benched with the best of them; leapt with the best of them; and was as explosive as the best of them:
Furthermore and nearly as important as what's above, here are the missing athletic links from the combine:
So when I combine this data with my film study, I see a player who is oozing ability and potential. His timetable to contribute consistently with the Browns likely won't be immediate but if Louis can maximize his abilities and the Browns coaching staff can procure his athleticism into production, over the next few seasons Louis could prove to be among the biggest steals in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The breakdown below is fantastic and worth the listen. It's an interesting comparison on just how different rookie receivers Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins are:
Jaw dropping stat: Louis had a better college dominator percentage than Laquan Treadwell while also owning the highest percentage of touch shares inside Auburn's "constipated" offense.
Size / Speed / Quickness
Targeted Areas of Improvement
Developing the nuances of route running
Improving hands / concentration in coverage
Beating press coverage consistently
** All videos can be viewed in 720P by clicking on the settings widget in the video footer next to "YouTube" **
1. I'll keep this one short and sweet. Louis' ability is out there on display - this was a BIG TIME catch.
2. Louis is the X at the top of your screen and is up against press-man coverage. If you watch carefully enough, you can see this was a crisp plant and turn. He drives off his right foot towards the sideline, has his head around looking for the ball, has run 2 yards past the first down marker, and makes a hands catch along the boundary while keeping both feet in bounds with ease.
3 & 4 are the same play but at two different angles:
3. In the first angle, the details are harder to decipher, but it's where you can see the route depth relative to the first down marker here on 3rd and 7. Louis is lined up as the X at the bottom of your screen and is facing what appears to be a quarters zone defense.
4. Here you can see Louis sit down under the zone and lose the battle on a well defended pass. It looks like it's a late throw, which is going to happen. What I like is that he has his body in between the defender and the ball with his arms reached out in front of him. His feet are set and his eyes are up on the ball. The defender just makes a good play and arrives at the same time as the ball and the contact seems to impact Louis' concentration, and the ball slips through his hands.
5. Once again Louis is aligned as the X here, but now at the top of your screen on 2nd and 9. The defender shows press coverage, but drops pre-snap into off man coverage along the boundary and to his credit gets a solid break on the pass. Louis runs a decent route here, but he drops this pass in tight coverage. It appears the ball goes off both his hands and / or that his concentration was disturbed by the presence of the DB's hand near the ball. However, what I like here is I can see his catch radius on display. His arms are extended away from his body and he leads with his hands. That's a great sign.
6. Again, Louis aligns as the X at the top of your screen. It's 3rd and 9, and the defense is in nickel, off man coverage. Louis runs 15 yard, double move route that appears to be a skinny post to the seam, then a curl. He's open. The ball arrives on time, but a little high. Again, you can see his catch radius on display here but this is another drop in tight coverage where he should be able to pull this in.
7. Louis is the X at the top of the screen here. Contrary to the previous plays, Louis makes a routine catch on 1st and 15 vs. soft off man coverage. The ball is delivered a bit late, so Louis has to wait on it, but still has plenty of time and space to make this catch along the boundary.
8. Here, on 2nd and 12, Louis is aligned at the bottom of your screen in what I believe is the Y vs. press man coverage. The route appears to be an inside "go" route up the seam. Louis adjusts to the under-thrown ball; turns extends + his arms out; and plucks the ball; then to complete an explosive 30 yard play, he turns his body to protect the ball from the defender.
9. Here you see Louis aligned in the slot, as the Z, at the bottom of the screen. He's called into motion for the hand-off, showing you some of his versatility and speed here. Louis does a good job of following his blockers and allowing them to set up a lane, then he explodes passed the first down marker to convert on 2nd and 8.
10. It's 1st and 10 early on and Louis is aligned at the bottom of your screen as the Z. He's up against soft man coverage over the top with a zone coverage underneath. This is a skinny post that shows off Louis' ability to separate deep down the field. The ball is under-thrown, again, which causes Louis to lose out on what could have been a TD, but nonetheless, this was a 45 yard throw and catch. Louis catches this over his shoulder, keeping himself between the defender and the ball (who is brought into the play because of the under-throw).
Outcome is a great explosive route and catch for Louis
11. It's 2nd and 7, and Louis is aligned at the top of your screen as the X, but appears to be pinched inside. This is a play-action pass where Louis fakes like he's going to run an under-neath route, almost just bouncing in place for a moment or two, then releases to the boundary.
The DB on the boundary doesn't release with him, allowing Louis to exploit the space that the safety has left open deep now that he's released from the stem of his route. This will probably be credited as a drop, but I am willing to bet most WR's in this class can't even get their hands on this ball, a tad high and a little behind Louis, forcing him to adjust to this ball. Lots to like about this route from Louis, even if he didn't complete the catch - which was in a very difficult location to complete a catch.
12. The pattern continues. Another under-thrown pass.
Louis is aligned at the very top of your screen as the X against press man coverage on 3rd and 8. He jab steps and appears to swipe free of the jam and gains outside leverage within the first few steps, and releases on the go route. The pass is delivered behind him, which forces him to slow down and adjust to the ball. He has to jump and reach back around the DB, who is now on the radar to make a play because the pass is behind Louis. Had he completed this play, this would have certainly been one of those "Andre Johnson" type plays. He was close here. You can see his catch radius here, reaching for the ball over the defender, getting his hands on the ball, but he just can't secure it throughout the play.
Overall, a play that I would like to see him make, and I think he can make, but again, this was not an easy catch to make for any receiver, nonetheless.
13. Here on 2nd and 11, Louis is at the top of your screen as the X. This is just a quick 5 yard out route that requires Louis to extend his arms and pluck this ball that's thrown a bit in front of him. Separation is easy on this route due to the soft man coverage. This is a easy play to make, but what I like to see is Louis' ability to plant his foot and get his head around and then reaches up and away from his frame to pluck the ball for the catch.
14. Here on 2nd and 8 Louis is aligned at the bottom of the screen as the X. The defense appears to be in off man or Cover 2, giving cushion on the outsides. This is a phenomenal diving catch showcasing his speed, his jumping ability and his catch radius on this deep post route. Again, this is a play that most receivers don't make.
15. It's 1st and 10 and Louis is aligned at the top of the screen as the Y. This is a simple out route. What I like here is that Louis runs the route to the first down marker, again showing a grasp of the basics. He also plants and turns quickly from inside - out and creates space. He whips his head around and gets his eyes on the ball, reaching out to bring this ball in for the first down.
Louis may be considered raw, but he's a contributor who has a good foundation on the route tree and has the explosion / hip flex to maximize his route speeds.
16. Here you see Louis at the bottom of your screen lined up as the X on 2nd and 10. There's less than a minute left in the 4th quarter and Auburn is down 3 points. Louis runs a solid curl route and the ball is delivered on time. Louis jumps and reaches up to grab the ball, lands and senses the coverage and turns inside causing a missed tackle. It ensures a first down and stops the clock for his team.
Videos 17 and 18 are from the same play
17. It's now 2nd and 20 with only 22 seconds left, and Louis is aligned at the bottom of your screen in what appears to be the Y. The route is a mesh / slant against what is either off man coverage or Cover 2. This is a big time catch, adjusting his body to the ball behind him and showing his catch radius and strong hands while securing a 20 yard first down snag across the middle.
18. This view is more clear exactly what I mean by Louis adjusts his body to the throw that's behind him. Again, there's a lot to like about this route, especially the arm extension, body control and hands.
19. Only 19 seconds left, it's 2nd and 10. Louis has been the go-to WR on this entire drive, showing me that he can be dependable and productive during crunch time. Louis is at the top of your screen as the X along the boundary.
Allow yourself to watch this catch several times. This is a HUGE play and a fantastic catch for another first down on this drive. There's so much to like about this rep, including making THE play that allowed his team to be in FG range to tie the game and send it to overtime.
20. Louis' efforts and catch from video 19 led to Auburn being able to drive down and tie the game with a FG in the closing seconds.
Here Louis is aligned at the of your screen as the X on 2nd and 9 with 16 seconds left. The route is a deep post to the front pylon against what appears to be Cover 1 defense. You love to see the separation and the ability to get his hands on this pass, but Louis drops this potential TD in the end zone.
This isn't an easy catch by any means, and like a few of his other drops, it's hard to imagine many receivers could even get their hands on this pass. This is a credit to his athleticism, but what I know the Browns will be banking on is Louis being able to pull these in as he develops.
21. It's now 4th and 9, only 9 seconds left in overtime. Louis is lined up at the bottom of your screen as the X and will be running a slant against Cover 1 defense. The Safety on this play makes a tremendous read in the middle of the field and quickly diagnoses and breaks on this throw. The safety arrives at the same time as the ball, breaking up the play. Not much Louis can do here, just a great play but unfortunately this ends the game for Auburn.
What was good to see is that Louis was the focal point of the offense when it mattered most.
22. Here you see a good display of his speed and quickness in tight spaces. Louis is aligned at the top of the screen in the slot as what appears to be the Z. He is motioned across pre-snap for the sweep. You can see him running patiently, setting up his blocks, but also you see him moving quickly in tight spaces and exploding past the first down marker when he sees some daylight.
23. This is the play that many will remember him for. 4th and 18 vs. Georgia with only 36 seconds left, trailing by one point. Louis is aligned at the top of your screen as what I believe is the Y. He is going to run a skinny post between the seams.
What you like here is Louis' concentration and ability to follow the ball with his eyes, never giving up on the play even though the pass is way under-thrown and seemingly going to be an EASY interception into double coverage. Then, the lucky but phenomenally exciting bounce and catch / run for the easy game winning score.
24. Here you see the speed and big play capability of Louis on display vs. Wisconsin in the 2015 Outback Bowl. It's 2nd and 9 early in the game. Louis is aligned at the bottom of the formation as the X and is facing what appears to be press man coverage. Louis gets inside early on in the route and uses that to his advantage to get behind the coverage late in the route by splitting the seam in the defense. Watch as he hauls-in this beautiful in-stride pass over his shoulder to beat 3 Wisconsin defenders and stride into the end zone for the untouched, 60+ yard TD.
25. It's 3rd and 3, and Auburn is down early here. Louis is aligned as the H, in the middle of your screen below the Y. He is pulled across the formation for the play action sweep fake and then asked to block for his QB who keeps the option and scrambles outside. I like how he squares up, with good hand placement on this block. Louis did a good job on this play and will need to block like this and better at the next level.
He does a pretty good job if asked to do so, but from what I see here, it appears like he's a willing blocker, which will work to his advantage if and when he's asked to contribute on ST.
26. It's 1st and 10 and again we see Louis used as a runner on the sweep here. Louis is aligned in the slot as the Z here. He comes across the formation and allows the fantastic blocking on this play to set up the lane where he plants his foot and then explodes up that lane. He also shows some quick change of direction ability at the end of the run, which isn't critical to the play.
27. It's 2nd and 14, with less than 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Auburn is down by 3 points. Louis is aligned in the slot at the top of your screen. This is just a simple post route but an amazing catch for sure.
Again, this is a fantastic diving 40 yard catch.
28. Two plays later, it's now 2nd and 8 with 3:24 left in the 4th quarter. Louis is aligned on the outside at the top of the screen as the Y. This is a simple WR screen pass that he is able to turn into a first down. What I like here is the effort to finish the play and leap over the defender to ensure he gets the first down.
29. It's 1st and 10 and this play will definitely remind you that Ricardo Louis is an explosive play maker with the ball in his hands. Here he takes the sweep and runs it all the way to the end zone for a 75 yard TD. Just watch and enjoy, and then repeat.
30. While I couldn't grab this clip from the pre-snap look, here you see Louis making an athletic over the shoulder catch on the slant. What I like here is how he once again reaches away from his body to catch this pass with his hands vs. allowing it to come into his body.
Ricardo Louis is an elite and extremely gifted athlete with big-play ability. He can separate, high point, be used as a runner on sweeps, and showed the capability to be an effective blocker when called upon. He will have to battle early on in his NFL career to improve his route running, his hands / concentration in traffic, and ability to break away from press coverage. Given the apparent depth the Browns have at WR this season, he will enter 2016 with very few expectations. When he does get on the field, I imagine he will be a mis-match and will line up against LB's and slot corners in 3 or 4 WR sets. He could surprise and emerge as a late season contributor, but 2016 will likely be a developmental year for him with flashes of production and lots of work with Coach Al Saunders. Long term, I really like the pick in Louis. He gives us another big, deep threat who will also have the chance to develop into any every series type of possession receiver. As I opened with, I think Louis can be one of the steals in this years draft and certainly feel he can become a "poor man's Andre Johnson".