'Why Bryan Edwards?'
Former Gamecock Bryan Edwards comes into the NFL with an interesting line of production throughout his collegiate career. He never once reached 1,000 yards or 75 receptions, but did produce a near 600 yard season at 17 years old. With no combine performance, and a less than stellar statistical career, why is Bryan Edwards poised to become the steal of this 2020 NFL Draft?
1 - Play strength & physicality
If you watched the Gamecocks play over the past few seasons you might have noticed plays like this from Edwards with frequency.
Is Edwards a burner? No.
However, he is extremely difficult to take down in the open field and regularly punishes unsuspecting defensive backs.
There is a 'fight' and level of effort to Edwards' game that is consistent.
Edwards was deployed primarily around the line of scrimmage and did damage in this area due to how well he navigated different contact types.
The Raiders are a run first football team.
Their offense is centered around Josh Jacobs, and Gruden needs receivers on the outside who are willing & able to mix it up.
Edwards physicality will undoubtedly be a reason to get him on the field early on in his career in Las Vegas.
Edwards is reckless with the ball in his hands, which is a blessing and a curse.
He's seen his fair share of injuries during his collegiate career, and with the type of aggression & urgency he plays with, there may be no escape from that.
However, this is also why Edwards is such an appealing prospect.
His ability to make momentum shifting plays should not be understated.
In terms of competition you would be hard pressed to find a more 'NFL ready' team than Alabama.
Edwards made plays like this multiple times throughout this game.
An encouraging sign to his potential of making a similar impact as a Raider.
2 - Winning through in-route contact
We see Edwards play strength show up down the field as well.
He isn't easily disrupted and is rarely rerouted upon contact.
A little better ball, and this is six.
However, notice how rapidly Edwards is able to accelerate away after mid-route contact.
This is a trait that will serve him well against some of the more physical corners in the NFL.
This is the 'Alpha' in Edwards.
Obviously, he won't be able to do this to NFL caliber corners consistently, but the physical, 'my ball' mentality is there.
3 - Consistent success in the short to intermediate areas
Role wise, we may see Edwards be deployed in a similar fashion to that of New Orleans Saints Superstar, Michael Thomas.
Slants, and crossing routes work well for Edwards and his skill set because of how well he uses his frame to wall off defensive backs.
Again, Edwards does a nice job of walling off the defender to create enough space to pull the ball in.
With his natural size, and strong hands he makes it difficult to get in position to make a play.
Another reason Edwards will have success in the short to intermediate areas is how fluidly he adjusts to off-target and away from frame throws.
He routinely makes these plays and is reliable against man coverage.
Edwards is at the top of the screen here.
What was easy to observe when watching him was how well he creates space with his hands to get inside defenders.
He couples that well with efficient decelerative qualities that help him quickly get his hips around on curl & comeback routes.
4 - Mid-flight adjustments & in-air athleticism
Away from frame receptions were touched on above and are an appealing part of Edwards overarching skill set.
He is capable of making the requisite adjustments needed to reel in receptions that present a high degree of difficulty.
He exhibits top of the class body control and reorganizes well when he is contested.
His deployment down the field on 50/50 balls could be frequent due to his ability to win in these situations.
Another couple of observations that were noted are Edwards rapid acceleration capabilities and how active his hands are while the ball is in flight.
Edwards has the pre-requisite in-air traits & tracking capabilities to be a threat down the field.
While I do not believe he will make a large impact as a deep threat, he certainly impresses with his body control and the ease in which he adjusts to paths mid flight.
5 - Movement toolbox & yards created post-catch
Now, I do not envision Edwards as an every game punt returner, however he has a broad movement toolbox with solid anticipatory qualities that could be called upon situationally.
Think of Dez Bryant's usage and traits during his early career as a Cowboy.
Edwards saw a vast percentage of his usage come around the line of scrimmage and this is why.
After the catch is where he shines.
He is a dangerous in-space player, who combines his physicality with a nice blend of movement tools that make him a difficult open field assignment.
I would love to see Edwards add more polish to his routes at the line of scrimmage.
That is definitely an area of growth for him, but it's plays like this where he displays the physical potential that could carry over to other elements of his game.
6 - Reliability as a Redzone option
A main reason Edwards can be a presence in the Redzone is how well he adjusts to back-shoulder throws.
Edwards displays a combination of great timing and body control to make plays consistently along the boundary.
This is where his physicality, size, and efficient positioning show up most.
While Edwards is still a little raw, he has a knack for setting himself up to make plays near the goal-line.
Timing, is a word i mention often, but is an important element of Edwards game that needs to be spotlighted.
On away from frame receptions he knows when to turn, contort and extend to make a play.
7 - Play speed
By no means is Edwards in the same class of speed as Henry Ruggs III and Jalen Reagor, but he does show above adequate capabilities here.
Edwards is better during periods of early acceleration than top-end speed, and may surprise defensive backs with how quickly he can get even with them.
8 - Landing spot: Las Vegas Raiders
Edwards walks into an outstanding situation in Las Vegas where there is no true number one option. The addition of Henry Ruggs III will also help to open up the short to intermediate areas of the field which is where Edwards will primarily operate.
There is a path for Edwards to become the target leader of the Las Vegas Raiders in the near future. With his combination of physicality, and Redzone capabilities, Gruden may have found his go-to guy.
9 - 'Who is Bryan Edwards?'
Bryan Edwards broke out as a 17-year-old Freshmen, but never accumulated a 1,000 yard season in his time as a Gamecock. Inconsistency, and an inability to stay healthy are the biggest reasons for this. As a player, Edwards has all the physical capabilities to be successful in the NFL.
During his Rookie season the expectation is that Edwards will grow into a role as the primary possession target in Las Vegas. With his reliable nature in the short to intermediate areas he is a much needed piece for a previously anemic passing attack.
Fantasy wise, keep an eye on how Edwards progresses from his off-season foot surgery throughout the Summer. He was oft-injured in college, and his previous injuries do carry a fairly high rate for reoccurance. If he has a healthy early career we could see him as a darkhorse candidate for Rookie of the Year. His skill set is unique to the Raiders offense and is one that could be heavily utilized as the season goes on.
Ability to make proper mid-flight adjustments