The way Robert Woods left the USC program, people might have thought he had a poor season. He went in more of a scorched Earth approach than maybe he would have liked coming out of a disappointing bowl loss in what was a disappointing season. Robert Woods caught 76 passes for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns. The frustration for Woods was that he caught 111 balls for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore and was Matt Barkley’s #1 option. Woods was expecting bigger and better things in his junior year and USC sent a bigger percentage of passes to sophomore sensation Marqise Lee. Perhaps this was a somewhat humbling experience, but if it was, Woods is not letting onto that fact. Woods has sent the message that he is using this past season to fuel him and punish teams in the NFL with a unique rage he unleashes on the field. The biggest thing hurting Woods is his less than ideal size for the position, but he has a professional approach to the position in addition to an anger that fuels him on the field to be the best which will make him an attractive option to teams. Because of the sheer number of incredible receivers, Woods will probably slip further than he should as he warrants a late first round pick, but could end up going as late as the end of the second round due to fit, which will probably only add more fuel to Woods’ huge fire within himself.
Woods is listed at 6’1” 190lbs, but this will be something to keep an eye on at the combine as many people will be eager to see if both numbers are accurate. Woods is a very lean player and while he is not weak, he does have a frame that could add significant muscle. This is good news for his NFL future because if he is able to add power, he becomes a far more valuable weapon in the NFL with his style of play. He has exceptional feet and body control; perhaps as good as anyone in this class. Woods is quicker than he is fast and he does not need elite speed to be effective with his style of play. There will be a decent amount of buzz with his 40 time and whether he is in the 4.5s or the 4.4s, but Woods should be able to shine in shorter distance explosion and in drills such as the 3-cone. The biggest thing that hurts Woods is his lack of bulk as he can sometimes get out muscled, but with his physical potential, he should be able to get over that and then some.
Woods is a remarkably accomplished technical wide receiver. For the most part, Woods gets a clean release from his stance though sometimes he will roll out of it. Woods has a tremendous sense of where he is on the field as it relates to the sideline, finding holes in the zone, or how to move against man coverage. He makes the most of his feet and can run tremendously clean routes. Woods has the ability to gain separation not only because of how economically he runs his routes and his ability to change directions so easily. In addition, Woods is an extremely savvy player and keeps defensive backs off balance because he does not waste motion. Woods has also shown enough confidence in his routes that he is playing the man instead of the route. He can run the same route in a multitude of a ways throughout the game and keep defenders guessing. In some situations, he has defensive backs twitching because they think he is going to make a move and he has not done anything yet. Woods has shown glimpses of being able to set up his body to make the transition from pass catcher to ball carrier more natural. Usually, this has been on wide receiver screens but a few times he has done it on some sideline plays that work like extended tosses. Woods is an agile receiver, but this makes him even quicker and able to set up moves to beat defenders after the catch.
As his hands go and how he catches the football, Woods has the ability to be great in this area but he does not always do it. He has tremendous body control and can manipulate his body to make a wide radius of catches. For the most part, Woods has great hands and can snatch the ball out of the air with an occasional drop, but this is usually due to him trying to run before he has secured the ball. The problem is while Woods has good hands, too often he lets the ball get into his body which slows him down and forces him to take time to adjust before he can start running with the football. He will also do this down the field at times which makes him look smaller than he is and reduces his catch radius substantially. To his credit, Woods does a tremendous job of putting the ball away quickly when he catches it in traffic to avoid having it taken away after he has secured it. He has also consistently shown he is not afraid to catch the ball in traffic or when he knows he will get hit. Woods does not project to be a big time down field receiver because he does not possess the prototypical frame, but he has a track record for making plays down the field , finding the ball and making the catches whether they be in the middle of the field or the corners of the end zone.
As a ball carrier, Woods runs with a running back’s mentality. He has tremendous agility and for the most part stays north and south which makes him look faster. Occasionally, he will go horizontal, but he is not as effective. Woods is aggressive and is always looking to get more yards. He uses a combination of slight cuts that do not make him slow down as well as jump cuts when he needs to and then he will show off power using his off arm as a club against defenders. Sometimes, this comes in the form of a decent stiff arm, but he is not afraid to just smack the opponents with the forearm of his off arm to jolt defenders and free him up to get more yards. If Woods is able to gain strength, this will only prove to be more effective at the next level. Simply put, not enough receivers in the NFL do this and it is extremely effective with so many defensive backs not accustomed to getting hit. Woods also shows tremendous vision as a ball carrier and a good feel for what he can do. This is also evident when he returns kickoffs and punts, which is another area Woods can contribute for a football team. He is a better kick returner than he is a punt returner, but he can do both. Woods is a threat to hit the home run as a ball carrier and when he hits the open field, he seems to have an extra gear making it difficult for defenders to catch him from behind.
When it comes to blocking, Woods takes advantage of his feet and is an effective mirror blocker. He does a good job of putting himself at a good angle between the defender and the ball carrier. This is a good trait to have, but in order for him to take the next step, he needs to be more physical and take a more physical approach. For someone who is not overly physical in his blocking at this stage, Woods is remarkably instinctive on his feel for where he needs to be as the play develops.
The fit that stands out immediately for Robert Woods is the New Orleans Saints offense. The combination of wide open formations and enabling receivers to make plays at all different areas of the field allows Woods to get a free release and operate the way he is most comfortable. The Patriots would be another example. In general a more general sense, Woods might better project to a horizontal offense that focuses more on letting him catch the ball and run with it. However, Woods can also play in a vertical offense because of his ability to find ways to get open regardless of the amount of space he finds himself. Woods seems like a guy who could get open in a phone booth. Woods seems to be the perfect #2 receiver regardless of where he goes and a guy who can consistently move the chains for a team. He can be a volume receiver and be someone who catches 7-10 balls in games and just get chunks of yards before he finds a seam and breaks a big play. That is exactly what he has been at USC for the past two years, more so in 2011 than 2012.
In terms of comparison, Woods’ game and even his attitude towards football is eerily similar to former Utah Ute and longtime Carolina Panther Steve Smith. Smith is shorter than Woods, but he is broader as well. As mentioned before, Woods needs to add bulk. Smith and Woods both have a very brash attitude that can sometimes go too far for their own good, but seems to give them a rage on the field when they play football to give them an extra edge. And given their lack of size, it might be something they need in order to success in such a violent sport. They are the type of guys people love to have on their team and hate them when they are on the other team. Both are players that can make plays at every level of the field and run like a running back after the catch. If Woods can develop like Smith has, Woods could play himself into a #1 receiver or at least a second #1 option for a team.
For all the things Woods does well, which is a great deal, the best thing might simply be the fact that Woods is a competitor. He brings a ton of energy and passion to the field and it is obvious watching him play the game. For the issues he has with size and bulk, nothing other than his height and genetics appear to be holding him back in the NFL. Hopefully for Woods, he is able to keep that full passion bucket in check with microphones in front of his face, but like his comparison, Steve Smith, he seems like someone who may get himself in trouble at some point in his NFL career. Robert Woods may not offer the sexy physical traits that some of the other players in this class do, but he knows how to play the game of football and that tends to have a good deal of value when it comes time to bite the bullet in the NFL Draft. Woods warrants a late first or early second pick but could see himself picked as low as the bottom of the second based on his skills, tape and potential.
Syracuse & Arizona 2012
UCLA & Notre Dame 2012
Arizona State, Colorado, Minnesota, Arizona 2011
Utah, Cal, Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA 2011
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