I have been getting a few requests in post comments and via e-mail to profile specific players as the 2011 NFL Draft nears. Today, I am meeting one of those requests.
Niles Paul is an intriguing receiver from Nebraska, a 6-foot-1, 224-pound player with some speed and special teams ability. He is also a player teams will investigate carefully because of character issues, and seems like a risky pick -- especially in the first two days of the draft.
This paragraph from CBS Sports tells me everything I need to know about whether or not I want Paul to be a New York Giant:
Paul flashes strength and explosiveness with the ball as a receiver, runner and returner, somewhat reminiscent of 2010 first-round pick Dez Bryant. But like Bryant, Paul has character concerns he needs to address before NFL scouts will be willing to spend a high pick to bring him in. Two alcohol-related citations (April 2009, May 2010) call into question his maturity and decision-making.
Enough said. Pass. Scouting reports after the jump.
6-foot-1, 224 pounds
Projection: Middle rounds
Paul is a nice combination of size and speed. Extends to pluck the ball away from his body, can make the back shoulder catch and get under the deep ball. Can slip the first defender in the open field and break some tackles. Tough, competitive and has return experience.
Not an adequate route-runner at this time. Idles down in and out of his breaks, needs to sharper his routes and do a better job setting up defensive backs. Isn't a true downfield threat and doesn't possess a wide catch radius to consistently go up for the jump ball.
Paul has the physical tools and mentality to become a valuable backup wide receiver and special teams player in the NFL. Has very good hands and makes some impressive grabs but route-running and separation skills are far behind his ball skills. Getting open on a more consistent basis would really help to complete his game. Can make some plays down the field vertically and in open space after the catch but won't really scare defenses as a true homerun threat. Tough player who has returned kicks, works hard when blocking, and will go over the middle. Paul's a mid-round prospect.
Positives: Thickly built with very good size. Flashes ability to separate vertically and tracks well over his shoulder. Is tough and willing to work the middle of the field. Competes in the air. Good run-after-catch skills and contact balance. Willing blocker. Versatile — has slot experience and shows confidence and burst as a punt returner. Has the physicality and special-teams mentality to excel as a gunner, where he stood out at the Senior Bowl. Bench-pressed 225 pounds 24 times at the Combine.
Negatives: Has short arms and small hands, and ball security (at key times) has been an issue. Tight-hipped and does not consistently drive corners off and separate. Did not run a full route tree and is not polished setting up receivers or making sharp cuts. Average catching radius. Not a clean catcher. Has some concentration drops. Was contained by good defenses. Average football IQ. Character and maturity level could require maintenance.
Summary: A big, versatile, physical "Z" receiver capable of playing the slot, returning kicks and contributing as a gunner. Teases with playmaking ability, but inconsistent hands, immaturity and injury-riddled senior season could affect his draft stock. Would fit best with teams such as the Jets, 49ers, Cardinals and Cowboys.