Before the emergence of Brandin Cooks, I would've told you that the player who best embodied new Baltimore Raven Steve Smith in the 2014 NFL Draft was Oklahoma wide receiver Jalen Saunders. He's tiny, but plays very angry. There's a multitude of ways I think the New York Giants could use him, so let's take a closer look at his game.
- Remember what they said about Ahmad Bradshaw being "pound for pound one of the toughest guys on the field"? Same thing applies with Saunders.
- Fantastic hands. Rarely drops the ball when it hits his mitts.
- Has one of the key intangibles if you want to make it as an undersized receiver: suddenness. Some of his moves are electric.
- Very strong route runner that knows how to get open.
- Body control is above average. Knows how to position himself.
- Big upside when it comes to yards after the catch.
- Explosive and creative punt returner. Averaged a TD every 8 returns at OU.
- Try as they might, 5-foot-9, 165-pound players have their limitations in this league.
- Needs a clean release to be successful. Get your hands on him early and its over.
- Active blocker, but he just can't match up physically against anybody on the field. Only way he's successful is if he takes on somebody by surprise.
- Catch radius is only average for his size, which translates to poor for normal sized WRs.
Does He Fit With The Giants?
Depends. I think Saunders needs a creative offensive coordinator that will manufacture open space and a free release for him. I don't know if McAdoo will be that guy but I have high hopes. Don't make the mistake of thinking that Jerrel Jernigan makes Saunders redundant. While there are certainly similarities, I think Saunders has better change of direction skills and is faster (though Jernigan is much stronger). Saunders is also a better pass catcher than Jernigan, while Jernigan is a more creative runner. Having both on the field at the same time could be a monstrous combination.
Jalen Saunders vs Texas Tech (2013) (via DCheeseB)
Big Board Rankings
Big Blue View - Not in top 100
Mocking The Draft - Not in top 200
CBS Sports - 211
Draft Countdown - 158
Draft Tek - 175
The reason that Saunders is so low is because his skillset is a huge limitation for him. Like I said before, he needs a creative offensive coordinator that can manufacture plays for him. Watch the tape and you can see that if he gets space and a free release he can be a terror.
He'll likely be limited to perhaps 15-17 snaps a game because he doesn't seem like he's built for the rigors of the NFL, but those 15 or so snaps can be highly, highly productive. He also has huge potential as a special teamer. Is that worth using a draft choice? Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I certainly think he would appeal to those creative teams that make use of small, shifty guys like him. I can easily see teams like the Chiefs, Eagles, Jaguars, and Patriots being interested in him.
As for our Giants, as stated before, time will tell about Ben McAdoo's scheme. For me personally, I'd love to see him picked up in the 5th round or later.