One of the best parts of the lead-up to any draft is finding players who have been flying under the radar. Some are big-school prospects who have been overshadowed by more-hyped teammates while others are small-school prospects who only rarely had a national stage.
All 32 teams — the New York Giants included — are increasingly making a habit of looking at small school players to see if they have Big Time ability. The annual All Star games are great showcases for these prospects, as it gives them the opportunity to show that they can play on the same field as their peers from the football factories. Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden is one of those players, who took advantage of his reps in the 2020 Senior Bowl practices (catching 11 of 18 targets and drawing several potential pass interferences) and scoring a touchdown in the game itself. Gandy-Golden has put himself on the national radar and earned himself an invitation to the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.
Prospect: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Games Watched: vs. UMass (2018), vs Syracuse (2019), vs Buffalo (2019), vs Georgia Southern (2019)
Red Flags: None
Games Played: 45 (31 starts)
2019 Yards: 1,396
2019 Receptions (ypc): 79 (17.67 yards per catch)
2019 Touchdowns: 10
Best: Hands, ball tracking, body control, contested catch
Worst: Route tree, short-area quickness
Projection: A developmental outside receiver in a vertical offense
Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden is a big outside receiver with a good combination of length and thickness to his frame. Gandy-Golden has a good release off the line of scrimmage when facing off or zone coverage, wasting little time getting into his routes. He makes good use of head and body fakes in his route stems to help throw off defenders’ timing and create separation for himself. Gandy-Golden shows a good ability to plant a foot and work back to the ball on come-back and curl routes. He also has some ability to stretch the field vertically with build-up long speed. Gandy-Golden’s greatest assets are his ball skills and hands. He has a rare ability to track the football in the air, adjusting his routes and contorting his body to maximize receiving windows and haul in passes. He easily extends and makes “hands” catches, and his strong hands make even difficult 1-handed catches look routine. His size and ball skills allow him to be very good in contested catch situations, boxing out defensive backs, high-pointing the ball, and fighting to secure the catch.
He also has some ability after the catch, with some ability to break tackles and enough speed to create chunk yardage in the open field.
Gandy-Golden is not a good route runner at this point in his development. He has a limited route tree and does not appear detailed in his execution. He also struggles against man coverage, which begins with an inefficient release that involves too much wasted motion at the line of scrimmage. Despite his frame, Gandy-Golden is not a good blocker in space. He isn’t unwilling, but also isn’t a physical blocker.
Overall Grade: 5.9 - A prospect with many average traits, with some above average traits and some limitations. A good value in the middle rounds. [Grading Scale]
Right now, Antonio Gandy-Golden projects as a depth player at the NFL level, perhaps as a third or fourth receiver brought onto the field for his ball skills in the Red Zone. He does have rare ball skills, however, and those are worth investing the time to try and develop. He has an uncommon ability to track the ball and secure difficult catches, as well as a prototypical frame for the NFL.
He is a raw route runner, and was primarily used on come-back (or curl) routes or in vertical concepts at the college level. He needs to improve his releases and become more efficient and crisp in his route running. If he can consistently release against man coverage and create separation out of his routes, it will help him unlock his other tools.
Gandy-Golden has the potential to develop into a starting receiver in the NFL, but he and his coaches will have to put in the work.