When it comes to studying tape on wide receivers for the 2017 NFL Draft, Southern California’s JuJu Smith-Schuster will be No. 1 on multiple big board for media pundits.
Malachi Dupre (LSU), Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M), Mike Williams (Clemson) and Ryan Switzer (North Carolina) shall also hear their names called off the board early, if they can put up numbers.
In Phil Steele’s annual college football preview, he projects the top 53 draft eligible prospects at the wide receiver position. While Smith-Schuster, Williams and Dupree are all in the top 10, the college football guru did single out two Alabama wide outs in the first 20, ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster. Both guys were high-prized names in the Crimson Tide’s vaunted 2013 recruiting class.
Stewart, who stands at 6-foot-1 and 204 pounds, was second on the team in receiving in last season. The Fultondale, Alabama native brought in 63 passes for 700 yards and four touchdowns in 15 games. He was solid in the team’s week three match-up against Ole Miss (six catches, 73 yards, one touchdown), but started to become a prominent target in October against Tennessee.
Stewart totaled eight receptions for 88 yards, including a 29-yard catch that helped set up Derrick Henry’s game-winning, 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He would be called on as Jake Coker’s main target four weeks later against Auburn, as Stewart led the Crimson Tide in receptions (eight) for 88 yards and a touchdown. His score would come on a 32-yard grab in the fourth quarter as Coker would avoid two Tiger defenders, prior to launching the pass to Stewart.
His fourth touchdown grab of the year came on a 34-yard pass from Coker against Florida in the 2015 Southeastern Conference Championship Game; however, Stewart showed tremendous athleticism in adjusting to the ball during the College Football Playoff national title game.
He would be credited with only two catches against Clemson, but one was a 38-yard acrobatic reception, where the ball would find Stewart’s hands at the last second. His ability to grabbed the ball and keep both feet in bounds, helped set up a game-tying field goal from Adam Griffith.
Foster, 6-foot-2 and 191 pounds, had his 2015 season ended abruptly because of a torn rotator cuff (shoulder). He was finally starting to emerge as deep ball target, posting 10 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns before the injury. The Monaca, Pennsylvania native garnered a five-star rating coming from Central Valley High School. He earned Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AAA All-State honors in 2012 as a senior, after amassing 45 catches for 756 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Foster ended his high school career with 107 catches for 1,860 yards and 26 scores.
He had a good spring and according to head coach Nick Saban, Foster is playing “with a lot more confidence.” He recorded the best 40-time among wide outs, as he clocked at 4.34 seconds.
Barring injury or a drop in performance, Stewart could very well declare for the NFL Draft after the 2016 season. As for Foster, he would need an extra year just to show how dominant he can be.
Despite the injury, Steele has Foster ranked one spot ahead of Stewart on his list. Foster stands at 15 while Stewart slides in at 16, respectively. Both players are expecting greatness as juniors.