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Jumps Off the Tape, Kevin Norwood: A quarterback's best friend

Kevin Norwood doesn't profile as a No. 1 receiver, but his ability to grab hold of a jump ball is exactly what an offense needs on third downs or in the red zone.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

When scouting NFL Draft prospects, there are always players who "jump off the tape" to me more than others. Why? It's tough to say -- "draft scouting" is a subjective field and there are hundreds of variables to consider. Within, there are going to be different biases and different priorities in terms of which skills or tools to look for at the different positions among evaluators.

This series of short scouting reports will aim to pick out a play, or a couple of plays, that jumped out to me as representations of why I am in a certain prospect's corner. It's incomplete evaluation, but meant to highlight what a player can do and why those skills might project to the NFL level.

WR Kevin Norwood, Alabama: 6'2, 198 pounds

Norwood is somewhat of a forgotten man at the wide receiver position with the glut of elite talent there this year. He's currently projected as a mid-round pick, anywhere from the fourth through the fifth, but it's my opinion that he could go significantly higher.

Much like Keenan Allen in 2013, Norwood doesn't flash high-level explosiveness or electric change of direction on the field, but he is one of the strongest jump-ball catchers in his class. He has strong hands, very good body control, he tracks the ball well and times his jump. Many would say that these types of attributes are not teachable, which is why I rate Norwood higher than some.

Watch this play below from Alabama's matchup with Tennessee:

Not only does Norwood make the spectacular grab, which is enough on its own to warrant a closer look -- what's impressive about this play to me is how he willed himself back into the play when AJ McCarron breaks the pocket and the designed scheme goes off the rails.

McCarron heads back left, sees Norwood coming back to him, then signals for his receiver to head back downfield. Norwood obliges. With the corner on his inside, he's looking toward the middle of the field with his back to the sideline, expecting, perhaps, for McCarron to loft a jump ball deep and toward the back of the end zone. However, McCarron throws a back-shoulder throw to the outside.

Norwood adjusts incredibly well to the ball, pivoting while simultaneously gaining separation, and gets one hand on the ball to reel it in to his other. Put together, it demonstrates awareness, determination, and fluid athleticism and balance. Impressive.

This play below against Kentucky shows that he's strong on jump balls as well, as he splits two defenders, goes up high to attack the football and comes down with a huge gain. He double-catches it slightly, but demonstrates the concentration to come down with it.

The Bottom Line:

A player with Norwood's skill set and attributes projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 WR who could eventually become the quarterback's best friend on third down or in the red zone. He might fit in a West Coast offense as a possession-style receiver but he's also fast enough to get down the sideline on a 9-route.


Final note: When building their NFL Draft boards, scouting departments watch every single snap of a particular draft prospect's season. Within those hundreds of snaps, there are likely some great plays and some bad plays, and a multitude of nondescript plays in between. Scouts must determine how consistently a player can display the good traits and figure out how easily coaches can mitigate or coach out the bad. This report is just a jump-off point.