April 19, 2014

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NFL draft: Browns could use a fast WR like Baylor’s Kendall Wright

The Browns need playmakers. Specifically, they need receivers. More specifically, they need a fast receiver.

Wright

Enter Baylor’s Kendall Wright.

If he is available at No. 22 and the Browns didn’t take Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon at No. 4, Wright would be an intriguing candidate for general manager Tom Heckert.

The Browns didn’t scare anyone offensively in 2011 and part of that was due to a lack of speed at the skill positions. Running back Peyton Hillis was a plow horse, while top wideouts Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs are more physical than fast.

Wright would bring a new dimension.

“He’s as fast as he needs to be,” Baylor inside receivers coach Kendal Briles told The Chronicle-Telegram by phone. “Test-wise he’s a 4.4. But you put somebody in front of him, he’ll give you everything in his body to beat that person down. It’s just the competitive nature in him.

“I never saw a guy already running full speed who could hit another gear to get past someone or go get the ball. He always can find another burst.”

Wright is considered by many the No. 3 receiver in the draft behind Blackmon and Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd. But Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill could go ahead of Wright, who may be around for the Browns at No. 22.

“I know they like Kendall a lot,” Briles said.

“There are some concerns,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said on a conference call. “He has drops on tape. He double-catches the ball a lot. He’s just not a natural pass catcher. He’s got a lot to learn about running routes.

“I still think Kendall Wright ends up somewhere late in the first round because he’s just so explosive as a slot receiver and can be in the return game with some experience.”

Wright caused some brows to furrow when he ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, about two-tenths slower than expected. He bounced back with a 4.45 at his pro day.

For Wright, speed is crucial because he doesn’t have ideal size. He’s 5-foot-10¼, 196 pounds but compensates some with a 38½-inch vertical leap.

“I have attributes besides height that make up for it,” Wright said at the scouting combine. “I can jump really high, I can run really fast, I can accelerate. I can do a lot of things and I guess that will help me.”

Wright was asked multiple times at the combine about his height and got a little annoyed.

“I don’t think I’m small,” he said. “Everybody else might think I’m small, but I’m a pretty good size when I’m playing.”

Briles said it isn’t an issue.

“Not at all. That joker can play,” he said. “You put him on the field and throw the ball in the air, he’ll go get it.”
Wright’s production at Baylor backs up the claims.

Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is the darling of the 2012 NFL Draft. Well, somebody was catching all of RG3’s passes, and that somebody was Wright.

He was a four-year starter, led the Bears in receiving each year and holds 10 Baylor records. He set the season marks with 108 catches, 1,663 yards (15.4 average) and 14 touchdowns as a senior, and his 4,004 career yards topped the previous mark by 1,300.

Wright will fit naturally into the slot in the NFL. But Briles said he’s versatile enough to play inside and outside.

“He’s not a big guy, but he’s a strong guy,” Briles said. “On the outside, he can handle the bump and run. Also being inside and working different windows, working the linebackers and safeties, he can be very dynamic there as well.”

Wright has drawn comparisons to Carolina’s Steve Smith and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson, undersized receivers with speed and the ability to turn short catches into long gainers.

“If that’s who they want to compare me to they can,” Wright said. “They play fearless and explosive at all times.”

“He’s incredibly explosive,” Briles said. “But on the football field, he’s one of the most elite competitors we have. That’s what he does best.”

What he doesn’t do well is run precise routes. They weren’t stressed in Baylor’s spread offense, but certainly will be at the next level.

“We’re different offensively than most teams in the league,” Briles said. “We’re not specific on timing and steps. We tend to give guys more freedom.

“In the league, he’ll have to adjust to that. But he takes structure well. It won’t be a hindrance, but it’s something he’ll have to work on.”

The faster the better.

For Wright, and the Browns.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.