Now, although he does have the skill set needed to go up and pluck the football at its highest point in jump ball situations, he will struggle to regain his balance when trying to adjust to the throw and can be boxed out from the play at times vs. physical corners. Isn't the cleanest of route runners at this stage either, as he starts to drift into his breaks, rounding off his routes and giving defenders a chance to get an early jump on the ball.
Is still learning how to decipher and read zone coverages as well, but does a nice job working his way back toward the football and isn't afraid to go up over the middle and take a hit in traffic. Possesses a big set of hands, strong wrists and really plucks the football with a vengeance. However, too often he has lapses in concentration and will let the ball into his body and/or take his eyes off the throw. Has had his fair share of big drops over the course of his career. Has a history of some character concerns, but also comes from some good family lines, being the nephew of former Nebraska/Packers standout Ahman Green.
Impression: For a guy with his kind of frame, he really generates an explosive first step off the line and can get down the field. Possesses a big, strong make-up, can create after the catch and has the potential to contribute as a starter in the NFL, but he needs to become a more natural catcher in all areas of his game."
Hands: Looks the part of a No. 1 receiver, but needs to tighten up the occasional drop to earn the confidence of his quarterback at the next level. Capable of putting his hands in front of his body to make the catch but will trap balls in his chest when facing the quarterback. A threat down the sideline because he can track the ball over either shoulder. Overcomes his average height with the strength to fight for the ball in the air and makes great catches in tight quarters. Seems to fight the ball at times, even those thrown on the money, when he's on the run. Loses concentration when trying to make a play before securing the ball, or if he knows a corner is closing fast. Gets down after a drop, but usually bounces back to make the next play.
Route Running: Versatile receiver who can run every route in the tree and is lined up in the slot, outside and in motion. Uses his speed and a nice head fake to get the seam against zones. Has quick feet and drops his hips to cut effectively on out routes and comebacks; uses that ability to force corners to bite on hitch-and-go routes. Rounds off crossing routes at times, but won't have the cushion at the next level that college corners give him. Could work his way back to a scrambling quarterback more often.
After the Catch: Capable of turning short passes into long gains with good speed, elusiveness and tough running. Willing to go over the middle; eludes defenders on crossing routes to cut across the grain. Used on reverses despite his thick build, and has a burst to get to the sideline. Strong arms and hands to prevent fumbles while running through tackles in space. Loses his balance after the catch too often. Will lower his head to deliver a blow instead of taking one on some plays, but on others he will duck out of bounds instead of cutting inside to churn out more yards. Solid kick and punt returner; not overly elusive but can make a man miss with a quick cut, take advantage of running lanes with good acceleration and run through arm tackles. Hears footsteps at times when fielding punts, leading to fumbles, and needs to come up and field short punts to prevent turnovers and big bounces.
Blocking: Generally effective blocker who can neutralize defensive backs on the edge by latching on and moving his feet to sustain. Will give a strong punch that knocks corners off-balance. Comes back to help scrambling quarterbacks, or running backs and receivers working behind him. Not strong enough to take on linebackers, however. Must learn better angles to allow runner to cut inside or get to the sideline. Inconsistent making the block if his corner is playing off the line; sits back and waits for the player to come to him. Also misses targets when he comes down inside to take out linebackers and safeties; could give more effort in these situations.
Intangibles: Arrested twice on alcohol-related incidents: suspicion of DUI in April 2009 (pled guilty to lesser charge of reckless driving and was fined, coaches suspended him for the remainder of spring practice/spring game) and underage consumption/urinating in public in May 2010 (pled guilty to underage consumption and was fined). Earned respect of coaches and teammates for his work ethic in spring 2009 practices; admitted openly that he did not work hard enough coming out of high school. Broke his foot in 2010 and missed final two regular-season games, but returned for the bowl game."
Positive: Big receiver with surprising quickness and burst. Displays good eye/hand coordination, consistently catches the ball with his hands, and keeps the play inbounds. Shows strength running after the reception with the ability to break tackles. Nicely adjusts to errant throws and consistently makes catches away from his frame. Battles to come away with the pass.
Negative: Erratic as a senior and dropped a lot of catchable throws. More of a one-speed wide out who cannot stretch the field vertically.
Analysis: Paul was highly rated coming into the 2010 campaign after what was a terrific junior season. His inconsistent play caused his draft grade to slip, but at the top of his game he has the potential to be a productive third wide out who doubles returning punts."
Negatives: Has a tendency to drop some easy passes (see: Nebraska/Texas game from this year)... Inconsistent, will make an amazing play then miss an easy one... Has a difficult time getting separation in man coverage... Rounds off his routes too much... Suffered a broken foot in November, 2010... Doesn't get thrown to enough in Nebraska's run oriented offense... Has two alcohol related offenses... Undergoes lapses in concentration, not always focused on the football field... Has had problems securing the football, fumbles too much."
Strengths: Awesome athlete with great explosion, balance and agility. Tremendous speed and strength. Fearless, no-nonsense returner who finds a lane and hits it with abandon. Goes over the middle as a receiver and will take big hits. Great run-after-catch ability; seems to be in four wheel drive and can take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
Weaknesses: Extremely raw as a receiver and has a great deal to learn about running routes. Inconsistent hands. As a returner, sometimes fields some questionable punts. Careless at times and will put the ball on the ground.
Projection: Very unpolished as a receiver but is such a great athlete and return man that he likely won't be on the board past the fourth round. Every NFL receiver coach would love to have him on the roster as a fifth/six WR and developmental prospect."
As a junior in 2009, Paul averaged nearly 20 yards per catch and reached the end zone four times. Catching 40 passes for 796 yards is as good as it will get for Paul. His senior season is not going as well and through six games he has caught just 17 passes for 227 yards and one score. In contrast to 2009's impressive yards per reception average, so far in 2010 his longest reception of the year is a mere 33 yards.
Despite all the criticism, Paul is usually a reliable receiver and nobody would be talking about his dropped passes if Nebraska would have beaten Texas and remained undefeated. There is plenty of game tape out there with Paul playing very well and showing that he can be a good possession receiver at the next level. His ability to return kicks and punts adds even more value to his resume, but that may not be enough to keep him in the first two rounds of the draft."
For a player of his Strength and Size to have the Burst out of the Blocks that he has can be, simply, a devastating combination: That's the sort of player who goes a long way towards helping his team dominate the 20 yards beyond the Line of Scrimmage, and that is the sort of thing that builds Championships.
What makes him particularly intriguing, to me, is that, because of Nebraska's Run Offense, he hasn't gotten many chances to make big plays in his College career, and as a result, his numbers are quite pedestrian.
Niles Paul looks like a 3rd or 4th Rounder at this point, but for my money I would take him ahead of any of the Seniors currently ranked ahead of him.
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