He shows his athleticism after the catch, displaying an ability to make things happen early in the play and the burst to finish them. He needs to learn how to show up every Sunday, but his talent alone legitimizes him as a prospect. He should be one of the first five receivers taken off the board.
He is deceptively agile for such a tall player and is a reliable option in short areas. He can use his lateral agility to make defenders miss and get up the field for yards after the catch.
He is a natural who works well against zone defenses and finds his openings and quickly work up field. Criner has emerged over the past year as the go-to receiver for Arizona, and he has a confidence about his play that allows him to match up against the best.
Criner flashed as a freshman, even starting three games, but really put his stamp on the program as a sophomore turning in nine of his 45 catches for 582 yards into scores. As impressive as that total was, Criner picked up his play in 2011, enjoying one of the best seasons ever by a Wildcat receiver. Criner earned First Team All Pac-10 accolades with 82 catches for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Some of Criner's production is a result of Arizona's spread offense. Many of his grabs come off of quick slip screens, giving him the ball in space to rack up yards after the catch. While scouts can question if he'll be able to match his collegiate success in the NFL, what is clear is that Criner has the size, strength and hands the NFL is looking for. His final draft status might hinge on his time in the 40-yard dash and his health. What isn't up for debate is Criner's production in this offense. Given his status as Foles' favorite target in this high octane offense, the Wildcat could enjoy a Biletnikof-winning caliber season in 2011.
Release: Rarely challenged in press coverage due to scheme. Good build-up speed, but isn't explosive off the snap. Good lateral agility and strength to get into his routes.
Hands: Among his better traits. Possesses soft hands to pluck the ball outside of his frame. Good concentration to make the catch in traffic or when he feels a big hit coming. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder (Toledo) and demonstrates very good body control to adjust. Doesn't often enough use his size and vertical to his advantage and shows only average timing on jump balls, overall.
Route Running: Typically lines up outside, but will be in the slot at times to use his physicality to move the chains. Not asked to run a variety of routes in this spread offense. Makes his hay using his size and physicality to gain an inside release on slants and crossers, as well as various screens. At least adequate build-up speed for the deep ball. Doesn't show a great deal of explosiveness out of his breaks.
After the Catch: Good size, strength and physicality when running after the catch. Has deceptive speed, as he's a long-strider, but has only average balance and agility to elude. Good vision and will use his blockers effectively. Will lower his shoulder and attempt to run through arm-tackles.
Blocking: Good size and strength. Looks to help out his teammates, but is inconsistent in this area, overall. Gives a good initial shove, but too often doesn't stick with his assignment to complete the block.
Intangibles: Threw a scare into the Arizona program when he was hospitalized after undergoing neurological testing during the off-season. Though head coach Mike Stoops told the media that he expects his star senior to "be the same player -- or a better player -- than he was a year ago," scouts will certainly investigate the incident. Has practiced as a punt returner in the 2011 spring and may seem some time in this role this season."
Does a nice job using a stutter step to get corners off balance and can accelerate quickly into his route or use his hands/length to shrug off a jam. Isn’t a burner, looks like a 4.55 guy. However, plays fast because he is a powerful route runner who has good initial quickness both off the line and into his route. Displays an explosive element to his game after the catch and can fend off would-be tacklers as well.
Doesn’t have much wiggle when he gets up to full speed as some stiffness does show, but he runs hard, lowers his head into contact and gets north to south quickly. For his size does a nice job showing good change of direction skills and balance on sharply breaking routes.
Runs routes at full speed, keeps his feet under him and can create a burst/separation out of his breaks. Tends to round off his angles a bit, but uses his body to box out defenders and isn’t afraid to pluck the football away form his frame in traffic. Exhibits good body control and coordination when asked to adjust. Uses his big, strong hands well to pluck off his frame and is a threat in jump ball situations.
Does have his fair share of lapses in concentration and will put the ball on the ground at times in traffic. However, showcases a natural feel for the pass game, knows how to sell the double move and works hard to run himself open when asked to improvise. Also, is effective on the edge as a blocker, sticks to defenders and can win one-on-one matchups consistently.
Criner has been rumored to be battling a medical condition however, causing some erratic behavior, possibly due to the news of a sick family member and could miss the 2011 season.
Impression: He’s a talent, there is no doubt about that. However, the key in determining his draft stock if where he’s at mentally. If healthy he can be a legit starting wide out. But looks more like a sub-package guy. "
Weaknesses: Criner doesn’t have the suddenness to make people miss in the open field and isn’t particularly quick in a short area. He gets jammed too often at the line of scrimmage for someone his size. Puts the ball on the ground too often mostly due to lapses in concentration. He does round off routes and needs to be more patient in the progression of the route.
Bottom Line: Juron Criner is a tough kid that played following an appendectomy. He’s got an all around solid skill set but lacks the explosion to be a top pick in April’s draft. He’s a physical receiver that will create bad matchups for small corners in the NFL. I think he’s a guy that could develop into a starter in the league down the road.
Draft Projection: 3-4."
Moves well with a fluid stride and good acceleration for a big receiver but has average speed, shows some tightness in his hips and is a bit straight-linish."
What he is, though, is just good enough to possibly be a first-round pick. He's clearly got the frame, his hands and speed are good and there are no known character flaws in Criner's game. One perceived negative is that he plays in a pass-happy offense designed to easily get him open. A bigger concern could be Criner's struggles to get off the line in jam situations.
Some will also point out the off-field issue that put his senior season in jeopardy, but that's simply overblown rumor mongering.
Bold Statement: Criner may never pass Alshon Jeffery, Justin Blackmon or Jeff Fuller as prospects, but he could still be a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Games Viewed: (All 2010) Iowa, Oregon State, Washington, Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Oklahoma State
• For a taller receiver, Criner has good speed, both with and without the ball. Plays faster than he'll time. Can be a weapon on end arounds.
• Has a long, thin frame that should be able to carry a lot more bulk. Can be easy to take down at times.
• Struggles at times to beat the jam at the line of scrimmage.
• Strictly a boundary receiver at the next level because
• Knows how to use his speed to get a step on defensive backs. Speed and quickness are the top ways Criner gets open.
• Is used quite a bit on screens and underneath routes.
• Hands are good but not great. In 2010, Criner had a tendency to let the ball into his frame a little too much.
• Really not much of a blocker. While this has never been a deal breaker for wide receiver prospects, Criner is worse than most."
Has elite size and excellent balance and body control and separates well from mismatched defenders; runs crisp routes with a nice burst out of cuts; has good hands but will lose focus at times; can go up and get the ball in the air and is a good red zone target;
Not considered to have sprinter speed, though, but is a long strider with an extra gear when the ball is in the air; also a shifty enough runner after the catch; not very physical and has been called soft at times; also could improve as a blocker; has first-round talent potential if he can under 4.5 seconds at pre-draft testing."
He doesn't play quite as tough as you might expect for a player of his size, but he shows a nice ability to get downfield and simply come down with the football.
At best, he's an average route runner, but when the ball is in the air, Criner's hand-eye coordination is top notch. Using his body to shield off defenders, he can elevate and catch the ball in unorthodox ways. Criner is a bit sloppy with his body control but does a good job to get his hands on the ball and come down with it.
After making catches, he looks to get upfield hard and fast. In order to keep improving, he needs to do better using his hands to get off of press coverage. Criner absorbs contact while route running very well. He'll need to do a better job with coming back to throws and not just allowing the ball to come to him."