One of the biggest questions of the draft was when the Cardinals would address their need for a speed guy in the draft.
You look at the wide receivers on the roster and there are some amazing talents, but there isn’t a guy with just pure speed at the position that is a threat to take the top off the defense.
Well it took six rounds, but the Cardinals believe they have that in Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope.
The Aggies wideout blazed a 4.34 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and was predicted to be a late day two or early day three selection by most in the draft community.
So why was he sitting there in the sixth round?
Despite the break neck 40 time, Swope doesn’t play like a burner, but more like a true slot receiver who can set up a deep route by baiting defenders to bite on the underneath.
He seems to be the type of wide receiver that builds speed up instead of someone with an exceptional burst of the line.
Swope does, however, show a good ability to set up his deep routes by working the underneath stuff heavily, with good route running and excellent understanding of the soft spots in the defense.
Notice how Swope gets past the marker before he sits himself down? He understands the little things about being a receiver.
He’s comfortable working over the middle and isn’t afraid to take a big hit. Some believe his previous concussions played a role in his “falling” on draft day, but he’s never missed games because of it.
When you look at Swope’s combine numbers you expect to see a shifty, make you miss type slot/deep guy, someone you want in space.
The reality of it is Swope doesn’t run around guys, or make them miss and often times if he doesn’t have clear running lanes he’ll get brought down by the first tackler on arrival.
On back-to-back plays we’ll see Swope have an opportunity to make a man miss and get extra yardage, but he fails to show that wiggle in his game, and is more of a straight line speed type. In fact he runs exceptionally hard, and more times he’ll actually break a tackle than make a man miss.
That physicality also shows itself in the run game. He is a willing and able blocker, someone you can trust to crack down or body up defensive backs on stretch plays.
Where Swope succeeds with speed is when he is running away from defenders and not trying to make them miss.
When Swope is able to set up his deep routes, he does a great job of getting separation, tracking the ball into his hands and using his hands to catch the ball, which is very important for a deep threat guy.
His build up speed is undeniable and with a quarterback like Carson Palmer looking to get the ball to him deep, someone like Palmer still shows a deft touch on his deep throws, he shouldn’t have to slow down and allow the defender to recover.
Instead, Swope will be able to use that long speed to create big plays.
The nice thing about Swope is that he is a very adept route runner and receiver. He shows soft hands when catching the ball and looks natural in coming back to it out of his breaks.
He isn’t a sudden athlete, this shows up in and out of breaks at times, but if he’s used as a slot target and vertical threat, instead of that intermediate type receiver, he should have no problem making a big impact on the Cardinals’ offense early on.