Once upon a time in the NFL, it was fairly common to find players from the lower divisions of college football. Yet as some of the top schools have become football factories, the best prospects have increasingly come from those universities, leaving a heavier burden of proof on players from lesser-known schools to validate their skills. Such is the case with Paul McRoberts, a tall wideout whose name is all over the record books at Southeast Missouri State, but who isn't particularly well known to the rest of the football world. I broke down some of his tape to see if he's ready to make the jump to the NFL.
» Tall with long arms, big hands and a wide catch radius
» Able to shake press coverage at the line to get downfield
» Strong hands to make tough catches in traffic
» Can be an effective blocker when interested
McRoberts played a year of basketball in college and that skillset shows up on tape. He is able to shake defenders at the line of scrimmage like a point guard with a crossover dribble to elude press coverage. Once downfield, he'll box out to get position and go up over defensive backs to high point deep balls.
McRoberts' height and long arms give him an advantage over smaller defensive backs, but even when he isn't going up high to grab the football, he's shown an ability to make tough catches in traffic as well as a flair for the occasional spectacular grab. Overall, if it's catchable, McRoberts shows a better than average ability to make the play.
» Doesn't have top end speed
» Struggles to consistently gain separation from defenders
» Seems uninterested when he's not the primary option
With his long strides, McRoberts is able to eat up lots of ground. But as for actual straight-line speed, that's an area where he's lacking. When given lots of cushion, McRoberts doesn't particularly scare any defensive backs and could find it hard to create any real separation on intermediate routes.
McRoberts posted 76 catches last season, 43 more than his closest teammate. That meant most of the throws were going in his direction. On the plays where he wasn't the primary target, McRoberts didn't seem quite as interested in the play. That lack of consistency in play speed will certainly work against him on draft boards and will make him imminently easier to cover. It's something he'll need to convince scouts won't be an issue at the next level.
Ideal fantasy fits
The Browns have needs at nearly every position, but possibly none so dire as at wide receiver. McRoberts won't be a game-changer for them, but if Cleveland can get a high-level pass-catcher early in the draft, McRoberts could be a complementary piece in the later rounds. Speaking of complementary, the Texans need someone to help take the pressure off of DeAndre Hopkins. If McRoberts can develop his ability to run intermediate routes, he could find a role in Houston.
The Rams have been the place where wide receivers fantasy values have gone to die. McRoberts likely would be no different, but hey ... maybe they'll turn over a new leaf in a new city. If Stefon Diggs can develop into a No. 1 wideout for the Vikings, it could allow McRoberts to slide into a secondary role in the passing game with a chance to grow into something better.
Early fantasy draft projection
There isn't much chance of McRoberts suddenly turning into a speed demon, so any chance for him to succeed in the NFL will be as a smart and efficient route runner. Right now, that would leave him as something of a project for any NFL team willing to take a chance. It also means that McRoberts' fantasy value is trending close to nil for the foreseeable future.