Few tasks are more difficult for a cornerback than preventing a touchdown pass to a tall, strong receiver in the red zone. Had the Seattle Seahawks had a more physically imposing receiving target in the Super Bowl, the call might have been a lob to the corner -- absent, of course, a handoff to Marshawn Lynch -- rather than a more dangerous slant. Here are five wide receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft who could pose a significant red-zone threat as rookies:
The biggest wide receiver in the draft (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) figures to be an immediate problem for opposing defenses in the red area. The former Missouri star might be a year removed from game action, but it won't take much to knock the rust off the instincts he showed as a sophomore in 2013. He put on an absolute red-zone clinic against Kentucky that year and has added about 15 pounds since then.
NFL fit:Kansas City Chiefs. The club's biggest 2014 receiving threat, Dwayne Bowe, has been released, and adding Jason Avant (6-0, 210) wasn't exactly a red-zone coup. Kansas City needs a receiver enough to spend a first-round pick on one, and Green-Beckham could be an ideal fit at No. 18.
The most highly-regarded wide receiver listed here, White is without peer when it comes to instinctiveness needed to track the ball in the air. West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett had the confidence in White to "throw it up" and let the 6-3, 215-pounder come down with the ball against single coverage. NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks has noted White's red zone skills as well, identifying the Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs as ideal fits for White. A trade-up could be required for several of those teams to have a chance at him, however.
NFL fit:Oakland Raiders. If Oakland's biggest receiver, Brice Butler (6-3, 210) was the team's answer for a red-zone threat, we would know it by now. White would give Derek Carr a great option in the red zone and the Raiders probably have the pick to make it happen at No. 4 overall.
A couple excerpts from Strong's NFL.com scouting report tell the tale here: "Former high school basketball player who knows how to keep defenders on his hip ... Good strength in hands and makes contested catches ... Decent leaper who will climb the ladder for a catch or sink and secure low throw." The Arizona State star knows how to adjust to the ball in the air, too.
NFL fit:Cleveland Browns. Less than a year ago, Cleveland was identified as having the shortest wide receiving corps in the NFL. The roster isn't quite the same today, but with Josh Gordon's status more tenuous than ever, Strong could be a nice fit for the Browns at No. 19 overall.
Who better than a converted tight end to understand the importance of playing physical football closer to the goal line? At 6-5 and 230 pounds, and with leaping skills like these, the former Michigan star is bound to be a matchup problem. The question scouts have on Funchess is whether he has the speed and quickness to get open on a long field. But on a short field, guys Funchess' size don't need much separation to be a threat.
NFL fit:Houston Texans. Andre Johnson is out, leaving the Texans with a relatively small receiving corps. With a little luck, he could slip to Houston in the second round.
The Central Arkansas sleeper didn't run the fastest of 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.58), but in the red zone, speed isn't what scores. He has the size (6-4, 214) and length to pull in contested passes, as he showed on these touchdowns at the 3:00 and 3:52 marks. The NFL team lacking a tall, rangy target that can't afford to draft one early could do well to pick Lewis later in the draft.
NFL fit:New York Giants. The G-men can stretch the field vertically with Odell Beckham Jr. just fine, and a healthy return for Victor Cruz would enhance the downfield threat even more. But Lewis could be a very nice complement to OBJ's speed and explosiveness as a bigger option when the field begins to shrink.