On a bright, early summer morning in the Baylor football weight room, I remember looking over to my right and seeing wide receiver Kendall Wright squat 465 pounds for multiple reps. He owned it, Kendall dominated all 465 pounds of that squat bar. Despite his seemingly frail 190 lb. frame, Kendall Wright is pound-for-pound one of the best athletes I've ever seen. During my two seasons as his teammate at Baylor, I witnessed this many times, first hand.
Some examples: Kendall is so athletic he was even a member of the Baylor basketball team for the 08-09 season before deciding to focus only on football (YouTube Kendall Wright to see some unbelievable dunks from his high school basketball days). On another occasion during summer conditioning, with a running start, Kendall front-flipped over about 8 yards of hurdles. The whole team went crazy after watching this feat of absurd athleticism.
Kendall is undersized at 5'10" and 190 pounds but he makes up for his lack of ideal size with his innate ball skills and elite game-changing speed. Kendall can also jump out of the gym. His jumping ability helps him with elevating and snatching the ball at its highest point. He might only stand 5'10" but he goes up and catches the ball like he is 6'5". I'm anxious to see what he tests for in the vertical jump and the 40 yard dash at the NFL combine. As I've been in the weight room with and have run sprints with Kendall, I'd guess that Kendall runs in the the 4.3's and tests with a vertical around 40 inches, give or take.
Speed: Kendall has track-star speed. I'm positive that he will run in the 4.3's at the combine. Any time the Baylor football team did sprints, Kendall was always one of the top finishers. I've never seen him get caught from behind and he has the wheels to take it for six from anywhere on the field.
Explosiveness: In high school, Wright won back to back track and field state titles in Texas in the long jump and the triple jump. He can get in position to jump quickly and is superb at elevating to gain separation from the defense.
Toughness and Competitiveness: I cannot express this enough, Kendall wants to win. And he wants to win in everything. One time, as an example, I was playing basketball with Kendall and he flat-out put the team on his back. Some individuals have that special ability to inspire the people around them just from their sheer intensity and desire to win, and Kendall is one of those people. The energy and confidence that he exudes on the football field is contagious.
Small Frame: Kendall is 5'10" and 190 pounds. There are a good number of NFL receivers that are in this same height and weight range:
It's always nice to have a giant receiver such as Calvin Johnson at 6'5" and 236, but there are plenty of smaller receivers in the NFL that still have the ability to make plays and dramatically influence the outcome of a game.
Route-Running: Kendall is so fast and athletic that often times he would simply rely on his pure talent to get open, rather than running a precise, strict route. I know the Baylor coaching staff had to hound Kendall to do make adjustments on certain routes and an NFL coaching staff will force Wright to run crisper, sharper routes.
Hands: Kendall's hands are not a true "weakness" but they are an area that needs improvement. Occasionally going over the middle, Wright would get a case of the "alligator arms" and not really extend to make a catch. Sometimes he will let the ball get in on his body and rely on making the catch with his frame and not his hands. While Kendall does have the occasional drop, he makes up for it by making the outstanding play. He is so talented that he would routinely make plays in practice that would just blow everybody's mind, even the coaches sometimes. I remember in film review watching replays over and over again of Kendall in practice making a seemingly blind one-handed catch while falling out of bounds. Our position coach was awed by Kendall's natural talent.
I think Kendall will be drafted in the middle of the first round because of his elite playmaking ability and because of the tremendous upside he could have in the NFL. But to be honest, if I were an NFL general manager, I would not draft Kendall Wright in the first round. This isn't an indictment on Kendall, but it is more a reflection of my opinion that you could get more of a "sure thing" in the first round. However, some franchise and general manager will fall in love with what Kendall Wright brings to the table, and they'll draft him in the first round. I could see Kendall becoming a perennial Pro-Bowler, but I could also see him being a mediocre receiver at the next level.
In some ways, Kendall Wright reminds me of the Seahawks' very own Golden Tate. Golden Tate had the illustrious collegiate career of a rock star, made eye-popping plays, but then stumbled once he entered the NFL. In the back of my mind, I worry that this could be the fate of Kendall Wright. I think drafting Kendall in the first round is a gamble, but i also think it is a gamble that could see a huge payoff. While I could see Wright becoming a Golden Tate in terms of career arc thus far, I could also see him becoming a Steve Smith type player- a guy who racks up the yards, is a threat to score from anywhere, and is an annual Pro-Bowler.
The sky is the limit for Kendall Wright. He could become one of the best receivers and game-changers in the league, but I worry that he could also become a Golden Tate type player. Let's see if the magic continues for Kendall Wright as he takes the step to the next level.