Deep threats are a coveted chess piece in the NFL. As such, a player with very good top-end speed, like West Virginia’s WR Shelton Gibson, will always find themselves being pushed up draft boards. Despite some fairly pedestrian production in 2016 (43 receptions, 891 yards, 8 touchdowns) in a conference not exactly known for defense, Gibson’s “stock” has been rumored to be as high as round two.
Watching Gibson’s tape was tough. Even tougher was searching for a highlight reel of him to accompany this piece, with one of the results calling him the next Tavon Austin (ugh). The Youngstown State safeties he played against were mind blowingly frustrating to watch, as they blew assignment after assignment and let Gibson run free. Kansas State had similar issues with their safeties, ballooning Gibson’s production. Gibson also doesn’t run a full route tree, so there wasn’t much else to gleam from his tape other than “these safeties suck, and he is fast”. Obviously it’s more nuanced than that and there were more games to watch, so let’s get to the technical details…
Name: Shelton Gibson
Size: 5’11” / 191 lbs
School: West Virginia
Class: Junior (RS)
Comparison: TJ Graham (Buffalo Bills)
Draft Grade: 5th Round
Combine Results: 40 Time – 4.50, Bench – 8, Vertical – 32″, Broad – 118″, 3 Cone – 6.83, 20 Shuttle – 4.20, 60 Shuttle – 10.71
Positives: Lift the top off burner whose play speed is greater than his timed speed. Consistently drew a safety over top in coverage. Excellent at tracking the football on deep throws over his head/shoulder and displays very good body control/flexibility. Stacks trailing defenders effectively. Aggressive off the line in eating cushion. Gets to a cornerback’s blind spot and is patient in using subtle moves to open a defender’s hips. Good feet at the line to beat press. Decent RAC ability when given space. Adds return value despite suspect vision in that area.
Negatives: One-trick pony that only shows polish on deep routes. Charmin soft vs. contact. Skittish when having to make catches over the middle with oncoming contact. Can be rerouted and shut down when a defender gets hands on early. Limited separation on in breaking routes due to lacking savvy at top of route stem. Skinny frame that will struggle vs. borderline physical corners. Frugal as a blocker.
Outlook: Teams needing immediate deep speed from their WR4 should take a flier on Gibson in Day 3, but anything more is pure projection. Could be a dynamic playmaker if he is able to develop nuance in his route running, but his concerns on contact and diminishing returns as the field becomes more compressed point to a very specific, limited role.