Recently, we've started to hear football coaches use basketball terminology to describe their players' skill-set. There's one that seems to be most prevalent amongst NFL coaching staff.
"Above the Rim."
When a coach speaks to this or uses it during their evaluation of the specific player, they are speaking to the god-given ability to go and attack the football when it's in the air - winning those 50/50 "jump balls" when a defender is draped on you and make a play.
Coaches love seeing that.
They salivate at a guy who is not afraid to go up and get it. They will give him every opportunity to make something happen.
It's how players like Calvin Johnson and Terrell Owens - both all-time greats - made a name for themselves. In the present day, it's DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Mike Evans, Kenny Golladay; all X receivers, with big, physical styles who excel at this skill.
With the 2020 season inching closer upon us, we will see how good this rookie WR class really is. Much has been made about the talent at the top, but I want you to remember these three initials.
AGG. - Antonio Gandy-Golden.
Let's dive into the game tape as he exemplifies what it means to play above the rim.
In this clip below, the first thing to watch is his ability to beat man coverage - something any young WR must learn to succeed in the NFL. AGG uses an up and over swim move to beat the smaller corner and then turns his eyes to the backfield to find the ball. But, I want you to notice how he positions his body to "box out" the corner, so it is only him in position to get the football. That 6'4 frame is on display here. You cannot teach size.
Another example of AGG high-pointing the ball to make a play. Not only that, but he shows off some underrated athleticism, too. First, his body control to adjust to the football and then the toe-tap along the sideline in an attempt to keep his feet in bounds and score. Unfortunately, he does not; but still, a great effort to finish the play.
The play below is reminiscent of Odell in his rookie season against the Cowboys when he made that acrobatic one-handed grab along the sideline. I am not comparing the two, but AGG showing off his hops is what I want you to notice here. This is also a perfectly timed jump ball(again, playing "above the rim"), using his long reach to snatch the ball out of the air with one hand—another excellent example of his athleticism.
I wanted to include this play to show that he's more than just a jump-ball specialist. This play appears to be designed to get him the ball on a WR screen and is executed beautifully. AGG sells himself as a decoy at first but then plants his inside foot to come back to the football and turns upfield to gain additional yardage. He's not a burner by any means, but he has great open-field speed and long strides.
AGG is at the bottom of the screen. A different play than the one above, but the same result when he gets in the open field. A quick post route off the line of scrimmage puts the cornerback on his heels. Without even using his hands, AGG creates separation twice on this play. First, off the line of scrimmage with his nasty break using his right foot to plant and go. Then, the second time - right around the 47 yd line, he cuts inside with that outside foot and loses the defender again. Immediately as he turns his head, the ball is there—great timing route, too, with him and his QB being on the same page. The extra YAC is just icing on the cake.
This last play is much more subtle than the previous two, but I bring it up because it's a good example of using his hands and long arms to create separation. This is the same game against Syracuse, and instead of beating the defender with his impressive cuts, he sticks his arm right in his chest to create the initial separation and gets upfield to finish his route. The ball is also thrown behind him, and AGG does an excellent job of adjusting to the football to reel it in.
Hopefully, the clips above gave you an idea of what he can do on the field, but let's see how they might lead to opportunity in 2020 and beyond.
Gandy-Golden was drafted in the 4th round(No 142 overall) by the Washington Football Team out of Liberty University. This small school program completed its first year of FBS eligibility last fall. AGG dominated the competition during the previous two years, catching 20 TDs and over 1000 yards in 2018 and 2019. According to playerprofiler.com, AGG broke out at an early age of 19 amassing over 20% of Liberty's offensive production in 2017 as a sophomore. For the numbers guys out there, this is something you love to see that correlates to future NFL success. His 90th percentile college target share(31.4% to be exact) is also a good indication that he can command targets once he develops into an NFL caliber receiver.
Currently, Gandy-Golden is going as the rookie WR17 and 34th overall player off the board - a late 3rd round rookie draft price tag. At that point in your rookie drafts, you're searching for upside, and I think AGG can provide that as a long term investment. If he is still there, you should absolutely scoop him up. He is no doubt worthy of a bench stash who could find himself in your lineups in 1-2 years.
Speaking of lineups, with the loss of Kelvin Harmon before training camp, it opened the door for opportunity and for Gandy-Golden to potentially carve out a role immediately this upcoming season. Terry McLaurin is the established alpha WR in Washington after a stellar rookie season. But after that, the depth chart looks bleak in Washington. Second-year undrafted WR Steven Sims has gained momentum this offseason and will fill the slot role. That leaves a golden opportunity for AGG to step in as the X receiver, vacated by the Harmon injury. If Gandy-Golden continues to impress in camp (the word is that he has been), it is very well possible we see #11 opposite McLaurin and Sims Week 1 against Philadelphia.
So, in closing, be sure to make room for AGG on your bench. In 1-2 years, I think you can have yourself, at the very least, a solid WR2 with his elite ball skills, good hands, and ability to separate.
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