With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it’s time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we’re happy to start this year’s Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year’s group here . The final 50 players listed were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field. We begin this year’s group with Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton. In Mike Reilly’s high-falutin’ offense (and without a top-tier quarterback throwing him passes), Wheaton made his name as one of the most productive FCS receivers in the last two seasons. After a 2011 campaign in which he caught 73 balls for 986 yards and only one touchdown (shades of Keyshawn Johnson!), Wheaton blew it up in 2012, getting a little closer to the goal line and grabbing 91 balls for 1,244 yards and 11 scores. After a very impressive week at the Senior Bowl ( ask Desmond Trufant about that ), Wheaton started to establish himself as the kind of player who could possibly find his way to “1A” status on an NFL team. The question is, in what systems can a route-savvy, 5-foot-11, 190-pound player with a good sense of the game take it over the top? Pros: Slightly-built receiver who gets off press coverage more with adept foot-fakes and jukes than hand-fighting, but does so very well. Extremely savvy in traffic; Wheaton knows how to get open in small spaces. Natural and trained yards-after-catch receiver — once Wheaton gets himself righted, he immediately faces his defender and looks to break free. Doesn’t need a straight line to gain extra yards. Very good route-runner, especially in the short-to-intermediate game. Conversant with slants, drags, slants, crosses, and quick outs, but isn’t as dependent on Oregon State’s quick passing game as some would have you believe — he’ll get open downfield off coverage. Beats trail corners down the sideline with good hand movements, and isn’t afraid to sell his body out by jumping for a catch. Very quick at breaking into cuts, making single coverage harder when he’s your assignment. Not an overtly physical receiver, but will play that way when necessary. Tracks the ball into his hands on deeper passes. Fast player off the line who has an extra gear downfield. Familiar with route combinations and has a great sense of timing when creating openings with other receivers. Gets downfield very quickly from screens and quick passes behind the line of scrimmage. Good runner on sweeps. Can play outside, in the middle in trips packages, and in slot, though his skill set seems best attuned for an outside role. Would seem a natural to run option routes because of route awareness and quickness in short areas. Skinny legs, but could probably put on 10 pounds of muscle without losing too much functional speed. Cons: Most of Wheaton’s yards after catch come before contact; he’s simply not big enough to break tackles on a regular basis. That issue will most likely become more prominent in the NFL.
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The Shutdown 50 — #50: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State (Shutdown Corner)