You don’t make a living in the NFL as a return specialist these days — it just doesn’t happen anymore.
That doesn’t discredit Ryan Switzer so much as it does compliment him. Over a four-year stretch the former North Carolina Tar Heel flipped the script on his part-time receiver, full-time return man tag. He began his tenure at Chapel Hill as the NCAA punt return leader as a freshman and left with single-season records in both receptions (96) and yards (1,112) as a senior.
Switzer started strictly as a special teams game-changer/auxiliary wide receiver and finished a well-rounded pass catcher for the Tar Heels. Though he’ll get his reps in the return game in the NFL, he’ll earn his paychecks as an interior receiver.
Switzer isn’t as shifty as Washington’s John Ross and he doesn’t run routes like Western Michigan’s Corey Davis. The former Tar Heel isn’t even as slippery as he is aware of his surroundings in open field. He has excellent vision and sets up shop in the middle of the field, not to mention precise breaks out of his route stems make him an option down the hashes for chunk yardage.
Ryan Switzer is filthy, absolutely filthy pic.twitter.com/XFZoxWSCSY
— Andrew Chandler (@Ajchandler24) April 10, 2017
At 5-foot-8, 181 pounds, the odds are stacked against the Charleston, West Va., product. Should a team want the intriguing element that Switzer carries, however, those interested could commit highway robbery on Day 3.
Here are three teams that the receiver would fit best with:
1. New England Patriots
Gee, a short skill player heading to Foxboro? Where’d you think of that one?
For once in our lives, let’s neglect the correlation between the New England Patriots and the small, “gritty” receivers that have thrived in the offense. Stop that, friends, and hear me out.
Switzer fits the Danny Amendola prototype more than he does the Julian Edelman mold; and with the former taking yet another pay cut and an extended future in New England looming, there’s a Day 3 selection that has Switzer’s name pasted on it as the future replacement.
If Bill Belichick is on the prowl for hardworking players with high character, he’d get one in the slot receiver. Switzer and former quarterback/teammate Mitchell Trubisky put in the extra time behind the curtains over their tenures in Chapel Hill that went unnoticed.
2. Carolina Panthers
I entertained the idea of JuJu Smith-Schuster going to the Los Angeles Chargers and Davis Webb fitting in with the Houston Texans with location as an essential factor. Switzer played ball in North Carolina, but the Panthers fit isn’t directly connected to why he’d mesh with Carolina.
The Panthers’ offense features big, physical targets in Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson. They could use a quick possession guy in Switzer, not to mention his help in a punt return game that finished the season No. 24 in the NFL in yards per return in 2016.
Ryan Switzer had 7 career punt return touchdowns and averaged 10.9 yards per return pic.twitter.com/bmXVwSKedL
— Eliot Crist (@EliotCrist) April 4, 2017
3. Wherever Trubisky Lands
Kind of a sneaky good 12-6 curveball thrown, am I right? The gap between Trubisky and his counterpart in the draft will be vast — teams may pick four or five times between the time the quarterback and wide receiver go. I don’t envision Trubisky barking orders into the ears of front office once he gets taken, but the club that chooses him should be cognizant of his teammate in the later rounds.
The ideal package…deal.