We’ve entered the period of the NFL Draft process where the standard regarding top prospects has shifted. Throughout the season and for the past month, analysts and media alike have been working through their film assessments; starting with the names typically associated with the top of the list. This process leads to a lot of confirmation or changing of previously held stances of popular players. But there are only so many “consensus” players at each position before you’ll find the narrative start to swing. Cal wide receiver Chad Hansen is a perfect example of this.
Throughout the season, Hansen was productive; but yet his narration in the media was quiet. Many sets of eyes were placed on the more well-renowned Quarterback of the offense, Davis Webb. So when analysts finish watching the Corey Davis’ and Mike Williams’ of the world, it’s time to dig deeper. And one doesn’t have to dig very deep with Hansen to find some tools that are very easy to like! Hansen, who rebounded nicely from some injuries mid-season, has the type of movement skills and explosiveness that are going to allow him to have a prominent role at the next level.
Explosiveness is evident immediately
Watch one game of Hansen and there are plays that will serve as tip-offs to how explosive he is as an athlete. Not all of these “tip off” plays show up in the box score (although his 124.9 yards per game certainly does pop). Hansen has the leaping ability to challenge errant passes; he illustrated such on a number of occasions that eyeing a box score for 15+ yard receptions won’t indicate. There is a burst to Hansen when turning up the field that consistently beats angles of pursuit in the immediate vicinity as well.
This explosiveness cannot be overlooked; as route running and technique make a receiver tick but his physical traits are what make him take the next step. Many analysts see this natural ability in Hansen and want to project it forward with further refinement; a mentality which can be dangerous but if contextualized can lead to proper assessment of what a player is worth in the draft.
Requires additional versatility
So Hansen is explosive; what are some of his flaws? For starters, the offense he’s coming from did not allow him the chance to showcase great versatility as a receiver. Hansen was a frequent participant of screen throws and vertical patterns. Hansen has the movement skills to run a much more versatile route tree and run it with efficiency. Yet the lack of applied repetitions against game action is sure to cause pause for some.
The upside for Hansen here is he’s illustrated high competency in the tasks he’s been provided. As a vertical receiver, Hansen tracks the football well and does good work bowing his torso late in the reception to greet the football. His short-area work is filled with good vision and clean mobility in tight areas to pick and weave through developing blocks to find RAC space.
Should show well at the Combine
I would expect Hansen to showcase himself very well in a few weeks as the Combine rolls in. He’s got a boundary profile and his explosiveness on film has me with the expectation of very strong explosion scores on his jumps and 10-yard split. Should he do so, he will firmly entrench himself in the second tier of WRs in this year’s class.
Yet you can be sure teams and analysts will be watching his feet running the routes in space. Never mind whether he actually catches the football or not: how efficient are his feet? Does he show the ability to properly break off the right foot and with speed at the top of his patterns? This is not something Hansen was frequently afforded the opportunity to do at Cal. It also happens to be one of the more overlooked portions of wide receiver assessments outside of the NFL.
Taking the proper number of stems on a stem before cleanly decelerating and gearing down to break off into a cut is essential to getting open at the NFL level. It’s going to be my key on Hansen going forward. There’s ample upside here and reasons to get excited about his physical profile and athleticism. He’s a potential high-end starter. Yet the curve he’s going to require to get to that level is what I’m still not sold on just yet.