TAMPA — During a pre-draft conference call last week, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock spoke often about what he referred to as “the new flavor’’ of NFL wide receivers.
The flavor Mayock spoke of isn’t all that new. For years now, NFL teams have been acquiring a taste for big, tall, speedy wideouts who work almost exclusively outside the numbers and in the red zone.
He’s talking about the likes of Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, players who make a good part of their living catching back-shoulder fades and jump balls.
The greatest influx of those receivers will come in this year’s draft, with more than a dozen of the top 50 receiver prospects measuring in at 6-foot-3 or taller.
That only means more trouble for smallish cornerbacks such as the Buccaneers’ Alterraun Verner, but the 5-foot-10, 187-pound Verner actually likes taking on bigger receivers.
“There are going to be times where you’re going to be at a disadvantage against those big guys, but it really doesn’t happen too often,’’ Verner said. “Personally, I like going against the big guys because they usually aren’t as fast as the smaller guys.
“When you go against DeSean Jackson or Antonio Brown, that’s tough. So, sometimes, I like going against the bigger, taller guys because I know that most of the time it’s just going to come down to who’s going to be the most physical. And, you know, David did take down Goliath, so anyone can do it.’’
Verner led the league with 27 pass breakups and tied for third with five interceptions last year. Proper technique, he said, is the key to winning the battle against any receiver, but especially new-flavor guys.
“For us smaller corners, it’s all about our technique,’’ Verner said. “You’re not going to out-jump those bigger guys or out-muscle most of them, so it’s got to be about technique, about the subtle points where you can make a play on the ball.
“If the ball’s at a high point, you may not be able to get to it there, but you can still break the receiver’s arms apart or maybe get him out of bounds or somehow disrupt his timing with the quarterback. There are various ways to be effective.’’
Bucs LT Anthony Collins is a man of few words. He’s one of those guys who would rather speak through his play on the field. When he does talk, though, Collins is usually frank and often entertaining.
For example, the 6-5, 315-pound Collins was asked last week what he thought of 5-9, 215-pound Pro Bowl RB Doug Martin, whom he worked with for the first time during a recent three-day minicamp.
His answer: “He’s little, but he can go. Making holes for him is going to be easy.’’
Collins was also asked about the keys to successful offensive line play.
His answer: “You got to be a man. Down in those trenches, you can’t be soft. You got to be a man, it starts with that.’’
Finally, Collins was asked about the chance he and DE Michael Johnson will have to face their old team, the Cincinnati Bengals, in a Nov. 30 game at Raymond James Stadium. His answer: “We got a lot to prove to them. We’ve got chips on our shoulders, so we can’t wait for them to come down here and get them into this humidity.’’
Bucs coach Lovie Smith didn’t attend many prospects’ pro days this year. The work he had to do here in Tampa, he said, took priority over that, but he doesn’t believe the missed pro days will affect him when draft day arrives.
“Nowadays, with what you can see video-wise, you don’t have to be there to get a great (feel for) the players,’’ Smith said.
“I feel like I know this draft as well as any I’ve ever been a part of, and that’s without going to as many pro days as I have in the past.”