Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted wide receiver J.D. Woods caught 61 passes for 637 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, but being as he played his college football at West Virginia, that was only good enough to rank him third on the team in receptions behind Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, both of whom caught 114 passes last season. In other words, Woods was just “that other West Virginia wide receiver” heading into the 2013 NFL draft.
Despite only having 61 receptions, Woods still had 15 more than Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was drafted 29th overall in the first round last month by the Minnesota Vikings. Now, I am not going to dare compare Woods to Patterson, outside of the fact that both really only had one year of Division I college football production. While I still have my doubts about Patterson eventually living up to his first-round selection, he is a much more explosive receiver than Woods is with tons of upside.
Woods, who announced the birth of his first child Wednesday evening on Twitter, is a long shot to make the Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp, but from the little bit of tape that I have watched of him from last year, I certainly think that he will at least push Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Brown, who the Steelers drafted in the sixth round.
Woods is by no means blazing fast, and he certainly won\’t be considered a deep threat like Patterson will be at the NFL level, but his pro day measurables are very comparable to those registered by the aforementioned Brown at his pro day, and he appears to be a better route runner and a hands catcher to boot. As far as blocking goes, Woods appears to be an equal of Brown in that area of his game.
Last season at West Virginia, Woods was targeted 95 times, and his 61 receptions were good for a 64.2% completion rate. For comparison purposes, Brown was targeted 117 times in 2012 at Oklahoma, and his 72 catches resulted in a 61.5% catch rate. In defense of Brown, however, he didn\’t have Austin and Bailey on the field with him to demand extra attention and that certainly needs to be taken into consideration when trying to compare the two to one another.
During spring workouts last year, the Naples, Fla., native made the switch from the outside receiver position to the inside receiver position and during that same time, he earned praise from West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
“I’ll give J.D. (Woods) a ton of credit, said Dawson, according to The Daily Athenaeum. He’s been fast. He’s real assertive. He’s a whole different person.”
Woods, however, had a lot of work to do to even get to that point with Dawson, who considered the 6-foot receiver “Out of sight, out of mind\’\’ at one point, per The Charleston Gazette, because they weren\’t sure that they could waste practice reps on a player who wasn\’t guaranteed to be with them in 2012 because of academic reasons. Because of that, Woods was relegated to the scout team.
Woods buckled down with his academics and his preseason move inside didn\’t last long. By the start of the 2012 season, he was moved back outside to the “Z” position in the spread offense run by Mountaineer\’s head coach Dana Holgorsen, and he pretty much stayed in that role all of last season.
In addition to the competition that he will face from Brown in training camp, Woods must also show that he is better than wide receivers David Gilreath, Derek Moye, Kashif Moore and Reggie Dunn. Should he indeed prove to be better than that group of five young wide receivers, he will still have the task of knocking either Jerricho Cotchery or Plaxico Burress out of the fifth wide receiver spot unless the Steelers choose to keep six instead of five.
With all the above stated, Woods must somehow make his mark on special teams during training camp, and that could prove to be tough for him being that he really isn\’t fast enough to be a return man or an outside gunner.
In reality, Woods will more than likely be fighting to earn a spot on the Steelers 2013 practice squad in training camp, but as undrafted free agent who is better known as being “that other West Virginia wide receiver,” at least he has a chance at making that happen.