LSU’s Toliver not quite a top-tier wideout

After finishing up my top 100 senior prospects earlier this month, the one “glaring” omission on everyone’s mind was LSU standout wide receiver Terrence Toliver. Toliver is a tall, long 6-5, 206-pound threat who finished the 2009 season with more than 700 yards receiving on 53 catches. And now, with 2010 third-round pick Brandon LaFell gone, many suspect Toliver to take the next step and make a dramatic move up draft boards as a potential first-round pick.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but based on everything I’ve seen of Toliver as well as other wide receiver prospects in the country (both from the senior and junior classes), I don’t see any way that he sneaks into the first round.

The reason for that, first and foremost, is because I don’t see him as a potential starting receiver on the outside at the next level. When evaluating tape, I’ll admit Toliver is a good-looking athlete who exhibits some surprising shiftiness to his game when he gets the ball in his hands. He’s also a strider who picks up speed as he goes and displays the ability to track the football vertically once he gets up to full speed and into his routes. Plus, he knows how to win down the field because of his size in jump-ball situations.

However, the biggest reason wide receiver prospects struggle/fail making the jump to the NFL is their inability to get off press coverage and get into their routes quickly. Right now, Toliver doesn’t seem to have the skill set needed to consistently slip press coverage and get off the line at the next level. Too often on tape, I see a guy who plays too high off the snap, lacks any real suddenness/power to his game, takes too many false steps and simply struggles to quickly get into his routes. This would be a bit more excusable vs. the likes of Joe Haden of Florida, but Toliver even struggled to get off press this year vs. the cornerbacks at Louisiana Tech. No disrespect to the Louisiana Tech DBs, but the caliber of athlete Toliver will face at the next level goes up tenfold compared to them.

My next biggest concern with Toliver’s game is that he isn’t a real natural plucker of the ball, as he consistently fights throws into his body and puts the ball on the ground. He does show the ability to extend his long arms and snatch the football away from his frame on throws off his body, but too often when he has time to catch the ball and make a play, he gets caught turning up the field before he secures the pass and/or simply loses concentration.

As a route runner, he isn’t real balanced and struggles to cleanly get in and out of his breaks. He’s consistently forced to gear down when asked to change directions and doesn’t generate much acceleration out of his breaks. He does showcase some natural body control once he locates the football, but as you often see from some of bigger college receivers who are able to consistently make plays because of their size, length and physical advantages, once they get into the NFL vs. corners who aren’t afraid to mix it up off the line and be physical with them down the field, they aren’t nearly as effective, which I think will end up being the case with Toliver.

I don’t have anything against Toliver, and I think he projects as a solid sub-package receiver who will be best suited to working from the slot and using his big frame to box out defenders and move the chains on third down. But the idea that he’s a bona fide starting wideout at the next level who projects as a possible first-round pick seems completely off base to me at this stage.

The National Football Post’s top five senior wideouts:

1. James Rodgers, Oregon State (5-7, 188)
2. Greg Little, North Carolina (6-3, 214)
3. Austin Pettis, Boise State (6-3, 201)
4. Leonard Hankerson, Miami (6-3, 215)
5. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa 6-1, 200)

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