Former wideout Juron Criner was selected 168th overall by the Oakland Raiders in the 2012 NFL Draft on Saturday, and being taken in the fifth round should be considered quite a solid grab for a team trying to grow itself some prospects for quarterback Carson Palmer to target.
Some would say that Criner was a second- or third-round talent after going for 1,233 receiving yards his junior season. After the 2010 season, the Arizona Wildcats receiver looked like he'd have a senior season to earn himself a hefty rookie contract in the next year's NFL Draft, but injuries and a mysterious illness prior to the season hurt him.
Criner finished with 956 yards and 11 touchdown catches in his senior go-around nonetheless.
What does Criner bring to the Raiders?
While they have some speed in their receiving corps with guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey, the 6-foot-3 former basketball player brings size and amazing hands to Oakland. While he might be considered a project, I'd say that's a little bit of a misconception.
Yeah, he's only been playing organized football for a few years, but when his head is right -- it wasn't, as his coaches subtly called him out this past year -- he's as good as any receiver in college football in jump ball situations.
I also believe he's a better route-runner than people give him credit for, again, if his head is on straight.
While his straight-away speed is to be desired after he performed at the combine, he often found a way to separate himself from college cornerbacks.
He's also going to give the Raiders a physical presence after the catch. He's slippery and can take a hit, but that's where injury problems might be an issue. Criner was banged up beyond an appendectomy this season, and through his career had various injuries that were likely a result of taking hits.
Overall, this is a solid value pick. The fifth round is where you take risks on guys that could turn out to be nothing but just might be stars.
Criner is just that.