Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has talked a lot the last three years about his team’s need for more playmakers on the perimeter of the offense. Adding more prospects with the potential to play in the slot is a vital part of Notre Dame adapting its offense to become a more explosive, productive unit.
The players on this board are either ideal slot prospects, or athletic players capable of playing the slot and the outside (X) position.
IB SLOT RECEIVER RANKINGS
NOTRE DAME PROSPECT ANALYSIS
1) KALEB BROWN, 5-11, 180, CHICAGO (ILL.) ST. RITA
IB Grade: 4.5 (Top 50 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 5.0
Analysis - If I could design the perfect slot receiver in a lab that player would look a whole lot like Kaleb Brown. Yes, he can play outside, but Brown has all the traits you want in a slot receiver, and he's not even close to being a finished product. Brown is one of the best offensive players in the entire country, and he's in Notre Dame's back yard.
Brown is an explosive athlete that combines all the traits you want in a wideout. He possesses an elite burst, which allows him to get to full speed within just a couple of steps, and he combines an excellent second gear with that trait. Brown is also a sudden athlete that makes immediate cuts, and he can then accelerate out of that break and get back to full speed.
Brown's suddenness is evident in every part of the game. As a prep player you see it mostly when he has the ball in his hands. Brown played mostly running back as a sophomore, and he shows the agility and vision to do major damage with the ball in his hands. On the camp circuit you see that suddenness as a route runner, and with more coaching he's going to end up as an elite route runner. His ability to quickly plant and explode out of cuts is already dangerous, and he's got plenty of room for improvement with this part of his game.
Brown is also a strong athlete, and he has the lower body strength you normally see in a running back. That's part of what makes him so dangerous with the ball in his hands. He can run through arm tackles with ease, and we've already talked about the acceleration we see after contact. Brown also has an advanced upper body, which he uses naturally as a stiff arm in space. The St. Rita star also has strong, fast and confident hands as a pass catcher.
2) XAYVION BRADSHAW, 6-0, 185, BLUEFIELD (VA.) GRAHAM
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 100 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 5.0
Analysis - Bradshaw is one of the most underrated prospects in the entire country. A consensus three-star recruit, Bradshaw grades out as a Top 100 caliber recruit on the Irish Breakdown board. Don't let the star rankings fool you, this young man can flat out play, and he's the kind of athlete/playmaker Notre Dame wants and needs.
The Graham wideout is an outstanding all-around athlete. His foot quickness, agility and balance are exceptional, and he shows those traits both as a route runner and with the ball in his hands, but it's when the ball is in his hands that he's truly at his best athletically. Bradshaw explodes out of cuts and shows the kind of immediate stop-and-go ability in space that has been largely missing from the Notre Dame offense.
Bradshaw isn't a Will Fuller type of speed player, but he gets to full speed quickly and his second gear is impressive. He can stretch the field from the outside, but his speed and acceleration plays even better from the slot and in the return game. Bradshaw also has impressive speed with the ball in his hands, and he's a legit home run threat every time he touches the football.
Bradshaw has a lean in his stance, which needs to be cleaned up, and his overall route running needs work, but the tools are there for this to become a big part of his game. The Graham star catches the ball clean, he tracks the deep ball extremely well and he's more than capable of winning contested throws. When he gets the ball in his hand Bradshaw turns into a running back, and his vision combines perfectly with his agility and explosiveness to make him a dynamic after-the-catch wideout and return man.
3) KADEN SAUNDERS, 5-10, 175, WESTERVILLE (OHIO) SOUTH
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 150 caliber prospect)
Upside Grade: 4.5
Analysis - Saunders is one of the most explosive athletes in the country, and he's exactly the kind of big-play athlete that Notre Dame and every other program in the country wants and needs more of. He's a dangerous slot player and a difference maker in the return game.
The 5-10, 175-pound wideout lacks great size and length, but he has plenty of tools to make up for it, including game-changing speed and a natural feel for playing the position. His speed plays well inside and outside, short and long. Saunders shows an impressive burst and top-notch acceleration, a combination that makes him electric in the quick game. His deep speed is also outstanding, and Saunders has the potential to develop into an elite route runner at some point during his career.
Saunders also shows excellent speed with the ball in his hands. He doesn't need much room to turn a short throw into a touchdown. Saunders is a difficult matchup because he's capable of dominating in the short game, but he also has home run ability in the vertical game. Saunders is a bit more of a vertical weapon than he is a make-you-miss player right now, but I think there's room for that part of his game to keep getting better.
Saunders shows an impressive ability to win at the line of scrimmage with both elite athleticism and a good feel for how to work free. His route running in the quick game is impressive, and he shows a good feel for route running in general, but there is still some work to do. A player his size needs to be more precise, and Saunders could stand to continue nuancing his route running in many ways. His top ends are a bit inconsistent, but when he does it right he explodes out of breaks and gets excellent separation.
Saunders is committed to Penn State.
4) TYLER MORRIS, 6-0, 175, LAGRANGE (ILL.) NAZARETH ACADEMY
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 250 caliber player)
Upside Grade: 4.5
Analysis - Morris is an interesting player in that he might the most well-rounded prospect on this board, at least where things stand right now. The issue for Morris, and why he grades lower on this board, is that he also lacks any top traits. The Michigan commit might have the highest floor of the three prospects ranked ahead of him, but his athleticism and upside isn't as high as theirs.
Morris is already a strong route runner, showing a good burst off the line, a solid understanding of how to attack defenders and a really good feel for finding open zones. He also shows good ball skills, catching the ball cleanly away from his body and showing above-average all-around ball skills. That combination factors into why Morris has a higher floor.
The Nazareth Academy standout has good foot quickness and agility, and his balance stands out on film on both sides of the ball. Morris gets off the line quickly and gets to top speed in a hurry. He lacks the top-end speed and acceleration of other players on the board, but he plays at a good speed, especially when you combine that with his route running prowess.
Morris projects to be a more than capable slot, but one aspects about his game that I like is that he projects just as well to the outside. He's a tough player, which you see when he plays defense, and his route technique and length works well on the outside as well.
Morris is committed to Michigan.
TOP GRADED PROSPECT PER CATEGORY
Size: Kaleb Brown
Strength: Kaleb Brown
Speed: Kaden Saunders
Athleticism: Xayvion Bradshaw, Kaleb Brown
Route Running: Tyler Morris
Ball Skills: Kaleb Brown
YAC: Kaleb Brown, Xayvion Bradshaw
1) Kaleb Brown
2) Xayvion Bradshaw
3) Kaden Saunders
4) Tyler Morris
To comment below be sure to sign up for a FREE Disqus account, which you can get HERE.
Become a premium Irish Breakdown member, which grants you access to all of our premium content, our premium message board and gets you a FREE subscription to Sports Illustrated! Click on the link below for more
Be sure to stay locked into Irish Breakdown all the time!
Join the Irish Breakdown community!
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown podcast on iTunes
Subscribe to the Irish Breakdown YouTube channel
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachD178
Like and follow Irish Breakdown on Facebook