EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Gosselin spent 20 years as the NFL columnist for the Dallas Morning News, including 20 offseasons studying and researching prospects for the NFL draft. He didn’t watch any tape – he was a writer, not a scout – but he talked to the men who did watch tape. He built a network of NFL general managers, head coaches, personnel directors, scouts and assistant coaches from all 32 teams who would share with him their analyses of players. Gosselin used their insights to build his own draft board, Top 100 board and mock drafts. For 10 consecutive years he had the best Top 100 board in the country (2001-10), according to the Huddle Report, and three times he produced the best mock draft. Gosselin will resurrect the college scouting reports for a look back at how NFL talent evaluators viewed draft prospects. Over the next several weeks we’ll review the first-time eligible for the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. This week it’s Anquan Boldin, who went to Pro Bowls with the Arizona Cardinals and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
GOSSELIN DRAFT ANALYSIS: Boldin was a high-school quarterback who set the state of Florida record for total career yards with 11,433. He passed for 2,482 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior at Pahokee High School and also rushed for 1,497 yards and 20 scores. Florida State moved him to wide receiver and he caught two touchdown passes in his college debut as a true freshman against Louisiana Tech in 1999. He tore up his knee during fall drills in 2001 that ended his season before it could start. He returned in 2002 and, in his only season as a starter, caught 62 passes for 977 yards and an ACC-leading 12 touchdown passes. Boldin opted to skip his senior season to turn pro and measured 6-0 ½, 216 pounds at the NFL combine. But he turned in a disappointing 4.70 clocking in the 40. Gosselin placed him 83rd on his Top 100 board, his ninth receiver, and the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the middle of the second round with the 54th overall pick.
Here are comments on Boldin from 16 talent evaluators leading up to his 2003 NFL draft:
Scout: Cocky. Catches everything.
Scout II: Tenacious after the catch.
Scout III: Great athletic ability but can’t run. Fits into a power, West Coast-offense. Third round.
Personnel director: Great quickness and RAC (run-after-catch). He looks like Andre Rison on tape. I knew his speed was suspect but his first step quickness is better than most. Excellent hands and a tough, tough guy.
Personnel director II: If he ran a 4.45, he’d be a mid-first rounder.
Personnel director III: Big-time producer. Give me an overachiever in the second round.
Wide receiver coach: Can’t run. But put his tapes on and all he does is make plays. Early third round if you need a possession guy.
Offensive coordinator: Like the way he plays. He’s a football player and doesn’t play slow.
Head coach: Good player but he’ll be lucky to go in the first day.
Head coach II: A winner. Didn’t run well but someone’s going to get a steal.
General manager: How many 6-0, 215-pound, 4.65 wide receivers make it? Third round.
General manager II: Second day. Can’t run. Good but not great receiver at Florida State.
General manager III: Just watch the tape. If you loved him in the fall, why hate him this winter based on his workout? Second round. He’s Hines Ward but more physical.
General manager IV: Everyone loves the way he plays. That’s got to account for something. May be the best of all of ‘em after the catch. Makes the first guy miss. Second round.
General manager IV: Bottom of the second round.
General manager VI: If you take him, put him in the slot and disregard his track time. Good player, good athlete. It’s tough to overlook his speed. But when push comes to shove and you start factoring in the football players, you’ve got to take him over some of these projects. I’d rather have him in the third round than reach for a (Taylor) Jacobs in the first.
HALL OF FAME RSUME: Any perceived lack of speed by Boldin did not slow his career any. He caught an NFL rookie-record 101 passes for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns in 2003 to capture the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Just as he did in his debut at Florida State, Boldin was spectacular in his first NFL game with a 10-catch, 217-yard performance against the Detroit Lions. He would have one other 100-catch and six other 1,000-yard seasons in his 14-year career. All three of his Pro Bowls came with the Cardinals. He moved on to Baltimore in a trade in 2010 and caught 68 passes in 2012 to help the Ravens capture the AFC championship, then caught six passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Boldin would go on to play three years with the 49ers and another with Detroit before retiring after the 2016 season as the NFL’s ninth all-time leading receiver with 1,076 catches. He converted his catches into 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns.