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NFL Draft Preview: Anthony Schwartz

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 21 Auburn at Texas A&M Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In today’s NFL, where the passing game is king and players are as athletic as ever, there’s one thing that you can always rely on to get you drafted - speed. And Anthony Schwartz has that in spades.

Schwartz’s Auburn career, while productive for an Auburn receiver, does feel like one of unmet potential. The late-stage Gus Malzahn offense did the speedster no favors, with shaky quarterback play and a seeming inability to have any routes called for him other than deep balls.

Still, Schwartz finished his Auburn career with 117 catches for 1,433 yards and 6 touchdowns, while he took 42 carries for 323 yards and another 7 scores. The 117 catches and 1,433 yards ranked him 10th and 17th all-time, respectively, at Auburn.

Schwartz broke out in a big way his freshman year, with both a rushing and receiving score in his debut vs Alabama State in 2018. He also performed what may have been the most incredible athletic feat I’ve ever seen on a football field against Tennessee that season, as he made three Tennessee defenders look like middle schoolers trying to keep up with the Varsity team in a blazing display of speed.

Unfortunately, Schwartz struggled to develop a consistent repertoire with Bo Nix in his sophomore and junior seasons. On top of that, he struggled with various injuries, including a hand injury that saw him open the 2019 campaign with a cast. Still, Schwartz was a key part of the Auburn offense the last few years, with the ability to pop off at any moment, like in 2019 at College Station.

So what does that say about his prospects at receiver in the NFL? Let’s see what can help and hurt him at the next level:

POSITIVES

  • Speed - Anthony Schwartz can run with essentially any human being on earth. His 4.25 40 time at Auburn’s pro day was impressive, but only the top of the iceberg since pro day times are often questionable at best. But with Schwartz’s bonafide track pedigree, teams should be confident that Schwartz can immediately become an X-factor if put in the right position to utilize his speed.
  • Rushing ability - Schwartz was used as a sweep/motion man plenty in his first two seasons on the Plains, and should be able to do so in the NFL if that’s a part of their offense. He averaged nearly 8.7 ypc in his freshman and sophomore year on 38 carries before Chad Morris took over the offense and largely scrapped sweeps.

NEGATIVES

  • Hands - While some of the blame can be placed on inaccurate QB play, Schwartz didn’t show the best of hands this past season. With a drop rate of 9.3% on 86 targets, Schwartz ranked 7th worst in the SEC among receivers with at least 50 targets, of which there were 21 such players.
  • Routes - Again, the Malzahn offense did Schwartz no favors by pigeon-holing him into being a screen/sweep/deep ball only guy, but Schwartz has very little game tape displaying his route running ability. It’s certainly an aspect of his game that he may quickly develop in the NFL, but teams will have to take that chance.
  • Contested catches - Due to the nature of his skill set and role in the offense, Schwartz was rarely targeted in tight windows, but winning jump balls or making plays across the middle just isn’t a part of his game right now.

PROJECTION

Schwartz is hard to project in the Draft. With his world-class speed, it only takes one GM to fall in love with him to sneak into the the second or third round on Friday. However, I think the 4th/5th round is more likely. He will likely have to compete for significant playing time at receiver early in his career unless a team specifically wants to feature him in specific packages, although he may be able to contribute on special teams as a returner or gunner (if he’s willing to tackle on punt returns).