49ers.com’s pre-draft series continues with a look at one of the most dominant wide receivers in college football history.
Not many, if any, have produced in college football the way Justin Blackmon did over the past two seasons for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
During that time, Blackmon lined up in 26 games and put together some of the most astounding statistics on his way to winning back-to-back Biletnikoff Awards given annually to the nation’s top wideout.
In those 26 contests, Blackmon registered 19, 100-yard receiving games and a pair of 200-yard receiving games.
Still not impressed?
Blackmon also caught five or more passes in every one of those games, too.
With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the 6-foot-1, 207-pound wideout is widely considered to be the top wide receiver available in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Mock drafts have Blackmon going to numerous teams holding top-10 picks, but there doesn’t seem to be a consistent suitor for one of college football’s most dangerous perimeter players. As of now, Blackmon could go anywhere.
Even so, the Oklahoma State standout envisions himself becoming an instant game-changer at the next level, much like two of last year’s top-10 selections: Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green and Atlanta Falcons wideout Julio Jones. Both players had successful starts to their NFL careers in 2011.
Blackmon believes he can produce in a similar fashion.
“They came into the league and did a really good job this year,” Blackmon told reporters at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. “They had really good rookie seasons, both A.J. and Julio. I am very competitive, so I would put myself right up there with them. I like to compete, so I’m not going to down myself and say that I’m not just as good as them.”
In 2010, when all three where at the top of the college football world, Blackmon out-produced Green and Jones with a 111-catch, 1,782-receiving yard, 20-touchdown season. Blackmon posted 100-yard receiving games in all 12 of Oklahoma State’s contests that year, including a 10-catch, 207-yard performance against the Oklahoma Sooners.
Blackmon could very well have been a first-round pick like Green and Jones had he entered the draft in 2011.
“I considered it a lot,” Blackmon said. “I almost did come out. It was a tough decision. I sat down with my parents and my family, and we decided it was best to stay one more year. I think it was better for me for the future.”
The following year, Blackmon returned to school to put up similar numbers, just not quite as spectacular. On the Cowboys’ Big 12 conference championship team, Blackmon posted a career-high 121 catches along with 1,522 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
Perhaps, the talented wideout known for his physicality and play-making ability saved his best collegiate performance for his last outing.
In Oklahoma State’s 41-38 overtime win in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl, Blackmon caught eight passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns against the Stanford Cardinal.
Could his two-year run of extreme production end possibly better?
“I don’t think I could,” Blackmon said. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t think that finish would have happened that way, but it is what it is.”
Blackmon called the Fiesta Bowl win the highlight of his career at Oklahoma State. In fact, Blackmon feels immense pride for his university and football program.
“They taught me how to work when no one is watching, how to keep on pushing when I’m tired and hurt,” he said. “They taught me how to be a better person off the field and on the field.”
At this point of the pre-draft process, Blackmon is traveling around the country to meet with teams interested in selecting him. There, Blackmon can show teams just how dedicated he is to becoming a great professional football player.
One of his biggest selling points, other than proven production, is the character instilled in him by his parents and the Oklahoma State program.
“I’m going to be somebody who is going to be out there fighting - I’m going to be working when no one is watching,” Blackmon reiterated. “I’m always going to be dependable and someone that you can count on.”
Teams can also count on Blackmon to produce in the red zone, not just in the 60 yards of space between the 20-yard lines.
In 2011, Blackmon caught 30 of the 36 red zone passes he was targeted for. Blackmon caught 12 touchdown passes on those plays, too. The Oklahoma State wideout’s 20 red zone touchdown grabs are also the most among college players since 2010.
Although he’s listed at 6-foot-1, Blackmon plays like a 6-foot-4 wideout. Body control and strong hands make the Oklahoma State wideout one of the best deep ball catches in recent memory.
“I thought he was 6-6, 240 pounds when I was watching him on tape,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden recently said in a national conference call. “He fits any offense.”
In a recent appearance on ESPN’s Sports Science, Blackmon’s catching range was broken down in impressive fashion. According to host John Brenkus, Blackmon’s range is about the size of a two-car garage.
Not only does he cover a lot of ground and is able to position himself in place to attack the ball (35-inch vertical jump and 10-foot, 4-inch broad jump at his pro day), Blackmon has coveted hands. Time and time again, Blackmon was able to locate the football in the air and hail it in over his shoulder or at its highest point.
Teams, however, wondered about his straight-line speed after Blackmon elected to postpone his 40-yard dash until his pro day. The wait didn’t hurt the Oklahoma State wideout as he posted a reported time of 4.4 seconds.
At the combine, Blackmon didn’t see his speed as a concern.
“I’d just tell them to look at the tape. I’ve never been caught from behind.”
Physical receivers who can run like Blackmon have been known to lobby for more passes and the Cowboys prospect is no different.
The only difference is Blackmon is confident enough to speak his mind and let that stand on its own.
“I think the position is such that if you don’t ask for the ball, it may never come your way,” Blackmon explained. “You’ve got to throw it out there at some point. I lobbied a few times – when I felt like we weren’t moving to ball so well. I said, ‘Just give it a shot at least.’ After that shot, if it doesn’t work, I don’t say anything. But at least give it a try.”
In a similar fashion, there’s no doubt that head coaches and general managers are doing some lobbying of their own in the days leading up to the draft to try and move up to take Blackmon.
It’s important for Blackmon to be the first receiver drafted, but if it’s not meant to be, he’ll get over it and try to keep producing the same way he did in college.
“I’m just happy to be in this situation, happy to have the opportunity to be here. There are a lot of great receivers in this draft. I’m just happy I got the opportunity to be in the draft.”