- Position: X
- Definition: WR that is capable of consistently beating one-on-one matchups.
- Position projection in NFL: X
- Players of that position on same team: Demaryius Thomas
- Notable Players ion the NFL of that position: Dez Bryant, Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald
Stance and Start
Cody Latimer is raw when it comes to his basic fundamentals. This is evident when evaluating all parts of his game, including his stance and start.
Latimer demonstrates a good 80-20 relationship in his start form. This means he puts 80% of his weight on his front foot and 20% of his weight on his back foot. This allows the WR to already be in a running position as soon as he leaves the LOS. Some coaches like to use 70-30 because it feels more comfortable to the athlete, but either way is effective.
In order for a WR to burst of the ball, he needs to have a correct stance. Without it, WR’s can’t explode off the line and open themselves up to getting jammed or rerouted mid-route. In addition, if the WR only demonstrates correct stance when he is running a route and lacks form when he is assigned a defender to block, the defense will use that to their advantage. It is important for WR’s to demonstrate correct stance and start 100% of the time. No exceptions are allowed.
Cody Latimer initiates his stance correctly most of the time. His shoulders are aligned with his knees and toes, his body He has a bad habit of falling out of his good habits when he is tired, like most athletes playing in college. Typically, his body will lose bend forcing his shoulders to fall behind his knees. This is why he will tend to ‘false step’ and lose a half of a second off the snap. Although minor, this is something that he will have to correct if he wants to avoid getting jammed or rerouted.
This is one of Cody’s biggest strengths. Him, Jarvis Landry, Randall Cobb, and the Michigan WR corps are the only WRs I have seen consistently block every running down on film. As much as it shouldn’t be, this is one of the most rarest traits in a WR. And Cody has a lot of pride in exercising it.
Cody has trouble keeping his hands inside the defender’s shoulder pads. When he does though, he has the ability to force the defender to go whatever direction he wants. In the clip below, you can tell Cody is tired because he initiates a false step off the line, which as stated before needs to be corrected. He gains ground to meet his assigned man. The defender meets him first though, so he has to brace for the hit instead of initiating the contact. This forces his outside arm to stay inside while his inside arm goes outside.
This should be a stalemate.
Despite this, Latimer forces the blocker outside by using leverage to his advantage. He uses the strength of his inside arm to drive the defender inside-out. The runner uses Cody’s hips as a guide to stay in and score the touchdown. Cody has the ability to physical overwhelm his opponent and his technique isn’t even right.
Cody’s strong presence, even with the visible lack of fundamentals, is shown regularly throughout his film. Against Bowling Green, Cody faces a ‘Press X’ situation in which the corner presses the backside lone receiver in hopes of getting a good jam against him. Cody should be in a correct 80-20 stance, have his hands up ready to engage in a hand fight, burst off the ball, and punch the inside numbers of the defender. Cody has to drive-punch and then gain ground throughout his block.
Cody’s fundamentals are horrible in this particular instance. His stance is not in a 80-20 relationship, his hands are not up ready to fight the corner, and he doesn’t punch the inside numbers of the defender which leaves him at a leverage disadvantage with the defender. All bets say the defender should beat the block and make the tackle.
That is not what happened though. Cody burst off the ball, he punched the defender violently, then he continued to gain ground after he did so. He drove the defender seven yards back and somehow directed him toward the sideline to feed him out of the play. His athleticism beat his lack of technique which is incredibly rare to see at the college level.
Cody can cut defenders as well which provides a nice change-up to his normal stalk-block. He gets within arms length of the defender and as soon as he sees the defender going for the jab, he shoots for his legs hopefully taking him out of the play.
I believe he can become one of the strongest skill position players in the NFL by the time he hits his prime. He has the right mentality, displays the correct attitude, has the right amount of bulk, and is athletic enough to make these kinds of plays at the NFL level. He needs to work a lot on his technique, but these technique errors can be fixed over a relatively short period of time. All it requires of Cody is to actively be comfortable with being uncomfortable which is another way of saying ‘mental toughness’.
If blocking is one of Cody’s biggest strengths, then his vertical ability is his biggest calling card. Cody is great at using his physicality to shield defenders away from the ball and uses his athleticism to go after it. If Cody is successful in the NFL, this will be the biggest reason.
Despite his height (6’2″), Cody strives going over the top of defenders. For those of you who don’t know, the NFL combine has a test called the vertical jump. They ask every player to stand under a pole with sticks sticking horizontally out. There is one stick for every inch of the pole. Each player is asked to jump as high as they can and swat the highest stick. This drill is primarily used to determine the athlete’s potential to be explosive. During this particular drill at the combine, Cody had one of the highest scores recording a 39″ vertical jump. This is an extremely high score for an athlete his size.
Cody is bulky for his size and is physical when needs to be. He’s not a guy that’s overwhelmingly physical like a Terrell Owens, but Cody is excellent at using his body and hops to keep defenders away from the ball.
In the first clip, Cody shows his range and physicality when going up for the football. Cody releases outside on a goal-line fade. The defender gives him free-access which gives Cody the space to come back to the football. He makes the mistake of drifting into the corner which forces him to have to come back through the defender for the football.
Mistake aside, Cody almost does just that. He settles outside, uses his body to create physical contact with the defender and wraps his arms in front of him in an attempt to catch the ball in front of him. Cody was only a couple of fingertips away from coming up with the football which is a compliment to his size, athleticism, and vertical ability.
Cody’s vertical talents are showcased here. The Penn State corner gives him free-access on the fade, Cody takes the outside release on what is most likely a 4 Verts call. Cody high-points the ball, adjusts his body, keeps his eyes on it to make the catch, and then displays the field awareness to put one foot down before falling out of bounds. Cody’s vertical ability and ‘potential’ explosiveness are evident and there should be no question that he can make these kinds of plays in the NFL.
Cody’s ability to take contact throughout the catch is encouraging. He keeps his eyes on the football despite the defender’s hands being right in front of his face. This is why pro scouts like skill position players who have played basketball, because they all have sure hands and are used to contact when catching the ball. Cody is no different in this regard.
Cody is not a great technician. Regardless, he is fast out of his cuts despite not being taught how to run routes the right way.
The one mistake I see immediately with him is his arms. He doesn’t keep them moving while he makes his cuts. During my film study of him, I noticed he does not use his arms cutting out of any of his routes except for the slant. He bursts off the line, chooses a leverage to attack the defender and turns without really ever making a cut. This is a huge problem to carry into the NFL level because doing so will result in a lot of picks for the opposition.
When running any route, the WR must:
- Burst off the ball (BOB)
- Attack leverage of the defender
- Hit his landmark
- Make his cut
- Speed up his feet while keeping forward body lean
- Pump his arms
- Use his opposite elbow to jam backwards “Elbow Jam”
- Drive back towards the QB
Video below has some great visual examples (turn the volume down).
Cody just sits after he cuts which leaves the defender room to come in front of him and make the pick. Michigan plays a Cover 4 base defense, so these corners aren’t close enough to the WR to make a play. However, if this defense was playing a coverage which did not allow Cody as much free access, he is looking for his QB to get into trouble.
Additionally, Cody does not keep his arms pumping, which makes his cuts slower giving the defense time to react. His ‘elbow jam’ to increase velocity when coming out of the turn is also not evident. This forces him to lose balance when coming out which contributes to his drifting outside of his turn.
This is unacceptable for a WR to do at any level of football. These are basic fundamentals that must be taught if the offense does not want to create turnovers. If Cody does not fix this, he will not see the field, especially with a weaker-armed Peyton at the helm.
This isn’t to say that Cody cannot become a good route-runner. Despite the sometimes terrible fundamentals, he does display the rare potential to become a really quick athlete out of his cuts. He has also shown that he can execute the fundamentals when he is asked to. If you want proof, all you have to do is look at the Bowling Green State game a couple of years back.
In both of these, he keeps his arms moving throughout the cut albeit no elbow jam. These both result in large chunks for Latimer’s stat sheet. The only gripe I have is that he doesn’t keep his pad level low when coming out of his cuts. While staying upright vs low grade Division I corners will work, the corners in the NFL will bite on his break if he rises up ever so slightly. This is going to be another challenge for him as he transitions to the NFL.
The important note to make is that Cody has shown the ability in the past to keep his arms moving, it’s really up to him whether he wants to do it or not. If he doesn’t, his playing time will be greatly diminished this year. Like I said before, this is not a flaw that can be overlooked, it must be corrected before he can see the field.
Cody has pretty good hands. As I mentioned before, he has a basketball background which likely contributes to his relatively soft hands he displays on the gridiron. He is also has strong and large hands (9 5/8″) which allows him to catch the ball with minimum pain. There should not be any reason why he cannot transfer this skill to the NFL level.
1st and 2nd Level Releases
A 1st level release is the approach the WR takes when he comes off the LOS. For example, if a WR gives a move right and then runs left, that is what coaches call a “single move”. An in-out-in prove is called a “double move”. 1st level releases are used to avoid defenders within five yards of the offensive player. We could go into a lot of depth with this but for simplicity sake, lets stick to the basics.
2nd Level releases are the approaches the WR takes when he is attempting to attack the leverage of the defensive back. These are typically at around 5-7 yards deep when the Wr wants to make his first cut. This could be a push-by, speed release, or a lean-and-separate, but for simplicity sake, as with 1st level releases, lets stick to the basics.
Cody Latimer will have a minor problem getting jammed at the LOS. This is due to his unrefined stance and start which indirectly impacts his first level release. He naturally false steps off the line and he has trouble remembering to keep his hands up when a defender is pressing up against him. Yes, he has put his hands up when a defender has pressed him sometimes, but this action is not consistent. While he has not faced much opposition yet at the college level, this is something he should expect to see now that he is in the NFL.
Other than that though, Cody has an effective single move in his arsenal. During the Michigan State game, the MSU corners pressed up and played a shadow technique against the WRs across from them when facing a 2×2 base set. Cody did a great job early on to use his quickness, gain ground, and then reset his stem over the top of the defender so he could not come back through him to swat the football away. Even though Cody is not physical when he deals with press corners, he is able to use his explosiveness and speed to get over the top of them.
Cody makes mistakes when it comes to the second level. He sometimes makes poor decisions when it comes to choosing which side to attack. During the Michigan game, Cody was facing a Cover 4 look and the defense was late to expand into their coverage and front. The QB snapped the ball on a 4 Verts concept and Cody was supposed to take an outside release vs the corner. Instead, Cody attacks outside to drift the corner away and then cut inside to the seam. The QB ends up throwing a pick.
On this particular play, Cody needs to attack outside. I mean for common sense sake, look at ALL THAT GREEN he could have had. But because he cut inside, the QB was forced to throw it into a tight seam in which the safety makes a great play on the ball. Although this was one of those situations where I could have seen Cody confused, he needs to know that if he is the lone receiver to that side, he needs to release outside vs a Cover 4 look. It’s a coaches job to teach players “how”, its the player’s responsibility to know “what” to do.
I like what I see with Cody on film. He has the potential to become a really strong player whose physical nature creates scoring opportunities. His vertical ability added on with his sure hands, and his big body will be hard for smaller corners to deal with. He was used as an X in college, he can be a great player at the same position in the NFL.
There are a lot of skills that need to be refined and coached up with specific regards to him. He needs to work on becoming more technical in his skill set. His arms throughout his cuts have to be worked on along with his hand placement in blocking, his combat against press corners in first level releases, and his base fundamentals in his stance and start procedure. These can all be fixed relatively easy with proper coaching and guidance, it’s just up to the player to do a lot of the rest.
I see why John Elway picked him up. He has a lot of potential to become an explosive athlete and a game-changer if he is developed right. He is a quick athlete surprisingly without demonstrating the right fundamentals most of the time. The potential is highly intriguing with lots of room to grow. Hopefully, Cody can become the player in the future that John and his staff hope he will become.