J.D. Woods Must Prove He\’s Not Just That Other West Virginia Wide Receiver To Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers undrafted wide receiver J.D. Woods caught 61 passes for 637 yards and four touchdowns in 2012, but being as he played his college football at West Virginia, that was only good enough to rank him third on the team in receptions behind Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, both of whom caught 114 passes last season. In other words, Woods was just “that other West Virginia wide receiver” heading into the 2013 NFL draft.

Despite only having 61 receptions, Woods still had 15 more than Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who was drafted 29th overall in the first round last month by the Minnesota Vikings. Now, I am not going to dare compare Woods to Patterson, outside of the fact that both really only had one year of Division I college football production. While I still have my doubts about Patterson eventually living up to his first-round selection, he is a much more explosive receiver than Woods is with tons of upside.

Woods, who announced the birth of his first child Wednesday evening on Twitter, is a long shot to make the Steelers 53 man roster out of training camp, but from the little bit of tape that I have watched of him from last year, I certainly think that he will at least push Oklahoma wide receiver Justin Brown, who the Steelers drafted in the sixth round.

Woods is by no means blazing fast, and he certainly won\’t be considered a deep threat like Patterson will be at the NFL level, but his pro day measurables are very comparable to those registered by the aforementioned Brown at his pro day, and he appears to be a better route runner and a hands catcher to boot. As far as blocking goes, Woods appears to be an equal of Brown in that area of his game.

Last season at West Virginia, Woods was targeted 95 times, and his 61 receptions were good for a 64.2% completion rate. For comparison purposes, Brown was targeted 117 times in 2012 at Oklahoma, and his 72 catches resulted in a 61.5% catch rate. In defense of Brown, however, he didn\’t have Austin and Bailey on the field with him to demand extra attention and that certainly needs to be taken into consideration when trying to compare the two to one another.

During spring workouts last year, the Naples, Fla., native made the switch from the outside receiver position to the inside receiver position and during that same time, he earned praise from West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.

“I’ll give J.D. (Woods) a ton of credit, said Dawson, according to The Daily Athenaeum. He’s been fast. He’s real assertive. He’s a whole different person.”

Woods, however, had a lot of work to do to even get to that point with Dawson, who considered the 6-foot receiver “Out of sight, out of mind\’\’ at one point, per The Charleston Gazette, because they weren\’t sure that they could waste practice reps on a player who wasn\’t guaranteed to be with them in 2012 because of academic reasons. Because of that, Woods was relegated to the scout team.

Woods buckled down with his academics and his preseason move inside didn\’t last long. By the start of the 2012 season, he was moved back outside to the “Z” position in the spread offense run by Mountaineer\’s head coach Dana Holgorsen, and he pretty much stayed in that role all of last season.

In addition to the competition that he will face from Brown in training camp, Woods must also show that he is better than wide receivers David Gilreath, Derek Moye, Kashif Moore and Reggie Dunn. Should he indeed prove to be better than that group of five young wide receivers, he will still have the task of knocking either Jerricho Cotchery or Plaxico Burress out of the fifth wide receiver spot unless the Steelers choose to keep six instead of five.

With all the above stated, Woods must somehow make his mark on special teams during training camp, and that could prove to be tough for him being that he really isn\’t fast enough to be a return man or an outside gunner.

In reality, Woods will more than likely be fighting to earn a spot on the Steelers 2013 practice squad in training camp, but as undrafted free agent who is better known as being “that other West Virginia wide receiver,” at least he has a chance at making that happen.

  • steeltown

    J.D. is one player not really being talked about. He’s not a bad prospect. The problem is Gilreath and Dunn can play special teams.
    I doubt anyone knocks Cotchery out of the 4th WR spot, but that #5 spot is wide open… going to be a dogfight in camp for that spot and the open spot on the PS

    Competition is good

  • dgh57

    I agree, and I can see him at least making the PS this season.

    Like you said competition is good I just wish we had more of it at the DE position!

  • steeltown

    Agreed… Brian Arnfelt was a Team Captain and he put up nice numbers at his proday 38 bench press would’ve tied him for best at the combine (with Margus Hunt) and the other UDFA Cordian Hagans had some really good senior stats. Problem is there really aren’t any open roster spots and Nic Williams will probably take the PS spot…. but atleast they might make it competitive

  • steeltown

    I like J.D’s size.. and he looks like a nice ‘hands catcher’

    Kind of hoping this guy makes the PS.. next yr we’ll have 3 open spots with Sanders, Cotchery and Burress all UFA’s

  • Gabe Evins

    I like him.

  • Matt Lipner

    Woods has great hands and is tough to bring down, and also seems like a good route runner. If he shows he can take NFL hits and tries to contribute on special teams, he should make the PS.

  • Probably won’t matter how good or bad Woods or Brown is as soon as they sign Breaston…well, if they sign Breaston.

  • …..Great Hands Catcher though

  • I only saw his highlights but I agree he appears to have very good hands particularly in heavy traffic…a possession guy for sure.

  • steeltown

    If he sticks around through 2013 on the PS he could possibly take Cotcherys spot next year, #4 WR that has decent blocking skills

  • David Edward

    There are currently 11 WR on the roster battling for what I think is 7 spots…5 on 53 man and 2 on PS. Three of the 5 are locked up with AB, Sanders, and Wheaton. The 4th is a near lock in Cotchery. The 5th spot is wide open with Plax penciled in for the moment. The other 6 are PS eligible so, outside of injury, one of them is really going to have impress to make the 53 man out of the gate. Otherwise, they would be stashed on the PS and called upon later if need be. Gilreath is maybe the leading candidate to impress since he looked good last preseason and has a shot to win the KR…although if he bumps Plax that would give them a tiny WR corps. Justin Brown does have nice size so that gives him an advantage too…as does Derek Moye, but neither are great ST guys. Dunn has been talked a lot about because of his potential as a KR and his speed. His best chance may be if they were to keep 6 and use him as multipurpose guy. Woods and Moore look to be the longest shots to make team but could stick around on the PS. Moore’s best shot to stick on PS is if he flashes in the return game.

  • steeltown

    I agree with all of that.. I’m thinking the #5 spot is between Burress and Gilreath… with Justin Brown and DJ Woods on the PS

    of course, pending injury

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I had him making the PS squad in my 1st who makes the team. Have to wait on OTA’s to get a better look.

  • HarryBackside

    I’m not sold on Cotch being a lock to make the roster if some of these young guys show promise in camp. Cotch has been a non-factor these past two seasons, and his release frees up $1M in cap savings.

  • PoKey21

    Hes not only that other WVU WR but he is that Other, Other WVU wide out.

  • steeltown

    Cotch got us to overtime in the playoffs against Denver.. obviously that didn’t end well, but his 30yd TD catch in the closing minutes of 4th gave us a chance. He played behind Wallace, Brown and Sanders so of course he didn’t see many balls, but his first down % in relation to overall receptions is always good and he’s the best blocking WR on the Team next to Sanders. I personally don’t see anyone beating him out in camp, but I could be wrong

  • richard

    He has great hands, that one handed grab he made was insane. The one thing that has not been discussed, is he seems to be a decent blocking receiver, especially down field. Good blocking skills , for a WR always gains points with the coach. Hopefully it will be enough to keep him on the team, after last year some sure hands will be a huge boost.

  • Ryan Alex McPherson

    Having gone to high school with JD, I know just how hard a worker he is. He won’t quit until he pushes himself past his limit. He’s also an incredibly nice guy and the fact that he’s made it to the NFL(becoming the first Golden Gate High School alumni to reach a major professional league in the process), he truly deserves this opportunity and as a fellow Titan alumni, I’m proud of him.