The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton in the third-round of the 2013 NFL draft and below is my breakdown and grade of the pick.
Measurables: Combine Invite: Yes, Height: 5110, Weight: 189, 40 Yrd Dash: 4.40, 20 Yrd Dash: 2.50, 10 Yrd Dash: 1.59 225 Lb. Bench Reps: 20, Vertical Jump: 37, Broad Jump: 10\'00", 20 Yrd Shuttle: 4.02, 3-Cone Drill: 6.80
Breakdown: While Wheaton is fast, he certainly isn\'t as fast as Mike Wallace on the football field and I saw now evidence of an elite top gear. I am not knocking him for that, I am just trying to put the notion that he plays as fast as Wallace to rest.
As far as his pass catching abilities go, Wheaton has tremendous body control and does a great job of adjusting to ball the in the air. He has strong hands, "normally" catches with those hands instead of with his body, and high points the ball when needed. In addition to that, Wheaton appears to be a receiver able to catch back shoulder throws. How many of those did you see Wallace make during his four years in Pittsburgh?
Wheaton is an above average route runner that uses his head well in his fakes. He also does a good job of setting defenders up for the deep ball, especially when they play off coverage. Against press coverage, Wheaton has a nice swim and rip move that enables him to get off and out into his routes quickly. He also takes defenders for a ride on comeback and out routes that insist on playing inside on his hip.
Wheaton lines up both outside and in the slot and is not only effective in the deep passing game, but the screen and very short crossing game as well. Where he seems to struggle getting out of his routes the most is in the 10-12 yard area past the line of scrimmage. He\'s not afraid to work over the middle, but he will need to do a better job of breaking down quicker with less steps in order to gain separation in the intermediate areas of the field. I believe that this can be coached into him.
When Wheaton has the ball in his hands he is explosive, but not electric like Tavon Austin. He will, however, deliver some big plays. He reads his blockers well and has the ability to find daylight.
As far as his blocking goes, Wheaton is willing in that area both in the passing game and in the run game. With that being said, he needs to learn how to sustain his blocks longer. His ability, however, in this area is 100 times better than that of Wallace.
Perhaps what is most obvious when watching Wheaton last year is the fact that he was limited by poor quarterback play. At times the ball was delivered behind him on short crossers and slants or under thrown to him deep. In my opinion, his production last year would\'ve been even better if the quarterback play had been even just a little more improved.
Grade & Summation: The Steelers drafted Wheaton in the third round, and in my opinion, that is exactly where he deserved to be taken. He is a very versatile receiver that just needs a little bit of fine tuning in all areas of his game. When lined up in the slot, he will demand attention from a better than average cornerback, and when lined up outside, a safety will always have to respect his ability to get deep in cover-1 and cover-2 looks. Wheaton is the kind of player that can lull an outside corner to sleep for a big play or two. When taking into account his play, personality and character, I rate the selection of Wheaton and A plus. While I would not expect anything more than 30 catches during his rookie season, he is certainly the kind of receiver that I feel will catch 60 plus balls for several seasons in Pittsburgh with good coaching during his first year. Wheaton\'s play sort of reminds of Santonio Holmes when he came out of college.