Some players just stand out the first time I put on tape. Some players are just so much more physical and dominant as the players around them that you notice them on the sideline, towering over the coaching staff. I find that these types of phenoms are generally cannot miss stuff, as do the NFL Draft scouts that find them. Ladies and gentlemen, we now embark on a journey of tape that will give us an idea of what one of the most captivating receivers in this upcoming class brings to the table, Antonio Gandy-Golden, the giant from Liberty.
The tape-watching process isn’t a rushed thing. It’s a beauty of nature, studying potential future NFL players. We all want to find the next Tom Brady, or the next Jerry Rice. The draft season is officially underway, and so is my latest triturate.
Antonio Gandy-Golden career brief
Antonio Gandy-Golden was pretty much missed by the entirety of the country coming out of high school. If you look for his 247 Sports page, you will find that it does not exist. At 6’4″ and 195 pounds, one has to wonder how he was so overlooked. Gandy-Golden lived in Dallas, Georgia, and played for the Paulding County Patriots. He was given a 2-star rating by Rivals, and had five offers coming out in 2016… From Liberty, Kennesaw State, Mercer, Elon and Samford.
Gandy-Golden was invited to the MaxPreps National High-School All-Star game after catching 65 passes, 5 touchdowns and gaining over 1000 yards his senior season. He finished the game with 230 yards receiving. Still, the division one schools didn’t look, and Gandy-Golden chose Liberty, a school preparing to go FBS Independent.
Enter the film room
Antonio Gandy-Golden has some hype coming into his senior year of college. He has developed into a big, physical receiving target. He’s now an impressive 6’4″ and 220 pounds. His athleticism is good. His hands are solid. People are raving about how well he can play the position of wide receiver.
We know he is talented. Right now, he is the second-leading receiver in the country, so we know about his production. With all of that being said, we need to dig into some of the finer tuned details of the position of wide receiver and see what is underneath.
Let’s hit the triturate, shall we?
Arguably the most important part of playing receiver (outside of catching the football) is creating separation. Without separation, a quarterback will be hesitant to throw the football, if ever, to a receiver. It’s crucial that receivers do everything in their power to create space to make catches from even the best defensive backs that they face.
Gandy-Golden has natural separation over most college defensive backs because of his size. I believe the average cornerback in college football is in the 5’10” range. Let that sink in for a second. Gandy-Golden is half a foot taller than the average cornerback in college football.
Using his body correctly
Being physical and using his size to body these defensive backs away from the ball is a necessity for Gandy-Golden. There aren’t many receivers that are his size that use their body correctly, as surprising as that may be. One would think it is common sense to use basketball skills to box out defenders to make catches. However, many receivers of that size use their bodies to be more physical from any point on the field. They dominate against far lesser talent and rack up numbers in those scenarios.
This was a worry this past off-season with Antonio Gandy-Golden. NFL Draft scouts were worried that Gandy-Golden didn’t box out defenders and couldn’t create separation when playing against FBS schools. Gandy-Golden has proven them all wrong this season.
— Liberty Football (@LibertyFootball) September 17, 2017
Take this play for example. Gandy-Golden doesn’t get a very good ball from his quarterback, Buckshot Calbert (Couldn’t resist not bringing up that name). He creates space on this play in a very unconventional way. First off, see him cut inside of the defender to deflect the football? Gandy-Golden becomes a defensive back for a second and prevents the defender from having any chance at touching the ball. Also, because of the way the ball is thrown, Gandy-Golden is not in a good position to make a catch. However, by deflecting it in front of him, Gandy-Golden uses his athleticism to come down with the catch after the deflection and collects a big first down.
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Can Antonio Gandy-Golden separate anyways?
We know that Gandy-Golden has the hops to get up and create separation in the air. He has excellent body control and can really make big plays with the ball when he high-points it. However, have we really looked into his speed?
This poor DB trying to cover Antonio Gandy-Golden has me laughing so hard. 😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/QXGHyISuMy
— ᴊᴏʜɴ D. A. ᴠᴏɢᴇʟ (@johndavogel) November 2, 2019
I found a couple of plays that say a lot about his separation skills within themselves. Against Syracuse in week one, back to back plays, he shows two different types of separation.
The first play is a go (or a nine) route. It’s a streak down the sideline that’s designed to use speed to get open and outrun the defensive back. In the case of this play, a handoff, it’s to give the deep safety some action deep, take his eyes off of the run play and potentially move him out of place so if the run breaks into the secondary, the safety isn’t in position to make an immediate tackle. Gandy-Golden shows a good release off press coverage. Press is designed to interrupt the route of the receiver, and affect the timing of the quarterback. He get’s off of press with ease, almost untouched, and immediately has a step on the cornerback.
The very next play is a deep comeback. It’s a timing pattern, and again Gandy-Golden is dealing with press coverage. Again, he get’s off with no real issue, but uses his route running skills to literally send the corner flying away from the play. Gandy-Golden is extremely quick and can plant and pivot very quickly. These traits are huge at the next level, and very much valued.
Let’s spend another minute here on route-running. Being a consistent route runner is vital for success in the NFL. So much of NFL passing games are built upon the timing of a receiver and a quarterback knowing where that receiver will be when he releases the football.
#DraftTwitter, meet the WR you should know but don’t know Antonio Gandy-Golden. A monser 6’4″ frame and catcb point monster. He is even a subtly nuanced route runner. Here, a little inside break to sell the slant and then cuts hard to the corner for the fade. Body control too. pic.twitter.com/6GgeEycv78
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) October 27, 2018
Gandy-Golden is a superb route-runner. He moves defensive backs with his body control and subtly and has the athleticism to move himself into positions to make catches. He’s an amazing prospect in this regard.
A very important aspect of having good hands is what we call the catch-radius. It means pretty much as it sounds. We want our receivers to have a good wingspan, and catch the ball anywhere within that wingspan.
Antonio Gandy-Golden might be the best jump ball receiver in the entire class. pic.twitter.com/EPkLTfgM8z
— UK Draft Scout (@UKDraftScout) June 15, 2019
Gandy-Golden has an absolute beautiful catch radius. In this play, he reaches over the defensive back and hauls in the catch with one hand to his chest. Absolutely remarkable.
Don’t forget about Liberty WR Antonio Gandy-Golden in this loaded WR class. He’s having a heck of a year. pic.twitter.com/w2PZJ8Lv6Z
— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) October 19, 2019
I can keep the highlight reel going. It’s very difficult for me not to.
Look at the production
Ah yes, the production. I mentioned earlier that Antonio Gandy-Golden is currently the second leading receiver in the country. That’s astounding, especially since this is just Liberty’s second season in the FBS.
Gandy-Golden has both the tape and the stats to prove he is a remarkable talent. Honestly, I know I get murdered online sometimes for the player comparisons, but when I watch Antonio Gandy-Golden, I see Calvin Johnson. *Shrug* I’m just saying!
Gandy-Golden is a phenomenal prospect in a loaded class, so I am pleased that he is doing very well. A true underdog his entire life, it’s about time that this man receives the recognition he deserves.