Best WR In The MAC: Alex Neutz Or Willie Snead?
By Bill Lund
The MAC has for a number of years been a conference full of unearthed gems for NFL teams. In the 2013 draft, the MAC had its first No. 1 overall pick in Central Michigan's Eric Fisher. Already this season, Mel Kiper has listed Buffalo LB Khalil Mack at No. 9 on his draft big board.
The MAC doesn’t have the high caliber competition of the SEC, but it does have an abundance of next-level talent that can fill out a roster and provide quality depth to an NFL team. This season, two of the best wide receiver prospects in the league are Buffalo's Alex Neutz and Ball State's Willie Snead.
Let's examine which one is the best receiver prospect in the MAC.
Alex Neutz, Buffalo
Neutz is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound prospect with good speed and great ball skills. In 2012, Neutz was Buffalo’s offensive MVP, as well as a second-team All-MAC selection after posting 65 catches, 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has great size for the position to go along with a strong frame. He is smooth in his take off from the line of scrimmage and shows some ability to get away from press coverage. He can run all the routes in a given offense and is fluid stemming in and out of breaks, and he does a great job maneuvering his body to shield himself on catches.
Neutz doesn’t possess breakaway speed but has an innate ability to see the ball’s flight and adjust on the fly to make the catch. He is a hands catcher with excellent extension outside his frame. When given the opportunity to catch the ball in stride, he can make moves in the open field for additional yardage. Neutz takes pride in his downfield blocking and is a big reason for UB’s success in the run game.
He has faced top competition during his time at Buffalo. In 2012, he had fi ve catches for 54 yards and a touchdown against Georgia. This season against Ohio State, he had nine catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. He followed that up with a six-catch, 197-yard, one-touchdown performance against Baylor. If the Bulls continue their resurgence, Neutz may find himself rising up draft boards.
Willie Snead, Ball State
Snead is a 5-11, 193-pound junior for the Cardinals. In 2012, Snead broke out with 89 catches for 1,148 yards along with 9 touchdowns. He was named 1st-team All-MAC and is on the 2013 Biletnikoff Watch List. Snead has football in his blood with his father being a coach and a former draft pick of the NY Jets.
He shows quickness and speed in the open field and an inherent ability for big plays, tying for first in the nation in 2012 in plays from scrimmage of 10 yards or more with 58. Snead has continued to be explosive this season with 51 catches and 867 yards along with seven TDs. Snead shows a great burst out of breaks and an ability to catch the ball in traffic. Snead is a hands catcher and shows he can adjust to the ball in flight. His quickness allows him to gain a quick release from press coverage. As a blocker he needs to develop, using pad level and hand placement to offset his size.
Snead also has faced BCS level competition and held his own with a seven-catch, 74-yard performance against Clemson.
Who is the better draft prospect?
Neutz and Snead are both bonafide NFL prospects who will soon find themselves moving up draft boards. Each has his strengths in the passing game: Neutz with good size, consistent hands and some great ball skills, Snead being explosive and versatile enough to play the either the outside or slot WR position. Teams who value quickness and versatility to play the slot will favor Willie Snead. Teams who covet size and ability to high point balls will prefer a player like Neutz.
I am biased because I was part of the recruiting process that brought Neutz to Buffalo, and knew Neutz while he played scout team receiver for me during my time at Buffalo. He has a knack for making big plays and will make some GM look smart for stealing him in the draft.