When a Football player was an Undrafted Free Agent, most of us would dismiss him as not being very good and unable to contribute significantly to our team. This predisposition may taint and bias our evaluation of him, causing us not to see his positive attributes and missing a diamond in the rough. We must correct this by evaluating him anew, without the Undrafted Free Agent (UDFA) label, as if he were coming out in this year's Draft.
If Chris Owusu were a part of the 2015 Wide Receiver draft class, his performance at the Combine would be the talk of the town. In the 40 YD DASH he ranked #5 amongst all Wide Receivers with a time of 4.36 seconds. In addition, in the BENCH PRESS he ranked #4 with 19 repetitions. His performance in the VERT JUMP was no less impressive as he was ranked #7 with a jump of 40.5 inches. But that was not all, he showed the explosive power in his legs in the BROAD JUMP where he was ranked #5 with a jump of 10'9". And he proved his agility in the 3 CONE DRILL, where he ranked #6 with a time of 6.85 seconds, and in the 20 YD SHUTTLE he was #8 with a time of 4.11 seconds. To top in all off, in the 60 YD SHUTTLE he was #3 with a time of 11.22 seconds. In other words, he was in the TOP EIGHT IN EVERY MEASURABLE TEST AT THE COMBINE, an athletic freak, who was 6'0" tall and weighted 196 pounds.
But there are a lot of athletic freaks, who have fallen flat on their faces in the NFL because they can not catch the ball. Well in the regular 2014 season, according to ProFootballFocus (PFF), Chris Owusu was ranked as the 48th WR out of 218. Of course, that does not mean much since he was only on the field for 78 snaps. He was thrown at six time, including 2 deep balls, and made all six receptions (100%) for 78 yards or 13 yards per catch. In 2013 while in Tampa Bay he was targeted 18 times and made 13 receptions (72.2%) for 114 yards. In 2014, when Chris Owusu was thrown at, his QB had a rating of 133.5, which would make hlm Geno's best friend. The Pro Football Focus "Yards per Route Run" figure takes into account the number of snaps a player went into a pattern, thereby normalizing results, and providing a better indicator of production than Yards per Reception or even Yards per Target. Owusu’s figure was 1.49 and for comparison: Eric Decker 2.11, Percy Harvin 1.80, Brandon Marshall 1.50, Jeremy Kerley 0.97, Greg Salas 1.25, David Nelson 0.40, TJ Graham 1.00, All other Jets Receivers 0.00. Yet, for some reason Chris Owusu has never been used very much, could it be because he is an UDFA.
The one game in which Chris Owusu saw the most action last year was described by John B on Gang Green Nation: "In the first quarter he made a beautiful leaping catch against double coverage for a 36 yard gain. He finished that drive taking a pitch from Geno Smith around right end 23 yards to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. He did a nice job on the run setting up Dolphins safety Jordan Kovacs, baiting a bad angle and then changing direction. He then returned the second half kickoff 87 yards, making himself small slipping through a small crease in the blocking and exploding through it."
Yes, besides being a WR, Chris Owusu is also a good kick returner. In college, he posted a healthy 27.3 yard average on kickoff returns and took 3 of his 78 returns for touchdowns. In the NFL he has only been assigned to run back three kickoffs. One was the above 87 yard return. Another went for 45 with Tampa Bay.
So why was Chris Owusu an Undrafted Free Agent? Is he stupid and can not learn the route tree? No, he is very smart. He attended Stanford (the Harvard of the West), majoring in biology with a 3.2 grade point average and does not seem to have any drug or other major character concerns.
So perhaps the write-ups from before the 2012 draft might help us to understand why he seems to be underrated, ignored and dismissed:
STRENGTHS Owusu is a smart receiver who runs routes well and knows how to get defensive backs to turn their hips to be able to stick his foot in the ground suddenly and gain separation. He has a decent sized frame and can use it to his advantage in traffic. He will go up for the ball in traffic and use his hands to catch the ball away from his body and bring it in. He is a threat after the catch with the ball in his hands, and it shows in his return skills, where he is a threat to take it the distance.
WEAKNESSES There is some concern around Owusu's concussions, which kept him out for the better part of his senior season. Chris will have to show NFL teams he has recovered from the repeated blows and can return a strong player. His greatest value is as a returner, where he will get the job done but could struggle at the next level to be highly effective as he has only above-average speed and will have a tougher time taking it the distance against the pros.
OVERVIEW Owusu has been a reliable receiver and return threat for Stanford throughout his career, who faced an unfortunate set of injuries in his senior season that could severely hurt his draft status going into 2012. With the current attention being given to concussions and the "return-to-play" protocols, teams will have a tough time justifying Owusu as he recovers from a concussion-laden senior season. Despite these red flags, Owusu is a mature player on the field who would be a reliable return option when healthy. - NFL.com
A well-built wide out prospect with a strong frame and physical element to his play. Is tighter in the hips, but displays enough short area quickness off the line with and good use of his hands to keep defenders from getting into his frame and avoiding the press. Knows how to keep himself clean and will get physical vs. the jam.
Is a natural starter who accelerates quickly down the field and can create initial separation behind defenders. Possesses good ball skills and awareness when asked to locate and run, is willing to go up and high point the play and is above average for his size in jump ball situations. Displays a real savvy about his game as well, does a nice job stemming his route, using subtle head/shoulder fakes to set up routes and keeps corners off balance.
Really sells the double move and accelerates quickly once he gains a step. Displays a good feel for zone coverage as well, works to find soft spots and plucks away from his frame. Can be dangerous after the catch. Isn’t real shifty in tight areas and lacks the wiggle to routinely breakdown defenders and make a man miss. However, he runs hard, plants his foot in the ground with natural balance -even at full speed- and can explode toward daylight.
Lacks elite top end speed, but runs well, looks like a 4.45-4.5 guy. Isn’t the most fluid of sharply breaking route runners. Is routinely forced to gear down, chops his feet in order to gain balance and doesn’t create much separation. Doesn’t waste much space out of his breaks and is a sharp route runner, just doesn’t have much of a burst when looking to gain initial separation.
Adds some special teams play as a kick return man. Sets up blocks well, is a good decision maker and runs hard to daylight. Isn’t a dynamic make you miss athlete, but takes care of the football and is a solid return option.
Impression: A bit linear of an athlete. However, is a natural pass catcher with good straight-line speed and a real savvy about his game. Will find a way to contribute to an NFL receiving core as a solid secondary option. - National FootBall Post
"Lean, muscular, athletic "X" receiver who has been a playmaker as a receiver and return man when healthy and will be a pro. However, his ceiling is a bit of an unknown, as he has been affected by injuries dating back to high school.
Accelerates off the snap, sells routes and uncovers in zone windows.
Is mentally and physically tough, takes care of his body and shows good functional strength off the line of scrimmage and after the catch. - Pro FootBall Weekly
POSITIVES -- Lit up the combine, was one of the fastest players in attendance; a terrific overall athlete, had a 40.5" vertical and can really go up and high point the football... Great lower body explosion, really accelerates quickly and gets up field in a hurry... Although not big, he has a nice build, appears to have a strong upper body and put up 19 reps of 225 pounds at the combine... Does a good job fighting off press coverage, uses his strength to his advantage and is tough to jam with his initial quickness... Does a good job of catching the ball with his arms extended and doesn't let the ball get into his body... Solid route runner, does a good job with his cuts and can get separation in man coverage... Good runner after the catch due to his speed and quickness, a creative open field runner who can break the big play... Great kickoff return potential; averaged 27.3 yards per kick return in 78 career returns.
NEGATIVES -- Has severe injury questions, only played in seven games in 2010 after battling injuries all year and missed games as a senior after sustaining a concussion in a game against Oregon State; never appears fully healthy, suffered three concussions total over a 13 month span... Never dominated Pac-12 competition, had a career high 37 catches for 682 yards and five touchdowns back in 2009 and his production has fallen off the past two years with his injuries... Has the second smallest hands of any receiver at the combine, will have trouble securing the football... A risk-reward player; has the physical ability to be a starter down the line, but he may be out of the league in a year or two as well due to his concussion problems. - Sideline Scouting
As you can see, there were many positive things pointed out in these reviews of Chris Owusu. But there was threaded throughout these evaluations a concern about his health, particularly that he suffered three concussions within 13 months -- including two in his last college season. As one evaluator said, Owusu would have received a third round grade except for these concussion concerns. However, two of the three concussions were from blatant helmet-to-helmet hits, and the hits had a sheer magnitude of force that few players would walk away from. Boston University neurosurgeon Robert Cantu has in the past been a vocal critic of the NFL's concussion policies and standards. However, he wanted to make it clear that, he does not believe the number of concussions should make teams worry. He notes that quick recoveries from the concussions (as was the case in all three) are encouraging. "Just because somebody has had more concussions doesn't mean that their future has been doomed in any way, especially if the concussions cleared quickly,"
However, Chris Owusu has now completed three years in the NFL without any health problems. It is time Chris is no longer overlooked, and is given a fair shot on the playing field. It is time for us to know what we have in him, and if he is a hidden gem.