2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report - Matt Hazel, WR Coastal Carolina

It seems to be almost on a yearly basis Coastal Carolina has a player drafted.  This year, that player could be their wide receiver Matt Hazel.  Hazel has been a receiver that just seemed to be able to get open and make some big plays for the Chanticleers.  He has been contributing all four years he has been there with his junior year being the year it seemed to really click for Hazel and becoming a bigger player for their team and that has carried over into this season.

Hazel seems to possess the base abilities that get a wide receiver on a roster.  He knows how to get open and catches the ball.  Hazel has shown he can be a good route runner and get in position to make catches and keep drives rolling.  He has the physical ability and potential to be a player that gets much better when he gets to the NFL, but he just needs to be more consistent with keep refining a technique as a receiver.  Hazel projects as a day three prospect at this point, but he should have the opportunity to get to an All-Star game and play against tougher competition and potentially raise his stock there as well as with workouts.

Vitals & Build

Hazel is listed 6’3” 190lbs with a pretty good build for the position.  He is lean but has shown some functional strength at times.  Hazel does need to get stronger and continue adding strength as he enters the draft process and at the next level.  He demonstrates good body control, has agility and great feet, acceleration, and demonstrates pretty good top end speed.  The potential appears to be there for him to continue to getting stronger and keep adding muscle going to the next level, which could make him a far more complete threat.

Route Running & Technique

Hazel has a pretty good stance and gets off of the line relatively cleanly and with the ability to drop into his route.  Route running is probably Hazel’s greatest strength to this point and the area where he does a lot of things well.

Against off man coverage, Hazel goes full speed right at his opponent and attacks the outside shoulder.  This forces the opponent to make a decision on which way to turn and run and makes it difficult for them to plan his coverage.  If he can get them to flip early and make a mistake, Hazel can attack his back and potentially catch them in a bad position.  If he is going deep, he can potentially step in or out to the back of whichever way the opponent flipped.  On plays where he is going to cut back and come back to the football, he can plant his foot in the ground when the opponent turns and create a ton of space.

Against press or opponents more likely to play him physically, he is able to work around them, but more strength and power would allow him to do it at a tighter angle and free himself up more quickly.  That would allow him to get into his routes more quickly and get open faster.

Hazel does a great job of sinking his hips and planting his foot in the ground and making a sharp turn.  This combined with the fact he can read when the opponent is turning and cut off of it, he can create a ton of separation and find himself wide open for an easy play.  He is also able to sink and cut sharply when he needs to run an out or cross go laterally to his quarterback.

Hazel runs pro routes and can run it extremely well with the potential to get even better with more time and coaching at the next level.  He needs to get more consistent and run every route with full effort as there are times when he could make sharper cuts.  Hazel has a good awareness for how he can get open and just needs to do it on every play.

Hands

Hazel shows the ability to catch the ball well.  He is not afraid to catch the ball with his hands or away from his body with the ability to concentrate and really lock in on the football in the air.  Hazel shows a pretty solid catch radius and is not someone who drops many passes.  If there is an area where Hazel is most likely to have problems securing the catch, it is on low throws.  Hazel is more comfortable working from his body and up rather than his waist and down and has had some issues grabbing passes close to the ground.  There is also a little bit of a question as to how consistently he can make catches in tight spaces.

There are definitely times when Hazel will have passes put right on him and will use his body rather than his hands and will occasionally scoop passes into his body.  These are not the end of the world, but he can work to make sure he is able to use and trust his hands more often and catch passes more cleanly.

Run After Catch

When he has the opportunities, Hazel shows the ability to accelerate and make plays.  He has some subtle moves where he does not look like he is making a big move and ends up making an opponent miss badly.  Hazel is an aggressive runner and not afraid to go to the middle of the field, but has the speed to make big plays on the outside.

Part of the reason that Hazel does not get a ton of yards after catch is that he catches passes coming back to the quarterback and going towards the sideline, but he also does not always catch passes in a way that enables him to get yardage after the catch.  In some respects, Hazel is a little too satisfied with catching passes going to the ground or to the sideline.

This might get him labeled as more of a possession receiver, but he is someone who does show the ability to move the chains and extend drives.  He could be a better overall receiver if he can be a more consistent threat after the catch.

Blocking

Hazel shows the ability to be an effective blocker but his effort can be inconsistent and he really needs to improve his technique and aiming points.  Too often, Hazel will attempt to make blocks at bad angles and will make the block on a bad spot on the player’s body, so they can get off the block and still be a threat to the play.

When Hazel is going and gets it right, he has shown to be an effective blocker and will be an asset blocking down the field and working to make big plays even bigger.  Some of this comes down to really making sure he has a grasp or what he needs to do in terms of technique and his own desire to be good at it.

System Fit

Hazel’s best fit seems to be in a vertical style offense.  He does his best work when he is able to work and sell vertical while coming back to the football.  Hazel can do other routes well, but this seems to be where he has shown the most ability and comfort.

At least initially, he looks more like a possession threat and someone who can come in and catch the football and keep drives going.  There is certainly potential for Hazel to continue getting stronger and become a more complete and reliable threat which could eventually have him in a start lineup in the NFL, but for the time being, he looks like someone who can at least contribute on a roster at this point.

NFL Comparison

The fact they both went to Coastal Carolina is coincidental, but Hazel’s game is similar to that of Jerome Simpson, now of the Minnesota Vikings.  Both possess virtually identical body types with that lean build and good feet.  Simpson has evolved into the role that Hazel seems best suited to play in the NFL.  Hazel’s physical ability does not appear to be quite at the same level as Simpson’s was coming out, but if he tests well both in the All-Star circuit and workouts, he could be a similar late riser.

Draft Projection

For everything that is involved with the wide receiver position, there is always a spot on an NFL roster for someone that just understands how to get open and catch the football.  Hazel has potential to do far more, but at least has shown the ability to give teams that much.  He has some interesting physical characteristics and could continue to get better once he gets in the NFL with added strength but also needs to keep refining his technique and working to become a more consistent, well-rounded threat.  Hazel projects as a day three pick at this point, but will have the opportunity to improve his stock in the draft process and because of his potential, could end up outplaying his draft slot and stick around the league for quite a while.

Some of the film used for this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft Coastal Carolina Chanticleers Football Matt Hazel Wide Receivers