Draft Daily: Kolby Listenbee, the TCU Speedster
Between now and the draft, we’ll zero in on one prospect a day with an Eagles slant. We’ve already covered more than a dozen players, including Dak Prescott, Jack Conklin, Kenneth Dixon and Jacoby Brissett. If you have a player you think should be covered, shoot us an email ([email protected]).
THE BACK STORY
Kolby Listenbee wanted the $1 million prize. The TCU receiver was coming off a groin injury and he had only started running 10 days prior, but he put on his adizero 5-Star 40 cleats to try to cash in on the Adidas prize by breaking the 40-yard dash record.
While Listenbee finished second in the 40 among receivers at the NFL Combine, his 4.39 didn’t come close to Chris Johnson’s 4.24. Still, the speed Listenbee displayed in Indianapolis after returning from injury only reinforced his reputation, and it’s likely one reason the Eagles are reportedly hosting him on a pre-draft visit today.
“(NFL teams) love my track time. They see a lot of potential in me,” Listenbee said at the NFL Combine. “They see a lot of potential in how good I could be as a receiver because I’m kind of a raw talent. I still need to learn a lot of things; I haven’t had much time to do so.”
Listenbee, who was a four-time All-American track star in college, told reporters in Indianapolis that he was invited to the Olympic trials. He finished seventh in the 2015 NCAA track and field championships in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.03 seconds.
On the gridiron, Listenbee played along side Josh Doctson, who many say is the second-best receiver in the draft. However, Listenbee made his mark as a deep threat as he averaged 19.9 yards per reception last year, in addition to catching a pass of at least 30 yards in five consecutive games.
The two-time honorable mention All-Big 12 selection also battled through injuries in 2015, missing two games and playing through much of the season hurt.
“They thought I wasn’t tough because I was a track guy,” Listenbee said. “I played basically 16 weeks (of real time) off a cortisone shot, you know what I’m saying? I couldn’t even walk the whole week. Really. I played the whole year off of that.
“I had two groin issues and an inflamed pelvis. I played the whole season with that. I thought I showed my toughness.”
While Listenbee is known for his speed (his 40-yard-dash time was good for eighth among all Combine participants), he also finished fourth in the broad jump among receivers. One of his closest comparisons, in terms of measurables, is Chris Givens, the former Rams receiver the Eagles signed in free agency last month.
Even though receiver is all but impossible to evaluate without All-22 tape, Listenbee still stands out on film because of his speed. His 60-yard touchdown against Stephen F. Austin is a pretty good example of how he can often run past defenders.
ESPN’s Scouts Inc. labeled Listenbee’s big play ability as “exceptional,” mostly because of his speed:
Legit vertical threat that will run by corners given a free release and flashes an extra gear chasing down the deep ball. Not a difference maker in one-on-one jump ball situations though. Not overly elusive or powerful after the catch but has the speed to destroy pursuit angles and pull away from defenders if he gets a crease.
According to NFL.com’s evaluation, Listenbee also has “natural hands.” He made some impressive catches in college, including this one-hander against Texas.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein also concluded that Listenbee has “very good concentration to eyeball throws into his hands,” which Listenbee displayed on his 35-yard touchdown catch against Baylor in traffic.
While ESPN said Listenbee is “below average in jump ball situations,” Zierlein praised the receiver’s ball skills. Here are a couple of examples of Listenbee attacking the ball in the air.
However, there are several criticisms of Listenbee. Here’s another excerpt from Zierlein’s evaluation:
Gangly with a frame that is too thin at this time. Takes an excessive amount of time to gear down into his breaks and is slow to turn and find the ball. Long-strider. Shows meager effort as blocker on wide receiver screens and in the running game. Saw targets and deep ball production fall off this season.
And here’s another excerpt from ESPN’s evaluation:
Hand span (8 1/4″) raises red flag. Average hand-eye coordination and drops some throws he should catch. Often traps short-to-intermediate throws. Flashes ability to make contested catches underneath and over the middle but lean and needs to get stronger. Above average vertical jump and average arm length yet below average in jump ball situations. Needs to do a better job of adjusting and establishing body position when the ball is in the air.
THE BOTTOM LINE
CBS Sports projects Listenbee as a third-round pick, but I think that’s a bit high — I’d wait until Day 3 to take a gamble on Listenbee. His big play ability is intriguing, but I’m not sure how much more he’ll offer than the occasional long reception.
The Eagles could use a guy to stretch the field, so their interest in him makes sense. Teams could also be intrigued by the fact that he didn’t focus entirely on football in college because of track, so now that he’ll be playing the game full-time, he may make a noticeable jump.