By Adam Aniba
This year's wide receiver class is deep and a features a few potential Day 2-3 gems. One particular receiver has the ideal combination of size, speed and big play ability teams covet. Cincinnati Bearcat WR Alec Pierce has received marginal attention during the pre-draft evaluation process.
His game and potential ceiling have been compared to former mid rounder Cooper Kupp and former Packers receiver Jordy Nelson. Although those are huge expectations with Kupp being the leagues leading receiver in 21, Pierce has the potential to be that guy on the right team and system.
In previous years Pierce would have had an higher overall draft grade, but in a deep receiver class, his possible availability in the mid-rounds will be a steal for teams looking for exceptional value.
6'3" 213 lbs | WR | UCinn
Draft Proj Late 3rd rd-4th
Career Stats (45 games) 106 rec 1,851 and 13 tds 17.46 ypr
2021 (14 games) 52 rec for 884 yds and 8 tds 17.0 ypr
Pierce was a versatile and celebrated high school athlete, while attending Glenbard West HS in Chicago. Pierce shined playing football, basketball, volleyball and track. During his senior season, he was ranked as the #174 receiver in the nation and #24 in Illinois.
Pierce received marginal attention during the college recruiting process, gaining interest from Air Force, Army, Bowling Green Ball State and Cincinnati. The Glebard HS receiver committed to play for the Bearcats in '2018. In his first season, snaps at receiver were hard to come by and his limited reps came on special teams with no recorded receptions as a freshaman.
The following season, Pierce started to develop as a weapon for the Bearcats, recording 37 rec 362 yards for 2 scores. It was his 17.62 yards per reception in 2019, which led to an expanded role going forward. Although Pierce would only play in 6 games in '20, it set him up for a career year during the '21 season. The Bearcats receiver recorded 884 yards on 52 receptions for 8 scores, but more importantly became the big play threat that Cincinnati's offense lacked.
Pierce earned All-AAC Seond Team honors in '21 and was aksi an Academic All-American. His big play ability, featured consistent aerial acrobatic downfield receptions, which led 13 receptions of 20+ yards and was named to the Athletic's annual "Freaks" List by Bruce Feldman.
His quarterback Desmond Ridder, although talented, frequently under/overthrew balls with Pierce being his bailout. His toughness, willingness to lay out for the ball and sacrifice his body is what jumps out.
During Senior Bowl practices, Pierce was clocked running 19.82 mph, which is impressive for a prospect his size. What stood out during the week in Mobile, AL though, was his ability to constantly fight through coverage and kick it into a second gear on intermediate and deep routes.
Defensive backs were grabby all week with evident frustration among the receivers with frequent dropped passes. On the contrary, Pierce caught everything thrown in his vicinity and the excessive contact didn't phase him.
Teams and evaluators were impressed with his maturity and overall football IQ, when it came to processing pro concepts and making adjustments on the fly.
During the NFL Combine, Pierce displayed his athleticism and speed. He clocked the forty in 4.41 seconds, 4.28 sec in the20-yard short shuttle, 7.13 sec in the 3-cone drill and his 40.5" vertical leap led all receivers wowing spectators. His combine performance would lead some to wonder how he could be projected as a late 3rd round prospect.
Getting stronger and developing as an overall downfield threat, will be imperative for Pierce to have success on the next level. The receivers' strong and dependable hands will give him a chance on every rep. Giving his quarterback a wide catch radius will appeal to teams looking to upgrade their downfield passing game.
Strong hands, fights for the ball while displaying impressive body control on 50/50 balls
Route running ability is NFL ready
Solid blocker who will put his body on the line to gain an advatage
Highlight reel receiver, who frequently bailed out his QB with under/overthrown balls
Size/Speed combination make him an ideal possession receiver, who has the ability to line up in the slot when needed
Impressive situational awareness with and understanding, how to find openings in zone coverage
Needs to work on counter moves when facing aggressive press coverage
Although a big play downfield threat, YAC only average (slight concern, system limitations)
Limited overall statistical production
Although utilizes an effective jab-step to beat CB's at the line, will need to add to his toolbox to win on the next level
Limited special teams background
Needs to get stronger with room to add to his long frame
Although Pierce displays suddenness and quick twitch at times, NFL defensive backs wil be able to get under his pads. His go to jab-step helped him gain separation last season, while facing some of th best press-corners corners in college football.
Although Pierce could have a role as a big-slot, lining up at X/Z receiver allows him to utilize his big play ability on downfield 50/50 situations. Although a team could take a chance on Pierce, earlier than round 3, that would mean he'd be expected to contribute at a high level quickly as a top 65 selection. His ceiling is extremely high, but so are so many others in this draft class.
His limited overall statistical production will give teams pause. Having an immediate plan for Pierce ins't necessary and that's why the 3rd round-4th range is a sweet spot for the Bearcats receiver. Pierce will require a year or two to truly develop as a potential starter, but he will also have to carve out a role on special team in the meantime.
Pierce could be extremely valuable in a high octane passing game, thriving on back shoulder and fade routes. His combination of size and speed will be coveted on Day 2-3 of the draft.
*Games Watched- 9/18 vs IU, 10/2 vs ND, 10/8 vs TEMP, 23 vs Navy, 10/30 vs Tulane, 11/6 vs Tulsa, 11/12 vs UCF, 11/20 vs SMU, 11/26 vs ECU, 12/4 vs HOU & 12/31 vs ALA
Team Fits- WAS, PHI, DAL, GB, CHI & IND
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