There’s 2:20 left in the second quarter when Landry lines up in the slot receiver position to his quarterback’s right. It’s third down with four yards to gain—or as Norris terms it, “Jarvis Landry territory.” Zach Mettenberger, the LSU quarterback, takes the snap and Landry begins a route directly upfield—in football this is called a “vertical stem”—and leverages his weight to the outside of the defender across from him. “He forces the slot corner to cover his outside shoulder,” Norris points out. The cornerback shifts outward to match Landry, who then slants in toward the middle of the field. “As soon as that corner takes a step in the wrong direction outside, he’s bursting to cross his face,” he adds.
The technique is crisp, and though Landry isn’t wide open by any means, he’s now able to use his body to shield the defender and lunge for the catch. Norris loves it.
“Get across the corner’s face,” he says, “because we’ve seen it time and time again, that these corners, when trailing, have a much more difficult time because they like to pull the back of the jersey. And they get pass interference all the time for that, right? So if you can make him trail you in these situations, and the ball comes out in front, you’re going to win.”
Any one of Landry’s advocates to say he “runs routes well,” or that he’s “more of a craftsman than a track star,” but Norris can elucidate why those mantras are true. He can point out the intent to Landry’s motions and why the receiver can manipulate a defender. “If he doesn’t exaggerate that vert stem,” Norris says, “the corner is in a much, much better position to cover that inside slant.”
The week after I speak with Mayock, he’s in Baton Rouge watching Landry and the other LSU Tigers try to impress NFL representatives during their workout. Landry betters his 4.77-second 40-yard dash time from Indianapolis. Mayock has his two attempts at 4.61 and 4.63 seconds—slow, but plausible for an NFL receiver. He adds a few inches to his vertical and broad jumps as well, but even the new stats are alarming compared to his fellow receivers in this draft. The sure-handed pass-catcher then drops four balls during his drills.
As Mayock tapes a segment from the workout site for his network, he remains bullish on his guy. “Trust me, he’s just a flat-out football player,” Mayock says. “He’ll be a core special-teams player, and he’s one of the toughest players in this draft.”
Mayock moves on from Baton Rouge, to the next city and the next workout and the next riddle of a prospect. He spends a lot of time in airports, and the scene that sometimes transpires there is proof enough to Mayock that our draft obsession can function as he’d want it, to help the casual fan decipher more of the game.
“I can’t tell you how many times men, women, kids will stop me in an airport or whatever and say, ‘Thank you for not dumbing everything down. Thank you for helping us learn the game.’ That’s all I want from a fan,” he says. “I love a fan that wants to know a little bit more and doesn’t want everything dumbed down to them. And I think there’s a heckuva lot more fans out there like that than people realize.”