Mardy Gilyard, WR, Cincinnati
Weight: 187 pounds
40 time: 4.51
A pure weapon and all-around playmaker who is capable of taking the ball the distance every time he touches it, Mardy Gilyard is one of the top all-purpose threats in this year’s draft. An explosive and elusive athlete in the open field, Gilyard excels as both a receiver and as a returner on special teams.
A three-year starter at Cincinnati, Mardy recorded 204 receptions for 3,003 yards and 25 touchdowns over the course of his career with the Bearcats; on 93 kick returns he averaged 28.6 yards and returned four for touchdowns, and on 22 punt returns he averaged 11.8-yards per return while also returning one for a touchdown.
Gilyard has great vision, he sees the field well, and he’s capable of making a cut and changing direction at anytime. He does an excellent job of picking up yards after the catch thanks to his terrific quickness, agility, and elusiveness in the open field. Mardy possesses good body control and ball skills; he does a great job of coming back to the quarterback when there is nothing open, and he also adjusts well to the ball when it’s in the air.
Despite his thin frame, Mardy isn’t afraid to throw his body into the mix as a blocker in the run game and he also isn’t afraid to work across the middle of the field to make a play. His route running is good, however it could still use some fine-tuning at the next level. I’d like to see Gilyard bulk up and get stronger at the next level while also keeping his outstanding quickness and agility. There are times when he’ll struggle to separate, especially against more physical cornerbacks, however getting stronger would help him in this area.
The way that Mardy has grown both on and off the field since he originally stepped on campus at Cincinnati is remarkable. He lost his academic eligibility in 2006 due to poor grades and he later lost his scholarship after he was accused of cheating. Following that, he was evicted from his off-campus housing and he had to work three jobs to pay off his debts, which he received after he registered for a class that he couldn’t afford to take; he did this while sleeping in a car that was lent to him by his then-fiancée’s brother for four months and he also helped under-privileged kids in Cincinnati during this time.
Some will say that teams will need to question his decision making and his instincts off the field; I don’t think that is the case; Mardy is a different person now than he was before and he understands the opportunity that he has with the NFL calling for him. While some will question his character, I have confidence that he can become a very good player at the next level, both on and off the field. I project that Gilyard will be drafted in the late-first to early-second round.
Gilyard has all of the tools needed to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver for the team that drafts him. He has the size to play outside, while he also has the quickness and quick-twitch movements that scouts look for in a slot receiver. In addition, he also has the chance to develop into one of the top returners in the NFL.
Mardy’s upside is very high, and he may have only begun to tap into his great potential; he has the talent to grow into a top-notch playmaker at the next level. At the very least, he has enough return ability to have a long career making plays on special teams.
Notes: Mardy’s real first name is “Marshawn.” Gilyard was named second-team All-American as a senior; he was named the Big East Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior and senior, and he was also named first-team All-Big East in those years as well. In high school, Mardy was also a very successful runner in track and field.
There’s still a learning curve for wide receivers transitioning from college to the pros, but for the most part it’s been trimmed from three years to two. And the receivers making an earlier impact are the playmakers (think DeSean Jackson)—a skill Gilyard most definitely possesses. In fact, he’s almost perfectly suited for immediate contribution: quick enough to play out of the slot and elusive in the open field, with the size (height-wise, at least) to move outside and become a legitimate starter. And of course he brings return skills to the table, an added bonus in fantasy leagues where he picks up additional points for his special teams play.
Reading Gilyard’s back story, it’s easy to lump him in with the potential troublemakers. But you get the sense that he’s already had the game taken away from him once and has turned his life around to the point that it’s not likely to happen again. Gilyard will benefit from landing on a team with a veteran presence to keep him focused, and he seems more than capable of filling a playmaker role right off the bat if given the opportunity.