Heading into the NFLPA bowl, Juwann Winfree was flying well under the radar. Having missed five games to injury last year, and suffering a torn ACL in training camp two years ago that cost him the entire 2016 season and lingered into 2017, he was never able to show his full potential at Colorado.
Still, brimming beneath the surface was a tall, athletic, fundamentally sound receiver who could be utilized in a number of different ways. After all, he was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, and one of the most coveted JUCO players nationwide after a yearlong stint at Coffeyville Community College.
From the moment he touched down in Los Angeles, Winfree’s impressive skillset turned the heads of NFL scouts and draft analysts alike. Throughout the week of practice, he was seen breaking defensive back’s ankles and outmuscling them for contested catches, looking like a man among boys. In the game itself, he had an impressive over-the-shoulder 22-yard touchdown grab for good measure.
Despite surprising those who hadn’t heard of him previously, the former Maryland product’s performance wasn’t a surprise in the slightest to Buffs fans. Especially those who witnessed his 163 yard, two touchdown performance against USC in 2017, or watched him step up admirably this year against Arizona in the absence of both K.D. Nixon and Laviska Shenault, while battling through a ankle injury of his own.
After showing his capability, Winfree should minimally see himself get a training camp invite, if unable to sneak into the later rounds of the draft - a feat that could be aided by a good Pro Day in March.
If nothing else, his performance at the annual all-star showcase is representative of a new trend among wideouts coming out of Colorado. One that saw last year’s receiving core of Bryce Bobo, Shay Fields, and Devin Ross all spend parts of last season on NFL rosters, and the legendary Nelson Spruce and Paul Richardson have made marks in the pros as well.
Quietly something is brewing in Boulder, where wide receivers coach Darrin Chiaverini has done an excellent job recruiting, coaching, and grooming talented high school products into pro caliber receivers.
It isn’t just the production of pro caliber receivers that’s impressive, either. The prototype diversity between the players put together with their ability to translate their skills over to the NFL, is equally remarkable.
With early season Biletnikoff award frontrunner Laviska Shenault and the speedy K.D. Nixon both heading into their junior seasons, it appears that trend will not only continue, but start to garner national attention the way other college-NFL position pipelines have.
Not only that, but there is a ton of depth with untapped potential waiting behind Shenault and Nixon. True sophomore Daniel Arias is a 6’4 speed demon, Dimitri Stanley is a versatile route runner who can line up anywhere, redshirt sophomore Jaylon Jackson is a shifty matchup nightmare, and senior Tony Brown is another big bodied guy who seems to be on the verge of breaking out. Incoming freshman Braedin-Huffman Dixon was a highly touted recruit, and is another big body on the outside.
Between their track record of sending guys to the NFL and the number of talented receivers on the roster who should be high round draft choices, the program has every right to use the “WR-U” denotion, and should continue to produce pro caliber players at the position for many years to come.