He stands 6 feet 2 and weighs 205 pounds. He runs a 40 in less than 4.6 seconds, was a second-team all-conference honoree in a Power 5 league after a productive, highlight-reel like season, and he has impeccable character and leadership bona fides.
Sounds like quite the NFL draft prospect. Unless you’re Canaan Severin – then, you fly off all the draftniks radars and find yourself without a team after the seven rounds were complete late last month.
“For me, 11 catches for (153 yards) against Notre Dame, three touchdowns against Louisville, a one-handed catch against Miami. Go down and play Florida State, (top-five draft pick cornerback Jalen) Ramsey’s guarding me the whole game, five catches for (56) yards and a touchdown there,” Severin said, listing his résumé after a Steelers rookie minicamp practice session last week.
“And you sit there saying, ‘How do you not (get drafted)?’ But there was not really a buzz about me. So I just took that and was like, ‘All right,’ and I looked at the worst-case scenario and then realized, ‘OK, I can pick my options.’ So everything works out the way it’s supposed to in my eyes.”
By “picking his options,” Severin was realizing he could sign with any team that wanted him of his choosing if he wasn’t going to get drafted. This is the primary reason why, in some ways, going undrafted is almost preferred to being a seventh-round pick.
The Steelers are hoping to reap the benefits. Although they are, at first glance, very strong at wide receiver, the future at the position is murky. After All-world Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant is suspended at least for 2016 for repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Then, Markus Wheaton is a pending unrestricted free agent after the coming season. Next on the depth chart is Sammie Coates – a player who has shown immense promise, but still as of yet just one with a mere one career regular-season catch. After Coates is a player about to hit his 30s who’s better known for his special-teams prowess (Darrius Heyward-Bey) and then just players who have no professional regular-season experience.
What that means is that there’s a potential opening for a wide receiver – if not in 2016, then much more likely so in 2017 and ’18. Severin is just one candidate to help solve these future questions, but he’s an intriguing one.
Aside from the impressive height/weight and decent (for the aforementioned size) speed measurables that could raise an eyebrow is good production (96 catches, 1,337 yards, 13 touchdowns over his final two seasons) and a pair of widely-respected hands (sometimes, “hand,” as in singular) as part of a package that includes a player who needed just 3 ½ years to graduate from a good school and leadership skills that had him as a senior captain.
“I kind of feel prepared coming from pro-style offenses,” Severin said. “I’ve had two NFL coordinators – Steve Fairchild (Virginia’s coordinator from 2013-15, who previously worked for the Chargers) and Bill Lazor (at Virginia in 2012, the Dolphins’ coordinator 2014-15 and now the Bengals QB coach). So it’s all just the terminology is just a little different but it’s the same concept coming from a pro-style offense though. So yeah, just go catch the ball.”
Severin has the same agent as former Steelers safety Ryan Clark – and that’s not a coincidence. The two also share the sickle-cell trait that can fatigue athletes more quickly and can even become life-threatening if not managed properly.
Clark, of course, had a long and productive NFL career and was one of the leaders on some of the best NFL defenses of the past two decades (the Steelers of 2008-2010 vintage). Severin has a long way to go to get there, but he’s got a path that began as being arguably the most prominent Steelers undrafted free agent.
“Not being drafted definitely puts a chip on my shoulder,” Severin said, “so I’ve just got to work to improve my whole game and prove to people that I can play in this league and make plays in this league.”