Anatomy of a WR: Ryan Switzer

By G.Stryker

Ryan Swtizer was an undersized, but productive receiver and returner in college. At 5’8” and 181 pounds he didn’t let his small, stocky stature hold him back. His quickness and athleticism had him improving in receptions and yards all 4 seasons at the University of North Carolina. He finished his senior season with 96 catches for 1,117 yards and 6 touchdowns.

Switzer is also a prolific returner with 7 college punt returns for touchdowns, and added another TD last year on a punt return for the Dallas Cowboys. The Raiders liked him so much that they traded DT Jihad Ward to the Cowboys for Switzer. However, the competition in training camp was too great as Coach Jon Gruden decided he liked Dwayne Harris’s overall position flexibility and special teams play to Switzer’s. This set up the opportunity for Switzer to become a Pittsburgh Steeler as they exchanged a 5th round draft pick for a 6th round draft pick in next year’s draft to obtain his rights.

Coach Mike Tomlin reported that they evaluated him for the 2017 draft, and they liked what they saw then. Let’s take a look at his college highlights to see if we can find any trends to his receiving game.

Open this video in another window if you want to follow along with the breakdown.

0:30 Punt Return: Uses speed to gain the edge on a punt return for a touchdown

0:41 Lined up in the slot: runs a post/out for a touchdown. Looks like he caught the ball with his hands and body at the same time.

0:51 Punt Return: Shows quickness and the ability to cut back and break tackles, as he runs for a touchdown.

1:11 Punt Return: Muffs the punt, but immediately picks it up and runs. He works through an arm tackle, then uses his speed and blockers to get to the edge. From there it is smooth sailing for the TD.

1:28 Looks like he’s starting in the slot and runs a fake out/ post: This pattern creates a ton of space and he catches the ball low with his hands. A tough spot for a receiver to make a hands catch.

1:38 Runs a post from what looked like the X receiver spot: Ball is thrown slightly behind. He adjusts his speed to slow up slightly and catches the ball with his hands, pinkies together, to bring the ball quickly to his chest to secure it.

1:44 Punt Return: Spin move right when he catches the ball to make the first person miss. Cuts back and bursts upfield between defenders for the score.

1:57 Punt Return: Interesting that the defender is touching him before he gets the punt. Keeps his concentration and cuts through 2 defenders. Only needs a headfake and his speed to go the rest of the way for a touchdown.

2:11 in the Y running a crossing pattern by dragging inside: Can’t really catch his hand placement, but excellent double move to freeze the safety and give him the field to run for the TD.

2:25 Runs a flag/post. Turns around for a body catch, and his hands are not matched. Secures the football and uses his speed to get to the endzone.

2:35 The camera angle is odd, but looks like he ran a hitch out, body catches the football, fakes in then tightrope-walked up the sideline to get around the defender for the score.

2:43 Trips left, WR screen to Switzer: Uses his hands to secure the football, and quickly accelerates to split the defenders, and no one can catch him for the touchdown.

2:56 Punt Return: Shows excellent wiggle and short area quickness to run for an untouched touchdown.

3:13 Running what looks to be a post: body catch and run for the touchdown.

3:16 Runs a hitch in: Double move, breaks a tackle, and cuts back for a touchdown.

3:34 Flea flicker, inside slot, trips right: Feigns like he is going to block, then sprints upfield for the trick play touchdown. Body catches the football, but elbows are in.

3:47 Punt Return: Nice shimmy and cut back, uses his blockers to get to the edge and seal him along the sideline for the touchdown.

4:02 Trips Left, Middle slot receiver, runs a post: Body catch, elbows out. Poor mechanics, and really kind of traps it against his chest with his left hand. With tighter defense, this would not be a catch.

4:14 Running a post: Gets his hands up, thumbs together, palms facing the football, but hands are too far apart. The ball hits the heel of his right palm, and he’s lucky to secure the football with his wrists.

4:25 Slot Left runs an out under the outside receiver vacating the zone: Got his hands on the ball, but palms were not facing it. Nearly a body trap. Poor tackle attempt by the defender and he slips off him for an easy touchdown.

4:29 Flea Flicker running a post from the slot: Play fools the defense, and his is wide open for the touchdown. Pinkies together, palms on the football, elbows are a little outside.

4:41 Slot left running a post/corner: Nice route to create space. Only his right palm faces the football and he traps it against his chest. Left hand is useless, except to help secure the ball.

4:48 Slot left running an out: Stutters a split second before his break, and catches the football the same way as the previous catch. Left hand useless, one hands it with his right hand trapping the ball in his chest.

4:54 Running a post, Has hands in a good position, pinkies up, palms ready for the football, but closes his hands early, the ball nearly squirts out, and he has to resecure it. Nice cutback for the score.

5:02 Slot left, playaction running a deep drag, mirroring the QB’s rollout: Turns and catches the ball with his gut.

5:10 Another look at his wonky right handed body catch with his left hand only helping to secure the ball after it hits his body.


I really like how fluid and confident he is running with the ball in space and returning kicks. Doing a little research, he was a star high school running back. It really shows how he uses his vision, and wiggle to find seams and create space. Then his acceleration kicks into high gear as his speed keeps him in the clear.

I like his route running. He sets up his routes well, and uses his feet and short area quickness to get open in traffic. He does need to work on his hands. His hand mechanics are all over the place, and it was not something I was expecting from a receiver that caught nearly 100 balls his senior season. He’s catching the ball with his athleticism and improper technique. If he cleans that up, he will be a much more sure handed receiver, and will look more natural when catching the football in traffic.

He will only be a slot receiver in our offense, but with the injury to Marcus Tucker, and Eli Rogers on the PUP, the Steelers had a need to fill that spot inside. The Steelers also gained a kick and punt returner. I expect Switzer to play all 3 positions on Thursday, and if he does well, I expect him to be the starting returner week 1.

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