The Watch List 2021: Spring Scouting, WRs

Updated: June 7th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

The next crop of players featured in my Spring Scouting series all have something in common: they are all slot receivers. Towering outside receivers typically get the love from #DraftTwitter but it’s looking like the 2021 class is bound to have a few studs in the slot. Whether because of injury or a teammate leaving for the NFL, each receiver profiled below is also looking to make the argument that they can be their team’s top target in 2020. Let’s get to it…

Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

  • Measurables: 5090/180
  • 2018 Stats: 13 games, 114 receptions, 1,258 rec yards, 11.0 ypr, 12 rec TDs, 21 rush attempts, 213 rush yards, 10.1 ypa, 2 rush TDs, 33 kick returns, 20.1 ypr, 12 punt returns, 6.8 ypr
  • 2019 Stats: 4 games, 29 receptions, 387 rec yards, 13.3 ypr, 2 rec TDs, 3 rush attempts, 3 rush yards, 1.0 ypa, 0 rush TDs, 9 kick returns, 16.8 ypr, 5 punt returns, 7.2 ypr

Rondale Moore, as a true freshman, was the most exciting player in college football in 2018. He started 2019 with promise before going down with what was ultimately a season-ending hamstring injury. In his short seventeen game career, Moore has eight games with 11 or more receptions. He only has three games with less than three receptions, and one of those was the game when he got hurt. Purdue has a strong schedule this season — non-con games against Memphis, Air Force and Boston College, as well as a division crossover game at Michigan — so we’re bound to see plenty of Moore this season. To quote Martha Stewart, “it’s a good thing.”

I fell in love with Moore in 2018 when he went off for 12-170-2 in an upset victory over Ohio State (admitted Michigan fan here). In addition to re-watching that performance, I watched Moore against Nevada in last year’s opener. Interestingly, it seems like there was a clear gameplan shift from one year to the next: against Nevada Moore was constantly in motion pre-snap, whereas against Ohio State he was mostly stationary in the slot (except for a key play shown below, maybe not an accident?). Moore is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. If he’s unable to break a tackle, he’ll submarine the defender to earn an extra yard or two. Moore is a smart route runner who instinctively knows when to bend or break off a route, or when to settle in between zone coverage. Against Ohio State, he was often matched up against fellow freshman Shawn Wade, a corner who will likely be a first rounder in 2021. Check out this route he ran against Wade. Not only does Moore beat him on the out route with his explosiveness but there is a subtle head fake that Moore uses before the top of the stem to unsettle Wade. I love discovering this type of play and it’s even more impressive when you consider that Moore was just a true freshman at the time.

The ultimate Rondale Moore highlight came later in the Ohio State game and guaranteed the W. Moore is sent in motion by the quarterback and makes a beeline for the sideline. He secures the catch as he shifts his momentum upfield, with two defenders in pursuit. Moore slips an ankle tackle, stays in bounds, then lowers the shoulder into the boundary corner and spins out of his bear hug. There was still more to do though, Moore hits the afterburners and angles his way into the end zone away from a last ditch diving tackle. Seven different Buckeyes get within a yard of Moore on the play and none of them could bring him down.

There is just so much to love about Moore’s game that it was difficult to only select two highlights to showcase. If Moore can stay healthy and duplicate even 80% of his 2018 production he’ll be a first round pick next year.

 

Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson

  • Measurables: 5100/210
  • 2017 Stats: 14 games, 19 receptions, 123 rec yards, 6.5 ypr, 0 TDs, 2 punt returns, 7.5 ypr, 0 punt return TDs
  • 2018 Stats: 15 games, 55 receptions, 575 rec yards, 10.5 ypr, 4 TDs, 39 punt returns, 7.7 ypr, 1 punt return TD
  • 2019 Stats: 14 games, 30 receptions, 426 rec yards, 14.2 ypr, 4 TDs, 18 punt returns, 8.4 ypr, 0 punt return TDs

Amari Rodgers is poised to be the favorite target of Trevor Lawrence in 2020 after the news that Justyn Ross will miss the entire season. Rodgers suffered a preseason injury of his own in 2019, a torn ACL. Somehow, Rodgers was back in the lineup in September and missed just ONE game! His recovery took less than six months which is unheard of. Rodgers, a former Mr. Tennessee honoree and Top 100 recruit, has had flashes of greatness in Death Valley but has yet to be the BMOC. This will be his time to shine and show scouts that he deserves to be a coveted NFL prospect.

I watched Rodgers’ game tape from his 2019 outing against Syracuse as well as some highlight packages. Rodgers is a strong and compact slot receiver whose unique 5100/210 body type is well suited to breaking tackles. In the last two wide receiver classes, only Deebo Samuel compares to his sub-6000 height and 210+ weight. He looks like a punt returner once he gets the ball on a screen so it’s no surprise that he’s also been the team’s primary punt returner, even after a serious knee injury. Rodgers appears to have reliable hands, although I would like to see him attack the ball more often. DraftScout.com predicts Rodgers to have 4.60 speed but I see him being faster than that, maybe even pushing the 4.49 he ran as a high schooler per ESPN. He has a top gear that defensive backs just can’t match, so he’s gone if he gets beyond the second level. On this play you can see the full package that Rodgers will offer in the pros. He adjusts to a bad throw and has to break a tackle behind the line of scrimmage just a moment after securing the catch. He accelerates around the corner, shrugs off an attempt to push him out of bounds, and outruns everybody on the field.

Rodgers was an interesting study because he’s a contrast to the towering outside receivers that Clemson has produced in recent memory. I think Rodgers will have an instant role in the NFL as a reliable underneath receiver and dynamic punt returner.

 

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC

  • Measurables: 6010/195
  • 2018 Stats: 11 games, 60 receptions, 750 rec yards, 12.5 ypr, 3 rec TDs, 2 rush attempts, 9 rush yards, 4.5 ypa, 0 rush TDs
  • 2019 Stats: 13 games, 77 receptions, 1,042 rec yards, 13.5 ypr, 6 rec TDs, 7 rush attempts, 60 rush yards, 8.6 ypa, 1 rush TD, 12 punt returns, 5.5 ypr

Amon-Ra St. Brown has been a “household name” since before he even set foot on campus at USC. He was 247Sports’ 11th ranked prospect in the class, hailing from the football factory Mater Dei, but that’s not why he’s so well known. The (St.) Brown family is football’s answer to the Ball family of basketball: three talented brothers with unique names driven to future stardom by their father. Amon-Ra’s older brothers are Equanimeous (Green Bay via Notre Dame) and Osiris (Stanford). If you haven’t seen the HBO Real Sports segment about the family, I would highly recommend it. Name recognition based on off-the-field factors can be a double-edged sword. It’s nice to be well known but does that raise expectations too high? To know for sure I needed to check out some game action.

I chose to watch St. Brown against Iowa in last year’s Holiday Bowl. The Trojans were worn down by the Hawkeyes defense and lost 49-24, but St. Brown wasn’t to blame, earning 163 of the team’s 260 receiving yards. I had some preconceived “diva” notions about St. Brown (dating back to a bush league celebration in the 2018 Under Armour All-American game), so I was very happy to see how physical and scrappy he is. St. Brown is always getting his hands on the opposing defender. Sometimes it’s hand fighting on the route, sometimes it’s a little shove after the play, sometimes it’s pulling somebody off a pile. I wouldn’t want to play against him, and that’s exactly the point. I was also impressed with how strong St. Brown’s hands were catching the ball, often snagging it far away from his body. St. Brown’s best play against Iowa was a deep over the shoulder grab that landed him just shy of paydirt. I checked some highlights to see if his ball tracking and deep ball skills were recurrent, and they were.

I can see St. Brown having success at the next level as a strong slot, with a height and strength advantage over nickel corners. Given his deep ball ability, I think he could also play a role on the outside as well. Without Michael Pittman hogging targets from QB Kedon Slovis, St. Brown should expect an even bigger share of the offense this season. One thing is for sure, Amon-Ra St. Brown has more than just his name going for him heading into the 2021 NFL Draft process.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List: 2019 Week 5 Preview

Updated: September 28th 2019

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players and games from college football that deserve your attention.  To view more of my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will continue to let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

Storylines to Watch

UCF’s Cinderella Run Ends: The Golden Knights fairy tale has come to a close after a close loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers last Saturday.  The last time UCF lost a regular season game was all the way back in 2016 when Scott Frost was in his first season as head coach in Orlando.  Current coach Josh Heupel may have been at the reigns when the chariot transformed back into a pumpkin, but Heupel has found his prince in quarterback Dillon Gabriel.  Gabriel, a true freshman from Hawaii, has shined in his first month.  During the Pitt matchup, the broadcasters repeatedly mentioned how injured quarterback McKenzie Milton, also from Hawaii, has played a large role in Gabriel’s ascent from third-string to starter.  Maybe the Golden Knights are shaping up to be more “made for TV movie” than “fairy tale” this season.

USC’s Quarterback Injuries Continue: Speaking of third-string quarterbacks, against all odds the Trojans remain #21 in the new AP Top 25 poll.  After losing sophomore starter JT Daniels in the opener, USC lost freshman Kedon Slovis to a concussion against #10 Utah.  Junior Matt Fink filled in admirably, throwing for 350 yards and 3 TDs while completing 70% of his passes.  Having two steady signal callers with big game experience might be key for Clay Helton down the stretch.  I’m interested to see who he names as the starter when both Slovis and Fink are healthy, or if he plays both.  USC has a tough road ahead with matchups on the road against #17 Washington and #10 Notre Dame (luckily they get a week off in between).  If they can split those two contests, I think USC would have to be the favorite to come out of the Pac-12 South.

Games to Watch

#21 USC at #17 Washington, 3:30pm Saturday on FOX: This game is a must for me because it’s a rare afternoon kickoff for these two PAC-12 powerhouses.  Above I outlined the quarterback carousel that USC has been riding but there’s no such worry at Washington because Jacob Eason has been on fire to start the season.  He’s already topped 1,000 passing yards and has ten scores to just two interceptions.  WR Aaron Fuller is leading the team with 21 receptions and might also lead the nation in highlight reel catches.  The Trojans have their own 2019 NFL Draft hopefuls in WRs Michael Pittman Jr. (31-437-3) and Tyler Vaughns (27-370-2).  Pittman had an incredible 10-232-1 game against Utah and was easily the favorite target of fill-in Matt Fink — read more about Pittman below.  The last three battles between these two have been low scoring but I’ll be taking the over and hoping for an offensive explosion.  My prediction: USC 39, Washington 35

Colorado State at Utah State, 7:30pm Saturday on CBSSN: I’m not loving the primetime slate this week so I might instead give some love to the Mountain West on Saturday night.  In case you haven’t gotten the pun yet: the main draw in this matchup will be Aggies’ QB Jordan Love.  Love started the year strong with a 416-3-3 outing in a close loss to Wake Forest, however he hasn’t put up the stats in the last two victories against Stony Brook and SDSU.  The game sets up to be strength versus strength because Colorado State held Love to just 169-1-0 last season and their passing defense is even better this year (allowing less than 200 passing yards per game).  I will be watching to see if Love can overcome.  My prediction: Utah State 19, Colorado State 13

Players to Watch

Michael Pittman, WR, USC

Michael Pittman’s stock is on the rise and draft fans like you and I need to start investing our attention. As I mentioned above, Pittman had a huge game against #10 Utah, finishing with 10 catches for 232 yards and 1 TD. Last Saturday was far from an aberration, in fact it was just the latest “big game” for the senior. Dating back to the beginning of October 2018, Pittman has amassed 61 receptions, 986 yards and 8 TDs. Over a nine game stretch, he’s nearly averaging 7-110-1. His production is even more impressive when you consider that Pittman continues to battle for targets with two other future NFL receivers (Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown).

In addition to his outstanding output, Pittman has the size and pedigree that NFL teams covet. He’s listed at 6040/220 and projected to run in the 4.52 range by DraftScout.com (think: Kenny Golladay). His father played in the NFL for eleven years and had a very productive career as a pass catching running back.

“All that’s great,” you say, “but what about his tape?” So far there isn’t much film out there but we do have one tape from last year (UCLA) and highlights from this season. I perused both so I could get a feel for Pittman’s game beyond his stats and size. As you’d expect, Pittman’s primary role is as an outside possession receiver who can excel along the sideline. His ability to catch the ball with his hands at the high point also allows him to win jump balls down the field. He does not have breakaway speed but is functionally fast. In my limited review, I did not notice much success as a blocker but that’s secondary at this point. Pittman does show some versatility in his deployment — he occasionally lines up from the slot or in motion — so I am hopeful that we’ll see positive route running skills when we study him further this offseason.

I’ll leave you with this play that Pittman pulled off against Utah. He gets inside leverage against the corner and jets upfield. The ball is placed between the two converging defenders and Pittman is able to slow himself, jump and hands-catch the ball. He has the balance to keep his feet as he comes down and is able to fend off the tackle all the way to the end zone. The score put USC up by two scores and proved to be a pivotal moment in the upset.

 

LeVante Bellamy, RB, Western Michigan

I first wrote about LeVante Bellamy back in July as part of my MAC season preview. In that writing, I said that Bellamy was “a burner…and it shows on his highlight reels.” At the time, I was basing my speed assumptions on a report that he ran a 4.32 laser time in 2018. Now the school is reporting that he ran a 4.28 laser time this offseason! If that speed holds true throughout the draft process, Bellamy will be one of the fastest prospects we’ve seen in years.

Bellamy’s 165-2 outburst against Syracuse last week wasn’t the first time he showed up against the Power 5 (in which I include BYU). Since he returned from a 2016 ACL injury, he has played seven games against higher echelon foes. In those games, Bellamy averages 99.9 yards from scrimmage and scored four times (ironically all against Syracuse).

As a runner, Bellamy pairs his angle-busting speed with above average play strength. He’s nimble enough to tiptoe along the sideline to gain an extra yard or two. He uses his compact frame (5090/190) to his advantage by squeezing through tight spaces. In the below play, you can see Bellamy making the most of his size and speed as she crashes through the line, angles towards the sideline and then sprints for the goal line.

In addition to being the primary ball carrier, Bellamy is a good outlet receiver and also has experience as a kick returner. I hope to see more of him in these situations as it is more likely to translate to an NFL role for a player of his skill set.

Two cliches come to mind as I close my thoughts on Bellamy.  First: you can’t teach speed.  Second: the best ability is availability.  Unfortunately he missed significant time in 2016 and 2017 and got banged up last week too. I hope he can stay healthy because Bellamy’s speed makes him a late rounder with sleeper potential.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When studying a player I rely on game film “cuts” which are most frequently found on Youtube. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels.  Keep in mind these highlight reels are the best plays of that player. When I have the option, I will choose to watch a game versus the better defense. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2020 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper

The Watch List: 2018 Week 2 Preview

Updated: September 6th 2018

Welcome to The Watch List, a resource to help RSO owners identify the players and matchups from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my weekly picks and observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the season as The Watch List will continue to update you on who is fantasy relevant and worth your draft capital next year. 

Games to Watch

  • Arizona at Houston, 12:00pm on ABC/ESPN2:  DT Ed Oliver started the season strong with 13 tackles against Rice in Week 1.  Unless he completely implodes this season he’ll remain atop most positional rankings for the 2019 NFL Draft.  It will be interesting to see him chasing Arizona QB Khalil Tate.  Tate rushed for a short yardage score against BYU in the opener but otherwise had just 7 attempts for 12 yards.
  • UCLA at #6 Oklahoma, 1:00pm on FOX:  New UCLA coach Chip Kelly got off to a rough start with a loss last week against Cincinnati and it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to rebound in Norman.  OU got off to a solid start on offense with QB Kyler Murray tossing 2 TDs and 209 yards on just 11 attempts.  Similarly, RB Rodney Anderson dominated, rushing for 100 yards and 2 TDs on just five carries.  It’s premature to say definitively, but Anderson is growing on me and will contend for my RB1 spot come the Spring.
  • #3 Georgia at #24 South Carolina, 3:30pm on CBS:  This game is one of the reasons I picked South Carolina as a team to watch in the SEC.  It’s rare to play your biggest divisional game so early in the season before teams are in their groove.  The fact that the Gamecocks get the game at home is even more encouraging.  Both teams dominated FCS foes last week so we didn’t really learn anything.  I’m still picking Georgia to get the road victory but this game is a must-watch for the chance that it totally upends the CFP.
  • Iowa State at Iowa, 5:00pm on FOX:  Iowa State’s opener was cancelled so this will be our first chance to see RB David Montgomery, one of my favorites from last season.  The fact that this one also includes Iowa draft hopefuls QB Nate Stanley and TE Noah Fant make it a good midday watch if the 3:30pm games are blowouts.
  • Kentucky at #25 Florida, 7:30pm on SEC Network:  Kentucky hasn’t beaten Florida since 1986 but this may be the year.  I am not a Florida fan and I will likely find myself picking against them all year.  This one is easy for me to pick against the Gators though because I’m becoming a Benny Snell fan.  He started the season well with 125 yards and 2 TDs on 20 carries against Central Michigan to start the season.  He’s likely to be a 2019 fantasy asset so you might as well start paying attention now.
  • #17 USC at #12 Stanford, 8:30pm on FOX:  I literally put my money where my mouth is when it comes to USC this season.  Now that sports betting is legal in New Jersey, I placed a few season long futures and one of which was the over on 8.5 wins for the Trojans.  USC let UNLV hang around last week but they ended up winning convincingly in the 4th quarter.  USC’s true freshmen stole the show in that contest.  QB JT Daniels threw for 282 yards and a TD while WR Amon-Ra St. Brown caught 7 balls for 98 yards and a score.  Their 4th quarter touchdown connection was a beauty and is hopefully a sign of things to come.  When Stanford has the ball, the two who should have your attention are RB Bryce Love and WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside.  Love disappointed with just 29 yards on 18 carries so he’ll need a big bounce back game to stay in Heisman consideration; I’ll cover Arcega-Whiteside more below.  USC may be too inexperienced for this early-season conference matchup but it’ll be a fun one to watch regardless.

Players to Watch

Honorable Mentions

  • Daniel Jones, QB, Duke:  Jones started well against Army last week.  He completed 13 of 17 passes for 197 yards and a TD while adding 43 yards and a touch on the ground.  I still believe Jones has the raw tools to be the top quarterback in this class but he has to prove that he can play with the same efficiency for an entire season.
  • Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama:  Tua isn’t draft eligible so don’t get too excited yet but my god did he look explosive against Louisville.  I don’t know if he has the mechanics of the position down yet but there’s an ease and fluidity to his movement that you don’t see in other players.  It’s like he’s playing at a higher frame rate than the other 21 guys on the field.
  • Patrick Laird, RB, Cal:  Laird had an impressive 33 touches against UNC in the opener, gaining 109 total yards and 2 TDs.  Laird posseses good size (6000/205) and pass catching ability (45 receptions last season; switched from receiver).  Laird is a former walk-on who impressed me in interviews at PAC-12 Media Day while talking about his children’s summer reading campaign.  He may not be a top prospect but I’ll bet his combination of size, hands and character lands him on an NFL roster.
  • TJ Vasher, WR, Texas Tech:  Vasher made the highlight catch of the weekend with a ridiculous Odell-esque one-hander.  He is a lean redshirt sophomore who is listed at 6060/190.  He should blow away last year’s 29-545-6 line by midseason on the high powered Texas Tech offense.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

  • Listed at 6030/225 per sports-reference.com
  • Film watched: USC 2017, SDSU 2018
  • 2017: 11 games, 48 receptions, 781 yards, 16.3 yards per reception, 9 TDs
  • 2018: 1 game, 6 receptions, 226 yards, 37.7 yards per reception, 3 TDs

If JJ Arcega-Whiteside is going to be a big name this year (pun intended), we need to agree on a nickname for him.  I submit: J-JAW.  Sure it’s an obvious one and misplaces the hyphen but it sounds pretty awesome.  Do you know what else is pretty awesome?  Arcega-Whiteside’s performance in Week 1 against San Diego State.  I wasn’t home during the game so I didn’t get to see it live but every time I fired up Twitter it seemed like he had just made another highlight catch.  I was able to watch some extended highlights after the game and was definitely impressed.  So much so that I decided he would be the first player I would spotlight this season.  Arcega-Whiteside’s biggest strength is his ability to play above the rim and dominate in the air.  He is strong and can easily box out the defender.  Here’s a good example of his ability to use his body to keep the defender out of the passing lane:

His ball tracking appears to be good to elite.  His hands are good and he often hand-catches the ball rather than letting it get into his body.  In the limited sample I watched he also showed good sideline awareness to make plays near the boundary.  Below is an example of him using all three skills on a single play.  The defender’s hand flashes in front of his eyes just as he’s about to catch the ball but he manages to still make the grab while spotting the landing.

Arcega-Whiteside isn’t a burner but does have enough speed to create separation on downfield routes.  Because of his jump-ball play style, he does not often find himself in RAC situations (save for a long score against SDSU when the defender fell down).  DraftScout.com predicts his speed to be 4.59 but I think he looked a shade quicker.  I need to see more to give him an accurate comparison but as far as size and speed go, you can equate him to somebody like Allen Robinson.  I saw comps on Twitter to Mike Evans which I can see when it comes to him winning in the air but Evans is at another level physically.  My viewing did not expose me to much of Arcega-Whiteside as a blocker or as a route runner.  I’ll need more time, and more film, to give him a proper grade in these areas.

J-JAW’s fantastic first game put him squarely on my radar for the 2019 NFL Draft.  We should monitor him closely over the next few games, especially this week against a superior USC defense.  If he continues to produce he’ll deserve a deep dive in the offseason.

 


Notes: In an effort to standardize the description of key positional traits, I frequently use the following adjectives: elite, good, above average, average, below average, poor.  My experimental grading system uses a Madden-like approach by weighting position relevant traits on a 100-point scale; bonus or negative points are awarded based on production, size, injury history and character.  Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height.  When watching film for a player, I typically pick two games.  When time permits, I may add a third game. If game film is not available I will search for highlight reels, but keep in mind these are the best plays that player had so they really need to jump off the screen. I do not necessarily want to watch games where they did very well or very poorly as that may not be a great illustration of their true ability. If possible, when comparing players at the same position I also like to watch film against common opponents. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching college players I use a number of resources, I would recommend bookmarking the below sites…

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, foxsports.com, mcubed.net
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2019 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com (but be wary of highlight only reels)
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, walterfootball.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, ndtscouting.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, Strong as Steele with Phil Steele, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, 247Sports College Football, College Fantasy Football: On Campus, Underdog Pawdcast, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com, the media home for FWAA members

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper