WR Player Evals: BIG Slot

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I absolutely LOVE this BIG Slot role. I am sure the players we are seeing in the role was part of the evolution of Spread and RPO concepts in college football offenses. College concepts over the last 10 years have been based on principles like optionality, simplicity, spacing and QB as a runner. Make no mistake though, the thread running through all of it is about ADVANTAGE. So as schemes have been created to pull advantage to the Offensive side of the ball, defenses also evolved to counter them.

As a result, at a certain point that scheme stalemate can be broken with player characteristics. You can only cover DK Metcalf effectively with a certain type of DB profile, and that profile is hard to come by! So by taking the Classic Slot position and manning it with a guy who has measurables that look like an X or a Z receiver, you can push the advantage back to Offense. I believe this is at least part of why we’re seeing so many players with increased size, weight and explosion regularly running out of this spot.

These players also fit my Possession Player philosophy perfectly. They are constantly being asked to move the chains and make catches in very high traffic areas or out on the boundaries. Imagine you stretch a guy to 6’2″ and 225 pounds, who has explosion, great field vision, quickness and high point ability…that my friends is a recipe for getting some dirty work done!

GOOD: Man, I love this kid. Absolutely one of my favorite players in this draft. He just makes plays. Unfortunately his Combine results were incomplete when I updated his Bio (not sure why, maybe an injury) because I was very interested to see how he tested. He has incredible size, huge hands and very good upper body power for someone as long as he is. Hurd was a RB when he played for Tennessee and then converted to WR after transferring to Baylor.

What an extraordinary open field runner for someone with his height. Normally that is very limiting for a RB. But his jump cuts are amazing. He has speed (wish we had a 40 time for him…) and can be used out of the backfield in direct snap packages, sweeps and standard run plays. He’s got a powerful bubble that makes him really hard to bring down once he’s on the move and with elite field vision and ability to convert from WR to a runner so smoothly, he is a YAC machine. Check out his stats below to see his average yards per carry…insane! Hurd is simply the poster boy for a Possession Player…he is so multiple in his abilities he can hurt an opponent in so many ways.

BAD: He is not going to outrun many NFL DB’s. Looks to have decent play speed but not considered a burner. He was very limited in his route tree at Baylor. They ran mostly sticks and slants out of the slot. Lots of bubble screens and all done in Art Brile’s classic Zone Read offense. He does NOT use a playbook if you can believe that. Will this be an issue for Hurd? Hard to say. He absolutely will have a playbook and he will need to add polish to everything he does, so he could need a season or so to get better at pro-style route concepts before they give him a heavy load in games.

My other concern with him is that he wasn’t asked to win 50-50 balls very often but with his size, in the NFL he is going to be asked to do that. With his hand size and strength this shouldn’t be a problem.

BOTTOM LINE: Jalen Hurd is someone I want on my team. With size and speed, elite running skills and ability to play RB, WR and I am guessing with contact balance he might be a candidate as a Returner too. Look at his college stats below. When he was a RB, he got heavy touches. When he converted to WR at Baylor, he was targeted often and nearly had 1,000 yards his senior year.

Draft what you see. WR2 upside. Get him on the team and let him help us win… If he had completed all Combine drills he might have jumped up into late 2nd round, but most likely he’s going to be there in the mid 3rd.

Stats compliments of Sports Reference

GOOD: I would literally run the draft card up to the podium for Humphrey as well. He embodies every single positive trait you want in a guy on your team. Simply a warrior on every play, super team guy. He is a poor man’s Jalen Hurd because he lacks the explosion as a runner you see from Hurd but he has incredible length to get up for the ball and seems to win those fights. Very good boundary receiver and makes some incredibly difficult catches over the middle. Is another guy with elite field vision and converts to runner very smoothly. Was used periodically as a RB on draw plays.

BAD: Does not have the speed, the lower body power or explosive ability that Hurd does, but he gets things done. As a Big Slot and receiver on screen plays he’s not getting jammed off the line every time, can build up some momentum before he has to fight off a DB. But Big 12 defenses are highly suspect at best, so he will have a rude awakening in the NFL when he gets tackled instantly on most catches. Will need to get stronger to pull off the escapes he did in college.

Due to his length he is easier to get on the ground, but if he’s fairly clean after the catch, will turn into a slippery runner and looks for extra yards on every play. Another WR who has limited route skills and will need to be used in Red Zone and maybe as a return guy in order to get on the field in year 1.

BOTTOM LINE: Johnson brings a warrior mentality to the field every game. Has a that elite vision that equals YAC and this is hard to find. Brings size and adequate speed to pair with that must-win approach. Doesn’t have excellent vertical jump, but with his length can get to the ball and win. Stats show he is inexperienced, didn’t put it all together from production standpoint until his last year. Would be an excellent WR3 with WR2 upside. Could be had late 3rd and would be excellent value in the 4th.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference

GOOD: Travis Fulgham represent why small school studs are so exciting to find when nobody is talking about them, and watch them rise once they hit the Combine and they are not a secret anymore! Old Dominion is pumping out some talent in this draft year. Fulgham has my attention. I was watching the one highlight film on him and game summaries on him and he stood out with his suddenness and body control. Has really strong hands and elite concentration to go along with putting himself physically in position to make plays.

BAD: Despite only being 6’2″ you would expect him to look bulkier at 215 lbs. He looks thin (wirey?) but seems to be put together well enough, has decent muscle mass for how he’s built. Needs a pro weight regimen before he’s going to be able to fight through DB contact and win jump balls. Has quality vertical jumps based on what you can see on film and his Combine numbers.

Travis is faster than quick. He has a little build-up time when running but his long speed seems good. Would like to see him work on his route running as he clearly is raw. With the body control he has, he ought to be snappy getting into and out of his breaks. He is going to find it hard to separate at the next level so his routes need to be clean and crisp to help him create space.

BOTTOM LINE: Conference USA is not exactly pumping out elite NFL wide receivers in the 6 years since it’s program began. Travis entered as a freshman when the school was moving from FCS to FBS. Fulgham is lucky to have been invited to the Senior Bowl, which lead to him getting the Combine invite. It wasn’t until his senior year that he was targeted enough to produce 1,000 yards and 9 TD’s, so he’s inexperienced compared to other players, but he can produce.

I like him for a WR3 or WR4 and he can probably return kicks with the speed he appears to have. I like his mental make up and he plays like he wants that end zone on every play. Solid Possession type player, sign me up!

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference

GOOD: KeeSean Johnson is another kid from a mid-major that quietly has been stacking great play on the field for several years and brings you a dynamic skill set to the field. His elite route running is something that will make him more than multiple because he will find ways to separate out of all three spots which is very difficult to do.

His speed is going to help him get open at the next level, because outside of body control and strong hands, he does not have the physical make up to bully DB’s. Can play the Z receiver, which also helps cover him up from jamming off the line. Stats below reflect a very productive receiver, with depth of catch improving each year. Not a huge TD maker though.

BAD: Solid but not spectacular 40 time for a kid at 200 lbs. Lacks explosion, and all of his scores above reflect that. Can he get open on his route ability alone? Shorter arms, lacks bulk and strength. Probably could never play X until he adds significant power to his frame or improves his quickness to beat the jam.

BOTTOM LINE: KeeSean definitely can produce. He’s got the kind of speed, hands and route running combo that is harder to find these days and allows him to be multiple. With a bit more weight and power gain he is a candidate for returning kicks. Strong hands and long speed could make him lightning in a bottle. WR3 ability, WR2 upside. Good value in 5th Round.