As was argued in the three part biomechanical borrowing series, projecting NFL success for college WRs is very difficult, due to the inherent demands of the position making early success a poor long-term predictor. This then, is my attempt to find the WRs that show the best long-term projection, using criteria as outlined in part 3 of the biomechanical borrowing series. The WRs are broken down into 3 categories
May Have Already Maximized Their Potential via Borrowing
All 3 of the below receivers show considerable tightness in their mechanics, in addition to high levels of efficiency in one or more areas. Since these receivers don’t appear to have much more clay to mold, much more biomechanical slack (beyond what will continue to grow until age 25 or so), the question becomes are they already good enough to compete at an NFL level?
Ceedee Lamb (medial centric posterior dominant) shows the highest levels of medial posterior efficiency of any WR in this class– both thoracic and lumbar. The rest of his mechanics show clear borrowing-induced developmental tightness. Comparing tape of Lamb’s junior to his senior seasons, the tightness becomes increasingly apparent over time. It therefore seems likely that Lamb is already close to his maximum potential. Which, to me, looks like a WR who excels in space, runs with power and control, and catches with authority. However, his catch radius is not very large, his routes are not terribly crisp, and he does not show great separation speed. At the NFL level, he may struggle against tight man coverage. And he doesn’t show the overwhelming athleticism one would generally want to see in a top 15 pick. To my eyes, Lamb is an 800 yd receiver his rookie year (perhaps more in a wide open scheme). But not necessarily with much room to grow beyond that.
Jerry Jeudy (lateral oriented anterior dominant) is essentially the biomechanical opposite of Ceedee Lamb (lateral AD vs medial PD). Unlike Lamb, Jeudy already shows a skill set that may be very friendly to long-term NFL production. Whereas Lamb is best in space, Jeudy is a clinical route runner, with smooth hips allowing for crisp clean routes at all levels of the field. Jeudy’s borrowing-induced tightness is apparent in his lack of play strength– he is neither a tackle-breaker nor a strong blocker. But his route running is already at a level that, even if he fails to meaningfully improve in the NFL, means he may be a long-term successful WR nonetheless.
Henry Ruggs III (medial centric anterior dominant) shows very high levels of medial anterior efficiency and developed, if taut, posterior areas. He shows excellent hands and is the fastest runner of anyone in this class. However, despite excellent medial efficiency, he shows stiff lateral hips and poor change of direction skills. Ruggs may be a bit of a one trick pony at the NFL level– someone who specializes in YAC and needs the ball schemed to him in space in order to be truly effective. His lack of route running crispness combined with his already taut mechanics means that he may never become a highly effective route runner. However, his rare speed combined with excellent hands make for a compelling, if limited, use case. In a scheme that specializes in getting playmakers isolated in space (such as Shurmur’s), Ruggs may provide game-breaking ability, providing significant offensive value even if he never becomes an all-around threat.
Red Flags Regarding Incomplete Development
Denzel Mims (lateral oriented anterior dominant) has perhaps the highest upside of any WR in this class. His anterior efficiency is extremely high, and coupled with his size and speed, he appears borderline unguardable at times. He also shows biomechanical slack and room to grow.
However, Mims shows incomplete development in his posterior thoracic areas. This, traditionally, is a major red flag. WRs who don’t show complete thoracic development often struggle with shoulder injuries, as well as inconsistent play. Examples of players that show very high levels of anterior efficiency combined with incomplete posterior development include James Connor and Trey Burton– players who excelled for stretches (particularly as backups), but when given extensive reps struggled with injuries/ inconsistencies. Mims therefore would seem to be a very high upside gamble– one with tremendous potential, but also injury/ inconsistency risk
Jalen Reagor (medial centric anterior dominant) also shows high anterior efficiency coupled with incomplete posterior development. However, unlike Mims, Reagor shows incomplete development in both thoracic and lumbar posterior areas. As such, while Mims may be worth the gamble given his incredibly high upside and relatively minor stunting, Reagor would be taken off my board entirely as simply too high of a risk for injury/ inconsistency. His level of posterior to anterior borrowing is very high, and his developmental stunting very widespread
Shows Untapped Potential
Justin Jefferson (lateral oriented posterior dominant) shows the highest levels of lateral posterior thoracic efficiency of any player in this class. In fact his thoracic areas as a whole show perhaps the best combination of efficiency and room to grow of any WR in the class. His lateral posterior lumbar efficiency is also notably high, and he might be the fastest WR in the class to reach top speed. However, there is quite a bit of hip tightness, and lumbar tightness in general, to his profile. Which both gates his top speed and keeps him from changing directions cleanly and crisply. Jefferson is a powerful run blocker with a huge catch radius and quick acceleration, but his borrowing induced lumbar tightness may limit him to the middle of the field, and keep him from ever becoming a crisp route runner. A great fit in a Shurmur scheme due to his blocking, run after catch ability, and acceleration
Michael Pittman Jr. (lateral oriented posterior dominant) seems likely the safest bet to be a long-term productive WR out of this deep talented class. At current, a solid B+ in all relevant biomechanical areas, Pittman shows balance, full development in anterior and posterior thoracic and lumbar areas, and biomechanical slack for continued technical growth. Already a proficient route runner, Pittman shows excellent hands, a good catch radius, comfort with over the shoulder grabs, and smooth lateral hips. Although he doesn’t show the same overwhelming athleticism as Sutton, he profiles very similarly as someone who will grow into a powerful efficient threat on the outside. A combo of Sutton and Pittman outside would (once Pittman matures) be extraordinarily difficult to defend.
Tyler Johnson (medial centric anterior dominant) shows the highest levels of medial anterior efficiency of any WR in this class. In addition he shows very high levels of posterior thoracic efficiency, which in combination to his anterior thoracic efficiency/ development, means that he shows very soft, very reliable hands. Johnson also shows comfort with over the shoulder grabs.
Although Johnson shows very high medial anterior lumbar efficiency, his posterior lumbar areas appear somewhat underdeveloped. Importantly however, these areas do not appear taut or borrowed against (except lateral to medial). Johnson therefore does not seem to be a serious injury risk, and appears to have the biomechanical room for continued growth in this area and others. Johnson’s lacking posterior efficiency means that he is not terribly fast in a straight line. But his anterior lumbar efficiency translates to very quick shifts and surprisingly elusive running. Overall, Johnson looks like a top tier candidate with deceptive deep ability, good short area quickness, and excellent hands.
All the the WRs listed in this entry (Reagor aside) appear to be round 1 draft talents, and will likely contribute to some degree early in their career. Part 2 will look at the next tier of WRs, as well as the top 4 OTs and a few standout RBs
(continue to part 2 by clicking here)