NFL front offices value deep threat wide receivers considerably more than dynasty and devy owners do. In the last few years, these long ball specialists have consistently been picked at the top of the draft. John Ross, Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Kevin White, Brandin Cooks, Cordarrelle Patterson all first round picks. That bodes well for James Washington, the best deep threat in the country in 2016.
Washington has always been productive. He scored six touchdowns on just 28 catches in his freshman season, to go along with 456 receiving yards. He has eclipsed 1,000 yards and had ten touchdowns in each of the last two seasons. However, Washington really burst onto the national prospect scene in week three of the 2016 season. Against Pittsburgh, the 6-foot, 205 lbs. receiver went off for nine catches, 296 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, that is not a typo. Nine for 296, an average of almost 33 yards per catch, including a 91-yard bomb from senior quarterback Mason Rudolph on the first play from scrimmage. That was the second most receiving yards ever in Oklahoma State football history.
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Week one of 2017 for the Oklahoma State Cowboy was no different. Washington caught two touchdowns for 40 yards and 71 yards respectively, before the end of the first half. He finished the game with six catches for 145 yards and the two touchdowns, an average of 24.2 yards per reception.
Rudolph to James Washington TD pic.twitter.com/m1BoSB0Ar5
— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) August 31, 2017
His first touchdown against Tulsa is a good example of what he does well. Beats his man off the line with speed, tracks the ball and outruns him for the score. On this particular play the high safety on Washington’s side of the field got caught creeping up on a route over the middle. Washington has no problem winning 1-on-1 battles with a corner at his back down the field.
As a recruit, the Stamford, Texas product was not thought of very highly. 247Sports had him ranked as a three star prospect, and the 120th best receiver in the nation.
Athletically, Washington is not overly impressive. As mentioned earlier, Washington is listed at 6-0, 205 lbs. He is a bit of a tweener for a receiver prospect. He is not overly fast in a straight line. He should still be sub 4.5 40 time, but he will not compete with the deep threat speed of Ross (4.22) or Fuller (4.32). He is not overly quick or good after the catch. I believe he could eventually be a great route runner, but at OKSU his route tree is limited. He runs plenty of streaks and posts. He’s adept at winning jump balls but not to the point where I would consider it a NFL strength. He wins on the field simply because he is good at football. It is hard to quantify to one reason.
His best trait is his ability to naturally track the deep ball and adjust his body and stride accordingly. It is uncanny how easy and smooth he makes it look. Less adept receivers tend to stop all their momentum, pick a spot and jump, usually falling to the floor after. Washington positions himself in the best place for the ball, slows down his stride (Rudolph’s throws are often a few yards too short), makes the catch and then normally takes off for the long touchdown. He wins in the long game with positioning and technique rather than pure speed.
Plenty of NFL scouts will also point to Rudolph and the Oklahoma State offensive system for some of Washington’s production. It is not so much about Rudolph’s talent but about his tendency to always look Washington’s way and take plenty of deep shots. OKSU runs a lot of plays and don’t mind using a play or two every possession to take a shot downfield. The same criticisms were used against Corey Coleman coming out of Baylor’s run and gun offense but they did not effect his draft stock, picked 15th overall.
When watching Washington, I am immediately reminded of a young Jeremy Maclin. As he has aged, Maclin has evolved as a receiver but out of college Maclin was an explosive tweener receiver across from DeSean Jackson for the Eagles.
Both Maclin and Washington succeeded in college as great playmakers and were the focal point of their respective offenses. Maclin was the go-to guy in Missouri’s offense with Chase Daniel under center. Maclin is and was a more complete receiver but I believe Washington’s ceiling is a similar style. He needs to improve at gaining yards after the catch on short passes and his full route tree, especially over the middle of the field.
Good thing Whitehead got a piece of James Washington or this would have been six. Quick read but the RT got to him faster than expected. pic.twitter.com/kKT6aeAdIu
— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) September 2, 2017
Here’s an example from week one where Washington could improve. He sees the corner blitz, knows in his head that there is space to run but gets clipped by the defensive back. Great play by the safety flying in, but this is an area of the game I would like to see Washington improve in. He does show the ability to be more than a deep threat but within Oklahoma State’s offense he is not normally asked to do so.
All in all, Washington is a solid devy pick for dynasty owners. His ceiling could be very high if drafted into a high tempo offense. At worst, you’re getting a player who can immediately step into any NFL offense and be a deep threat outside receiver. His NFL draft stock will depend heavily on his 40 yard dash time but I would say Washington is a safe bet to be picked in the second or third round, with the potential to be a first rounder. If he develops his route running and intermediary game, watch out.
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