It can be tough playing second fiddle. You don’t get the attention, the accolades, and in this case, the draft stock you might deserve. Take Martavis Bryant (leave out the bike-stealing, media-frenzy drama). At Clemson, he played behind the likes of DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, two of the NFL’s most talented receivers. Naturally, he had less time to showcase his talent and he wound up being the 118th overall pick. His counterpart Watkins, rode his own talent and insane production to the top of NFL draft boards.
Bryant exploded in the NFL. In 2014, Pittsburgh took advantage of his size and speed to the tune of eight touchdowns in just ten games. On most NCAA rosters, Bryant would have been a star. But at Clemson, he was just the next guy up.
Marcell Ateman of Oklahoma State has the chance to be just as electrifying. Ateman plays behind James Washington for the Cowboys. First-Team All Big 12, Biletnikoff watch list, Mel Kiper’s No. 1 receiver – you name it. Washington is putting up gaudy numbers, including a 21.8 ypc average, and is likely to be a high NFL draft pick. (See my profile on Washington from this September.) Today, we’re looking at the player behind Washington.
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Ateman shined in high school in both basketball and football at Wylie East in Dallas, TX.
His father, Ronald Ateman, played basketball at Western Illinois. Marcell was ranked as a four star recruit in football and was tabbed the nation’s 25th best receiver by Scout.com. Contributing in each of his first three seasons, Ateman was primed for a big senior year partnering with Washington and QB Mason Rudolph in the high scoring offense but was derailed by an off-season foot injury that caused him to sit out the entire 2016 season.
In 2017, Washington and Ateman became the first teammates to tally 100 yards receiving in four straight games since 2004, according to Bryan Ives. Both receivers also ranked in the top five in yards per route run through week seven, according to PFF. Ateman has played exceptionally well down the stretch and in conference games.
He is creeping up to the quietest 50 catch, 1,000 yard, ten touchdown season in the country. Ateman makes big plays every week but is just now starting to get some attention after a signature game in a shootout loss to Oklahoma. Fittingly, the numbers probably won’t wow you. Six catches, 64 yards and two touchdowns. If you’re curious, Washington racked up 7-128-1. But Ateman’s play has definitely stood out.
Marcell Ateman is the best No. 2 WR in the country and it’s not even close
— Dr. Saturday (@YahooDrSaturday) November 5, 2017
I’ve never seen a guy have such an incredible game with just 44 yards receiving. Marcell Ateman is making HUGE plays.
— Cliff Brunt (@CliffBruntAP) November 4, 2017
The 6’4 receiver caught the nation’s attention with not one, but two crucial touchdown catches from Rudolph. On both scores Ateman faced one-on-one man coverage on the left side of the formation. Using his size and technique, the Wylie, Texas product positions himself between his defender and the pylon, giving his QB a big target and plenty of room to work with. He uses his long arms and strong hands to high-point the ball where only he can get to it. Rudolph does a great job of putting the ball in a perfect spot for Ateman to go make a play.
How strong is Marcell Ateman? TOO STRONG. pic.twitter.com/sc3unY7ta2
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 4, 2017
In the Iowa State game, Washington went out early with an injury and Ateman stepped up against the #21 team in the country. Down 42-34 with under six minutes to go, Ateman caught a 30 yard touchdown pass from Rudolph to tie up the game. On 3rd and 22, Ateman lined up on the outside left of the formation, ran a go route to the end zone and made an incredible catch over the top of the corner.
My goodness, on 3rd and 22! Ateman is a monster too. pic.twitter.com/Kyg3ZTdYM6
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 11, 2017
NFL WR coaches will love Ateman in the running game. His size and frame make him a natural open field blocker, but his effort on plays down the field is remarkable. On many of RB Justice Hill’s highlights, you will see big #3 man-handling a defensive back on the outside.
WR coaches will looove this. Fakes fade route, takes his CB for a ride for 15 yards. Six for Hill. pic.twitter.com/RKnnQNB5LL
— Anthony Santigate (@SantigateNFL) November 5, 2017
In the short and intermediate game, Rudolph relies on Ateman for easy first downs against one-on-one coverage. Routinely, Ateman will run a simple out and out position his cornerback, go get the ball and pick up the first down.
Stylistically, Ateman reminds me a lot of Mike Evans. Both excel in the red zone, especially on jump balls. They use their large frames and long arms to box out their defenders and then high point the ball, usually near the sideline. They win with size and technique rather than speed. Both are also very adept at toe tapping in the sideline and end zone to secure their catches.
Overall, I believe Ateman will wind up being a mid to late round draft pick. His combine statistics won’t be overly impressive but NFL teams will fall in love with his size, hands and body control. In terms of dynasty drafts, he is probably a third or fourth round rookie draft pick depending on his NFL draft slot. In a high volume offense, Ateman will have a real chance to breakout in the NFL.
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