20/20: Courtland Sutton

Travis May

Welcome to the 20/20 series. As part of our continued Dynasty Scouts coverage and in preparation for the NFL Combine, we will be profiling 20 of the top incoming rookies of the class of 2018 by giving you 20 facts you must know.

1) Player nameCourtland Sutton

2) College – Southern Methodist University (SMU)

3) Height/Weight – 6’4”, 215 pounds

4) Birth date – 10/10/95 (22 years old)

5) Class – Red Shirt Junior

6) College stats – Courtland Sutton’s path to greatness wasn’t exactly like your typical college wide receiver. He played tight end and safety in high school, so it took his college coaches a little bit to figure out what they had. After missing most of his first season at SMU with an injury, Courtland bounced back to grab 49 balls for 862 yards and nine scores (of the team’s 19 TDs through the air)

Sutton’s 2016 season was even better. He posted a line of 76-1246-10. He “leveled off” at 68 receptions for 1,085 yards and 12 scores last season. The only reason he didn’t destroy box scores even further in 2017 was because SMU’s transfer wide receiver (from LSU) Trey Quinn joined the team. While teams doubled Sutton on the outside, Trey torched defenses underneath.

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7) NFL Draft round projection – Depending on the mock draft board you sift through, Sutton could be perched atop the WR board going to the Bears at pick eight, or somewhere on the fringe of dropping out of round two. His giant WR1 frame and dominant playing style are a lot of fun to watch. That’s true. However, given recent draft history, small school guys generally need to possess something absolutely unique in order to be selected in round one.

Corey Davis had the most receiving yards in FBS history. Breshad Perriman had a 4.25-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. I like him a lot, and it is possible Sutton is selected round one, but he is likely a pick 33 to 50 kind of guy (even if he should be taken higher).

8) Current NFL comparisonDemaryius Thomas. Hear me out. While Thomas is likely faster, they share some physical characteristics and do a lot of the same things. They both win with their size. And even though both DT and Sutton are huge wide receivers, they can create after the catch. Many bigger wide receivers don’t (looking at you, Mike Evans) or can’t (Kelvin Benjamin). Both Demaryius and Courtland are smooth long striders who can bend and burst through their breaks without losing much speed. The only noticeable difference may be the top end of that speed.

9) Best possible destination – Chicago Bears (at either pick eight or 39). As I mentioned earlier, Sutton at eight would be unlikely. But either way, the Bears have two potential opportunities to grab exactly what they have been lacking at wide receiver since losing Alshon Jeffery. Yes, Kevin White and Cameron Meredith may both return. However, that could actually be a good thing for the rookie. They’re the perfect kind of slightly-experienced veterans who could help Sutton learn a few things and garner some attention from opposing defenses, but not present a significant threat to his long-term role and target share.

10) Worst possible destination – Minnesota Vikings. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are one of the most talented wide receiver duos in the league. The Vikings may not have much behind them at the position, but there would be next to zero targets left for Sutton for a very long time. If you mix in the uncertainty surrounding the future of the quarterback position (would Teddy Bridgewater even be a good thing?) it quickly becomes one of the worst landing spots in the league for any wide receiver.

11) Best current skill – Sutton’s best current skill is likely his physicality. Whether he’s leaping over cornerbacks, stiff-arming a safety, or winning with his hands at the line and point of the catch, he is a very physical wide receiver. When a 6’4” wide receiver uses the full extent of his frame defenses feel that. If Sutton continues to play with the same aggression in the NFL, he could find some early success.

12) Skill that needs to be improved – Sutton doesn’t have many obvious major flaws, but he could clean up his catching habits just a bit. What do I mean by that? Early on in Courtland’s collegiate career, he would let the ball hit him in the chest instead of attacking it with his hands. As he tried to move away from that in 2016, it was clear that he hadn’t quite perfected his technique. In 2017, Courtland really started putting that together, but he still clearly needs to improve his consistency in this aspect of his game. It’s nitpicking, but in tighter professional coverage Sutton will have less room for error.

13) Past/Current rookie ADP – According to February 2018 Rookie Mock ADP, Courtland Sutton is currently the third overall rookie selection. That makes him the WR1 behind only Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice in rookie drafts right now. That ADP may drop some, but there is significant disagreement as to who should be the third pick this year. He’s definitely in the conversation.

14) Projected dynasty value – It is likely he destroys the NFL Combine here soon by every measure except for perhaps long speed. If that is the case, Courtland Sutton’s dynasty value will probably become locked in as a mid-first rookie pick. That would place him around the top 50 or 60 startup picks based on historical ADP. At worst, Courtland will end up as a late first round rookie pick this summer.

15) Second to none – How could he possibly be in the discussion for one of the top wide receivers in this class? He wasn’t even the most productive wide receiver on his team this year. It’s because Sutton hogged all of the primary defensive attention consistently all season long. Trey Quinn is a solid receiver too, but he took the easy underneath work. There shouldn’t be any concerns based on Sutton “only” grabbing 68 balls for 1,085 yards and a dozen scores.

16) Top competition? – Any time a small-school prospect comes out, it is good to take a look at how they performed against top competition. After Sutton came back healthy starting full-time as a redshirt freshman, he only had five opportunities to play against Power Five schools in his collegiate career. Courtland managed 19 catches for 422 yards and four touchdowns in those games. He eclipsed 100 yards in three of those games. It’s a pretty small sample, but outside of the 2017 TCU game, Courtland didn’t disappoint.

17) Basketball star – It may be cliché to talk about offensive playmakers (WRs and TEs, especially) having a history playing basketball. But it definitely has an effect on the way they play. Courtland averaged more than ten rebounds, two steals, and two blocks per game as a senior in high school. Plus, he even made the SMU basketball team when they were low on scholarship players. Sutton is an all-around physically dominant athlete.

18) Changing places – As I mentioned briefly earlier, Sutton (like many recruits) played both offense and defense in high school as a tight end and safety. All of the major recruiting sites had him pegged as a safety coming out of high school when he was a good two inches shorter and thirty pounds lighter than he is now. Luckily, the SMU coaches found his proper strengths and chose to push him towards wide receiver. We may not even be talking about him at all had he stayed at defensive back.

19) Making history – Over the years, there have actually been several Southern Methodist players selected rather early in the NFL Draft. However, no Southern Methodist wide receiver has ever been selected before pick 54 (Ron Morris to the Bears in 1987) in the Super Bowl era. For the sake of SMU’s future recruiting – but mostly Courtland’s dynasty value – let’s hope he breaks that record.

20) Leadership – Last but not least, Sutton is by all reports a leader among his peers. Throughout his time at SMU, he received several awards for leadership, team spirit, education, and even represented his team at a student-athlete leadership conference. If he continues to grow as a leader at the next level, Sutton could find himself playing in the NFL for a long time.