Devy Notes: Bullish Wide Receivers

Bruce Matson

College football is the breeding ground for young wide receiver prospects. Many of them are heralded high school recruits who are looking to make a name for themselves in one of the nation’s top collegiate programs. A lot of these players are exciting and show a lot of promise in the early stages of their career, but not all of them will be ready to hit the NFL stage when it comes time to for their name to be called.

The first couple of years are critical for a wide receiver’s profile. An early breakout age is one of the prerequisites for NFL success. By looking at some of the top young prospects in the game, we get an indication of what the landscape could looking in the next couple of years.

Joe Ngata, WR Clemson

Clemson is one of the top wide receiver factories in the country. They are always bursting through the seams with talent at the position. Ngata is another wide receiver who will look to add to the team’s lineage of talented pass-catchers.

He’s a four-star freshman who enrolled in January. It appears he’s going to receive some burn this season. There’s a lot of competition for targets on the roster which will limit his overall usage, but he should flash some talent this year.

In Clemson’s spring game, he caught five passes for 127 yards. Most importantly, he showcased his athleticism and his ability to snag in tough passes along the sideline. His hands are sticky and he does a really good job at catching passes away from his body. There’s plenty of speed to burn with Ngata and he’s more than quick enough to cause problems with his route running. For just a freshman, he’s well ahead of the curve. Ngata has the potential to be something special. Clemson is the right place for him to develop his game.

There’s another stud freshman on the team. Frank Ladson is another touted playmaker who also had a tremendous performance during the team’s spring game, catching five passes for 102 yards. 247Sports had Ladson ranked two spots ahead of Ngata in their wide receiver rankings. Both players are tremendous prospects. Clemson won’t miss a beat when Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins depart for the NFL Draft.

Ngata’s devy value will always carry the Clemson premium. He has the talent to be the next great wide receiver prospect. It can’t get much better than being tethered to Trevor Lawrence for the next few years. His overall devy value should increase throughout the season.

Justin Shorter, WR Penn State

Justin Shorter is one of the most polarizing young athletes at the wide receiver position. There’s a rare blend of size and speed that this kid has, and it will help him make an impact for the Nittany Lions. Once he gets acclimated to the college game, the devy community will quickly tout him as one of the top prospects to snag in drafts.

There are a lot of great wide receivers in college football but compared to the rest of the prospects in the country, Shorter might have the highest upside. If the stars align and if he works hard to develop his game, then he could possibly emerge as a Julio Jones type of talent when he comes out for the draft. A lot of things could happen between now and then, but Shorter has the talent to do big things at Penn State.

At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Shorter is already bigger than most defensive backs at the NFL level. He clocked a 4.52-second 40-yard dash and a 4.26 20-yard shuttle, adding to a 109.38 SPARQ Rating. Shorter excels at getting downfield catching the ball in stride. He does a good job of reading the ball while it’s in the air and adjusting his body to make the play. The redshirt freshman is a nightmare to tackle once he gets the ball in his hands. He’s aggressive at the point of contact and he’s fast enough to pull away from defenders.

A dislocated kneecap prevented him from breaking out last year and it caused him to only play in three games, catching three passes for 20 yards. His freshman season was a lost year. Like most young prospects, we have to analyze his high school tape.

The downside to Shorter is that he’s a growing boy. The coaching staff is fighting their hardest to keep him under 230 pounds. Head coach James Franklin stated that he’s almost a cheeseburger away from hitting the scales at 250 pounds. The added size will eventually decrease his speed and quickness. On a positive note, the coaching staff is still raving about his athleticism.

As we Look forward to the 2019 season, Shorter is expected to be the team’s starting X receiver. He will be playing on the perimeter of the offense while speedster KJ Hamler blows by the opposition in the slot. We should see a lot of Shorter next year since he will be one of the main receiving options in the offense.

I’m very bullish on Shorter’s long-term player value. His value will increase throughout the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he develops into one of the top devy prospects within the next ten months. He’s currently being drafted in the late third-round of devy drafts and a good performance this year will easily spike his ADP into the early second-round if not higher.

Rashod Bateman, WR Minnesota

When we think of Minnesota football, we don’t think of talented wide receivers ready to take the league by storm. We think of traditional Big Ten football where running backs matter and the offensive linemen are fed large quantities of corn.

The Golden Gophers are bucking the trend. Not only is Tyler Johnson a rising star, but Rashod Bateman is another talented pass catcher who is going to develop into another must-get wide receiver in devy leagues. He’s a player on the rise and we should see his stock increase going forward.

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Bateman has a lot of tricks up his sleeve. He can win with sheer speed. Defensive backs have to play on their heels because Bateman can trip them up on a go-route on any given play. Factor in his ball skills and you have a wide receiver who is tough to cover. His hands are immaculate. He can easily pluck balls out of the air. Bateman attacks the ball while it’s in transit, preventing defensive backs from crashing down on him to break up the play. He’s a stud and he’s only going to get better. There’s a chance that he could finish this season as the best wide receiver on the team.

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The fact that Bateman was able to hold his own in a low volume offense competing for targets against one of the top wide receivers in the nation is very impressive. He was also third on the team in scrimmage yards behind Johnson and freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim. His 28.98 percent target share is another indication that he’s one of the key focal points of the offense.

According to Devywatch.com, he has an ADP of 43.81, making him a fourth-round flier in devy drafts. This is criminal. He should be a must-get target in the third round. His value will spike when Johnson departs to the NFL. We will also see inflation in his statistics when it’s his turn to be the team’s WR1.

The Tyler-Johnson-Albatross made Bateman a value. Normally, if a freshman wide receiver from a power five school owned a 25 percent market share of his team’s passing production, then that player would become a hot commodity in devy leagues. Johnson’s ascendance has overshadowed his teammate’s play on the roster. Bateman is being drafted at a massive discount.

bruce matson
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