After stocking up on young defensive additions during the opening week of free agency, it’s looking more and more like the Raiders will use one of their two first-round picks on an offensive skill player in next month’s NFL draft. Las Vegas is set at running back and tight end, however, which really leaves one glaring need on that side of the ball: wide receiver.
Just about every mock draft has the Raiders taking a receiver with their first pick, and one of the most popular projections for Vegas is Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy. It’s a common pick for a reason, as Jeudy established himself as one of college football’s most productive receivers over the last two years.
As a junior in 2019, Jeudy put up 1,163 yards on 77 catches while pulling in 10 touchdowns; the year before he caught 68 balls for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. And at 6-foot-1, 192 pounds, he is built to take on NFL defensive backs.
The statistical production is nice, but what separates Jeudy as a pro prospect?
One of the first things to look at when evaluating college receivers is their ability to beat press coverage. If a receiver isn’t quick enough or explosive enough off the line to make cornerbacks respect him, the defenders will creep up to the line and jam all day long, disrupting the timing of the routes.
Jeudy is very much elite in that regard. Not many teams challenged him at the line of scrimmage throughout the 2019 campaign, and when they did he used his quick-twitch jab steps to release without allowing the defenders to lay a finger on him.
Watch Jeudy consistently win at the snap and create instant separation:
In an offense that features the intermediate and short passing game (hello, Derek Carr), Jeudy’s ability to create space so quickly will make him a favorite target.
When teams played off the line, Jeudy simply ate them up with tremendous feel, timing and route-running precision. Whether it was on in-breaking or out-breaking routes, he pressed his route into the defensive back, forcing them to commit; and once the defender turned his hips, Jeudy chose that precise moment to change direction.
Playing off-coverage is supposed to allow defensive backs to transition smoothly; instead, watch Jeudy set up and time his moves so perfectly that defenders corkscrew themselves over and over:
That ability to chew up and spit out man defenders is why you draft Jeudy with a top pick. You don’t take him for his ability to find holes in a zone and sit down for medium gains, but he can do that too:
Jeudy is also a threat with the ball in his hands. Alabama made a point to work in screens and quick-hitters to Jeudy in order to let him work against defenders in the open field.
On this play — which shouldn’t work, as defenders outnumber blockers 3-to-1 — Jeudy takes a pass at the line of scrimmage, makes two incredible jukes to avoid tackles, and bursts forward for a big chunk play:
A receiver who can create first downs out of broken plays like that is a quarterback’s best friend.
Jeudy isn’t perfect. He can accelerate and he’s not slow by any means, but he’s not the kind of straight-line burner who will run past cornerbacks down the sideline for home runs. His deep balls come via route-running and separation.
He’s also prone to body-catching, or trapping the ball against his chest instead of plucking it out of the air with his hands. That led to drops on too many routine plays. Overall, he’s just okay when it comes to catching the ball:
Catching ability can be improved with increased focus, however, and Jeudy’s positives far, far outweigh any inconsistencies with catching the ball.
Given Jeudy’s obvious physical gifts, his demonstrated feel for the position and his outstanding production at the college level, there won’t be many detractors if the Raiders call his name on draft day.