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Eric Froton analyzes Day 3 Wide Receivers

by Eric Froton
Updated On: April 18, 2020, 1:14 pm ET

Thanks to my duties here at Rotoworld, I analyze roughly 10 hours of college football each Saturday during the fall. Here are a few Day 3 wide receivers who I enjoyed watching this year and felt deserved a deeper examination.

 

Day 3 Wide Receiver Prospects

Quez Watkins - (6'0/185) - Southern Miss 

As an under the radar two-star prospect from Athens, AL, Watkins only received one other FBS scholarship offer besides his overture from then head coach of Southern Miss, Todd Monken. Watkins redshirted his true freshman season after not enrolling until mid-September and didn't see his first game action until his second year on campus. In an impressive opening day performance against Kentucky he caught 4-of-6 passes for 103 yards and 25.8 YPC against the Wildcats, a competitive SEC East program. His usage varied over the course of the season, playing a prominent role against UTSA where he caught all five of his targets for 78 yards and a touchdown, and versus Charlotte when he caught 4-of-5 passes for 61 yards. Overall, Watkins caught 23-of-43 passes for 337 yards, two touchdowns and four drops while also returning kicks and punts in his first taste of game action.

Following the departure of 2017 leading receiver Korey Robertson, the opportunity to assert himself as the Golden Eagles' WR1 was readily available. Watkins rose to the challenge by snatching 72-of-107 targets for 889 yards, 12.3 YPC with a 7.5 average YAC and nine touchdowns. He received at least eight targets in every game as the primary receiving weapon for USM, breaking 12 tackles in the process with only four drops. Watkins' breakout performance was worthy of an 80.7 Pro Football Focus receiving grade with an 80.4 hands rating en route to being named first-team All-CUSA. Quez Watkins had officially arrived.

Watkins was riding high heading into 2019 as Southern Miss's top receiving threat. However early in the year it became clear that Watkins had been slacking off in his studies, putting his eligibility in question. Watkins ended up withdrawing from the university in January in order to attend a local junior college so he could raise his grades to a qualifying level. His hard work paid off as he was reinstated to the team in the summer, but Watkins still missed the first two games of the season for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

Upon his return Watkins was a man possessed, catching 63-of-102 passes for 1,172 yards, an 18.6 YPC and 8.9 average YAC with six touchdowns in only 12 contests. It was a truly dominant season for Watkins who earned his second, first-team All-CUSA nomination while finishing fifth in the nation 3.63 yards per route run. 

His 36.8 dominator rating reflects how USM leaned on him in the passing game as Watkins received another solid PFF receiving grade of 76.1. Position-wise HC Jay Hopson moved him inside and out depending on the circumstances but preferred seeing Watkins on the sideline as he spent 500 snaps lined up on the outside and 163 snaps in the slot. The vast majority of his action occurred almost exclusively on right side of the formation, receiving only 7 targets on the left third of field over the last two seasons. Watkins excelled between the numbers, catching 43 of his 64 receptions in the middle of the field for 763 yards and five touchdowns.

In testing Watkins' 4.35 40-yard dash was good for second in the receiver group and his 36.5 vertical jump was in the top-half of WR combine attendees. His Relative Athletic Score of 7.41 projects that his athleticism should translate to the next level. Elite speed and acceleration make him dangerous on quick slants and intermediate crossing routes when defenders give him space off the line to respect his ability to go over the top. He displays sure hands when he gets his head turned around, with a catch radius measuring in the 52 percentile of all wideouts. 

However sometimes Watkins has trouble with ball location when making deep, over-the-shoulder catches. He is absolutely lethal in space, often leaving tacklers flat footed with his ability to cut at high speeds. Dominated Group of Five competition but will need to prove his skills can translate to the NFL. Watkins carves up zone coverages, but needs to prove he can out-maneuver physical corners who jam him at the line. I'll describe his skill set as Sammy Watkins-lite.

 

Jauan Jennings - (6'3/215) - Tennessee

Jauan Jennings was a four-star prospect out of Murfreesboro, TN who was rated as the 164th best overall prospect in the nation and seventh ranked prospect in his home state of Tennessee. A quarterback in high school, Jennings was named Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee for 2014.

He played sparingly as a true freshman, snagging 14-of-23 passes for 149 yards with two drops in 2015. That he played at all in his first collegiate season after transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver is a testament to his talent level. Jennings worked diligently honing his craft in the offseason to prepare for an increased role in the Volunteer's 2016 offense. His hard work paid off as Jennings caught 40-of-63 passes for 580 passes and seven touchdowns while breaking 12 tackles and dropping four passes. Jennings played only 27 snaps in UT's season opener before his playing time increased to 49 and 42 snaps in weeks two and three before playing 72 snaps in week four and becoming a fixture in the starting lineup for the rest of the season. Jennings caught 63 percent of his passes and showed a nose for the end zone, improving his production enough in his second season to receive a 69.0 receiving grade from Pro Football Focus. 

Jennings was now on the map as a rising star in the SEC, generating significant buzz around the conference as a potent weapon for the rebuilding Vols. However 2017 would prove to be a tumultuous year for Jennings, as he was arrested in February for drug possession then dislocated wrist Week 1 vs. Georgia Tech before being dismissed from the team by interim head coach Brady Hoke in November for posting a profanity-laced tirade on social media criticizing the Tennessee coaching staff. 

Rather than transfer, Jennings gradually worked his way into new HC Jeremy Pruitt's good graces and was reinstated to the team in May of 2018. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in early 2018, but was able to recover in time to play in 12 games, starting five, and catching 30-of-44 passes for 438 yards and three touchdowns while dropping four passes and breaking six tackles. Jennings was able to finally shake his off the field and injury woes to make it through the 2018 season. However he didn't live up to the expectations set by the Volunteer faithful after his 2016 breakout performance.

Heading into his final season, Jennings needed to make an impression on scouts if he wanted to put himself on the NFL radar. Jennings responded to the challenge by catching 59-of-92 passes for 969 yards, a 64% catch percentage and eight touchdowns. His high school quarterback lineage led to HC Jeremy Pruitt having Jennings take snaps as a Wildcat QB when the situation dictated it, recording 13 rushing attempts for 51 yards and a touchdown. His aggressive style of play and ability to keep defenders off balance with quick, subtle movements allowed Jennings to lead the nation with 30 broken tackles as a receiver, while shaking off another seven tackles in the run game for good measure. As such, Jennings was a YAC machine with 474 yards after contact for an 8.0 yards after catch average. He received a Pro Football Focus overall receiving grade of 89.4 which ranked 14th in the FBS, along with an above average 72.3 PFF hands grade. Jennings finished as Tennessee's fourth leading career receiver with 2,153 yards and 18 touchdowns. 

Excellent contact balance makes him hard to take down as he is almost immune to arm tackles. Has an advanced feel for space and is willing to take a hit to make a catch across the middle. His versatility makes him dangerous as Jennings has thrown, rushed for and caught touchdowns in his playing career. Effective blocker who would be frequently used to crack down on linebackers on run plays. Bullies smaller corners, uses his body and armbar well to shield defenders from the ball. Has a tendency to double-catch at times and has had some questions raised about the reliability of his hands. His 4.72 40-yard dash and 29 inch vertical jump scores were well below average raising questions about ability to separate at next level. He is likely destined for slot work due to these physical limitations, as it's going to be difficult to separate on go routes against NFL caliber boundary corners. He reminds me of former Minnesota Vikings WR Laquon Treadwell

 

Quartney Davis - (6'1/201) - Texas A&M

The Houston, TX native was a highly sought-after four-star prospect who was rated as the 23rd best wide receiver in the country and number 21 ranked overall recruit from the state of Texas in the 2016 prep class. He drew offers from Power Five schools such as Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Ole Miss, LSU and Georgia, but ultimately settled on Texas A&M thanks largely to the efforts of then HC Kevin Sumlin. Davis missed senior year of high school due to injury, then tore his ACL in 2016 causing him to miss both 2016 and 2017 seasons. The recovery was strenuous enough that he still was limited by spring 2018 before finally suiting up and competing for playing time in fall camp for the first time in his collegiate career. 

In his first taste of real game action Davis spent most of 2018 split out wide, logging 494 reps outside compared with 246 snaps in the slot. Davis proved to be most effective within 20-yards of the line of scrimmage, catching 38-of-60 passes for 478 yards and five touchdowns on short and intermediate routes working the soft spots of zones and using his quick feet to create early separation on outs and hitches. On the year he caught 45-of-77 passes for 583 yards and seven touchdowns while dropping four passes. He wasn't particularly elusive, averaging only 3.5 YAC per reception while managing to only break three tackles. 

In 2019 Davis transitioned to an inside role, spending 441 snaps lined up in the slot as opposed to 138 snaps out wide. The move sapped his ability to stretch the field, doing very little damage more than 20 yards downfield by catching only 1-of-8 deep targets and posting a season long reception of only 29 yards. As is to be expected from his new slot alignment he received most of his targets between the numbers, catching 41-of-55 passes for 461 yards and three touchdowns over the middle. The move to the slot allowEd Davis more room to work with as he increased his YAC average to 4.9 YAC per reception and broke eight tackles. The position switch led to an acclimation period for him, as he increased his drops from four to six, which earned him a sub-par PFF hands grade of 59.0.

Davis ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine that he improved upon at his spring days when he ran back to back 40's in the 4.4 range. Posted a vertical jump of 35.5 but didn't perform any other drills at the combine. His Relative Athletic Score of 7.05 indicates Davis possesses he physical attributes needed to stick at the NFL level.

Davis did a lot of his damage between the hashes on slants/posts. He has enough speed to run away from defenders after the catch but doesn't separate down the sidelines which accounts for his poor PFF grades on deep balls. He possesses quick feet and above average size for a slot who plays strong and has a good feel for space in zone coverage. Size allows him to absorb contact over the middle and hang on to the ball when he gets popped. He could stand to add some nuance to his route running if he's going to beat NFL caliber corners consistently. Davis reminds me of USC standout and Philadelphia Eagles draftee Nelson Agholor.