Matt Waldman shares his NFL Draft scouting report on Baltimore Ravens rookie Devin Duvernay from his 2020 Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication.
Devin Duvernay, Texas (5-10, 200)
Depth of Talent Score: 83.75=Rotational Starter: Executes at a starter level in a role that plays to their strengths.
A Texas State 100 meters champion who ran the event in 10.27 seconds to win the title, Duvernay is a former running back who converted to wide receiver late in his high school career. He still has the build and the gait of a running back, and there are probably some NFL teams looking at his tape and wondering if he’d be a better fit in a role that brought Danny Woodhead success with the Chargers.
Duvernay could deliver productive work as a high reception scat back, but there are ample reasons to use him strictly as a slot receiver or dual-threat that plays inside and outside the hash. Texas uses Duvernay in the slot in 11 personnel (one running back, three receivers, and a tight end), as the inside or middle trips receiver in 1×3 personnel, and as its kick return specialist.
Because Duvernay has the compact and well-balanced gait of a running back—a runner who covers a lot more ground in a lot less time than it appears with those strides—he has proven effective on screens and RPOs. However, it would be a mistake to label him a running back who can catch. As with most prospects, Duvernay has addressable areas in his game, but it isn’t a stretch to consider him a likely NFL starting receiver—and likely much sooner than later.
Duvernay has a lot of skill separating against man and off-man coverage. If cornerbacks don’t press him, he’s capable of outrunning them with his 4.39-speed in the 40-Yard Dash and 4.20-second acceleration as seen in the 20 Shuttle.
Duvernay has also developed his toolkit to address coverage at the line of scrimmage. He uses hesitation moves, switch releases, rocker steps, foot-fires, and sticks to set up dives inside or outside the cornerback’s position. He’ll pair these moves with arm-bars, wipers, shoulder dips, hook-and-swim combinations, and chops.
Perhaps Duvernay will struggle against savvier NFL cornerbacks that press him, but he had some of the best combinations of effective release tools that I saw this year. He’s fluid, pairs 1-2 footwork releases with an upper-body technique to avoid or work through contact, and he could anticipate the jam at the line of scrimmage and deliver a counter that got
Duvernay is even performing moves at the line of scrimmage to gain information about corners’ reactions to his work during running plays or passing plays not designed for his side so he can use it to his advantage later in the game (stealing a release). Once Duvernay earns position on a corner during his stem, he does an effective job of stacking them whenever possible.
This isn’t work one would expect from a college slot receiver that converted from running back, but it’s why Duvernay is a compelling prospect.
Duvernay begins his routes with his pads over his knees and eyes forward to sell the potential of a vertical route, but he also uses different paces during his releases to bait defenders or time short-breaking routes with his quarterback’s drops. Duvernay is especially effective at driving to the inside/outside and using a hard stick to drive back the opposite direction of the dive.
Although I’ve seen two plays out of several games where Duvernay and his quarterback Sam Ehlinger weren’t on the same page with the direction of a break on an option route, this is a responsibility that Duvernay has undertaken successfully. He’s also effective at working with the quarterback to find open spots on scramble drills.
Duvernay also uses pacing and visual cues with his head and shoulders to bait defenders during his stems and set up short, intermediate, and deep routes. He’s convincing at implying the post with his head and shoulders to set up the sail routes. He also executes a nice look-in/look-out technique where he gets ahead of the defender during his stem and turns his head inside or outside at the top of his stem to bait the trailing opponent in the wrong direction just before his break.
Duvernay’s breaks are the worst part of his route running. He will break back to the ball and execute flat breaks on patterns working inside and out. The toe-point to open his hips and earn that flat line is there, but he has stiff hips and he doesn’t get that toe pointed as sharp as you’d like to see, so his breaks still have an opportunity to be flatter.
Duvernay’s stop routes and inside/outside breaks have tight, quick turns, but his hard breaks aren’t quick enough. He doesn’t run a lot of routes where he has to sink his hips. The bend is there, but the acceleration in and out of these breaks isn’t at optimal speed.
The 3 Cone Drill is a compelling indicator of a player’s ability to accelerate in and out of hip sinks that mimic hard breaks. Duvernay’s 7.13-second performance at the Combine is a committee-tier mark that mimics the less-than-optimal quickness of his hard breaks on the field.
Once Duvernay makes his break, he’ll square his pads and provide a clear target. On perimeter routes, Duvernay displays good awareness of the boundary but punctuates his toes into the turf rather than dragging them.
Whether Duvernay’s drafted as a slot receiver or he’s tabbed as the next Woodhead or James White, catching the football is not a problem. Until midway through the 2019 season, Duvernay had never dropped the ball during a game at Texas. Even as a slot receiver with a high volume of short passes, this is an impressive feat.
Duvernay extends for the ball on chest targets, using the preferred framing of his hands to win the ball at the earliest window of arrival. He tracks the ball over his shoulder and also attacks the ball at the highest point where he can still maintain his stride with these targets. Duvernay’s framing on targets at or below the beltline is also sound—especially when digging out low throws at the extreme range of his catch radius.
Like a former scat back, Duvernay intentionally positions his frame downhill as he’s addressing the target on short patterns in the flats so he can transition fast into open space. On vertical routes, Duvernay attacks the ball against tight coverage.
The only drop I saw him make was a slot fade against tight coverage where he used underhand framing on a chest-level throw that was uncharacteristic of the position he used for targets of this type. On this play, Duvernay secured the ball
but the coverage raked his arm across Duvernay’s hands and pulled the ball loose as they were heading to the ground.
Otherwise, tight coverage hasn’t fazed Duvernay as a pass catcher and neither does a hard hit. He’s a skilled ball tracker who sees the trajectory of high targets well enough to know when he can attack the ball over his head and still keep his feet on the ground. He’s also capable of tracking the ball directly over his head and displayed excellent timing and movement on a vertical route with this type of pass trajectory that forced him to fully extend and get parallel with the turf to make the catch.
After the catch, Duvernay has notable burst through his transitions from receiver to runner. When he plants and turns upfield he’ll earn a quick 9-10 yards in traffic, making the first defender in the area miss. Duvernay only needs two small prep-steps to transition a route breaking across the middle into a downhill run. His gait, the precision of his footwork to make small dips away from oncoming shots, and his hip swivel to bend from pursuit and stay downhill is that of a running back.
Duvernay attacks open lanes with the aggression of a runner, and Texas used him as a running back in the red zone, motioning him from a wide receiver spot into the backfield and let him run behind a lead blocker. On these plays, he showed the ability to press and cut back, reading the leverage of the defense effectively and using good footwork to avoid
Texas head coach Tom Herman told the media that Duvernay runs angry and this shows up on tape when it’s time to finish. Duvernay has an effective stiff-arm to work past contact off the edge. He also delivers a forearm shiver that can reshape the
position of an attacking safety—even early in the play near the line of scrimmage. Duvernay used this forearm to drop safety Grant Delpit at the line of scrimmage in the flat and transformed what looked like a certain no-gain situation into a 5-yard play.
He’s skilled at finishing with his pads and he’ll bully cornerbacks who don’t hit and wrap with a balanced technique. He can also run through wraps of weakside linebackers who try to hit him high.
Duvernay’s acceleration, compact frame, and balanced running style also help him run through reaches along the defensive line. When he can avoid dropping his pads, he’ll do so using the stiff-arm as his first option to shrug off, brush off, and knock-down opponents. When he can’t avoid contact to his frame, he’ll use his pads to split defenders and
extend through the contact.
Against smaller linebackers, Duvernay can earn a small push when colliding with them head-on. He’s at his best bouncing off contact to his lower legs.
His ball security features high-and-tight carriage. While he prefers to use his left arm, he will use the most appropriate arm that’s working away from the most dangerous pursuit angle when working outside the numbers.
Duvernay transitions downfield from route runner to blocker after a teammate makes a reception. He works upfield and leans into oncoming contact as a blocker, using his forearms to deliver shots. He’ll anchor against the push of defensive backs and counters well enough to turn the opponent away from the path to the ball.
Still, it’s better if Duvernay is the aggressor when stalk-blocking. He is patient with his attack and uses his hands well enough while moving laterally to remain square and in position to turn the opponent.
Duvernay has the footwork to set up a throw-by and he’s executed the maneuver in lieu of walling off the
defender from the play. It would be excellent if Duvernay can use this technique as a route runner.
The greatest problems with Duvernay’s blocking are his hands and position of his frame at the point of attack. The active leaning into contact and using his forearms rather than his hands to deliver a punch will put Duvernay into an overextended position and it slows down his transition from punching to latching. Good run-defending linebackers and defensive backs shed these efforts fast.
Duvernay may look like a running back and run like a running back, but he releases, sets up breaks, and catches the ball like a top receiver prospect. I can see how a team like the New England Patriots could look at Duvernay’s tape and tab him as a player to eventually replace Julian Edelman in the slot while delivering what Phillip Dorsett hasn’t on the perimeter. I can also see how the organization could find him an appealing replacement for James White.
Whether it’s strictly one or the other or a blend of both, Duvernay can become a big part of an offense.
RSP Boiler Room: Mechanics of an Acrobatic Catch
Devin Duvernay Highlights
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Duvernay’s ceiling and floor have a wide range of outcomes because some teams will be more sold on him as a slot player than others. And, it’s possible that an organization considers him a gadget player and sticks him in a role that earns 1-3 touches per game as the more talented, but equally unuseful Tavon Austin.
This variability of outcomes will make Duvernay a second-round selection in a lot of dynasty drafts before (and likely after) the NFL Draft. An excellent fit and an endorsement from a coach who outlines a specific and favorable use of Duvernay could raise his spring and summer value.
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