Matt Waldman shares his pre-draft scouting report of Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus, who has had a strong camp can draw comparisons to Anquan Boldin from beat reporters–someone Matt compared Cephus to months before in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio.
9. Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin (6-0, 202)
Depth of Talent Score: 84.05 = Rotational Starter: Executes at a starter level in a role that plays to his strengths.
Cephus is one of my favorite sleepers in the class. Nothing about his path to the NFL Draft since enrolling at Wisconsin has been smooth with the exception of his work on the field. Even his workouts from the NFL Combine are a thorny issue.
Gauging speed and quickness from the tape can be a difficult task. I think one player has long-speed and it turns out he has great acceleration but average long-speed. I think another player has excellent short-area quickness but it’s his acceleration.
And I’m referring to examples where I’m not completely offbase with all three components of how fast a player moves.
While less common, sometimes the workout results are not indicative of a player’s speed, acceleration, and/or change-of-direction quickness. I believed this was the case with Cephus.
The rest that I’ve written below about Cecphus was penned before his Pro Day workout that yielded a 4.56-second, 40-Yard Dash. I decided to keep it as-is because I believe it’s an educational point about workout times and the factors to consider when a player’s time clearly doesn’t match the tape.
In addition to the theories I posited earlier about his workouts (see this Chapter’s Underrated section), my notes describe Cephus—repeatedly—as something the workouts say he isn’t.
“Runs at a high speed and teammates get used to
working with his tempo…”
“Explodes off the line…”
“Quick first step…”
“Plays quick in all phases of the game…”
Even when I lowered Cephus’ grade in the Separation and Elusiveness tiers of his report to compensate for his workout results, his overall grade remains on par with a low-end rotational starter. So I’m sticking with my grade and betting that once Cephus takes the field as a late pick or UDFA, he plays to the speed I observed from his tape and delivers as the guy that Ohio State’s Jeffery Okudah and his teammate Will Arnette listed as the toughest receiver they faced during their illustrious college careers.
Cephus played split end at Wisconsin and as a freshman led the Big Ten in yards per catch. He explodes off the line with good suddenness and works his stems against off coverage with his pads down and eyes up in order to sell the prospect of a
When facing press coverage, he has a three-step footwork pattern, hesitation footwork, and a violent stick. He’ll pair these moves with chops, rips, and swims. Cephus also has a convincing head fake early in his stems that can widen a defensive back. Once he earns separation, he’ll stack his man and track the ball with the skill of an outfielder.
Cephus is an absolute bully against off-coverage. He’ll work up the stem with intensity, get into the body of the cornerback or safety and use a rip and arm-over in succession as he flips his hips inside, outside, or back to the quarterback. He can sink his hips and break back to the ball with good speed.
He’s among the best receivers I’ve watched in this class when it comes to using his hands at the top of his stem. And, if he encounters a physical defensive back, Cephus isn’t afraid to throw a shoulder into the safety while working inside. He also works through defensive pass interference and still earns opportunities to catch the target.
Cephus’s spot routes and back shoulder routes feature an effective weight-drop at the top of his breaks. His turns are sudden out of his breaks, including the curl route. His speed breaks are crisp and flat. He also has spatial awareness in zone or
against man-to-man to slide away from the position of a defender to create an easier target for his scrambling quarterback.
Cephus varies the pacing of his stems to set up his breaks and can do this more often because it is effective. He has a nice double-move that sells an inside break before turning outside to the flat. He breaks back to the ball well and maintains the
desired route depth.
As physical as Cephus is with his hands, he’s also capable of taking punishment as a pass-catcher. Whether it’s a defender wrapped around his back while airborne, or floating airborne head-on into a hard collision, Cephus makes the play and hangs onto the ball. He’ll make difficult turns behind his breakpoint to make the catch or high-point the ball.
Gifted with excellent concentration, Cephus made a terrific one-handed catch for a touchdown against Michigan State where he stabbed the ball with his downfield arm while wrapped on a post route. This happened after the hit and the ball bouncing off two points of his body before he secured it.
Catching a ball after it rebounded twice has a fair amount of luck embedded into the effort, but it’s also indicative of his tracking skills. Against Oregon, Cephus drew a defensive pass interference call on the Ducks’ corner who shoved Cephus out of bounds on a go route up the left sideline only for Cephus to stay with the target, work through the defender, and
fully lay-out for the ball parallel to the turf. He made the catch but with a foot landing out of bounds before the rest of his frame landed in the field of play.
He tracks the ball over his shoulder better than any player in this class, including targets directly over his head on vertical routes. And, he executes well-timed jump-backs to win fade routes at the earliest point of the target’s arrival.
After the catch, Cephus transitions downhill efficiently. He has a quick first step and if he’s working across the field, he can drop his weight and come to a complete stop within 2-3 steps to transition downhill. If a defensive back doesn’t take
the ideal angle, Cephus can turn the corner and win up the sideline.
He spins through contact, falls forward through wraps to his legs, and he can drop the pads and extend his frame through harder contact. He’ll drag defensive backs. He has been reckless with his pad level in the past, lowering his head into oncoming contact.
Cephus has the strength and gait to bounce off collisions with defensive backs and outside linebackers. He also has the agility to duck under their hits, balance-touch the ground and regain his stride for additional yardage.
Although Cephus carries the ball high and tight near traffic, his carriage gets lower than chest height and much looser at the elbow in the open field or when changing direction to avoid pursuit.
Cephus doesn’t let up as a blocker. He’s quick off the line of scrimmage and gets close enough to latch-on and use his legs to turn and drive opponents. He’ll use an uppercut motion to get his hands inside but, he’s not using the motion as a violent punch. He’ll get chest-to-chest with linebackers, use his hands, and sustain his effort.
Cephus has some all-or-nothing tendencies with his attack on stalk blocks. He’ll throw a cross-body block when he works inside or lowers his shoulder into defenders when it’s preferable to use a good punch that can facilitate a square position and control of the opponent. When he latches onto a safety in the open field, he can pancake the man with his grip and drive.
In addition to the complexity surrounding Cephus’s workout at the Combine is the well-known off-field history where he was charged with felony sexual assault. He initially was given a leave of absence after being suspended by the team.
Wisconsin expelled Cephus because he refused to answer specific questions about the evening based on the recommendation of his attorney, who believed the school’s investigation and subsequent actions would violate Cephus’s Title IX rights, which later proved prescient. He was expelled for 15 months while facing felony third-degree sexual assault of one woman and second-degree assault of an intoxicated woman.
Allegedly, he assaulted both women while his teammate Danny Davis took photos. Cephus told police he had sex with both women but it was consensual. In his testimony and interview with the police, he said the woman asked him if they could sleepover with him and when they arrived at his residence removed their clothing, went to the bed and invited him to join them.
Cephus initially denied taking photos but admitted later in the interview that Davis took one but they quickly deleted it. Cephus was found innocent on both counts and it took the jury only 30 minutes to arrive at the verdict. Cephus’s attorney sued Wisconsin for violating Title IX and the school allowed Cephus to re-enroll 15 months later. Initially, the school was reluctant, and it took some pushing from Cephus’s legal team.
During that time Cephus’s teammates, including team leaders Jonathan Taylor, Tyler Biadasz, Chris Orr, and Zack Baun all attended a news conference in support of Cephus’s request for re-enrollment.
As you can see, Cephus’s football journey has been anything but simple and it won’t be after the NFL Combine, either. From what I’ve seen, Cephus has contributor talent and starter upside if his speed is closer to the 4.55-second estimate that I had for him before he ran a 4.73 with bad form.
If he plays closer to 4.55-second, long speed, Cephus’s grade would be in the range of Michael Pittman, Jalen Reagor, and Devin Duvernay—likely above all three. If he’s closer to 4.45, which I doubt, he’d be within the range of Laviska Shenault, Jr. and Bryan Edwards.
Until we see what he does in an NFL camp, consider him a flanker or slot candidate with an Anquan Boldin-like physicality.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Even with a Pro Day time that is significantly better, its likely Cephus’s stock will range from rounds 4-6 with a slight chance of going undrafted. Cephus will be a midround or late-round pick (depending on the expertise of the league) that I’d reach a little bit for before the NFL Draft.
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