Matt Waldman’s RSP Twitter Vids: Is San Jose St. WR Tre Walker A Training Camp Sleeper?

Matt Waldman’s RSP examines the underrated play of 2021 NFL Draft prospect, Tre Walker of San Jose State, a 180-pound acrobatic wide receiver with the potential to become a training camp darling. 

Is Tre Walker big enough for the NFL? If Isaac Bruce was big enough for a tougher incarnation of the league, we don’t have to have this conversation about Walker.

It’s unlikely Walker has a career remotely like Bruce, a second-round pick out of Memphis who delivered a 1,781yard, 13-touchdown campaign during his second season in 1995—four years before the St. Louis Rams became the Greatest Show on Turf. As part of a 2021 draft class of wide receivers that’s talented and deep, it’s more likely Walker doesn’t make an active roster as a rookie.

Although draft capital is not predictive of talent, it is predictive of opportunity to compete for a meaningful role and the post-draft evaluation bias among coaches and front-office executives.  After all, James Robinson only earned his opportunity to compete for the starting role in Jacksonville after Doug Marrone essentially asked the Jaguars front office for permission to give the rookie UDFA more practice reps as part of a legitimate opportunity to compete for the job.

Walker has the talent to play in the NFL. While I mentioned Isaac Bruce because they have similar physical dimensions, Bruce is so far off the charts of a comparison spectrum that it’s the last time I’m broaching his name.

A better spectrum of comparisons would list Tyler Lockett as the absolute shocker of a ceiling in terms of career outcome. Both Walker and Lockett have a knack for winning the football downfield in contested situations and they are productive runners in traffic and the open field.

The mid-point player along this spectrum of comparison, meaning that if Walker—likely a Day 3 NFL pick, at best—earns a legitimate amount of practice reps that a team gives to a player it hopes will platoon in a starting lineup, would be Keelan Cole. Walker and Cole also share the high-flying skills and open-field prowess and like Lockett can play outside or in the slot.

The low-end player on this spectrum is Kenny Bell, a one-time RSP favorite from Nebraska who could take hard contact at the catch-point, win in the open field, and had a maniacal approach to blocking. Walker is a physical blocker for his size both with his stand-up game and cut-blocking, and he’s slick in tight quarters with the ball in his hands.

Bell’s downfall on the field was dropped passes and fumbles during key preseason moments where he was given a mini showcase to compete for playing time. If Walker can perform to his standards, he can avoid Bell’s career outcome.

As you’ll see below, Walker has good timing and concentration as a ball tracker and he’s shy around defenders when it comes to getting the ball. He has a quick processor for finding the best angle to attack the ball as well as avoiding oncoming traffic in dangerous areas.

Although he’s not winning boundary plays to the NFL standard, the tracking, body control, focus, and overall athletic ability is there for Walker to make that transition to “two feet inbounds.”

You’ll also see that he also understands how to manipulate defenders while tracking the football in off-script situations.

The odds are against Tre Walker even if he somehow projects as a Day Three selection. If you’re a fantasy player, Walker is a player to know about but won’t be included in your plans during a rookie or start-up draft. However, he could be a compelling free-agent selection if events unfold in a way where he’s afforded a real opportunity to compete for a role.

Diehard football fans will value Walker as a potential sleeper, especially if he lands on their favorite team’s roster in early May.

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