Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines the body positioning of Kentucky WR Wan’Dale Robinson at the catch point, an area of this 2022 NFL Draft prospect’s game that is a mixed bag at this stage of his development.
A quick, agile, and exciting slot receiver with big-play skill in the open field, Robinson made big plays at every point of the field at Kentucky. For this to translate to the NFL, Robinson will have to make some adjustments—”adjustments” being the keyword.
How to position one’s body to the ball in the air while accounting for the defender is one of the most underrated parts of great receiver play. There are hundreds of players with speed, quickness, length, skills with releases and breaks, and hand-eye coordination who can’t finish the biggest plays because they don’t understand positioning.
Here are some of the common positioning techniques receivers must execute that is graded criteria in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s evaluation process:
- Attacking the ball at the earliest point of it’s arrival trajectory.
- Jump Back and Through: Timing the turn on a vertical route to leap towards the ball rather than fade downhill.
- Pull Back: The receiver torques his frame away from the defender so his back is shielding the opponent from the ball.
- Embracing the Fall: The receiver turns his frame so he doesn’t land directly on the ball as he comes to the ground.
For those curious about the weight of these points on the RSP’s evaluation system for receivers, the sum of these four techniques accounts for 6 points on a 100-point scale. It doesn’t sound like it’s that impactful until you consider that total is often the difference between tiers of potential.
Ja’Marr Chase, who was far and away the top-graded receiver in the 2021 RSP and one of the highest-graded players I’ve studied since I created my Depth of Talent scoring nearly a decade ago, was five points better than the RSP’s No.2 receiver prospect, Jaylen Waddle. And Waddle was six points better than No. 4-5 options, DeVonta Smith and Kardarius Toney.
All four receivers performed to their grades as NFL starters or high-end contributors to an offense, but Chase and Waddle were a tier above. Chase was really in a tier of his own as an immediate force who helped change the complexion of his teams.
One of the things that separated these two players from an excellent class was their skill with positioning themselves at the catch point.
Robinson has the physical skills to develop into a playmaking force, especially from the slot. Currently, his positioning has strengths and weaknesses as seen in this week’s RSP Boiler Room. If Robinson can address at least the four areas mentioned above so he’s consistent and sound with his techniques, he could become a Victor Cruz-like presence for an offense as a big-play, primary slot option.
If not, Robinson can become an asset as a starter but his versatility for the NFL won’t be as strong as it was at Kentucky and there’s a thin line between a usable NFL starter and replaceable-level veteran contributor.
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