2018 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: James Washington

Oklahoma State
Wide Receiver #28
Senior, 6’0″ 205

Senior James Washington has evolved into a big-play threat and could be the first wide receiver taken in the 2018 NFL Draft.

James Washington surprised many by opting to return for another season having posted an uber-productive career with legitimate NFL potential. Nevertheless, Washington headlines arguably college football’s most prolific passing game and has the potential to end up in New York as a Heisman Trophy Finalist.

The most notable aspect of Washington’s skillset is his ability to play far beyond what his size would predict, consistently competing for the ball when it’s in his vicinity and fighting for jump balls with confidence. He’s a nuanced route runner who can manipulate his route pacing and execute deliberate, well-hidden head fakes with equal jab steps to break corners off and generate early separation. Washington’s savvy ability to get his hands on defenders and extend in an attempt to create space at the catch point allows for increased victories on 50/50 opportunities. His ability to manufacture offense with the ball in his hands is littered throughout his tape, a competitive runner with the strength to create missed tackles.

When viewing Washington through the NFL scope, it’s easy to become enamored with his routine ability to win when the ball is in the air. However, many of those victories are the result of his poor ability to stack corners down the field: he has no issue relying on the aforementioned strengths to get hip-to-hip, but he’s missing the requisite separation quickness to get on top and widen the window; his long speed to uncover down the field leaves more to be desired as well. Washington has also displayed inconsistent catch-technique at all levels in what has ultimately lead to frustrating drops and requires further refinement.

Although I don’t envision them testing in a similar fashion, Washington’s game is reminiscent of Jarvis Landry‘s. Both are crafty route runners who can rely on nuance over speed and quickness to generate separation, and have the blend of competitiveness and leaping ability to win when the ball’s in the air. The duo also share a combination of strength, balance and control that creates a penchant for highlight-reel grabs and the ability to fight for yards after the catch. To truly solidify the comparison, Washington and Landry are both flexible options who can attack all levels of the field from different alignments. Expect to hear Washington’s name early in next April’s draft.

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