2018 NFL Draft: Oklahoma State WR James Washington Scouting Report
James Washington, the wide receiver out of Oklahoma State, has been one of the standouts during Senior Bowl week. How does he fare in the 2018 NFL Draft?
When James Washington announced that he was staying at Oklahoma State for his senior year with Mason Rudolph, many did not think we would surpass his junior season and lead the NCAA in receiving yards with 1,549 receiving yards on 74 catches in 2017. Catching a pass in 48 straight games and averaging 20.9 yards per catch, Washington has been a consistent threat on the field as he has played 51 collegiate games. Named as the team captain for the Cowboys, Washington has many accolades to his name including All-Big 12 Second Team (2015), Thurman Thomas Award (2015-2016), Alamo Bowl Offensive MVP (2016), All-Big 12 Second-Team Academic (2016), All-Big 12 First Team (2016-2017), Biletnikoff Award winner (2017), and Walter Camp All-America First Team (2017).
This year alone, Washington led the nation in receiving yards per game with 118.6 yards and 4th in touchdown receptions with 13 in 2017.
He leads all FBS in receiving yards and is 3rd in Big-12 history as well as leads all FBS players with career receiving touchdowns has the best average receiving yards per game among the Power 5 conference. Washington has had three straight seasons of 1,000 plus receiving yards and 10 plus touchdowns as the nation’s top wide receiver. During his 4 year career at Oklahoma State, he caught 226 passes for 4,472 yards and scored 40 touchdowns total from scrimmage (39 receiving and 1 rushing). As a vertical threat, Washington led FBS players in catches 30 yards or longer (17), catches for 40 yards or longer (10), and 50 yards or longer (7) in 2017.
According to Pro Football Focus, Washington has the best average yards per route with 3.46 yards, the most yards on deep passes with 715 receiving yards, and the 6th passer rating when targeted with 130.7.
Oklahoma State's James Washington had a tremendous regular season – among draft-eligible Power-5 WRs – he finished with the highest yards per route run, most receiving yards on deep passes and the sixth-highest passer rating when targeted. pic.twitter.com/TdTilB6h3c
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) December 2, 2017
So Oklahoma State WR James Washington, who is under 5-11, has arms (33 7/8") about as long as PSU TE Mike Gesicki (34") who is north of 6-foot-5. No wonder he played so big on 50-50 balls.#SeniorBowl
— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) January 23, 2018
Even though James Washington does not have ideal size for a No. 1 wide receiver at 5’11”, his arm length made up for it as he was one of the best-contested catchers and deep ball threats at Oklahoma State. Built like a running back weighing in at 213 lbs., Washington showcased his ability to separate outside of the Oklahoma State system and made some tough catches with his large catch radius for his height. He was also surprisingly fast during practice as quickness was something questioned with his game.
Highest speed reached at Tuesday's practices was by @CowboyFB WR James Washington (21.25 mph). By comparison, top speed reached by ballcarrier in NFL game in 2017, per Next Gen Stats, was Leonard Fournette's 22.05 mph. https://t.co/Xf55ujchzy
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 24, 2018
Washington was also named as the best wide receiver at the Senior Bowl Practice with his performance overall.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 26, 2018
According to Pro Football Focus, James Washington was good enough to get be named PFF Receiver of the week, catching almost everything thrown to him and was physical enough against press coverage to make the catch. Against Murray State’s D’montre Wade, Washington burns past him during a one on one drill in man coverage on a post route. He shows fluidity on the cut and replicates what was successful for him at Oklahoma State.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 24, 2018
Washington catches a nice fade against man coverage in the end zone and has the awareness to get both feet in. He does show some burst and quickness with his feet on the initial break.
James Washington with the toe drag pic.twitter.com/zNhrsBtPy1
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) January 25, 2018
The best attribute that James Washington possesses is the ability to highpoint the ball and catch the ball in traffic using his physicality. Against Pittsburgh in 2017, Washington catches a deep ball from Mason Rudolph and even though Washington does not torch the cornerback in man coverage, he still catches the ball and uses his long arms despite his smaller size.
Another good attribute James Washington has is deceiving deep speed that costs defensive backs frequently. Against Oklahoma in 2017, Washington does a simple post route to the inside and burns the cornerback in man coverage that ends up as a touchdown. This is a similar route Washington used to burn the cornerback on one particular play during Senior Bowl practice in one on one drills.
Even though Washington was used on many deep routes, he still can separate on shorter routes like curls, outs, and slants. In 2017 against Texas, Washington goes against cornerback Holton Hill in zone coverage and beats him on a simple curl route and catches a low pass near the 1st down. This also shows that Washington has strong hands and can catch lower like that without losing a lot of momentum.
Washington can excel on other intermediate routes like dig and out routes. Against Tulsa in 2017, he catches a 1st down pass on a dig route against off-man coverage against the cornerback and the safety bit on the fake screen that let Washington get more open.
Washington will get production with his YAC ability as anywhere on the field. In 2017 against TCU, Washington runs an out route in off man coverage and catches it near the sideline. If he cleans up his route running a little and learns more complex routes, Washington could be deadly at the next level.
Washington was also used on jet sweeps and on screens as a versatile playmaker at Oklahoma State.
He shows great effort on almost every play and fights for yards as well as showing good enough run blocking as a receiver. He is relatively healthy other then in 2017 when he sustained an ankle and hernia injury but played through both of those injuries. His hernia injury is something that he has had since birth but was not really an issue for him playing through it in 2017.
The biggest concern for Washington is separation within the first 5-10 yards as his quickness off the line of scrimmage is inconsistent and he’s not the best route runner of this class. Washington had an inconsistent catching technique that led to more drops in 2015-2016 but got better in 2017 with very few recorded drops.
At Oklahoma State, his route tree was not expansive as much as it could have as he ran through a spread system.
His running back like build is unusual and NFL teams might stay away as it is not the prototypical frame for a wide receiver. Washington has some questions on whether or not he can play on the outside and if he can separate against NFL caliber cornerbacks. Some teams might view him only as a slot receiver in the NFL as he is not the best receiver in the red zone.
Round Projection: Mid Round 1- Early Round 2
James Washington could go as early as 16 to the Baltimore Ravens or past 20 to either the Buffalo Bills or Carolina Panthers in Round 1. If he falls to Round 2, the Cleveland Browns could be a prime spot with two 2nd round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Ravens fans should not mind this pick as Washington will bring a lot of toughness, versatility, and most importantly; reliable hands at the receiver position.