Scouting Spotlight: WR Jaleel Scott
Certain men are simply blessed with gifts that naturally place them three steps ahead of the curve in the sport of football. For wide receiver Jaleel Scott out of New Mexico State University, his size is that gift. At the Senior Bowl, Scott measured in at 6’4 7/8” and 216 pounds, making him a physically imposing presence whenever he steps onto the field. When watching his film, I wanted to see Scott prove that he was not just a big body, but that he has the talent to go with that size. Scott failed to prove this coming out of high school, failing to receive any Division I offers and instead enrolling at Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls, IA. After his freshman year in junior college, Scott received only one Division I offer, from NMSU. Scott accepted this offer and enrolled, playing two seasons before declaring for the NFL Draft.
Scott’s first season at NMSU was forgettable, catching only 23 passes for 283yards and five touchdowns. Scott broke out in his final college season, catching 76 passes for 1079 yards and nine touchdowns. This was enough for scouts to finally take notice, leaving us with the job of determining what led to Scott being among the nation’s leading receivers.
As can be expected with a man of his stature, Scott is adept at the jump ball. Scott knows how to use his size to catch the ball over smaller defenders, giving him an elite catch radius. This can lead to some pretty spectacular catches, such as this jump ball that he caught against Arizona State.
Scott also shows great body control when going up to catch a high pass. In the same Arizona State game, the NMSU quarterback throws a high, back-shoulder pass to Scott deep down the sideline. Scott shows great instincts in slowing his route, rotating to be square to the pass, catching the ball at its highest point, and still getting a foot down inbounds.
Further, while Scott was not asked to run the full route tree at NMSU, his body control translates to his route running. For a receiver his size, Scott is able to stay relatively low in his hips through his breaks with decent footwork. Scott doesn’t lose much speed in his breaks, getting back to full speed within a step or two. What was potentially Scott’s best route came on a post against Arkansas. Scott convincingly runs downfield until he is just behind where the cornerback hands him off to the deep safety. Once he is with the safety, Scott sells a hard fake on the corner route before cutting inside on the post. This fake fools the safety just enough to give Scott the separation he needs for an easy touchdown. With these tools, I’m confident that Scott will be able to run the full route tree if and when he is asked to do so at the next level.
Unfortunately, this is where the compliments end for Jaleel Scott. While Scott’s size and route-running ability are great assets, once the ball arrives, Scott frequently uses his body to catch the pass instead of his hands. This sin wasn’t restricted to a certain type of pass, either. Scott would routinely use his body to catch balls on shorter routes, such as screens and crossing routes, as shown below in NMSU’s game against Arkansas.
Yes, Scott was able to bring this one in. However, when a strong quarterback like Matthew Stafford is throwing him passes instead of Tyler Rogers, these types of catches will lead to more drops. Even with the weaker arms at NMSU throwing passes, drops were an issue for Scott, like this drop on a wide open screen pass against Texas State.
This tendency to catch passes with his body even showed itself on some deep, jump ball type throws where you would expect Scott to excel. Take, for instance, what ended up being Scott’s second touchdown against Arizona State. The quarterback throws a high pass that Scott settles under and catches with his body rather than attacking the pass above where the defenders are able to make a play.
Another issue with Scott is his lack of speed. Scott routinely fails to create any separation on his routes, even when he is able to run them in textbook fashion. In every example shown above, the common theme is that he is making contested catches with a defensive back in position to make a play. In the few examples where Scott could use his route running to pause the defender, his lack of speed means that most every corner will be able to easily recover. Cornerbacks in the Sun Belt were able to keep up with him. NFL-caliber corners will be highly motivated to jump his routes, knowing that they can recover and not give up a big play.
A lack of speed is not disastrous for a receiver with Scott’s size, so long as they make up for it with physicality. Scott, however, is not able to do so. Scott was decent at beating the press, but not with enough effectiveness to get separation. Further, in the eight games that I watched from Scott’s final season, he only broke a single tackle. The first player that can get a hand on Scott will bring him down. When you combine this with Scott’s lack of ability to gain separation, an offense cannot count on Scott to gain any yards after the catch.
What makes Scott’s shortcomings even more worrisome is that all of this happened against sub-par competition. Making a play over a corner in the Sun Belt who will be going professional in something other than sports is one thing. However, no defensive back from any school on NMSU’s 2017-18 schedule is projected to be drafted this April. When Scott is faced with much greater talent at the next level, these types of contested catches will not be as simple. NFL corners will play Scott very aggressively, and Scott does not have the talent to make them pay for doing so.
Scott’s performance in his final college season earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl, despite him putting up these numbers against lesser talent in the Sun Belt conference. This report was written prior to the Senior Bowl game, so I’m not sure how he fared. For Scott, the Senior Bowl may be a make-it-or-break-it game, given the shortcomings detailed above. Scott’s size and production made him a hyped prospect heading into this week. I think the hype will come to an end quickly.
If I was advising Scott, I would point to guys like Darren Waller and Ricky Seals-Jones. Both were tall, slow receivers in college that added weight once they reached the NFL and converted to be a move tight end for their respective teams. This may be the route Scott ultimately has to take if he wants to stick in the NFL. His lack of speed would not be as damaging against linebackers, who may not recover as well against his smooth routes. Regardless, Scott seems to be a product of his competition, and I do not see him lighting the league on fire in 2018 the years to come.
If Scott stays at receiver in the NFL, I don’t think he is anything more than a fourth or fifth receiver brought in on third downs and goal line situations where you want a big body to go up and get a pass without necessarily advancing the ball past the point of the catch. Scott would be a luxury pick for a team without many holes, and I potentially see him garnering some interest later in day three or in the undrafted free agent market.