2024 Skill Position Draft Reviews Part 4

This fourth entry in the 2024 skill position draft reviews will present a mix of WRs and RBs in rough descending order of efficiency (per position group). Given the uneven number of WRs and RBs studied, parts 4 and 5 of this series will examine the remaining studied players from both position groups (as well as a couple TEs), while part 6 will group all the players into tiers and give a holistic look at the overall class. These part 4 reviews are therefore not ranked or tiered in this portion, merely loosely grouped together in roughly descending order– some players from this portion will rank above or below players reviewed in parts 2-5 of the overall series.

Xavier Legette (lateral oriented anterior dominant) may present some of the widest range of outcomes of any prospect in the 2024 draft. As a size/ speed freak with an enormous catch radius (likely the largest in the class given his size), Legette will likely at least find success as a downfield boundary threat. But despite Legette’s age (an older prospect having just completed his fifth year senior appearance), his well rounded overall profile still appears quite raw in a number of areas. Legette shows very efficient/ developed lumbar areas and runs very fast with some shown capability for quick movements downfield. But despite his anterior orientation, Legette shows very little short area quickness and takes a beat to get up to speed. He is seemingly capable of stopping quickly (although less apparently able to get back up to speed for ‘stop and go’ routes), and his downfield pivots (while already running full speed) appear impressively sharp for someone his size. Looking purely at his tools, Legette shows the capability to become a premiere downfield threat, not just along the boundary. Except that there are still many inconsistencies in his film, with little refinement shown at times in terms of stacking/ shedding, awareness of zones, and sometimes failing to come back to the ball. And while his system shows good biomechanical slack for continued mechanical tightening/ improvement, his extremely late breakout and seemingly underdeveloped route tools given his age/ experience must beg the question of how much Legette will improve in the pros. Legette’s range of career outcomes therefore seems to go from role playing boundary deep threat to one of the most dangerous downfield receivers in the NFL (somewhat in the mold of a finesse DK Metcalf, with much less play strength but greater quickness and a far larger catch radius). At the very least, Legette should give Bryce Young the speed threat outside that Young has lacked to date in his short NFL career.

Ricky Pearsall (lateral oriented posterior dominant) shows the sort of high level overall athleticism that seems likely to lead to a long term career as a high end secondary receiving option. Pearsall’s well balanced profile includes very high level thoracic efficiency (sort/ strong hands with a very good catch radius) and evenly developed efficient lumbar areas. Pearsall shows very good top end speed (albeit not quite enough for high level downfield separation) as well as good quickness in the shorter areas of the field. In particular, Pearsall’s highly efficient lateral posterior lumbar areas provide him with strong lateral changes of direction and Pearsall often generated good separation windows on breaking routes in college. Pearsall also shows excellent blocking ability and is likely to be a strong asset on run plays and screens/ pick plays. Although Pearsall appears to present the complete package (including high level field/ zone awareness and good RAC ability) he doesn’t show any one area of truly outstanding efficiency, or any truly elite traits (other than maybe his strong/ soft hands) to be able to consistently beat defenders as the focus of an offensive game plan. As such, Pearsall seems likely to become highly productive and value producing on offense, but is likely better served as a high level do-it-all secondary option, rather then as an alpha who can defeat defenses that are keying on him specifically.

Roman Wilson (medial centric anterior dominant) profiles like an excellent NFL slot receiver, showing high levels of both thoracic and lumbar efficiency in the most relevant areas for the position. Specifically, Wilson’s apparently high level of medial anterior lumbar efficiency helps him burst quickly off the line (and show good wiggle/ shiftiness) while Wilson’s seemingly well developed/ efficient lateral posterior lumbar areas help him make quick powerful cuts to generate separation on breaking routes from the middle of the field. Wilson does not show great straight ahead leg drive nor blazing straight ahead speed (somewhat underwhelming medial posterior lumbar efficiency), and while he shows soft hands and a reasonably large catch radius given his size, he doesn’t seem likely to excel in a downfield boundary role. But as a traditional slot receiver (who also shows good field awareness and zone feel) Wilson seems likely to become quite productive, especially if paired with an accurate timing thrower. Neither of Pittsburgh’s current QBs are that sort of thrower however, so Wilson may not start out his career anywhere near his eventual ceiling. Nevertheless, Wilson seems very likely to be a major asset in the middle of the field for any QB who pairs well with his skillset and should eventually become quite productive in that role.

Tez Walker (medial centric posterior dominant) is one of a handful of highly effective downfield boundary receivers in this class, showing the (usually) rare combination of size, speed, hands, and stopping ability. Paired with Drake Maye in North Carolina last season, Walker made a high number of difficult downfield catches, both at the boundary and further infield. Walker shows some of the highest medial posterior lumbar efficiency in the class, with truly excellent long speed, as well as nuanced straight ahead leg drive (for mixing up route tempos, bursting at the last minute etc). Walker also shows good lumbar efficiency overall, although as a high waisted long strider, he does not show much short area quickness. This high waistline also indicates that Walker’s system is borrowed from thoracic areas to lumbar (along the anterior), and while Walker shows quality strong hands on tape, when caught off guard or forced to make late quick adjustments to his upper body, Walker’s hands can lose softness/ touch. While used strictly as a boundary receiver by UNC (and for now appearing best suited to that more limited role), Walker’s overall high levels of lumbar development suggest that he is capable of widening his route tree in the future (albeit still likely to be oriented around the intermediate/ deep portions of the field rather than the shorter ones) and become more of an all around threat. As an older rookie, Walker has less time to physical mature before his biomechanical system stops growing (roughly at age 25). Nevertheless, Walker seems likely to become a highly effective boundary/ deep threat for Lamar Jackson’s Ravens, one who may also grow into a high quality secondary target over time.

Ja’Lynn Polk (lateral oriented posterior dominant) may be one of the strongest receivers in the 2024 class, both in terms of blocking and in terms of iron hands, but also appears to lack the sort of speed and/ or burst to generate high levels of separation. Polk’s posterior thoracic efficiency is likely the highest in the class, and Polk appears to grab the ball with a vice-like grip (and with a reasonably large catch radius). Likewise, Polk shows excellent leg drive and packs an absolute wallop when blocking downfield. However, Polk shows very little short area burst (subpar anterior lumbar efficiency) witout much speed off the line or wiggle when running routes. Polk appears to have two ways to generate separation against man coverage– his efficient lateral posterior areas afford him reasonably sharp/ powerful cuts which can give him brief cushions of separation (brief due to his underwhelming long speed often allowing DBs to catch up). And Polk stops very abruptly on stop/ sit routes (again due to that powerful leg drive/ efficient posterior lumbar system). But beyond these, Polk generally struggles to separate and also doesn’t offer much leaping ability to allow for airborne separation– despite his soft/ strong hands, Polk isn’t likely able to “go up and get it” very easily when covered. Polk seems like he could be a very useful Z receiver if set in motion pre-play (to mitigate his slowness off the line) as a sort of roving tank on the field– very strong, able to establish territory (via blocking), will catch anything that hits his hands, and can generate brief cushions of separation. But given his lack of speed, shiftiness, and burst, Polk seems unlikely to ascend past utility secondary option (and seems more likely overall to fall somewhere on the spectrum between a complementary and secondary receiver)

Malachi Corley (lateral oriented anterior dominant) profiles as an excellent athlete who may nevertheless struggle to find a fit on an NFL offense. Corley shows superb lumbar efficiency for a WR, and as a straight line runner shows excellent acceleration, speed, and particularly notable contact balance. Corley also shows soft/ strong hands (good thoracic efficiency) albeit with a somewhat underwhelming catch radius (due to tight posterior thoracic areas). However Corley seems to lack any real ability to make quick cuts or sharp turns while running routes (stiff hips, lacking lateral posterior lumbar efficiency), and similarly lacks elusive moves (jump cuts etc) with the ball in his hands. Corley’s system appears to have developed very tightly to run straight ahead, which seems to have left little development (or biomechanical slack) for change of direction or elusive movements. The majority of Corley’s production in college (at least when facing larger schools with tougher defenses) seems to have come via broad crossing routes where Corley could catch in space and then run up field, or via screens or other short receptions near the line of scrimmage. At the college level his speed and bulldozer running style were very effective at generating huge amounts of YAC. But as a relatively old prospect who seems to lack much biomechanical slack for future mechanical tightening, it seems unlikely that Corley will develop the ability to generate separation on his routes, or to add elusive moves to his runs. As such, Corley seems likely to become a role playing YAC WR who will need a clear runway in order to generate the sort of YAC he found in college. An excellent athlete but a tweener (WR/ RB) who may lack enough elusiveness to succeed in either role.

Despite Blake Corum’s (medial centric anterior dominant) weight and height (205 pounds at 5’8″), his game is far more quickness and finesse than “rolling bowling ball” as he has been sometimes described. Corum is one of only three backs in the 2024 class to show full efficiency in lumbar areas (medial anterior) and therefore projects as feature back capable. However, despite Corum’s incredible quickness (both to the hole and when sidestepping defenders) via his fully efficient anterior lumbar areas, Corum’s lacking posterior lumbar efficiency can be seen by his underwhelming run power and poor tackle-breaking ability– Corum may be very difficult to land with a solid tackle, but once hit, he goes down quickly. Likewise, while Corum shows soft hands, he doesn’t show a very large catch radius and takes a beat to get up to speed after making a reception (due to thoracic areas that are generally borrowed against towards the lumbar areas). Corum however does pack a wallop as a pass protector (particularly given his size). Returning to his running, Corum exploits good blocking as well as any running back could, with excellent vision, extreme quickness to the hole (and sidesteps to switch gaps), good tackle evasion and decent long speed (although he likely won’t be outrunning defenders down the field). Given a quality offensive line, Corum will likely be extremely productive and capable of carrying an offense (as he did at Michigan). But Corum isn’t the sort of back who’s going to make a bad oline look good by breaking a ton of tackles and creating offense out of nothing. And as a receiver, he seems unlikely to contribute meaningfully, other than screens/ dumpoffs. Nevertheless, he landed in an excellent situation in LA with a high quality run blocking line and an excellent run schemer in McVay. So it seems likely that if Corum is given significant play time behind another quality runner in Williams, he will be very productive as long as his line can continue to open holes for him to maximize.

Ray Davis (medial centric posterior dominant) is one of the only other studied backs from this class to show full lumbar efficiency (medial posterior). And while Davis may not be quite as quick to the hole as Corum (few backs are), Davis instead offers a much more well rounded profile, with high levels of efficiency in most lumbar areas as well as good thoracic efficiency (with soft hands and a reasonably large catch radius) for a running back. As a runner, Davis shows a very quick and powerful jump cut, excellent contact balance and good run power. While he isn’t the quickest back to reach the hole, his fully efficient medial posterior areas give him excellent burst and acceleration through the hole one it’s been identified and Davis is often reaching the second level much faster than one might anticipate. In addition, his superb jump cut and smooth acceleration afterward often help him elude backfield tacklers and make a quick burst towards the corner. As a receiver, Davis’s deceptively fast acceleration often helps him generate separation on wheel routes, and his powerful jump cut can be very effective at eluding tacklers while making his way up field on screens. While it seems unlikely that Davis will be lining up in the slot and running WR routes, on traditional RB routes out of the backfield, Davis appears very effective. The one seeming caveat to Ray Davis’s otherwise feature back capable skillset is his apparently poor pass blocking. At Kentucky, Davis seemed to have been mostly asked to chip and run routes rather than stand in and block, and when he did block he often failed to get his hands on the rusher. This appeared mostly to be effort and coaching related– there doesn’t appear to be any biomechanical reason why Davis couldn’t improve his pass blocking. And since Davis will already be reaching the biomechanical age apex as a rookie (turning 25 in November), Davis is already fully maxed out as an athlete, and further biomechanical growth should not be expected (quite the contrary, Davis will already be slowing down during his rookie contract). Nevertheless, Davis enters Buffalo with a feature back capable skillset (pass blocking perhaps aside) and will likely be very productive if given carries and targets.

Audric Estime (lateral oriented posterior dominant) presents a promising profile but with one major caveat. Although much discussion of Estime’s poor 40 time (4.71 at the combine) has seemingly centered around Estime’s long speed being subpar, this does not seem to be Estime’s weak point. In fact, Estime consistently showed excellent downfield elusiveness on his college film, with his powerful lateral posterior lumbar areas giving him sharp powerful cuts (given his size) to elude tacklers or force them to hit him off center– and with a head of steam, Estime appears to be very difficult to tackle. Once clear of the first line of defenders, with the throttle opened up (essentially once Estime’s favored highly efficient posterior lumbar areas take over) Estime appears to be a playmaker. The difficulty instead appears to be clearing that first line of defenders– Estime shows underwhelming anterior lumbar efficiency and his quickness to the hole (and wiggle behind the line) both appear significantly compromised as a result. Unless going directly straight ahead from the jump (in which case Estime can ‘open the throttle’ immediately) Estime’s slow foot speed and lack of short area lateral agility may prevent him from hitting NFL sized holes fast enough to be able to consistently get past that first line of defense. When given time to pick his hole, and or lead blockers to go first and clear the way, Estime can be a devastating runner who powers through contact and punishes defenses (and excels downfield) with superlative leg drive and powerful changes of direction. Likewise, Estime shows soft hands (good thoracic efficiency for a RB) and the ability to maintain speed while making receptions. So while Estime may struggle to find a featured role given his slowness behind the line, if used correctly (with lead blockers and or slower developing plays, and or going straight ahead) Estime can find a productive role. But his lack of short area quickness behind the line will likely always need to be accounted for.