I’m going to churn out as many WR prospect pieces as I can before Thursday’s activities begin, so with that in mind I’m writing on one of my personal favorite receiving prospects in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
The Stanford receiver is 6’3 and 225 lb., and was born on December 31st, 1996, so he’ll literally be 23 years old at the twilight of 2019 and the very beginning of 2020. In his senior season at Stanford he caught 63 passes for 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns (tied for third in the nation). He was also named to the Second Team All-Pac-12 team in 2018.
As aforementioned, I really like Arcega-Whiteside, who I’m going to refer to as JJAW for the rest of this article. JJAW has not been getting an extreme level of first round draft hype, and I think that’s alarming because in terms of talent and skill he’s near the top of my board for WR prospects in the 2019 class and would be a steal if/when he falls to day 2.
So with that out of the way, let’s talk about why I love JJAW as a prospect.
If you recall my article on N’Keal Harry I mentioned how I thought his route running ability was a major concern despite some success at the catch point. Rest assured that this is not a problem for JJAW.
Right off the snap we take a look at this route against the Notre Dame corner’s press coverage. JJAW starts it off looking like a toddler that didn’t get what he wanted, but the separation he created was no child’s play. Keep in mind this play came on third and six, so JJAW was able to use his frame and patient footwork to get open on this drag route to move the chains.
Looking at JJAW’s tape, I thought he did really well against man coverage, and that starts with his ability to win instantly off the line of scrimmage. He can slide pass man and press coverage and has enough speed to create separation for his quarterback.
JJAW’s nasty route running and footwork also lend themselves in the red zone, He jukes the corner on this touchdown pass, using a nice jab with his outside foot to help bait the corner and push off, creating plenty of separation to the back of the end zone for the easy touchdown.
Now, Arcega-Whiteside’s ability to separate is all the more exciting when you consider even in moments where he can’t, his frame and approach to the catch point make him a monster on contested catches.
Here’s a fun fact: both of JJAW’s parents played professional basketball in Spain. And since he’s a wide receiver built like a tight end that catches passes and runs routes like a wide receiver, he has some experience using basketball-esque boxing out on his opponents. (There, I got that out of the way before every NFL announcer could use that in the future.)
I do love the approach on this touchdown. JJAW does look like he’s inside the paint trying to score an easy two, which would definitely earn Steph Curry’s disapproval. His instant outside leverage allows Stanford’s quarterback to throw to his back shoulder, and the strength and toughness of JJAW earns himself another impressive red zone score.
I don’t worry about JJAW being stuck in many 50/50 situations because 1) He’s a really good route runner and 2) He wins these so much that it’s hard to see him struggling with it at the NFL level. This, for example, is against bail defender, and his quarterback lofts it up in the air because he understands how much of a physical freak Arcega-Whiteside is.
JJAW does not let him down here.
This last clip is Megatron style as Arcega-Whiteside wins this against double coverage. This has gotten him compared to players like Alshon Jeffery, and yeah I can see the resemblance. And his ability to win at the catch point on this throw is downright sensational.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has had some experience as an underneath option and can create yards after the catch without a problem, but I think he’s really at home as an intermediate and vertical receiver.
I’m really not sure why JJAW hasn’t gotten an overwhelming amount of draft hype, as I can’t really find anything from his game worth criticizing. He’s a great route runner against man and press coverage, a dangerous red zone threat, can succeed in the middle of the field or downfield, has incredible frame and is a monster against contested throws.
If Arcega-Whiteside falls out of the first round and if the Titans go with a pass rusher in the first round, I think they need to do everything they can to make sure the Stanford prospect falls into their hands whether at #51, #82, or whenever, because I truly believe he has first round talent and would be a massive steal for the team that drafts him.
And if he falls to Tennessee, you can imagine that he would give them a tremendous boost for that receiving corps. Make it happen, Jon.