James Washington may have been the best college receiver last year. He did win the 2017 Fred Biletnikoff Award, which recognizes that year’s best receiver. There are some real nice attributes to Washington’s game, but there are glaring holes in his game that are hard to ignore at the next level.
Weight: 213 pounds
College: Oklahoma State
Projected Round: 2-3
NFL Comparison: Nfl.com compares him to Corey Coleman
Washington is one of the strangest built receivers you’ll ever see. He has more of a running back type body than receiver, and that is both a blessing and a curse. Washington struggles with a lot of the more sophisticated routes that receivers are expected to run in the NFL. That is mainly due to being so top heavy as well as so little exposure to it at Oklahoma State.
The good part about being built like a running back is it fits in perfectly to Washington’s yards after catch style of play. You may notice Washington’s plays where he blows by defenders, but what really makes that possible is how deadly he is of he catches a slant in stride.
His deceptive build up speed got him by in college, but in the NFL it may be harder for him to hit on those deep catches. Playing against guys who have done nothing but nitpick your game is extremely hard. Especially when he got by on running a fraction of the route tree in Oklahoma State. He also isn’t a receiver who is going to be able to climb the ladder and compete for a pass at its highest point.
What really set Washington apart in college was his ability to not give away the pass to the defender. You would often see him slowing down or adjusting his route to get the best position against his defender. Again this is easier to do against lesser talent, but will he be able to do this against the top corners of the NFL who know how to get their head turned around as well?
Washington rarely faced press coverage, and he benefited from playing with a very good quarterback in Mason Rudolph, who could end p sneaking his way into the first round.
I have some major concerns about Washington’s ceiling in the NFL. He needs to go somewhere that can get him to run more of the route tree if he can ever become anything more than a second receiver.
How he could fit with the Bengals
Washington on the Bengals could be an ideal situation, especially early in his career. There wouldn’t be a terrible amount of pressure to step in and become one of the top targets for Dalton. Instead he could be rotated in.
I’m not sure he is a guy that would change a lot offensively for the Bengals though. He could end up getting single coverage regularly, which could work with his limited abilities. Still it seems Dalton prefers bigger targets who can make a contested catch in the air. He doesn’t seem like the receiver who is going to come in and make your quarterback better, but if you add him to a talented offense he could flourish without too much defensive attention on him.