NFL Films/ESPN legend — and one of the best talent evaluators in the business — Greg Cosell has gone through a metric ton of 2020 tape to provide insights on some interesting players headed into the 2021 NFL season. Here, he brings you his raw notes and observations from those tape sessions.
It’s a chance to get inside the mind of one of the greats of the industry.
JERRY JEUDY – ALL PASS TARGETS
What immediately stood out as soon as turning the tape on was Jeudy has outstanding route quickness and separation quickness.
Jeudy lined up in multiple locations in the Broncos’ offense with different splits. Jeudy has great traits to be effective from the slot with his foot quickness and short-area quickness to separate off the ball.
Jeudy was featured — and was at his best — on in-breaking routes, both from the outside and the slot. He ran slants, shallow and intermediate crossers, and dig routes.
Jeudy showed the route speed to run away from man-to-man coverage and create needed separation on crossing routes, both from the slot and outside.
Jeudy played more snaps at boundary X as the season progressed, often on the back side of trips. As the boundary X he ran more routes outside the numbers – where will Jeudy line up with Courtland Sutton back and with KJ Hamler also beginning his second season in 2021?
Jeudy is much more of a finesse receiver than a physical receiver. He wins with quickness and separation, which is high-level. He is not a tough contested catch receiver (Jeudy did have a 48-yard TD versus Jets corner Pierre Desir that came on a contested jump ball, but that is not typically his game).
Jeudy is much more of a short and intermediate receiver than a vertical dimension. He can at times get on top of corners based on his route running traits, but that is not a foundation of his game.
The obvious issue Jeudy had throughout the season was with his hands, with far too many drops on routine catches. It started Week 1 versus the Titans with two bad drops — drops were not a significant problem for Jeudy at Alabama.
Jeudy was a bit of an enigma when it came to his hands — he made a lot of tough catches and dropped far too many easy ones, and it wasn’t a problem in college. If he can clean up the drops, he has a chance to make a major jump in production in 2021.
NOAH FANT – ALL PASS TARGETS
Fant has outstanding straight-line speed for a 250-pound TE. He showed the route speed to run away from man coverage on crossers.
Fant is more of a straight-line, linear-speed, cut route runner than a sink-your-hips/get-in-and-out-of-breaks route runner. He has a tendency to be a little segmented getting in and out of breaks.
Fant showed strong run-after-catch ability, especially when he had some room to build up his speed. He is a powerful straight-line runner.
Fant is at his best as a movement route runner: crossers, seams, corner routes. You want him building up speed with his athleticism and stride length – Fant was also featured in the screen game when aligned tight to the formation.
Fant also ran a lot of stick routes and sit routes from tight alignments – he was not used much as an intermediate and vertical receiver.
Fant lined up in multiple locations in the Broncos’ offense, with different splits. He saw significant targets from the line-of-scrimmage TE alignment and, at times, the nub TE on the backside of trips.
When aligned in LOS TE or wing alignment, Fant was often used to chip edge pass rushers before releasing into his route. At times, the defense gave him up as a receiver and he had room to run after short receptions.
What stood out was that Fant was not consistently featured detached from the formation despite making plays from that alignment. His longest reception of the season (37 yards versus the Chiefs) came when he was the boundary X on the back side of trips and got on top of corner Breshaud Breeland on a go route, He also had a 20-yard back-shoulder fade catch versus Raiders corner Nevin Lawson when he was a reduced split boundary X.
There were too many snaps on which Fant showed uncertain hands, dropping some easy catches, double-clutching some receptions, or cradling the ball into his body.
Fant is a specific kind of receiving TE: he is a straight-line linear route runner with size, speed, and good run-after-catch ability, but he has limitations as to what route concepts he can run, because he is stiff and lacks core flexibility and elusiveness.
One question in 2021 is whether Fant’s role in the Broncos passing game will expand with more split locations, more boundary X, and more vertical routes.