Name: Courtland Sutton
40 Time: 4.54s
Class: Redshirt Junior
Games Watched: vs Tulane, vs TCU, vs North Texas, vs Houston (all 2017)
Starred at tight end and safety in his central Texas high school team, was higher ranked as a safety. Committed to SMU after the promise of playing receiver. Received a medical redshirt in 2014, before entering the starting lineup and recording 193 catches for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns over three years. Also turned out for SMU’s basketball team.
Sutton is long, tall, and has a muscular build, and uses all these things well. In the Tulane game, SMU’s quarterback was comfortable throwing out of cornerbacks’ reach, knowing that Sutton can get in position and extend well, and then has good, strong hands at the point of catch. As you’d expect, this makes him a threat in both contested catches and jump balls. He can play the comfort blanket role and also allow a quarterback to throw the ball in traffic. He’s got the physical ability to bail out a bad throw. Oh, and he’s going to be bizarrely fun to watch blocking on screens, if that’s your thing.
I think that strength is really going to add value in the NFL – I’d expect him to escape jams off the line of scrimmage and get instant separation on short routes, for example. He’s going to be a great receiver on slants and crossing routes. He demonstrates excellent body placement to stop defenders getting a hand to the ball. And if he’s able to catch the ball mid-stride, Sutton gets up a good lick of speed, and combine with his strength can either muscle through a tackle or make gliding changes of direction to break tackles.
While he has functional shiftiness, Sutton isn’t the most agile of players. That’s not unsurprising for a big-bodied 6’4” receiver. But it does limit his route tree a bit, and mean he may struggle against elite corners. While his speed is good, it’s not always the best to separate. Add into that the fact that he needs a few yards to get back to full speed post-catch anyway, and he doesn’t look rich with Yards After Catch potential.
I’m also a touch concerned about the lack of elite traits generally. You see a player with good speed, good hands, good strength. But everyone is “good” in the NFL. Does Sutton still look like a good player? Or is he Laquon Treadwell Mark 2? Sutton looked very much out of his depth against good quality double-coverage by TCU. Unless he can get better twist, or be schemed for well, this might limit him to being a WR2 at the next level. This is all the starker that plenty of his big games were against poorer mid-major teams. North Texas’ cornerback play was bad enough that much of that game was difficult to build into an evaluation. The flipside? SMU’s quarterback play was also bad enough that Sutton was up against it on anything from intermediate throws longer.
Sutton is one of these players that looks like a super-reliable receiver in college. As often with those players, they can be risky as their good play can end up looking average in the NFL as much as it can look good. But looking at the success of players like Michael Thomas, a good offensive coordinator should enjoy using Sutton. You should limit his route tree early to those where he can use his strength. Then, polish the route-running, build up his strength so he looks tough even by NFL receiver standards. Then you have a wide receiver you can use often, if not as a total offensive focal point.
Projection: Late-1st round
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Courtland Sutton scouting report.