The Senior Bowl has steadily risen in prestige and excitement every year since Phil Savage became the executive director in 2012. The former NFL general manager brought his professional eye to the event, opening up practices to scouts, the media, and the public, and opting to allow graduating juniors to participate in the game. For the first time since he became the steward of the program, Savage pulled off a tremendous move: convincing this year’s Heisman Trophy winner (Baker Mayfield), and the winner of the Biletnikoff Award, James Washington, to attend.
Today, we’re taking a look at the wide receiver, Washington. Growing up in Stamford, Texas, Washington was a multi-sport athlete and a two-way star on his high school football team. When he headed to Oklahoma State, he was an immediate contributor his freshman season, with 28 receptions for 456 yards and six touchdowns. The next three years were even more impressive, and Washington leaves college with an outstanding resume; his 4,472 career receiving yards rank fifth in FBS going back to the year 2000, and no one with more than 2,700 career receiving yards has done it with a better rate than Washington’s 19.8 yards per reception. Let’s get into the scouting notes:
- Can adjust to high passes without leaving his feet or breaking stride
- Hands catcher who can erase inaccurate throws
- Actively aware of the sticks – will spin out of catches and head upfield for more yardage
- Given off coverage or a safety in the box, will eat up the space and open up deep passes
- Gets greedy for big plays while carrying the football – will lose a three yard gain trying to stretch it into a 20 yard gain
- Could be better at using body language and “vertical eyes” to sell the deep route while running shorter patterns
- Needs to use his hands and arms more actively to consistently win when facing press coverage
- Doesn’t effectively box out defenders at the catch point on contested catches
6’0″ 205 lbs (listed)
Turns 22 in April
74/1549/13 receiving as a senior, 71/1380/10 as a junior
Unanimous All-American in 2017
2017 Biletnikoff Award winner
Three star recruit from Stamford, Texas
Attending the Senior Bowl
Washington entered the perfect marriage when he joined Oklahoma State at the same time as Mason Rudolph. Running go routes and posts to catch Rudolph’s rainbow-arced throws, he shone like one of the nation’s premiere deep threats. While Washington does a great job of tracking the ball through the air and hauling it in, he needs to continue developing his other receiving traits to live up to his reputation as the best receiver in FBS in 2017. During the early stages of his career, Washington is set up to be a good flanker receiver; given space from the defender, he can separate downfield or make plays underneath coverage. To get beyond the level of, say, Lee Evans, Washington needs to keep refining his route running technique and play more aggressively when he’s faced with an underthrown pass.
I think the right team, with the right needs, could look at Washington and see a first round fit. The Buffalo Bills could even be one of those teams, given their need for speed on the outside; Washington is definitely more talented than last year’s de facto deep threat Deonte Thompson. I think the more appropriate value for him might lie somewhere in round two or three. The debate will heat up as scouts head to the Senior Bowl, where they’ll watch Washington play on the same field as his teammate, a 6’4″ 220 pound late bloomer named Marcell Ateman. After redshirting with an injury in 2016, Ateman was no slouch in Oklahoma State’s offense, adding 59 receptions, 1156 yards, and 8 touchdowns of his own. Will production earn the nod over physical traits in April? Washington’s about to make his case.