In a draft year in which top end wide receivers are hard to find, Courtland Sutton will be a hot commodity. With such a heavy emphasis on wide receiver production in the NFL’s current pass-heavy systems, the sheer size and speed combination Sutton offers will have evaluators foaming at the mouth to work the potential that is so evident.
Sutton came out of Brenham High School in Brenham, where he saw time at wide receiver but moved to tight end. He was an all-district tight end and eventually became a three-star safety by his senior year. Sutton settled on SMU over the likes of Rice, Colorado, and BYU. Also starring on the basketball court, where Sutton also saw time at SMU, he arrived at 6’2 and began his career at safety until a string of injuries forced Chad Morris to try him at wide receiver. He played three games into his freshman season before suffering a fractured back. As a result, he took a medical redshirt. After healing as he needed, Sutton knew his destiny was at wide receiver. Let’s take a look at the numbers.
- 195 catches for 3,220 yards and 31 touchdowns over 39 games played for the Mustangs
- In addition to First-Team All-AAC in 2017, Sutton also received the honor as a redshirt sophomore in 2016
- Named by USA Today as a Freshman All-American after leading the Mustangs with 49 catches for 862 yards and 9 touchdowns
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds
Bench press: 18 reps of 225 pounds (tied for seventh among receivers)
Broad jump: 10 feet, 4 inches (tied for sixth among receivers)
Vertical jump: 35.5 inches
3-cone drill: 6.57 seconds (third among receivers)
20-yard shuttle: 4.11 seconds (fourth among receivers)
- North Texas
- Great size and long wingspan (6-6)
- Excellent winning contested catches
- 50/50 balls usually go his way
- Plus body control for his size
- Tremendous post up usage for red zone targets
- Long stride runner, great change of pace
- Great ball tracking skills and body control
- Willing to work from the slot and use the middle of the field
- High motor blocker
- Makes constant hustle plays
- High character – won SMU “Spirit Award” and represented student athletes at leadership forum
As you will see on the play above, Sutton quickly climbs the corner in bail with his long strides and then, at the last second, stops, flips the hips, and works back under the corner to make a high point catch. He also has the strength and awareness to find the end zone after contact.
On this two play sequence you see Sutton high point a long hash hitch over UCF’s Mike Hughes, and then his body control work is on display again on the stem post, where he makes a nice contested catch.
When Sutton found himself against an even average corner in terms of athletic ability, it was too easy. He works a simple hitch-and-go concept here, and it looks effortless.
Sutton makes high pointing look effortless with his long wingspan and frame. It’s nearly impossible to stop him from being first to the ball.
Sutton will work with his best effort when called up to block. His days as a tight end help him, as he always works with a good base and drives his defender against their direction.
Sutton regularly makes these types of effort blocks downfield. It’s the stuff scouts and coaches love.
- While fast, play speed lacks top level
- One-speed route runner
- Struggles against quality corners due to average route wiggle
- Lacks explosiveness in/out of his breaks
- Rounds his cuts on routes too often
- Separation will be an issue against NFL corners due to lack of quick burst
- Lacks the aggression needed at times to compete at high level
Sutton is playing in a conference where his elite athleticism allows him to create opportunities and advantages he won’t normally get in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if he is able to create the necessary separation due to his average route running skills. The lack of diversity in his route tree is cause for concern, as well.
A three year starter for SMU, Sutton has plenty to like as prospect. I see him as Kenny Britt at the low end, or Dez Bryant at the high end of his potential. It will be important for Sutton to continue to broaden his skills at the position, as he is still relatively raw.
He will need to end up with a franchise who will have patience with him, as he will need time to work on his craft. Sutton mainly played ‘X’ at SMU -aligning on the backside of formation strength and usually away from trips – but he worked a heavier amount in the slot this year. The lack of diversity in his route tree will need to be something Sutton continues to work on.
The upside in the size/speed combination and his ability to win high point catches will lead Sutton to a first round selection. He presents a rare combination at the position and a higher ceiling as he keeps unlocking aspects of his game with experience. I gave Sutton a final grade of 5.3, which is squarely in the first round.