Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens. Three of the best wide receivers to ever strap on a helmet came from schools outside the Power-5. Even today, the trend continues. Antonio Brown was drafted out of Central Michigan. T.Y. Hilton went to FIU. Julian Edelman played college ball at Kent State. Emmanuel Sanders went to SMU, just like the guy I will profile today: Courtland Sutton.
Why do good receivers come from small schools? I wish I had a reasonable explanation. But Courtland Sutton has a real good chance at taking that baton and running with it. The press around Courtland Sutton is glowing. He’s a real down-to-Earth kid who grew up on a farm, loves Stranger Things, was recruited as a safety, and now is a projected first-round pick at WR.
Want to know more about what makes Courtland Sutton tick? Read the interview he did with Forbes. Or this profile in the Dallas Morning News. He is a good kid, that much has been established. You won’t have to worry about Sutton accruing suspensions and fines due to off-the-field behavior. He grew up feeding cattle and hauling hay. He went back to SMU to finish his sports management degree when he had a chance to leave for the NFL last year.
This is all nice and dandy. But can he ball?
Why yes, Courtland can indeed, ball. I’ve always had a soft spot for wide receivers that can “Randy Moss” defenseless DBs. If you watch the film above, Sutton does that over and over and over. It’s easy to see why NFL execs are pitching tents in their pants at the thought of drafting the redshirt junior from SMU.
Courtland Sutton was a 3-star recruit at safety coming out of high school, but June Jones saw the potential he had at WR with his tall frame and moved him there. He played briefly his freshman year, catching two passes, before receiving a medical redshirt due to an injury. When he returned for his redshirt freshman season, he exploded onto the scene and did not look back.
Sutton sprinkled his name all over the SMU record books when it was all said and done. He finished his SMU career:
- 2nd in career touchdown receptions with 31.
- 3rd in total receiving yards with 3,220.
- Most receiving yards by a freshman with 862.
- Most receiving yards by a sophomore with 1,246.
- Most receiving yards in a game with 252.
- He’s tall and has a solid frame. Extends throwing windows for QBs.
- Put up big numbers despite having mediocre QB play.
- Not afraid to go over the middle, can absorb contact.
- Excellent at using his body and hands to gain leverage over DBs.
- Long wing-span allows him to catch inaccurate throws.
- Physical farmer’s son who is not afraid to do the dirty work. Good blocker.
- Doesn’t have top-end speed, struggles at time to get separation from DBs.
- Route running needs to improve, too smooth, not enough shake.
- Leans too heavily on his size and jump ball ability.
- Mediocre ball skills, not a YAC specialist.
- Struggled against tougher opponents such as UCF and TCU.
As you will see below, there’s a wide-range of opinion on Sutton. His NFL.com profile has him projected to be a 2nd rounder, with Muhsin Muhammad as his closest comparison. I’ve also seen him go as high as #6 to the NY Jets. If he ends up having a career as successful as Muhammad’s, then he’s worthy of a 1st round pick. It’s no secret that the NFL has become a passing-league. Good wide-receivers are in high-demand. There are too many teams in the first round in need of a good pass catchers.
Sutton’s work ethic and character sets him apart in my mind. Better route running can be learned. His size makes him a deep ball and red zone threat. At worst, he’s a reliable possession receiver at the next level. At best, he’s Demaryius Thomas.