I have an affinity for undersized receivers that play above the rim, and thanks to a report from Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline suggesting the New Orleans Saints will consider Jalen Reagor with the 24th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, the former TCU Horned Frog is now squarely on my radar.
The consensus prior to this has been the Saints may take a linebacker if available, and it’s long been a suspicion of mine that teams may lean towards drafting safer positions like linebacker and offensive line, causing skill position players to go later than they otherwise would. If a guy like Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is off the board when New Orleans is on the clock, Reagor could make sense here.
With knowledge that the 2020 class of available receivers does not contain an elite prospect (Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb notwithstanding), and is more deep than top heavy, it feels like a “what’s your flavor” type of draft for the position.
What this means is the No. 2 guy on one team’s board may be the No. 5 guy on another or vice-versa.
Considering New Orleans has not replaced Ted Ginn Jr., and Emmanuel Sanders is more likely to fill the void in the slot, Reagor could help supplement the loss of the former Panther and Saint at flanker.
If you’ve listened to me on Who Dat Confessional with Deuce Windham, you know that I value combine numbers, and, thanks to Nick Underhill, I also have an understanding of how the Saints view positions through the lens of prototypes.
As mentioned in my previous article, the Saints typically shy away from receivers under 6-foot unless they have something unique that offsets their deficiency.
In Reagor’s case, despite being only 5-foot-11, he checks in at a healthy 206 pounds and sports a 138 inch (11.5 ft) broad jump paired with a ridiculous 42 inch vertical that he puts on display regularly during 50/50 balls.
Consistently does DBs dirty on Jump Balls pic.twitter.com/RQq9iD8X5w— Ellias J Williams (@ElliasJWilliams) April 23, 2020
Reagor’s combine traits are “special” and serve to counterbalance his lack of height in much the same way Brandin Cooks’s 4.33 speed redeemed him. In fact, for comparison’s sake, Cooks recorded a 35.5 inch Vert and 120 inch (10 ft) broad jump at roughly 17 pounds lighter than Reagor.
Translation: The son of former eight-year NFL Veteran Montae Reagor is a more athletic Cooks.
Yet, there are data points I found particularly troubling for Reagor. Receivers of his stature are expected to be agile jitterbugs, but at the combine he delivered a pedestrian three cone (7.31) and 20 yard Shuttle (4.46). In contrast, Cooks posted a 6.76 three-cone and a blazing 3.81 20-yard shuttle. And yet both fit the mold of what you expect from smaller pass-catchers.
Intrigued, I decided to dig back in history and pull up the combine numbers of a receiver with a similar body type to Reagor that Cooks also drew comparisons to coming out, Steve Smith Sr. To my surprise, I was treated to an eerily similar finding. The former Panthers and Ravens receiver posted a 4.25 20-yard shuttle and a 7.44 three-cone at the 2001 combine.
Looking back on Smith’s career, the lack of outright agility meant nothing and serves as a good example of why tape should overrule workouts in controlled environments.
So what does the tape say for Reagor?
Film suggests that Reagor wins on every level of the defense and he is surprisingly underrated as a route runner. Similar to Michael Thomas, he has a knack for making every route look as if he’s running deep and it forces opposing defensive backs to respect that possibility on every play. His route tree in college also fits what the Saints typically ask of their Z receiver.
- Sluggo (“slant-and-go”)
- Dino Route (Post-Corner-Post)
- Jet Sweep
- 9 (fade)
One thing that stood out to me during evaluation or Reagor was poor quarterback play around him. It stopped him from being more effective and simultaneously lead to what I perceived as possible moments of disinterest from the young receiver.
There are times his effort appears only subpar, particularly when he knew the ball wasn’t going his direction. Whether you define that as a lack of effort or the old Randy Moss train of thought to preserve energy is in the eye of the beholder.
Still, I think the information sheds light on how he regressed from 72 catches, 1061 yards and 9 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018 to 43 catches 611 yards and 5 touchdowns in his final season.
Another negative I’ve seen attributed to him is shaky hands, but a high number of the drops I witnessed were caused by just “OK” to downright poorly-placed passes that allowed the defender to regain position and make a play. I didn’t notice egregious drops in the two games I watched outside of an over-the-shoulder grab he could have caught versus the University of Texas.
Far from “shaky” hands, I love that he attempts to pluck the ball from the air at all times, suggesting he’s a true hands catcher.
He admittedly has things he needs to work on, like separating from press coverage, but I think Reagor would offer an immediate upgrade to Ginn’s 2019 production for the Saints. Reagor doesn’t have Ginn’s nor Cooks’s top end speed, but he offers more upside on contested catches. A chief complaint I had with Ginn was that he didn’t fight for the ball enough. See this as an example:
The Vikings (+7.5) D is stepping up big time in the Superdome.— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) January 5, 2020
Drew Brees just threw his first interception since Week 12. pic.twitter.com/OKXPFGgeAk
At this stage in Drew’s career, his deep passes are glorified 50/50 tosses that require trust in the receiver to make a play, and Reagor shows a similar knack as Steve Smith for doing just that. He’d also benefit from Olympic archer-like ball placement from Brees, as well as coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael drawing up plays to get him the rock in space (like Doom).
If you don’t get that reference, fine. I’ll simply leave you with this:
The Saints thought they were getting something close to Steve Smith when they traded up for Brandin Cooks back in 2014, and it turned out that was in a galaxy far, far away from the truth. Six years later, the empire has a chance to strike back at pick No. 24 in the 2020 NFL Draft, and get it right this time with Jalen Reagor.