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Jerry Jeudy: The wide receiver tailored for Shanahan’s offense

Of all the receivers in this draft, Jeudy is the best fit for the 49ers

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We have seen Alabama’s wide receiver Jerry Jeudy linked to the San Francisco 49ers in numerous mock drafts. If someone covers the draft, they have Jeudy in their top-3 wide receivers. The question isn’t if Jeudy is good. The question is, how good is Jeudy. Alabama had an all-star cast on offense. They’ll have their quarterback, an offensive tackle, and two wide receivers drafted in the top-20 in this year’s NFL Draft. Next year, the Crimson Tide will have two other wideouts that may be drafted in the top 50 as well as a Heisman running back. Separating the prospect from the team to gauge that player’s talent isn’t easy to do.

Jeudy has consistency going for him. The past two seasons at Alabama, he had over 1100 yards receiving and double-digit touchdowns. Let’s get into how Jeudy’s game projects to the next level.

Winning at the line of scrimmage

College football offenses are so spread out that most wide receivers don’t consistently face press coverage. The wideouts that do typically struggle because they see bump and run coverage maybe 5-10 plays a game. Jeudy is not among the players that struggle at the line of scrimmage. He is the exact opposite. Jeudy is one of the more creative route runners that you will see. Take this example below against Duke. Watch how Jeudy manipulates the defender in the slot:

The key here is Jeudy’s efficiency. He’s not dancing in place, wasting time. Jeudy takes two steps, and he’s into his route with zero wasted movements. That leads to about four or five yards of separation—which is a quarterbacks best friend.

What stands out when you watch Jeudy against press coverage is his nuance. On the play below, ee gives the cornerback a head fake, but he’s gaining ground, which doesn’t throw off the timing between him and the quarterback. Jeudy then works to the defender’s “blind spot,” which forces the DB to open up and run. Once that happens, Jeudy stops on a dime and, once again, four or five yards of separation.

When the cornerback isn’t pictured on the screen, you know you’re dealing with something special.

Separating at the top of the route

When a college player is compared to a perennial All-Pro, my initial thought is, “let’s pump the brakes here.” Jeudy is compared to Amari Cooper, Chad Ochocinco, and Adam Thielen. The way Jeudy separates from defenders, he is one of the rare college prospects that deserve those high-end comps.

The three routes below each highlight Jeudy’s use of tempo to create separation. He is consistent with lulling you to sleep, closing the gap between himself and the defender, then stopping or cutting at full speed—which leads to:

It’s not difficult to see how easily Jeudy would fit into Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which relies heavily on a lot of timing, screen, and play-action routes. The play below is an extreme example, but there were several times in 2018 where Jeudy used his hands to create separation down the field.

That is not offensive pass interference. That’s called a “throw by,” which is what you teach a receiver to do at the top of the route to create separation. It looks bad due to the cornerback being off balance.

From a route-running standpoint, Jeudy is in a class of his own.

Why isn’t Jeudy a top-five lock?

What’s keeping Jeudy out of the “Julio category” is his physicality and inconsistency with catching the ball. There are plays where a defensive back will sit in off coverage and “catch” Jeudy, and the Alabama receiver doesn’t have an answer. While he is excellent at running a Shannahan staple—the blaze out route—Jeudy’s lack of physicality shows up when he has to fight for jump balls, contested catches, or in traffic over the middle.

Catching the ball isn’t an issue. Jeudy has good hands and has no problem going outside of his frame, even over the middle, to make a play. It’s the concentration drops (ten over the past two seasons) and “basket catches” that get Jeudy in trouble. His slender frame might scare play-callers away from calling routes for Jeudy over the middle of the field, though it shouldn’t.

Is Jeudy worth the pick at No. 13?

There isn’t much about Jeudy’s game that you can critique. After the catch, he’s as elusive as anyone. Jeudy’s hesitation, burst, and dead leg juke are bound to embarrass defenders in the NFL:

Alabama threw Jeudy screens early and often in games. Why? Because they knew the odds of him being tackled 1-on-1 were slim. Jeudy had 1163 receiving yards in 2019, and 598 of that came after the catch. Alabama threw Jeudy these quick passes because his start and stop paired with his acceleration turn into touchdowns in a blink of an eye.

If the Crimson Tide put Jeudy in favorable situations, I’m going to go out on a limb and say Kyle will know what to do with Jeudy. He will make an immediate impact as a receiver due to his attention to detail as a route runner. I don’t say this about many players, but Jeudy is special in that regard. Add in Jeudy’s ability once the ball is in his hands with his speed and quickness, and you’re looking at a wideout that you’d think Shanahan created himself.

Baylor’s Denzel Mims has a higher upside, but I don’t believe he’ll be in play at No. 13. If the options are Jeudy, Ruggs, and CeeDee Lamb—Jeudy is playing a different sport than the other two. The 49ers need someone who is polished. That’s Jeudy.