The San Diego Chargers selected wide receiver Tevin Reese out of Baylor with their 7th round selection in this year's NFL Draft. There are several reasons players fall. In this case, Reese missed the final five games of his Senior year with a dislocated wrist. Factor in the fact he weighs under 170 pounds (with pads on), and it's easy to see why he slipped.
I wanted to take a closer look at Reese to see what he offers to San Diego, and more importantly, will he even make the team? Let's take a closer look at Reese. For this, I watched all of Reese's targets in four conference games in the middle of the schedule: West Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas.
Tevin Reese's Strengths
This was Reese's second target of the game:
Reese can really scoot. He is a true deep threat, and one that this offense doesn't have (Malcom Floyd would obviously count). Reese can simply accelerate past cornerbacks, whether they are lined up in press coverage right in his face or lined up 8-10 yards off. He gets to top speed in a hurry, and there's no catching him.
Reese's speed doesn't only impact the defense on vertical routes. Because they have to respect him, he's very valuable on routes coming back to the quarterback, like curls. Defensive backs are forced to open up and bail sooner than they normally would, and this creates separation for Reese. Even with his frame, this is one of a few reasons I believe that if he does make the team, he's best suited to line up on the outside.
Finding Holes in the Zone
This is kind of an unheralded trait for a receiver. Against zone coverage, it's important for a receiver to find the soft spots in the defense; this is another area where Reese excels. At Baylor they ran a run–and–shoot type offense, so defenses couldn't match up man–to–man with the receivers. This helped Reese develop a good feel for finding windows for the quarterback to throw in.
But make no mistake about it, I noticed several flaws in Reese's game.
Tevin Reese's Weaknesses
Catching the Ball
What I'm about to tell you is the most profound analysis you'll ever get from me: Catching the ball for a receiver is important.
Deep, isn't it?
In the four games I watched, Reese dropped four passes, and juggled a couple more. Could it be that his hands are nearly an inch smaller than the average wide receiver? That could very well be the issue. Any pass that's not directly on target was a struggle for Reese to haul in. Even the ones that were, he would take his eyes off the ball, and look to get upfield before he even has caught the ball.
Here's another drop, where he does a nice job of finding a window again, but he just can't haul it in:
He also dropped a pass that he had to extend over his head to catch, but just couldn't bring it in. A very catchable pass that he has to make at the next level.
It should come to no surprise that a 163–pound receiver is a liability as a blocker. If I'm a 190–to–200–pound defensive back in the NFL, I'm attacking Reese with full force. You see the tentativeness when he goes to block his man.
Reese also didn't strike me as an aggressive player overall. He would sometimes look for defenders on routes over the middle, and once the ball was in his hands, he seemed to second guess himself instead of maximizing the yards. Reese is so quick and fast, that if he can get north and south in a hurry, he could be even more dangerous than what he already is.
Reese is far from a nuanced route runner. A lot of this can be attributed to his role in this specific type of offense, where he was considered a vertical threat. Still, Reese was a Senior, and it'd be nice to see him set up defensive backs. He can create separation, there's no doubt about that. But, that's because of his speed, not his ability to run routes. This was primarily an issue on curl routes. Reese would take too many steps at the top of his route. NFL defensive backs will eat that cushion up and be able to make plays on the ball if he doesn't clean this up.
Reese is at the top of the screen. Notice the 3-4 extra steps he takes to get in and out of his break and how he drifts upfield? This was a consistent problem in all four games. While he did a good job of coming back to the ball and securing the catch, cleaner, more precise routes are necessary to excel as an NFL receiver.
Will He Make the Roster?
It will be tough.
He's so fast. He could certainly help by stretching the field. In the four games I watched, he caught 18 of his 25 targets for 474 yards & 5 touchdowns. Clearly, that's not all going to translate to the NFL, but averaging 26 yards per catch is nothing to overlook.
Reese does need some refining to his overall game as a receiver, and will likely have to consistently beat press in training camp to show he can make it in the NFL. There's a chance he makes it, but it's an uphill battle. I wouldn't say the receiver position is deep at the moment, but if Floyd comes back, that will make things harder for Reese.
He truly is a wildcard with the speed he brings, and for that reason alone, he has a chance.