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Is Jaelen Strong a good fit at receiver for the Chargers?

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Breaking down a big body receiver to see how he translates to the Chargers offense

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week I went over a 5'9 receiver. Today's wide receiver is 6'4 and every bit of a playmaker in his own right. Today I want to take a different look at Jaelen Strong than how I usually deal with prospects. I'm going to go over how he translates to each area of the field, from the short passing game, to the intermediate, to the deep ball.

Lack of Suddenness Stands Out

In the 0-10 yard range, you either create separation with quickness or you use your body to shield defenders from crossing your face and make the majority of contested catches, ala Anquan Boldin. At 6'4 you could say you don't expect suddenness in and out of his breaks, if that's the case then Strong will need to do a better job of setting up defenders and using his size, specifically on in breaking routes. There's no way a defender should be able to cross his face and make a play on the ball on short in breaking routes, and it's something I've seen with Strong.

On contested catches, Strong caught 10 of his 22 targets. Too many of those coming in the short range as a result of lack of separation or using his body as a weapon.

I also had Strong for 3 drops, 2 coming on slants, 1 on a screen. The difference of separation Strong can create on curls and out routes compared to in routes is like night and day. He can eat up ground with his long strides, and when he has time to turn and react to the pass, like on curl routes, he attacks the ball in the air. You really like Strong's my ball mentality.

Arizona State used Strong on a few "follow" routes from the slot, and he just couldn't get in and out of his breaks quick enough to receive a target. Here's a good look at Strong's lack of change of direction when he hasn't gained any momentum. Here's a screen where you would like to see Strong make the 1st guy miss, and he just can't.

Red Zone Nightmare

If Jaelen Strong catches 10 touchdowns as a rookie, it'll be because of his ability in the intermediate area of the field. Those 5 step slants/skinny posts, the back shoulder fades, and deeper out routes. He will drop your jaw with wow catches. His athleticism really stands out as he's able to either high point or contort his body, and adjust to the ball and bring it down. Here's a couple ridiculous catches.

Strong has soft hands, but will go get the ball at its highest point, making it almost impossible for the defender to make a play. Here's a look at him on a back shoulder fade.

Where Strong struggles on contested catches in the short area of the field, he excels in the intermediate to deep areas. The same can be said for Strongs' ability to change directions and create separation. Once he has a chance to build speed, he seems more fluid at changing directions. Mostly on timing patterns, Strong sold his routes and was able to get a step on the defender at the top of his route.

Notice with these plays you're seeing, they're all hands catches. Hi

Winning as a Deep Threat

Strong's weaknesses in the short area could very well turn into his advantages as a deep threat. DB's will sit on his routes at times in order to give them a chance to make the play on the ball. Because of that, Strong eliminates the defenders cushion in a matter of steps.

I do think Strong has a good second gear once the ball is in the air. You didn't really get a chance to see that because of quarterback play, but Strong showed the ability to win vertical as a receiver. Here he wins vertical from the slot.

Strong is the type of receiver you throw a couple 50/50 balls per game and expect him to come down with 1.

Is He Worth a 1st round Pick

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable 4.0

Trait Weight Grade
Route Running 4 3.5
Hands 3 2.7
Ball Skills 3 2.8
Separation Skills 2.5 1.9
Speed 2.5 2.1
YAC Ability 2 1.7
Athleticism 2 2
Versatility 2 1.8
Awareness 2 1.7
Blocking 2 1.8

Strong grades out as an early 2nd rounder, 7.92. I can see teams falling in love with his frame, ball skills, and ability to win and get vertical. His hands are good, not great. While his technique catching the ball gets better as he gets farther away from the line of scrimmage. He's not "fast", but his long strides allow him to get on top of defenders. Strong can also be a threat after the catch if he has established his momentum. He is best suited for a timing based offense that will take the occasional shot downfield.

How He Fits as a Charger

Strong would solve the Chargers issues in the red zone. He also would give you a vertical "jump ball receiver" that many think Philip Rivers needs. The issue with Strong is winning on short, in-breaking routes. Strong just turned 21 so there's no reason to think he won't improve and figure out how use his body. That said, not all players improve. Because of this I would pass on him if I'm San Diego early on. I think Strong will be great in the NFL, just a little weary of his separation/contested catches issues.