WR James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers
James Washington enters the NFL as one of the most productive college receivers in recent memory. Making an impact all four years of his career, Washington finished school with 4,472 yards and 39 touchdowns on 226 receptions. After his junior season, he was thought to be a prime candidate to enter the NFL draft but decided to stay alongside quarterback and fellow draft prospect Mason Rudolph. Built like a running back, Washington did not exactly explode at the combine but produced satisfactory wide receiver numbers to go along with his excellent college production. Washington ran 4.54 40-yard dash, which seemed a bit high considering his ability separate via deep routes. With average broad jump, vertical, and three-cone results, Washington’s athleticism is nothing special, but with his receiving numbers in college, he has proven he can produce if given the opportunity.
The Scout’s Notes
Washington is one of the more interesting receivers coming into the NFL this season. He has a quick release off the line of scrimmage, which helps him gain speed at the start of his routes. Washington has a knack for the deep game, as he excels with excellent ball-tracking and body adjustments down the field. On almost all vertical routes, Washington is able to gain significant separation which allows his quarterback to take shots down field more often than not. He is not considered a burner, but he has enough speed and acceleration to outrun defensive backs. Because of the air raid-type offense at Oklahoma State, Washington did not run a full route tree while in school; however, at the Senior Bowl, he proved he could run sharp routes underneath and gain separation in that part of the field as well. Washington’s contested catch rate is phenomenal. He will come down with almost every deep pass thrown in his general direction. Because of his deep ability, he will absolutely be able to play outside in the NFL, but he needs to sharpen his route arsenal before becoming a trustworthy all-around NFL receiver.
After dealing receiver Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders during the first round of the draft, the Steelers went on to draft James Washington in the bottom of the second round. With a load of offensive weapons already in Pittsburgh, Washington will likely not make a huge impact in year one. Because of what he brings to table, he will be a deep threat and likely break off multiple long touchdowns. He is a high-upside player who will not be a number one or two before 2019, but draft Washington late in best-ball drafts and he will produce with a couple big games this season.
As Ben Roethlisberger is nearing the end of his hall-of-fame career, the Steelers also selected James Washington’s college quarterback Mason Rudolph in the third round of the NFL draft. Should Roethlisberger become injured or decide to hang it up after this season, Rudolph and Washington already have an established connection that could become deadly if given the chance. Washington’s immediate value is likely pushing him down rookie draft boards, so take advantage and select Washington in the early second round, wait one year, and reap the rewards in the following seasons.
The first play of this video, starting at 1:48, Washington is lined up at the bottom of the screen and runs a simple five-yard out route. He makes a clean break and Rudolph delivers the ball at the perfect time for a sizeable gain. When Washington sets his plant foot to break off the route, Rudolph begins his delivery just as his receiver completes the route. This chemistry will be on display during camp and potentially for the next wave of Steelers’ football.
At 2:18, Washington lines up as the center receiver of a trips-left formation. Once Rudolph takes the snap, Washington begins his route by attacking the sideline in order to make the defender believe he is running a wheel route. We cannot see it in the video, but once the cornerback commits and turns his hips towards the sideline, Washington turns back up field, leaving the defender in the dust. Rudolph delivers a viable pass and Washington takes it for a long touchdown.