After a 1,500-yard season in 2016, there’s no denying Dede Westbrook’s receiving talent. The question that dropped him to the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft is whether his off-field problems are behind him.
The Oklahoma wideout will drag a host of red flags with him to the NFL after a tumultuous rise to this point. He’s been twice accused — though never convicted — of domestic violence by the mother of his children. He also nearly died as the result of a ruptured intestine suffered during a high school football game.
Despite those issues, the Jacksonville Jaguars still decided he was worth the gamble. The Jaguars scooped him up with the 110th pick of the draft, adding him to a roster that includes receiving threats like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, and Marqise Lee.
Why is Dede Westbrook worth the risk?
The Oklahoma receiver was one of the NCAA’s most explosive playmakers in 2016. He finished with 80 catches for 1,524 yards last fall, gaining a ridiculous 19.1 yards per reception. He scored 18 touchdowns for the Sooners in their 11-2 campaign — 17 through the air and one on a punt return.
Westbrook is an elusive route-runner who torches defensive backs with a combination of quick cuts and head fakes.
He uses elite straight-line speed to slide past cornerbacks and create big gains. He’s good at tracking down balls and has the hands to corral passes 50 yards downfield, even in traffic. He’s also a solid target near the sideline — his high-level footwork, which he suggests was honed from childhood rock fights, helps keep him in bounds to catch passes thrown to his far shoulder.
Getting Westbrook the ball in the open field spells disaster for opposing secondaries. He’s s shifty runner who identifies tacklers and finds a way to make them look stupid en route to big gains.
Will Westbrook’s size keep him from NFL success?
Part of Westbrook’s quickness is rooted in his size. He stands 6’0 but weighs less than 180 pounds. No skill player in the league 5’10 or taller weighs less than the Oklahoma receiver did at the combine. His small frame will make him more injury-prone and likely limit him to a slot role early in his professional career.
It also reduces his impact as a red-zone target. He lacks the mass to shield cornerbacks from the ball in short-field situations, plus he has trouble on jump-ball routes. While he’ll still find the end zone thanks to his deep-threat ability, his usage will wane inside the 20-yard line.
What other issues dropped him to the 4th round?
While he’s only played two seasons of FBS football, he’s also an older prospect. Westbrook will turn 24 in the middle of his rookie season, which might limit his window of opportunity in the NFL -- especially as a receiver who relies so much on his quickness.
Finally, his long list of red flags bring up everything from durability to character concerns. There were reports the wide receiver was “guarded and untruthful” in his comments at the combine, but the truth is Westbrook was clean at Oklahoma, avoiding off-field trouble. He’ll have to prove that’s the trend after taking a winding road to get to Norman.
Where does he fit on the Jaguars depth chart?
There’s no shortage of weapons in the Jaguars wide receiver depth chart, so Westbrook won’t be asked to step up as a starter any time soon. He’s added to one of the better wide receiving corps in the NFL and will likely have to fight for playing time, but adds explosive ability to a team that needs to generate offense.