The wide receiver class in the 2022 NFL Draft isn’t as highly regarded as some of its recent counterparts. At times it seems as though we’ve been living in a golden age of wide receivers entering the NFL and each year’s draft is as good, if not better, than the one that proceeded it.
While the 2022 draft doesn’t have the “Blue Chip” receivers who are pretty sure bets to come in and set the League on fire, this class does have an impressive depth and breadth of talent. There is a surprisingly large number of receivers of all stripes who could be drafted in the first round or fuel a run on receivers early in the second round. One of the least heralded, but most exciting, of those receivers is Jalen Tolbert out of South Alabama.
Tolbert has seen plenty of buzz around his name in certain circles this past year, but he remains relatively unknown at the national level. That could all change and we could see his profile skyrocket over the course of the draft process.
The New York Giants have a definite need for a reliable and effective receiver as they rebuild their offense. Could Tolbert be their CeeDee Lamb?
Prospect: Jalen Tolbert (8)
Games Watched: vs. Southern Mississippi (2021), vs. Georgia Southern (2021), vs. Tennessee (2021), vs. Coastal Carolina (2021)
Games Played: 40
Yards (YPC): 3,140 (17.6 per catch)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 1,474 (18.0 per catch)
Best: Length, athleticism, ball skills, YAC
Worst: Play strength
Projection: A starting wide receiver with scheme and positional versatility
(Tolbert is WR number 8)
South Alabama wide receiver Jalen Tolbert has an intriguing combination of athleticism, catch radius, ball skills, route running, and run after catch ability that stand out on tape.
Tolbert is a long receiver at 6-foot-3 with long arms and a broad catch radius. He played a variety of roles in South Alabama’s offense, doing everything from carrying the ball on sweeps, to stretching the field vertically on deep routes, to being a possession receiver in the middle of the field. Tolbert aligned as an X, Flanker, and Slot receiver for the Jaguars and shows the ability to win out of each of those alignments.
Tolbert uses a variety of release strategies to get off the line cleanly at the snap. He has a good burst to get into his route quickly against off coverage while using quick hand and footwork to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage. Tolbert does a good job of varying his stride tempo and length to sell vertical stems, allow himself to break sharply on comeback routes, or to throw off defenders’ timing. He has very good ball skills down the field, doing a good job of locating and tracking the ball in the air, making adjustments, and extending to pluck the ball out of the air. Tolbert has generally solid hands and shows a big catch radius to high-point the ball or adjust to off-target throws.
He also shows surprising ability after the catch. Tolbert is able to break arm tackles with a combination of short-area quickness and an explosive burst from his lower body. He has good vision as a ball carrier, making subtle adjustments to turn tackle attempts into glancing blows. Tolbert’s long legs allow him to eat up yardage once he finds space, and he fights for every extra inch after the catch.
While Tolbert shows surprising play strength after the catch, he isn’t a particularly powerful receiver. He sports a lanky build and can be overpowered when forced to take on defenders directly. Tolbert is often out-muscled as a blocker and can be bullied at the catch point. Tolbert also dealt with inconsistent (or just plain poor) quarterback play and his breaks aren’t as crisp (or precise, perhaps) as they could, or should, be.
Overall Grade: 7.9
Jalen Tolbert projects as a starting receiver with positional and schematic diversity at the NFL level.
Tolbert would probably be best out of the Slot and Flanker positions in an offense that works to create opportunities for yardage after the catch. Teams will likely want to scheme ways in which they can get the ball in Tolbert’s hands, and use him on sweeps and screens as well as down the field.
Tolbert has a lanky frame that might not have room for additional muscle mass, and that could limit how he is used early in his career. Teams will likely want to avoid putting him in situations where he needs to be relied upon as a blocker or is matched up in press-man coverage with bigger cornerbacks.
That said, his athleticism and skill set should allow him to be very productive early in his career. Tolberts’ dependability and catch radius should make him a good possession receiver, while his ability to stretch the field or create with the ball in his hands on short passes make him a definite offensive weapon.
He should only get better with NFL coaches working with him to hone the fine points of his craft as a receiver.