The NFL has expanded its view of what constitutes a viable skill set for a wide receiver, but the old prototype still remains.
Teams have found success with receivers of all shapes and sizes, yet nothing captures the imagination of scouts, executives, and coaches, quite like the big, athletic “X” receiver. Teams around the league are constantly on the lookout for receivers with an uncommon blend of size and athleticism, and they’re usually drafted highly.
USC’s Drake London has the potential to be that player this year. With a 6-foot-4 frame and the athleticism to be a threat at all levels of the field, London has a tantalizing skill set. He still needs work to realize his full potential, but he enters the NFL with a strong foundation.
The New York Giants definitely need to improve their passing (and scoring) offense. Could London be a target to help them do so?
Prospect: Drake London (15)
Games Watched: vs. Stanford (2021), vs. Washington State (2021), vs. Oregon State (2021), vs. Notre Dame (2021)
Red Flags: Fractured ankle (2021)
Games Played: 22
Yards (YPC): 2,153 (13.5 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 15
2021 Games Played: 8
Yards (YPC): 1,084 (12.3 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 7
Best: Size, long speed, body control, play strength, ball skills
Worst: Explosiveness, catch consistency
Projection: A starting wide receiver with alignment and scheme versatility.
USC’s Drake London is a wide receiver prospect with a rare blend of size and athleticism for the position.
London played out of multiple positions for USC, usually lining up as the “X” receiver on the outside, as well as off the line of scrimmage as a flanker, in the slot, in bunch sets, and even occasionally out of the backfield.
London shows an efficient release off the line of scrimmage, wasting little time or motion getting into his routes. His size lets him play through press-man coverage jams with the minimum of disruption to his timing or route.
When London’s routes feature a vertical portion to the stem, he does a good job of pressing his stem into the cornerback. London has long legs, giving him a similarly long stride, and deceptive open-field speed. That speed makes his vertical routes a constant threat for offenses, and cornerbacks need to respect the potential for a vertical route when he presses his stem down the field. Because of this, London can be very effective on stick routes or when working back to the ball.
London has surprisingly good agility for a player his size, allowing him to make sharp cuts or add fakes to his routes. He has the potential to execute a “complete” route tree from a variety of positions at the NFL level.
London generally has solid ball skills, locating the ball well in the air, tracking and making adjustments downfield, and extending to pluck the ball out of the air. He also shows strong hands in securing the ball in traffic or as he goes to the ground.
He also shows fantastic body control and field awareness along the sideline, allowing him to make difficult catches while keeping a foot in-bounds.
London is a surprisingly capable runner with the ball in his hands. He uses his frame and play strength well to fight through contact (or tackle attempts), playing with great contact balance for a tall receiver. He has good field vision as a runner and surprising agility to make runners miss, and the speed to pick up chunk yardage in the open field. London produced in run after catch situations as well as in screen plays.
Likewise, while London is a capable blocker on the outside. His frame and play strength allow him to sustain his blocks for long enough to be effective – though his technique needs improvement and he generally blocks with poor leverage.
While London generally shows very good ball skills, he can be frustratingly inconsistent at times. Part of the blame rests on USC’s quarterback, who was inconsistent and imprecise himself, but London also failed to haul in passes he should have. Too often London allowed the ball to glance off – or pass through – his hands, putting it at risk of being intercepted. And while he can make impressive contested catches, he would occasionally struggle to make routine catches to sustain drives.
London’s final season was ended by a fractured ankle at the end of October, 2021. Teams will likely want to pay close attention to his medical reports and ensure he makes a complete recovery with no lingering issues.
Overall Grade: 7.5
USC’s Drake London projects as a starting receiver with schematic and positional versatility at the NFL level.
London has the ability to line up all over a modern NFL offense, playing out of the “X”, slot, and flanker positions. Teams will also likely want to scheme ways to get the ball in his hands to take advantage of his ability as a runner. Both jet motion and screen passes should be a part of his utilization at the NFL level.
London has the ability to be a reliable option downfield, in tight spaces in the red zone or along the sideline, or in-stride in underneath passes. His frame will be useful for route combinations such as mesh concepts, where he can create traffic for defenders, and (along with his quickness) on back-shoulder throws.
London might have to start out as a secondary option as a rookie. He flashes the ability to be a very good receiver, but he can also be inconsistent in big moments. It doesn’t matter how big London is or how good he is after the catch if the ball bounces off his hands and into a defender’s.
That said, London is still a young receiver (he won’t turn 21 until just before training camp), and has relatively few games under his belt. He has the potential to improve rapidly with good coaching (and more consistent quarterback play) at the NFL level.