The 2023 wide receiver class is going to be an interesting one to follow. It lacks the sure-fire “blue chip” prospects that’ve helped define previous draft classes. At the same time, the value of receivers is increasing league-wide.
That could cause NFL teams to look for hidden gems or players who can be developed into impact receivers. The New York Giants are one of those teams who might need to find a top receiver as well as a developmental prospect.
Florida receiver Justin Shorter doesn’t have eye-catching production, but he certainly passes the eye test. Shorter is a big, physical, and versatile receiver who could well develop into that coveted “X” receiver. The interest in Florida quarterbacjk Anthony Richardson will certainly get more eyes on Shorter throughout the draft process.
Could that boost his draft stock?
Prospect: Justin Shorter (4)
Games Watched: vs. LSU (2021), vs. Utah (2022), vs. Tennessee (2022), vs. Georgia (2022)
Red Flags: Hamstring (2022)
Height: 6-foot-3¾ inches
Weight: 224 pounds
Arm length: 33¾ inches
Hand size: 9⅞ inches
Games Played: 43
Yards (YPC): 1,552 (14.1 per catch)
Games Played: 9
Yards (YPC): 577 (19.9 per catch)
Best: Size, physicality, blocking, versatility, short-area quickness
Worst: Agility, technique, catch consistency
Projection: A developmental receiver with scheme versatility
(Shorter is Florida WR No. 4)
Florida’s Justin Shorter is a big-bodied and physical wide receiver prospect.
Shorter has a prototypical build for a wide receiver at the NFL level, weighing in at 6-foot-3 ¾ inches, 224 pounds, with nearly 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands. He has good athleticism for his size, with solid long speed and surprising short-area quickness.
Shorter played in just about every receiving alignment for the Florida Gators’ offense, lining up as an X receiver, Flanker, Slot, and in bunch formations. He was also asked to run a fairly wide variety of routes in Florida’s offense, though he was most often used to create traffic and space and separation for his teammates in route concepts.
Shorter has a reasonable amount of savvy and understanding of how to use his routes to manipulate defenders. He consistently presses his route stems vertically, using his mass to get defensive backs on their heels before making his break. He also shows a solid understanding of coverage schemes and how to manipulate his routes to find voids in zone coverage. When the ball went Shorter’s way, it was usually on crossing or vertical routes. His quickness allows him to flip his hips and use his body to box out the defender, shielding the ball while he makes the catch. Shorter has a good feel for locating and tracking the ball in the air on vertical routes, making good adjustments as he gets to the catch point. He does a good job of extending, using his long arms to maximize his catch radius and haul in passes that might not be perfectly placed.
Shorter was mostly used as a blocker in Florida’s offense and it’s a role in which he excelled. His size and strength allowed him to dominate cornerbacks and deal with bigger safeties nearly as well as a tight end would. Shorter is a very willing and physical blocker who looks to drive defenders backward, and does a great job of extending to maximize his leverage in doing so.
Shorter needs to continue to hone his craft as a receiver. He lacks a crisp and varied release package, which can limit his ability to gain early separation from tight man coverage. Likewise, he has good quickness but lacks great agility as a larger receiver and his breaks can be rounded.
He also has inconsistent catch consistency. While some of that certainly lies at the feet of Anthony Richardson at quarterback, Shorter also had some instances of concentration drops. He can let the ball into his chest plate or be preparing to turn upfield and take contact before securing the pass.
Overall Grade: 7.0
Shorter projects as a developmental receiver early in his career.
He will likely make a roster as a core special teams player and depth receiver, but he has the upside to become a contributor on offense. Shorter has the size and enough athleticism to be an X receiver or Flanker, while also having experience as a “big slot”. His experience as a blocking receiver will appeal to run-heavy offenses, as well as help secure him a role on both coverage and return teams.
Shorter has the potential to be a hidden gem in the mid-rounds. Florida has struggled to maximize the talent on their roster, and it was just last year that Dameon Pierce went from an obscure under-used running back to a legitimate Offensive Rookie of The Year candidate. Shorter was a tertiary receiving option in the Florida offense and while QB Anthony Richardson has tantalizing tools, he was also very inconsistent. Shorter could be the type of player who blossoms in the NFL with better coaching and scheming, as well as more consistent quarterback play.