James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Height: 6’0″ (unofficial)
Weight: 205 (unofficial)
Arm: (to be added)
Wing: (to be added)
Hand: (to be added)
40-time: 4.50 (projected)
NFL Comparison: Ty Montgomery, Jarvis Landry
James Washington is the 2017 Biletnikoff Award winner for a season that saw him earn consensus 1st-team All-American accolades for the second-straight year. He was fully expected to enter the NFL draft following his outstanding 2016 junior campaign (71 receptions for 1380 yards and 10 touchdowns), but was one-half of a doubly pleasant surprise for Pokes fans when he returned as a senior alongside QB Mason Rudolph. As a senior, Washington caught 69 balls for 1423 yards and recorded 13 total TDs (one of them coming via rush).
Off the line of scrimmage, Washington doesn’t necessarily have electric acceleration out of the starting blocks, but he gets up to speed fast enough. At the transition-point in his routes is where he gains the most separation as he has a mix of very explosive moves out of his cuts. He wastes zero motion at the stem’s transition point and that gives him a unique “gliding” style — even in hard out- and dig-cuts. He’s not a guy who’s going to consistently create separation with speed-burners down the sidelines or up the seam on nine-routes, it just isn’t how his game translates to the NFL level even though he was viewed as a definite threat to beat you deep in college. When there’s blanket-coverage at the beginning of the route concept, you’ll always see Washington going schoolyard and looking to find open areas of space to serve as an outlet to Rudolph. The two have a good connection in these breakaway-type of scenarios when Rudolph leaves the pocket.
Washington has one of the more unique body styles we’ve seen out of such a terrific receiving prospect. The best comp that immediately comes to mind as a visual resemblance may be Bruce Ellington or Ty Montgomery, who as WR prospects both physically looked built more like RBs. Washington has a powerful lower body and thick legs that look more suited to drive the pile as a runner than to glide open as a route-runner. He is a huge threat with the football in hands after-catch not so much due to transcendent speed or suddenness but instead with prowess in physicality and the ability to lower his shoulder and create missed tackles. He is fearless going over the middle of the field on crossing routes. He’s a junkyard dog and a ball-player.
He’s clearly an effective player who’s consistently involved any time he’s on the football field, and one who’s utilized in all sorts of ways. ProFootballFocus graded Washington No.4 nationally in 2017 in its Yards Per Route Run metric. One surprising PFF stat regarding Washington was he was credited with a rather bad 7 drops during the 2017 season, which is a fairly high rate considering he was only credited with being targeted on 76 “catchable” balls. Washington certainly does flash elite hands at times, but in certain games, showed that he had at least some trouble going up to get 50/50 and contested catches versus longer and more physical corners (watch him versus Demarcus Fields of Texas Tech on some targets). This was not always the case, though, as he was dominant at the catch point at other times. It’s a skill in his tool bag, but not a defining characteristic of his game to win in those spots. It’s not likely he’ll be used this way at the NFL level, though, and his hands don’t appear small when gripping the football, so drops are unlikely to be an issue at the NFL level. When he’s given a window to catch the ball, he snatches it with excellent framing ability and gets upfield quickly.
A few intangible qualities of Washington ring extremely positive: 1) he’s a team player who decided to return to school when he had an excellent opportunity to pursue an NFL career after his junior season; 2) while so many players outside of the major bowl games are now skipping their bowls to get started on NFL draft prep, Washington said that was “disloyalty,” and 3) he’s a competitor who took the opportunity that many in his shoes would have turned down after winning the Biletnikoff Award of competing against the best that the college game has to offer in front of every NFL team at the Senior Bowl.
Here's James Washington on why he will play in #OKState's bowl game despite the trend of some future NFL players sitting out theirs — "That never crossed my mind. In my mind that's like disloyalty …" pic.twitter.com/JdvBdbpzvL
— Nate Feken (@TheGreat_Nate) December 8, 2017
Clearly, he’s one of the players we’ll be most interested to monitor and evaluate in Mobile. This post is sure to be followed by more analysis and thoughts on Washington as we go through the draft process.
The early fantasy outlook for Washington is likely to be, like most, NFL landing-spot dependent. If you had to put him in one bucket as a player, it’s likely to be as a Z WR/No. 2 guy at the NFL level with upside to become the type of player some QB and offensive playcaller may eventually shift to scheming up as the first read on a number of plays given his unique ability to get open reliably and make plays with the ball in his hands after-catch. He has all the talent necessary to become fantasy relevant quickly, especially in PPR leagues, but the situation will have to be a good one as he’s not the type of WR who’ll enter the building as the defacto red-zone and big downfield-play weapon.
Washington will go down as one of the best and most productive receivers in Oklahoma State history and in the history of the Big 12 Conference. He enters the bowl game with 4,346 career receiving yards, a figure that leads all active FBS players and ranks third in Big 12 history. He needs 68 yards to pass Rashaun Woods for the Oklahoma State school record and to move into second on the all-time Big 12 list. He leads all active FBS players with 38 career receiving touchdowns and his career average of 85.2 receiving yards per game is the best among all receivers from Power Five conferences with a minimum of 2,000 career receiving yards.
In 2017, Washington was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection and also earned a spot on the Walter Camp All-America team. He finished the regular season with 69 catches for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns. Washington’s 1,423 receiving yards and 118.6 receiving yards per game both led the FBS and his 12 touchdown receptions ranked fourth nationally. He led all FBS players with 17 catches of 30 yards or longer, 10 catches of 40 yards or longer and seven catches of 50 yards or longer. Washington helped Oklahoma State become the first offense in Big 12 history to have a 4,000-yard passer (Mason Rudolph), a 1,000-yard rusher (Justice Hill) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Marcell Ateman and James Washington).
The other two finalists for the 2017 Biletnikoff Award were West Virginia’s David Sills and Colorado State’s Michael Gallup.