Some players are testing guys. They show up to the NFL Scouting Combine in their skintight outfits and put on an athletic spectacle that make us “ooh” and “ahhh” for a few days. As scouts, sometimes we put more weight into those testing numbers than we should.
Other guys are tape guys. They’re the kinds of players who show up when the pads come on. They’re all about the lights of the field, the crowd in their ear and the competition right in front of them. They’re about making football plays on a football field.
Javon Wims is a tape guy.
Javon Wims had some crazy catches last year at UGA. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Wims won in the air on a weekly basis. He was a player who was always looking to high point the ball with his jumps and his arms extended, and rarely waited for passes to get into his chest and closer to defenders.
Listen, as a Florida grad, the play above was tough for me to watch. I mean, freshman cornerback Marco Wilson could not have possibly played that pass any better and yet he gives up the touchdown because Wims was that determined to score.
So, with plays like the one above numerous in his college tape in 2017, why was Wims not drafted until the seventh round?
Wims was a one-year wonder at Georgia with just 62 catches for 910 yards in his entire career, most of them coming in that final season. With not a lot of production under his belt, when Wims got to the Combine, fans of his were hoping to see him vault his name back into the conversation, knowing he had the potential to be a star in a few of the drills.
That didn’t happen.
Wims put up below average numbers in just about every category other than height and weight. With the production low and the testing scores low, Wims’ stock then followed suit.
Wims was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 224th overall pick. In a wide receiver room with Allen Robinson, Kevin White, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller, there was no guarantee that this late Day 3 pick was even going to make the roster.
We’re now three games into the preseason and one thing is for sure: Javon Wims better make the damn roster.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 25, 2018
Against the Chiefs, Wims put on an absolute show with 114 yards on four catches with one touchdown.
In the clip above, Wims showed off his leaping ability and body control in the air, not only separating from his defender, but also coming down with two feet in bounds for his first touchdown.
That’s the kind of stuff that Wims put on tape week after week at Georgia (though in small sample sizes) and it’s a shame we have to act surprised that he’s doing this again.
Javon Wims (@Javon_Juice) showing off his SPEED.
— NFL (@NFL) August 25, 2018
Wims is also a confident receiver already, and you can see evidence of that in the play above where he, a player who was in just the 45th percentile of the 40-yard dash, raced away from defenders for a big gain. If it weren’t for a good angle in pursuit by that safety, Wims would have added another 20 yards to the end of that run, and he would have had two touchdowns on the day.
When it comes to the NFL Draft you have to covet what can’t be taught. Often that’s athletic ability, which is why testing numbers can be emphasized as much as they are. But the numbers themselves and the athletic performances during the Combine aren’t what matters most. What matters most is being able to see those numbers on tape within a player’s style and “how they win” on the football field.
Anyone who watched Wims at UGA knew he was better than a 28th percentile vertical jumper or an 8th percentile broad jumper. Wims won in the air consistently on tape, and that’s what should have mattered most, not his numbers.
Javon Wims is a classic example that when it comes to the draft process and dealing with all the elements of evaluation that go into a player’s scouting report months after his final game, you have to trust the tape as the true baseline for what a player can do.
Every damn time.