Alright hold up. You’re telling me that there’s a 6-foot-5, 200-pound wide receiver who was third in the nation in receiving yards, second in the nation in yards per game, was 11th in total catches, had nine touchdowns this season with four games of over 150 yards receiving, one of which was a 261-yard performance… and no one is talking about this guy!?
You know I couldn’t let that happen.
His name is Antoine Wesley, and if you’ve been paying attention to my Top 10 rankings, I’ve been trying to get Wesley on peoples’ radars for a few months now. But it seems as though I need to get more drastic in my approach for this talented wide out to get the draft love he deserves.
Wesley got to Texas Tech as a 3-star, 6-foot-3, 180-pound wide receiver that probably looked like he had a better future as a slim, fruit-bearing tree than as a future NFL wide out. But three years in the weight training program at Tech did Wesley some good, as he’s gained about 20-25 pounds and even grew a bit more after he committed to Tech, as well.
In his first two seasons on the team, Wesley had just 10 receptions for 137 yards combined. But in 2018 he was finally given a starting spot and boy did he make the most of it. He caught 88 passes for 1,410 yards and nine touchdowns in one of the most impressive seasons in Tech history. His single-season yardage total ranks third in Texas Tech football history behind only Michael Crabtree’s 1,962 in 2007 and Keke Coutee’s 1,429 in 2017. Adding to just how impressive Wesley’s season was, Tech had to start three different players at quarterback this year including Jett Duffey (who had a serious knee injury) in the Kansas State game and McLane Carter (who was still hobbled by a high ankle sprain) in the season finale against Baylor. In those games, Tech’s passing attack had no life. It’s crazy to think Wesley’s impressive season could’ve been even more.
Our resident wide receiver expert Brad Kelly said this about Wesley early on in the 2018 college football season:
Antoine Wesley may be a “one-year wonder,” but he has some traits that are reminiscent of Mike Evans at Texas A&M. Legit NFL prospect if he decides to declare.
Oh, he declared alright, and that’s what brings us to today.
In scouting, you definitely have to assesses the limitations prospects might have to complete their evals, but when selecting players you’re often asking what they can do for you rather than what they might not be able to. Because of that, we’re going to take five plays from Wesley’s record-breaking game against Houston and highlight just how much of Mike Evans this guy might have in him.
Play No. 1: Smooth Criminal
There are not many players who can move as smooth as Wesley does for a guy his size. Even with less weight on his body, the fact that he can sink his hips and change direction like that in the clip above at 6-foot-5 is really impressive. When you reference attributes that simply cannot be taught, moving as smooth as you see above is definitely a rare trait.
The reason why this is advantageous is because great receiver play always comes down to some sort of separation. When you’re a smaller wide receiver, it is usually quick feet and explosive short body movements that can gain separation between you and the defender. When you’re a big wide receiver, you’re hoping that length and height can give you that separation.
Usually you’re falling under one of the two categories. But the ones who are special can somehow defy the laws of human nature and do both. Wesley is one of them.
In the play above, Wesley put the full arsenal on display.
Normally when a 6-foot-5 receiver tries the move we see above they run into some road blocks. First of all, most big wide receivers don’t have feet that quick, so the defensive backs aren’t really fooled by the chopping of their feet because it’s easy to keep up with. Then on the double move, in most cases, bigger wide outs just cannot explode in a different direction like that because they’re moving so much of their body. And finally, most bigger receivers aren’t able to create the separation we saw Wesley create after the move by running away from the receiver that fast.
And yet Wesley can do all of that. That’s where the Mike Evans flashbacks come into pay.
Play No. 2: With Arms Wide Open
Being big only matters if you know how to use the length, and boy does Wesley know how to use it.
We saw it all in the play above — all of these clips are from the same game, by the way, this isn’t even like a full season highlight, which would’ve been even more impressive. Wesley had the quick feet and the explosion out of his route, and then was able to fully twist his body mid-air while also fully extending his arms to make the catch.
Wesley also has great concentration with his hands, even when fully extended.
I won’t sit here and say plays like the one above can be duplicated and depended upon, but Wesley certainly has the skill and the natural hand ability to bring in some amazing catches every now and then.
Play No. 3: Secondary Job (Blocking)
We all love the big catches, the slick moves and the touchdown dances, but the best wide receivers can stay on the field for all three downs and impact the game positively. For that to be the case, wide receivers are going to have to be able to block.
As a wide out, blocking starts with a willingness to do it. You’re there to catch the ball and score touchdowns. That’s the whole point of your contract and you being on the field. But if you don’t block well, you’ll be a detriment to your team, either when on the field with sub-par play or forcing a coach to always take you off the field on run downs, which then tips the game plans to the other team.
For a lean 200-pound receiver, Wesley shows a willingness to block, and that’s where it all starts.
I have to think that another 15 pounds is coming to the frame of Wesley once he gets into the NFL, and with that will come more strength. But in the clips above we not only see Wesley’s desire to block for his teammates, but I also saw a smart blocker who knew where to get his hands and how to redirect defenders in certain ways to create running lanes.
Give me those things as a foundation, and when we pack some more mass on him in his first two years and pair that with good coaching, we can have a potential three-down receiver.
Play No. 4: Ain’t Scared
We are able to get an even better glimpse into the mentality of Wesley when we see plays like the one above.
Man, if I was as slim as Wesley, I wouldn’t want to be lowering my shoulder on anyone. For one, I know that I’m about to lose every leverage battle by default. And beyond that I feel like I’d just be going bone-on-bone with every hit. You ever hit your shin bone or your elbow on something? An area of your body with no meat around the bone to protect you? Yeah, hard pass.
Wesley seems not only tough but also determined. I can’t wait to see what he’s like at around 210 pounds.
Play No 5: “WHaP” – Chris Berman Voice
I didn’t know how else to explain the final play other than with the Chris Berman “WHaP!”
This play put everything together. The explosive turn of the hips to get to the outside, catching with his arms extended, not letting the ball come into the chest, balance through contact, willingness to get more yards, slippery to escape the second tackle, one plant of the foot and smoothly into the strides at full speed, adequate speed to out run everyone to the end zone.
This kid is good, and I mean real good. Wesley has so much of what you want to see from a starting wide receiver. I’m very anxious to see how Wesley performs in Indianapolis at the Combine. I don’t hear nearly enough talk about Wesley right now, but if he shows up to the Combine and lights it up, that will all change.
The next Mike Evans? Maybe. Evans came into the Combine at about 230 pounds, so Wesley is much lower than that, and that is certainly a factor to why Evans was able to be as successful as he has been to start his career. So there is that to consider, and an element of Wesley’s ceiling that will come into play.
But whatever the ceiling, there’s only one receiver in this class with Wesley’s mold.
And that’s him.