During the 2018 NFL Draft process, the SMU Mustangs produced two NFL wide receiver. Courtland Sutton was drafted in the second-round to Denver Broncos, and had one of the best rookie seasons among all receivers in the NFL. Trey Quinn fell to the last pick in the draft, but is slated to start for the Washington Redskins this season.
While most non-power 5 schools will have inconsistencies producing yearly talent at specific positions, SMU didn’t rebuilt their wide receiver position, they just reloaded.
James Proche was the #3 receiver when both Sutton and Quinn were on campus, but still produced over 800 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Last season operating as the top option, he posted 93 receptions, 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns. That stat line included massive games against the best competition SMU faced:
11 receptions, 166 yards, 2 touchdowns against Michigan
12 receptions, 100 yards, 2 touchdowns against Central Florida
12 receptions, 134 yards, 2 touchdowns against Memphis
Entering his redshirt senior season, Proche has shown NFL traits for multiple years in SMU.
Proche is a bit undersized at 5’11 and 190 pounds, which will likely relegate him to the slot at the next level. There, Proche can highlight his unique route running against both man and zone coverage.
Proche has outstanding body control and makes natural late adjustments to the ball. Despite his size, his catch radius is extended because of his adjustments and ability to high point when necessary. That trait stands out, as Proche fits the old adage of “playing bigger than his size.”
Reggie Roberson transferred from West Virginia to SMU after playing sparingly as a freshman in a loaded wide receiver room. Immediately eligible in 2018, Roberson became the Mustangs much needed second option next to Proche. With 802 receiving yards on just 52 receptions, Roberson showed natural downfield ability.
After being banged up early on in the season, Roberson broke out during the middle of conference play. During a 5 games AAC stretch (Tulane, Cincinnati, Houston, Connecticut, Memphis), Roberson produced 35 receptions, 547 yards and 5 touchdowns. At 6’0 and 195 pounds, Roberson has the body type and smooth athleticism to play from multiple alignments.
Roberson’s strength allows him to win through contact with consistency, either up the seam or along the sideline. Roberson’s high point leaps are simply awesome, and he’ll let defensive backs know it when he beats them.
The strength and confidence he displayed as a sophomore was something that immediately caught my eye. While he could choose to come back to school next season, he’s easily one of the most intriguing underclassmen receivers outside of the power-5.
While a dip in production was expected from SMU’s receiver room, Proche and Roberson proved to be up to the challenge last season. With an extra year of development, as well as quarterback transfer Shane Buechele from Texas, their passing game could really take off this season. If it does, expect Proche and Roberson to be all over NFL radars come draft time.