Separation Quickness – Difficult trait to gauge for Lodge, as the vast majority of his routes are run in a vertical plane, with very few in or out-cutting routes against man coverage. Has the athletic traits to project well in this area, and varies his speed to lull defenders to sleep before bursting into his route. Has shown the ability to create a window on slant patterns when he does run them.
Ball Skills – Man. I’ll tell you this, there is no in-between with Lodge’s ball skills. At times they are incredible, as he makes acrobatic catches outside of his frame with amazing body control, especially along the boundary. Seamless adjustments to off-target and back shoulder throws as well. But the drops can be totally debilitating to his game, usually in simple catch situations. One of the major things holding his game back from really taking off.
Speed/Burst – Easy acceleration off the line of scrimmage and legit long speed to separate over the top of a defense. At least a 4.4 guy. Can go from 0-60 in a split-second, and long strides continue to gain ground to detach from coverage vertically at the last moment. Speed is a great asset to have, but Lodge is developed in his sense of how to utilize his gift as well.
Route-Running – In Ole Miss’ offense, the vast majority of his routes are run on a vertical plane. Nine routes, comebacks, curls and hitches, with the occasional slant thrown in there. Rarely operates outside of this structure, which limits his evaluation to some degree. However, the level of attention Lodge shows as a vertical route runner is highly encouraging when projecting out the rest of his game. Knows how to work a corner’s blind spot and uses his hands masterfully down the field to create subtle separation. Physical despite a slighter frame.
Contested Catch – Creates terrific separation with elevation and flexibility in the air, and has shown strong hands and a long catch radius to finish outside his frame, even through contact. Inconsistent in his technique and high-point ability however, will let the ball into his frame and can struggle to overpower bigger and longer corners in the air. I think the ability is there, but lack of consistent finishing leaves you wanting a little more.
YAC – Given very few opportunities to do much after the catch in Ole Miss’ offense, as he only gets a couple manufactured targets every year. Still, when given the chance to square up to the defense, has shown elusiveness, burst and the fight and physicality to work through contact to pick up yardage after the catch. Might be the most underrated part of his game based on the glimpses he’s shown.
Releases – May be his finest area. Extremely polished in his releases against press coverage, can manipulate corner’s hips with quick footwork and a sudden burst in the other direction. Uses stretch and skip releases to force corners to open up or commit their feet, then blows by them in a flash. Attacks off coverage with tremendous burst off the line of scrimmage, forcing corners to open up early and then breaking back to the ball. Detailed and confident in his footwork, but NFL teams may want to accelerate his process as he can be a little too patient in setting up his opponent. Bigger corners that are more aggressive can hold him up at the line of scrimmage at times.
Blocking – Terrific blocker who gets his hands inside, sinks his hips and runs his feet through contact. Physical and aggressive, takes his blocking seriously and often drives his opponent to the boundary. Will look for work in YAC situations by his fellow teammates. Strength in this area should translate to early playing time.
Competitive Toughness – Super tough, super physical. Strong in his routes, physical in his releases and a high-effort blocker. Competes for any ball in his vicinity. Doesn’t loaf and runs every route hard, even when running corners off in the run game.
Athleticism/Size – Lodge looks like an excellent athlete with terrific speed on tape, and his athletic testing should back that up. I can’t see him disappointing in any category. On the other hand, his frame is rather slight and hitting 200-205 could be big for him, but his physical style of play does belie a bigger receiver.
BEST TRAIT – Releases
WORST TRAIT – Hands/Finishing
RED FLAGS – None
DaMarkus Lodge is the least heralded of the three Ole Miss wide receivers, but if you told me in a few years he’d be the best of the group, I wouldn’t be surprised. Lodge is the most polished and pro-ready of the trio, from his bevy of releases against press coverage to his body control along the boundary and his blocking on the perimeter. The peak plays from Lodge are incredible, due to both his exceptional ball skills and blazing speed, but he has to become a more consistent finisher in the air and cut down on the drops. There will also be a learning curve for him as a route runner thanks to Ole Miss’ system, but Lodge has all the traits and refined technique to reach a tremendous peak in the NFL.
Round Grade: 3rd