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- MacGregor Wells
After missing the entire 2017 season due to a neck injury, Quincy Enunwa has wasted little time establishing a rapport with his new quarterback Sam Darnold. Through the first three games he has 17 receptions on 29 targets for 212 yards and a TD. His 29 targets are nearly half of the entire wide receiver targets (61) for the team. He also has a 34.5% target rate per route run which is WR1 type numbers and he is on pace to destroy his stats from his break-out year of 2016. That year he had 58 receptions on 105 targets for 857 yards and 4 TDs. At his current pace Enunwa is on pace to have a 91 reception/ 155 targets/ 1131 yards and 5 TDs. These may seem to be lofty expectations but as he gets more in sync with Sam Darnold then Darnold can become more relaxed as a player. You want Darnold to grow in confidence and start doing things more naturally. Having a go to receiver who can keep the chains moving will accelerate that process.
But first let’s digress and learn a little more about our leading receiver.
High School and College
Onochie Quincy Enunwa was born in Moreno Valley California on May 31st 1992. In high school he ran track and played football. His stats as a senior were modest for a superior athlete (40 receptions/ 15 TDs) but his size intrigued Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and his staff. In 2010 (Enunwa’s first year at Nebraska) the Cornhuskers amassed almost 400 yards of total offense a game with about 60% coming on the ground.
A big bodied receiver with speed could really help in the running game; this is where Enunwa learned how to downfield block. In his first two years he played in 23 games but had a mere 22 receptions for 303 yards and 2 TDs to show for it. He was more involved in the offense as a junior with 44 receptions for 470 yards and a TD but still he constituted a mere 16.2% of the passing offense.
His senior year was his breakout campaign and was the reason he was on teams’ draft boards. He was the receiving leader on the team with 51 receptions for 753 yards and 12 TDs. He accounted for 29.5 % of the receiving yards and a whopping 48% of the receiving TDs. He did all of this while catching balls from 3 different QBs who each completed over 100 passes. He was a team captain and the MVP of the Gator Bowl that year ( a win over Georgia). He broke the Nebraska record for TD receptions in a year (12) that was previously held by Heisman award winner Johnny (The Jet) Rodgers. The fact that he broke a record of someone nicknamed the “Jet” is stunningly prophetic. He also holds the NCAA record (that can never be broken) of the longest TD reception, 99 yards which he did in the Gator bowl. Which you can see here...
Enunwa also worked hard in the classroom, earning the Nebraska scholar-athlete honor roll his junior season.
Quincy Enunwa draft stock...
Looking back on my notes I had a late 4th round grade on Enunwa and was pleasantly surprised when Idzik drafted him in the 6th round. Jets GM John Idzik had drafted Shaq Evans in the 4th round out of UCLA so I doubted he would take another receiver. Interestingly I had a late 6th round grade on Shaq Evans who was slower, weaker and shorter than Enunwa. Evans now plays in the CFL for Saskatchewan and he never had a reception in the NFL.
Enunwa draft positives..
- Size - 6’ 2” 225 lbs with long arms
- Speed - 4.45/40 with a 1.56/10 yard split
- Strength - 19 reps at the bench
- Large strong hands
- Excellent hands with a large catch radius
- High Football IQ
- Was a team leader and Captain with excellent intangibles
Enunwa easily passes the airport test. He looks like a fine tuned athlete with well defined musculature and long arms and big hands. He is tall but not overly so, which would lessen his suddenness. He is fast but doesn’t have elite speed to just run by defenders. He shows a strong initial burst 1.56/10 yard split which allows him to quickly gobble up distance between him and an off defender.
Here he is in 2016 taking a short pass to the house outrunning numerous defenders. You can see that once he retains his balance and accelerates he gets up to top speed quickly. This is unusual for a taller player.
His strength is a huge asset in that combined with his size and speed he becomes a difficult match up for defenses. A CB or SS can get overpowered when making the catch and LBs are too slow and Enunwa can just run away from their coverage. Most wide receivers have little strength and rely on speed and quickness to survive. In this way a player like Enunwa is difficult for DB’s to prepare for, with his skill set being fairly unique.
Even though his first two years at Nebraska were uneventful on the field, Enunwa took advantage of one of the country’s best strength and conditioning programs at Nebraska. It allowed him to become a better blocker and gave him a physical edge against defensive backs. Here he is on a 24 yard TD pass that Enunwa uses his elusiveness and strength to get by four defenders before making his way into the end zone.
It was written in draft reports that Enunwa had poor hands and technique but I found that to be a falsehood. Enunwa did labor with poor QB play his final two years and it may have lead to this false assumption. Here are three TD catches made by Enunwa his senior year and every ball is poorly thrown and Enunwa has to make a quick adjustment on.
We have seen signs of Enunwa’s hands during Jet games in the past. Enunwa can use his size to become a terror in the slot but he is not confined to that role. He has good speed and adjusts to the ball well, using great concentration to make the catch. Here he is back in 2016 as an outside receiver and taking a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick. The coverage is great but Enunwa uses his body as a shield to snag a big gain. You can see the catch radius Enunwa has as the CB tries his best; he does everything he can but he just doesn’t have the size to compete.
Enunwa is a QB friendly receiver who knows where the sticks are and will always get the first down yardage. He also knows how to find and sit down in soft spots of zone coverage and he presents a big wide target for the QB to hit. These are little things that make up winning type players. It is the attention to detail and the willingness to do the dirty work to help the team that Enunwa has done since college. He was the poster child for downfield blocking at Nebraska and he never shies away from contact. He is a positive force on the team and he literally leads by example.
Draft Negatives on Enunwa...
- One year of production
- Not a skilled route runner
- Has tight hips and is slow on breaks or cuts
- “Tweener” traits, too small as a TE and too bulky for a WR
A lot of the negatives for Enunwa can be traced back to the Nebraska program itself. A run first offense that is a dinosaur in today’s college landscape and the NFL. He had poor QB play and even during his breakout year he had three different QBs throwing to him; it is near impossible for any player to get into rhythm in a passing offense like this.
He was an extra blocker for the majority of his first three years in Lincoln so it is tough to develop good traits when you are not getting game reps. That being said it was a true statement and even now Enunwa is not a sophisticated nuanced route runner. Of course that is what WR coaches are for and Enunwa is doing quite well as of now but has room to grow.
Enunwa is not the quickest receiver, especially for a primary slot specialist but that is not uncommon for a man of his size and musculature. What he loses in quickness he gains back in size advantage. This is why he was considered a “Tweener” but you have to remember this was back five or six years ago and the small (move) TEs who don’t block were not in vogue yet. Today some teams might look at Enunwa as a flexed TE and not even use him as an outside WR. A scouting negative can become a positive as trends evolve.
Quincy Enunwa has become the Jets go to receiver and Sam Darnold’s favorite target through the first three games. He has far exceeded his draft grade (or even mine) to become a quality possession receiver with upside. Draft bias still exists with scouts for certain teams and Nebraska hasn’t really had a plethora of great receivers in the past. Even Johnny Rodgers (Heisman winner) never made it in the NFL but had a great career in the CFL. No one has ever heard a GM say “lets make sure we get that Nebraska receiver”.
You may soon see teams trying to roll coverage to Enunwa and take away a rookie QB’s security blanket. If this should happen you then may see Robby Anderson become relevant and Jermaine Kearse become more involved farther downfield. This would actually give the Jets a more rounded passing game plus help the running game as well. The more area a defense has to cover allows more space for offensive players to operate. Until then Enunwa should continue to put up quality numbers and give a strong outlet for Sam Darnold to go to.