Over the next few months, we’ll be providing an in-depth scouting report for each of the Jets’ undrafted free agents. We continue today with wide receiver Lawrence Cager.
The 22-year old Cager, who played college football for Miami and Georgia, is listed at 6’5” and 220 pounds. He caught 78 passes for 1,157 yards and 14 touchdowns in his college career.
Cager was a highly sought-after four-star prospect coming out of high school and raised his profile with a long touchdown in the 2015 US Army All-American Bowl. He eventually accepted to scholarship to Miami.
In his freshman year, Cager was a backup, catching eight passes for 70 yards and a touchdown in limited action. He also contributed on special teams.
He missed the entire 2016 season after a preseason injury but made the first five starts of his career as his role expanded in 2017. He ended the season with 16 catches for 237 yards and three scores.
2018 saw him start a career-high 12 games and he also posted a career-high with six touchdown catches. He ended the season with 21 receptions for 374 yards. At the end of the year, having graduated, he opted to transfer to Georgia for his redshirt senior season.
Cager was banged up at Georgia and eventually saw his season cut short after nine appearances due to injury. Despite this, he posted career highs in receptions (33) and receiving yards (476), while adding four touchdowns.
He was invited to the scouting combine but was unable to work out due to his injury. However, the Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent, guaranteeing him $57,500 on his three year deal.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Cager brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Cager is tall and has long arms and a big catch radius. Although he has a lanky frame he also has some good strength.
He isn’t regarded as a speedster or known for his change of direction, but is a long strider in the open field once he gets going and can exploit his length on jump balls.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t work out at the combine so we don’t have any official workout numbers on him.
Cager has been employed almost exclusively on the outside with just a couple of catches out of the slot in his career.
Some experts believe he could be a candidate to bulk up and make the conversion to the tight end position.
Cager has been more of a possession receiver than a deep threat throughout his college career. Entering his senior year, his longest career reception was just 38 yards and that came on a blown coverage. He had a 52-yarder in 2019 but that was also a blown coverage.
He can be a downfield threat, though, and did have three other 30-yard receptions in 2019. In 2018, he averaged almost 18 yards per catch and, impressively, every one of his 21 receptions went for a first down or touchdown.
While Cager perhaps doesn’t have the speed to blow by his man and get behind the defense, he is excellent at tracking the ball and his big frame and catch radius enables him to position himself in such a way as to prevent the defender from getting back into the play if he gets half a step.
He’s more likely to be a threat downfield on jump balls or back shoulder throws, as he shows the ability to go up and get it.
Cager has some work to do in terms of developing his route-running skills. He doesn’t make particularly sharp breaks and won’t generate a lot of separation. Nevertheless, his size enables him to box out defenders and gives him natural separation at the catch point.
Although he doesn’t generate a lot of separation, Cager is not afraid to go over the middle and can come down with contested catches.
As noted, he is particularly effective on back shoulder throws. His ability to locate the ball early helps him in this regard.
Cager is capable of making catches in a crowd or with a defensive player draped all over him and can exploit his big catch radius by catching the ball away from his body.
On his highlight reel, there’s several sideline catches, although he’ll have to adjust to the NFL rule where you need more than one foot to come down inbounds. He’s also made a few impressive low diving grabs.
Having had some concentrations issues at times while at Miami, Cager only dropped one pass in 2019. He had dropped five in 2018 and had a catch rate below 50 percent in 2018 and 2017.
Cager is a true red zone weapon who can be effective on fade routes or by boxing out defenders at the goal line. He had six touchdowns on 21 catches in 2018 and added four more at Georgia. You can exploit his catch radius and ability to track and locate the ball by throwing it to a spot.
After the catch
Cager hasn’t been a player who generates much yardage after the catch in his career. He isn’t employed very often on short passes and doesn’t break many tackles. In fact, other than this play, he didn’t break any tackles last season.
He does have a knack for finding the first down marker when making underneath catches, though, even if just by diving to the marker or finishing his run strong.
Here’s a rare example of Cager showing some open-field elusiveness, perhaps suggesting he has some untapped potential in this area.
Cager didn’t lose a fumble in his college career.
With his combination of size, length and effort, Cager has the potential to be a difference maker as a blocker, whether that’s in the running game, on receiver screens or down the field.
He gives a good effort and will battle to try and stay on his block or hustle to find someone to block down the field.
Here’s one of his best highlights as he stays on his block and ends up taking out a second defender to set up a long touchdown.
Cager shows good strength at the catchpoint and in terms of fighting off press coverage and not allowing himself to be redirected when running routes.
He only had five penalties in his college career. His only 2019 penalty was on this play, which negated a 25-yard touchdown.
As noted, Cager will also display some physicality as a blocker and after the catch.
Cager’s main contributions on special teams have come as a blocker on the kickoff return unit, where he’s been effective.
He’s also seen some action rushing punts and covering punts, although he hasn’t made any significant contributions in either role.
Instincts and Intelligence
At Georgia, quarterback Jake Fromm specifically praised Cager’s football IQ and said he is “easy to throw to”. This shows up in his ability to react early to back shoulder opportunities and find open spots in zone coverage. He also had a few touchdowns in his career where he was able to leak into space when the play got extended.
Where he most needs work is in terms of how to set up his man to get some separation when running some other routes. However, he seems to know his limitations and has a knack for making himself an option in clutch situations.
Cager adapted well to changing teams after his redshirt junior year, although he has said that Georgia’s scheme wasn’t particularly different to Miami’s.
Cager was praised by Georgia’s coaches for his leadership last season, as they leaned on his experience and maturity. He also displayed some toughness by battling through some injuries earlier in the year.
He was praised for his work ethic in 2019, but admitted that he had got complacent at times while at Miami. Even so, he was praised by the coaches in 2018 for the consistency of his effort.
Cager is supposedly recovered now from the serious ankle injury that prematurely ended his 2019 season. Word is that he attended and participated in the recent workouts with Sam Darnold in Florida. The injury had taken place in practice.
He had already been banged up in 2019 and missed some time earlier in the season due to shoulder and rib issues.
Cager had also missed his entire sophomore year after having suffered a torn ACL in practice before the season.
Interestingly, Cager profiles really similarly to Denzel Mims, especially in terms of his catch radius and ability to make contested catches despite not generating much separation. The ability to contribute as a blocker is another similarity, but Cager doesn’t have the same kind of straight-line speed or ability after the catch. Cager is a little taller and bigger though.
As noted, converting Cager to tight end is one option, especially if his lack of speed means he can’t separate from NFL-level cornerbacks. Scouts and analysts observed that he played faster in 2019 than in the past though.
Cager was a teammate of Chris Herndon and Braxton Berrios at Miami, but also has some other connections. He’s familiar with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson through his friendship with Shawn’s son, Van, and assistant coach Hines Ward due to Ward’s connections to his alma mater, Georgia.
In addition, he is close friends with Darnold after the pair were teammates at the all-American bowl at the end of their high school careers. Darnold and Cager didn’t connect during the game, but have remained in contact since that time.
Cager brings some impressive attributes and excellent potential to the table. He really looks the part on film and some of his physical attributes combine with his smarts and technical ability to make him a promising prospect.
The main concerns are his ability to create separation and his injury history but if he can develop as a route runner and is used smartly, he could be a useful weapon.
Hopefully there is room - and time - for Cager to make enough of an impression to display his potential. If all goes to plan, he has a chance to develop into a contributor.