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Scouting the draft: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Tennessee Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

If I can average one of these a week, I think come draft day we’ll have a nice portfolio to work with for reference.

As I mentioned last week in the post on Reed Blankenship, at this time of the year I always focus on smaller school prospects, they’re far more interesting. Tolbert is a small school guy who’s been getting plenty of buzz though, so chances are you may have already heard his name.

I found this evaluation quite difficult due to the average to poor QB play at South Alabama, it’s hard to not left that distract your attention from the player you’re supposed to be watching. I noted some aspects of that in the below sections.

Jalen Tolbert

Age: 22, Class: Junior, HT/WT: 6’3/190lbs

Statistics:

2021: 82 receptions, 1,474 yards, 8 TD, 581 YAC, 18.0 yards per reception, 7 drops.

2020: 64 receptions, 1,085 yards, 8 TD, 280 YAC, 17.0 yards per reception, 5 drops.

Career: 178 receptions, 3,140 yards, 22 TD, 1,059 YAC, 17.6 yards per reception, 17 drops

Positives:

  • Productive wide receiver.
  • Very good ball tracker in the air
  • Eats up the cushion in off coverage, shows a quick release off the line.
  • Showed in 2021 his YAC ability.
  • Makes some very difficult catches look very routine.
  • He doesn’t have elite speed but he has good speed.
  • Showed a good feel for where to sit down in zone coverage.
  • Strong through contact, doesn’t let defenders disrupt his line.
  • Showed a variety of double moves to get open deep.

Negatives

  • Some concentration drops on should be easy completions.
  • Effort in the run game is a little inconsistent.
  • Rounds out his cuts a little bit which won’t equate to separation at the next level.
  • Would like to see him come down with more contest catches, 31/73 for his career.

Notes

  1. Very hard evaluation as the QB and offensive line play at South Alabama wasn’t great in 2021.
  2. One handed catch against Tennessee was outstanding. He was also missed for a wide open TD in that game with the QB somehow dropping it short of him on a simple pitch and catch.
  3. Spent 35% of his snaps in 2021 in the slot, played their sparingly his first three years in Alabama. I think I prefer him from the slot.
  4. 7 games where he registered 100+ receiving yards in 2021, that’s excellent consistency considering he worked with multiple QBs.
  5. Did get open a lot on double moves but the offensive line wasn’t strong enough to hold out. Was noticeable against Coastal Carolina.
  6. Performed well against Tennessee which were the toughest opponents on the schedule.

Final Thoughts

I had to watch four games to get a good feel for who Tolbert is as a receiver, the numbers look great but in the first three games studied, he didn’t really jump off the screen. Some of that is to do with the QB play and some of that is to do with his own inconsistency, whether that’s with his route running, his release, or the effort in the run game. I like Tolbert, but I wanted to love him and I never got to that stage. I thought he looked more dangerous when playing inside, but his versatility to play inside and out would be a bonus for a lot of teams. I’d have loved to have seen him with a good QB, his production is unquestionable though and I can see him making plays at the next level. I think if he’s around in the 3rd then you have to consider that upside, but anything earlier is a bit rich for my taste.

Projected Round: Late 3rd Round

Games studied: Tennessee, Troy, Coastal Carolina & Appalachian State

Video: All video provided by South Alabama Football

Tolbert Long Touchdown
One handed catch v Tennessee
Long completion
YAC Ability
Run blocking technique/effort
Concentration Drop