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2021 NFL Draft Untapped Potential: Simi Fehoko, WR, Stanford

NCAA Football: Stanford at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

2021 may be one of the deepest wide receiver classes in living memory, not only does it have top-end talent, but it has plenty of depth as well.

This year, I want to focus my attention in on some players that are a little raw, a little rough around the edges, but players who could be moulded into good NFL prospects with the right coaching. Players who you may hear in passing, but won’t stop to really dig into because they’re unlikely to have their names called early on in the process.

The first player that’s caught my eye is Stanford wide receiver Simi Fehoko, a 6’4 227lb receiver who may run around 4.4 at his pro day. I thought there was a chance that Fehoko would return to school to work on improving his weaknesses, but the Utah native decided to forego his remaining eligibility to enter the 2021 draft, alongside his Quarterback at Stanford Davis Mills.

After putting up good production in 2020, you can understand why a receiver wouldn’t want to start over with a new quarterback. Simi is also about to turn 23 this year having completed a two year Latter-day Saints mission to Seoul, South Korea. So he’s a little older than some prospects.

Production

It’s safe to say that Simi Fehoko got better each year he was in the Stanford program. After barely seeing the field as a Freshman, he became a deep threat target in 2019. Although he only recorded 24 receptions, he averaged 23.6 yards a catch and scored 6 touchdowns. In 2020 he really broke out, recording 37 receptions for 574 yards and 3 touchdowns in just five games of a truncated pandemic hit college season.

Negatives

I’m going to get the negatives out of the way first as he does have areas he’ll need to improve on if he wants to make an impact at the next level.

Having only started four games in college and having only appeared in 16 games total, he is lacking a little experience. His production is good, but all three of his touchdowns came in the game against UCLA, and with his combination of size and speed you’d want to see more production in the red-zone. All of this isn’t on Fehoko, he wasn’t targeted as much as he should have been and there were some plays left on the field by his QB:

Drops

The bain of every wide receiver is the dreaded drop. If you look at the stat box you’ll see that Simi dropped 6 passes on 59 targets, so just over 10% drop rate. However, if you watch him you’ll see some excellent hands (which we’ll come to later), three of the 6 drops happened within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage which to me highlights a little issue with getting his head around and switching his focus from getting off the line to getting ready for the catch quickly.

Lack of red-zone production, some concentration drops and a little rawness in his route running, those are the three areas that are holding him back from climbing up the draft board come April.

Positives

Those are the negatives. Now let's talk about the positives because there are plenty.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching Simi and every single game you notice a few things. How fast he is off the line for a big receiver, how much effort he plays with, and how strong he is in his routes against man coverage.

First of all I just want to touch on a little acceleration that he has to his game. I saw this numerous times on tape, a shift up when being covered by linebackers or safeties that helps gain that extra little bit of separation.

The above is a perfect example of him accelerating into that next gear to gain separation on the coverage. The linebacker dropping back thinks he has him and boom, he’s got a yard and the balls in his hands.

Not only does he have the size/speed combination but he high points the ball and adjusts to it in the air as well, he brought down 7 contested catches in 2020 and shows some real fight in the air to ensure he comes down with it. This is why I’m so confused as to why he wasn’t used in the red-zone more.

I see him as a physical outside receiver, but he can also work from the slot. The cardinals lined him up in the slot 229 times over the course of his career with 432 of his snaps outside. He can do both, but I see him more as an outside receiver at the next level. He has some wiggle to his game once he gets the ball in his hands, but you wouldn’t call him elusive.

On his 37 receptions in 2020 he forced just 4 missed tackles. Some of that is due to how he’s used, with 7 catches of 20 or more yards down the field, that doesn’t often lead to missed tackles. However, if he does get the ball in his hands, he likes to play a physical stye of football to gain extra yards.

Draft Stock

At the moment I think his draft stock sits around the 4th round, but I’d be comfortable taking him in the 3rd. He has areas of his game that will need refining, but that’s why you pay coaches. It’s not often you get a 6’4, 230lb wide receiver with his acceleration off the line. The drops are frustrating, but he improved every single year, and if you extrapolate his 2020 numbers in five games over a whole season, you have a very intriguing prospect.

I really like the potential of Simi, he’s shown everything you’d want to see in an outside receiver, he just needs some polishing on the routes and he needs to cut down on those concentration drops. None of these are deal-breakers for me and if you’re looking for a very high upside receiver then Fehoko is probably it.