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The Rise of Rome (Odunze): A draft profile

Taking a look at a wide receiver prospect the Jets might draft

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NCAA Football: Washington State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

After losing to the Cleveland Browns, the New York Jets now hold the 8th overall pick in the NFL draft. However, another win will likely place them towards the middle of the first round, which means Jets fans with an interest in the draft have had to move from considering blue chip prospects like Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt or Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison to considering players who might outperform their draft position.

For me, one player who has really impressed that is projected in the 10-15th pick range is Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze, whom I will be highlighting here.

Let’s start with Odunze from an analytics perspective. Simply put: dude is a beast.

Starting off with his size, Odunze might as well have been built in a wide receiver lab at somewhere between 6’1 and 6’3 and 200 to 220 pounds (since we know that college measurements are a bit biased). Beyond that, he apparently ran a 4.34 40 yard dash this offseason, although I’d expect that he plays in more of the 4.40 range. Regardless, we’re talking about a player with the god given gifts to do just about anything that an NFL playbook could ask from a wide receiver. To that point, Washington has used Odunze both in the slot and out wide during his time there.

Then we move to his production. This season? 81 catches, 1428 yards, 13 touchdowns and a PFF grade of 88.1 with one game left to play. Those are big boy numbers. And while this was certainly a breakout campaign for him, this wasn’t his first time succeeding at the NCAA level, as he had 75 catches for 1145 yards and 7 touchdowns a year ago.

If we want to move beyond his raw counting stats then we can see the underlying stats are even more impressive according to PFF. Don’t believe me? Let’s just go down the list.

  • Yards per route run? 3.04, which is among the best PFF has recorded this season.
  • Contested catch rate? A whopping 70.8%, which is among the best PFF has recorded this season, and he’s done it while tying for the lead in the most raw contested catches at 17.
  • Grade v. man coverage? 88.2, which is among the best PFF has recorded this season.
  • Deep catches? 20, which is the most in the NCAA.
  • Yards on deep catches? 655, which is 2nd most in the NCAA.
  • If all of that didn’t already tell you that he’s making high quality catches, then maybe this will: Only 134 of his 1428 came on screen passes.
  • If one wanted to knock him then the best they could do is point to his 3.6% drop rate, which was due to 3 drops... and that drop rate? Well, it’s still roughly 80 percentile.

Long story short, Odunze is an analytical darling. The most negative thing one can say about his profile is that he’s declaring for the draft as a senior (which is generally considered a red flag), but that isn’t because of lack of production leading up to this season. Like I said, he had over 1000 yards a year ago and PlayerProfiler has his breakout age at 19.3, which is an 84th percentile. This isn’t a guy who had to stay at college to become a good draft prospect. This is a guy who wanted to stay at college despite a major NFL payday waiting for him. For me? That’s a positive. That’s a guy who saw a chance to win at Washington and didn’t want to miss it. That’s a guy who loves football and loves winning, who is going to put the work in to win games at the next level.

Beyond that, Odunze jumps out on tape (which the analytics would have suggested). For the sake of brevity, I’m going to post some of his highlight tape below.

While it’s obviously a collection of his best plays and I would encourage you to check out his game-to-game performances that include his good and his bad reps, I will say his game-to-game film reflects the kind of play that you see here. This isn’t a guy with a few splashy plays that someone strung together to draw some clicks. This is a guy who wins snap to snap, and it leads to a bunch of splashy plays that make for a great highlight video. With that said, even in this quick highlight tape glimpse, you can tell that this player is a “dude” in scouting terms. Just go through the list of all the things you could want in a wideout.

  • Body control? Check.
  • Catches the ball away from his body with his hands? Check.
  • High points the ball? Check
  • Boxes corners out with his body? Check
  • Uses all of those things to win contested passes? Check
  • Speed? Check.
  • Separation? Check.
  • Sure handedness? Check.
  • Ability to make guys miss? Check.
  • Ability to win on deep passes? Check.
  • Ability to win in the red zone? Check.
  • Did all of this against high quality competition? Check, since Washington’s overall body of work was good enough to make it into the college football playoff.

Long story short, dude’s a monster. The analytics back it up. The tape backs it up. To me, the biggest question is not whether he’ll be worth the Jets pick, but whether he’ll still be there when they pick. If he is? Well, I find it hard to believe that a better player will be available when taking into account the position value, the high potential of Odunze, and how seemingly low risk his profile is based on how well rounded his game is. Just looking at the film you can see that he could thrive in just about any NFL system that the team that drafts him chooses to run over the next 10 years or so, and that’s another huge feather in Odunze’s cap as teams make their draft selections.

The other day I wrote an article about using a number and letter code to identify both the potential and the risk of a prospect. The best possible grade would be a 10A, which would mean a 90% chance of being a Hall of Fame player. By no means is Odunze a 10A player, and I don’t think any prospect ever will be.

What I would say is that I’d grade Rome Odunze as an 8A, which is 90% chance of being an NFL regular. The 10%? I’d say that’s in the event he gets hurt because his size, skillset, and college production all scream that this is at worst the 3rd receiving option in an NFL system on the first day that he steps onto the field.

I also want to note that while I gave him an 8, I think there’s also significant upside that lends itself to him potentially playing himself into a 9 (elite player) or 10 (hall of fame) outcome, but I think that will largely depend on the scheme, the situation, the quarterback play, and a host of other factors that are outside of Rome’s control. With that in mind, I chose 8A to best focus my evaluation of Rome on how safe his evaluation is.

But what do you think? Are you too a believer in the rise of Rome or do you think a fall is in his future?


Someone tells you they just came from the future and they saw that the Jets drafted Rome Odunze. What is your reaction?

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