Mike LaFleur, NY Jets, Scheme, NFL Draft, 2022, Drake London
Mike LaFleur, New York Jets, Getty Images

Drake London should not be seen as a “poor scheme fit” for New York Jets

USC wide receiver Drake London is one of the most highly touted wide receiver prospects in the 2022 NFL draft. Still only 20 years old (set to turn 21 in July), London is best known for his size and catch radius. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder led all FBS wide receivers with 19 contested catches in 2021, per Pro Football Focus.

The projected first-round pick has been labeled by many observers as the classic “big-bodied contested-catch guy” prospect out of this year’s top wideouts. Because of this label, some have claimed that London would not be a fit for a New York Jets offensive scheme that typically favors yards-after-catch (YAC) talent instead of size and jump-ball ability.

That narrative is dead wrong.

Drake London, NY Jets, NFL Draft, USC
Drake London, USC Trojans, NFL Draft, Getty Images

Before we dig deeper into London, let’s make one thing clear: it is true that the Jets’ scheme prioritizes YAC ability in its wide receivers.

To illustrate this, let’s look at the list of wide receivers drafted by the San Francisco 49ers under head coach Kyle Shanahan from 2017-21. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur runs a similar iteration of Shanahan’s scheme after working under him for six years in Atlanta and Cleveland, so San Francisco’s tendencies are likely a mirror image of the Jets’ values.

Here are the seven wideouts drafted by the Niners in their five drafts since Shanahan took over:

  • 2017 (R5, #177): Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
  • 2018 (R7, #240): Richie James, Middle Tennessee St.
  • 2018 (R2, #44): Dante Pettis, Washington
  • 2019 (R3, #67): Jalen Hurd, Baylor
  • 2019 (R2, #36): Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
  • 2020 (R7, #217): Jauan Jennings, Tennessee
  • 2020 (R1, #25): Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona St.

New York Jets, Mock Draft Simulator, Offseason Tool, Jets X-Factor, Deebo Samuel

High-quality YAC production is a common theme across these seven players. Six of the seven prospects (save for Pettis) were excellent YAC players in college.

Here is a look at each player’s total YAC (yards after the catch) and total MTF (missed tackles forced after the catch) in their final college season, and their ranks out of wide receivers on all 130 FBS teams (so, around 400 viable qualifiers):

  • Taylor (2016): 1,055 YAC (1st among FBS WR), 17 MTF (18th)
  • James (2016*): 875 YAC (2nd), 24 MTF (3rd)
  • Pettis (2017): 282 YAC (113th), 6 MTF (138th)
  • Hurd (2018): 358 YAC (63rd), 12 MTF (41st)
  • Samuel (2018): 592 YAC (10th), 21 MTF (7th)
  • Jennings (2019): 474 YAC (27th), 30 MTF (1st)
  • Aiyuk (2019): 710 YAC (5th), 14 MTF (36th)

*- 2017 was Richie James’ final college season, but he only played five games that year

Save for Pettis, every player ranked top-65 among hundreds of FBS wide receivers in both YAC and MTF. The 49ers placed a particular premium on MTF, as six of the seven picks had at least 12 MTF and ranked top-45 in the category.

The Jets continued these trends with their lone wide receiver selection in 2021, Elijah Moore. He ranked fifth in YAC (505) and sixth in MTF (18) in 2020.

London clears these requirements by a longshot.

In 2021, London ranked 33rd among FBS wide receivers with 460 YAC and sixth with 22 MTF.

Oh, and guess what? He did that while only playing in eight games.

On a per-game basis, London led all wide receivers in the nation with 2.75 MTF per game and ranked fifth with 57.5 YAC per game. He put himself on pace to earn whopping totals of 690 YAC and 33 MTF if he played in all 12 of USC’s games. Both totals are well ahead of the numbers that Deebo Samuel (who is now the most feared YAC player in the NFL) posted over 12 games in his final season at South Carolina.

London is not just an elite contested-catch receiver who backs up that ability with merely “solid” YAC ability for a guy his size. He’s legitimately phenomenal in both areas.

The blend of London’s dominance in both facets is truly special. No other wide receiver in the country had more than 15 contested catches and more than 15 missed tackles forced. London soared well beyond both marks in only eight games.

Don’t just write off Drake London as a Jets scheme fit because he’s tall and caught some jump balls in the first two minutes of a highlight video on YouTube. He absolutely does have the after-the-catch prowess to thrive in Mike LaFleur’s offensive scheme.

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Michael Nania is one of the best analytical New York Jets minds in the world, combining his statistical expertise with game film to add proper context to the data. Nania scrapes every corner, ensuring you know all there is to know about everyone from the QB to the long snapper. Nania's Numbers, Nania's QB Grades, and Nania's All-22 give fans a deeper and more well-rounded dive into the Jets than anyone else can offer. Email: michael.nania[at]jetsxfactor.com - Twitter: @Michael_Nania

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Bruno
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Bruno

Was more a Burks guy, but London is slowly winning me over. Also funny seeing that 49er list , I think Richie James is a cheaper and more explosive option to replace Berrios .

Psi
Member
Psi

Michael…I’m right with you on this evaluation. The meme on London is simplistic and is really just a cliche. I hope they draft him tbh. His route tree can be more diverse than just a Y who can’t separate. He looks a lot like a Mike Evans type of player to me…hopefully with more durability. He offers some intermediate passing options as well and is simply unwilling to go down with the first or second tackle.

Psi
Member
Psi

Assuming they don’t take him at 4 (I’d be surprised if they don’t go trenches there), it will be interesting if he’s there at 10 and they get trade down offers. You want the extra picks but you also may want this player. He may not get past the Browns a few picks later. Either way if you like him, Wilson and Burks, one of them will likely make it down to around 20. In that scenario, I’d take the extra picks.

Jets71
Member
Jets71

Let’s say it falls this way: Ekwonu at 4 then they are sitting at 10 with both London and Wilson on the board, who would you take?

Jets71
Member
Jets71

I really like him. I’ve been leaning to Wilson but if London does run the 4.4(and change) he’ll be hard to pass up. Not to mention a major flaw in Zach’s game is accuracy. He needs to improve on that big time, which should be much easier with better WR particularlly London. OL or DL at 4 and London or Wilson at 10.

Psi
Member
Psi

I’ll give Zach another season before I consider accuracy a flaw in his game. He was quite accurate in college once he got their offense down and had some protection. The short area misses were alarming but he seem to figure that out once John Beck was brought on board last year.

Jets71
Member
Jets71

I’m willing to give him some time on that too, but as it stands today it’s a pretty big flaw. I think it will improve with better targets regardless if it’s London or someone else. It wasn’t only the short area misses that were concering to me, there were plenty of completions where the receivers had to make more difficult catches than necessary becuase what should have been an easy throw was off the mark. I’m sure some if that will improve just from him being more comfortable but I am concerned it could be a lingering problem. I also… Read more »

JRussSha
Member
JRussSha

In his mock draft 1.0 Mel Kiper has the Jets taking Kyle Hamilton at 4 and London at 10. Those would be two outstanding draft picks. A unicorn playmaking safety who goes sideline to sideline and big contested catch making WR who can make people miss tackles and get YAC. The best of all worlds no matter what anyone says.

Gary Berman
Member
Gary Berman

What a Red Zone target! He’s also run a 4.48 so he’s not slow. I also read a couple of scouting reports that said he’s a good route runner.