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.
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.
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.
"Drake London can't get YAC, can't separate" (will also post good routes/separation if needed) pic.twitter.com/f7vp7xyHli
— Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) February 17, 2022
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.