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Is Dede Westbrook worth the risk?

The Heisman candidate has the talent of a top receiver, but red flags might keep him off teams' radars. 1

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

One of the bigger surprises of this college football season was the emergence of Dede Westbrook. Oklahoma's senior receiver burst onto the scene averaging 19.1 yards on his 80 receptions and scored 17 times. His 21% touchdown rate was among the best figures in the class, which is a testament to how explosive of a player he is. His incredible season landed him in New York for the Heisman ceremony and opens up the door to the NFL for him.

It is easy to see why Westbrook was so productive with that type of speed. He just completely out ran the entire defense on the deep post and hauled in the touchdown.

Westbrook is going to turn heads with his speed, but he is lot more than just a great straight line athlete, he is very refined player who brings physicality to his game.

Westbrook is a very gifted route runner with quick feet and uses his eyes to fake out cornerbacks incredibly well.

Westbrook's head fakes here completely take the defender out of this play and he accelerates away seamlessly.

The thing that is so mesmerizing about Westbrook's speed is how effortless it looks. He takes long strides to gain ground quickly and there feels like almost no build up. His speed is instantaneous. This acceleration makes him incredibly dangerous after the catch, unsurprisingly.

Not only is Westbrook fast, however. He is also a very physical player with the ball in his hands. He is not a big bodied player in the slightest, so his willingness and ability to run through defenders is surprising and exciting.

When people think of small deep threats, rarely does this ability to come over the middle of the field and subsequently drag defenders come to mind. Westbrook is truly unique in that way and it offers that he is so much more than just a down field threat. He is complete wide receiver. This type of physicality also pays off in the rare moments when he is catching contested passes.

Westbrook's speed rarely forces contested catches. However, his ability to go up and over while maintaining focus with the ball in the air is very encouraging given how it is difficult to project how he does in traffic since he is open all the time.

Here is a play that sums up how complete Westbrook is as a prospect:

Westbrook adjusts his route to hit the soft spot in the zone, catches with bodies around him and immediately accelerates up, breaking tackles en route to the touchdown. That's pretty damn good.

Alright, so Westbrook is a very good college player and his productive season was no fluke in terms of translating to the league. The unfortunate reality with such a talented player is that there is a laundry list of red flags to be accounted for during the draft process.

  • Dede Westbrook was accused of domestic violence in 2012 against the mother of his two children.
  • Dede Westbrook was accused of domestic violence in 2013 from the same woman.
  • Dede Westbrook almost died while playing football in high school. A ruptured intestine he suffered during play threatened his life and he was advised to not play football afterward.
  • At nearly 6'0", Westbrook's 175 pound body makes him the smallest receiver in this year's draft in terms of BMI. Not only does this not help his injury concern, it is also historically unlikely that a receiver of his stature will end up successful.
  • Finally, Westbrook is a much, much older prospect. He will be 23 on draft day and turns 24 in the middle of his rookie season. This means that he is physically maxed out and could speak to why he was so dominant this season. He was playing against defensive backs that he was three to five years older than.
The age thing is not a huge issue considering how good Westbrook is already, but it is the bitter cherry on top of a giant heap of massive concerns about Westbrook on and off the field.

NFL Comparison:

Ironically, Westbrook is not so different than former Sooner wide receiver Kenny Stills. Stills is also a smaller receiver despite measuring at six foot and has made a career off his downfield ability and effortless speed. What is ironic is that Stills and Westbrook will enter the draft four years apart from each other but Westbrook is only about 16 months younger than Stills.

Westbrook is such an enigma because of the dichotomy between his on and off field evaluation. He is such a gifted, polished and dynamic player, but his character and medical concerns should terrify any NFL team.

For me, domestic violence involvement makes me uncomfortable, but there is no point in getting preachy on a scouting report when I have written about my stance on the issue more than a few times. There is a truth that people do very regrettable things when they are young and that absolutely should be taken into account. However, considering that it is a repeat issue, it is incredibly hard to glance over. Even if you chalk up the incidents Westbrook was involved in at 19 and 20 years old to youthful idiocy, there is still a long list of things to worry NFL teams about Westbrook.

Off the field, with medicals and character taken into account, it would be hard to consider Westbrook a draftable player. With how gifted he is on the field, I am sure some team will take a chance on him. For the Eagles, while he certainly would fit schematically and in terms of need, it would be difficult spending a high pick on a player with such a big risk factor. The Eagles need a sure thing at wide receiver, so adding a guy with a high pick who has character and medical issues would be a very unwise investment. Even if the team ends up being comfortable with Westbrook from a maturity standpoint, taking a chance on Westbrook before the third round would be a frightening misallocation of recourses.

When it comes to receivers in this class, there are plenty of other options in this class to consider before the Eagles should take a risk on Dede Westbrook.

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