The incoming 2022 draft class features a deep group at the wide receiver position. High-end pass-catchers like Jameson Williams and Garrett Wilson will have their names called early on day one. That doesn’t mean teams can’t find playmakers in the later rounds. Playmakers like South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert.
The 6-foot-2 194-pound receiver possesses the ideal size for the position. Not only that, but he is a downfield burner who can take the top off of defenses. A sub 4.5 40-yard dash is more than enough speed at that size to win downfield at the professional level. As a route runner, South Alabama utilized Tolbert exclusively as a burner, evidenced by his 17 yards per reception. Moreso, Tolbert is dominant when it comes to contested catches. This past season he had the 20th most contested catches in all of college football.
Despite Tolbert being pigeon-holed into a route tree consisting of go routes, he showed of a shiftiness that we didn’t see prior to the Senior Bowl. That performance makes me confident that he can develop a diverse route tree. In fact, his Senior Bowl performance is what will cause Jalen Tolbert being drafted on day two. Playing at South Alabama and putting up 1,474 yards and 8 touchdowns means his main question marks were the competition level he played against. At Mobile, Tolbert had the faced top-tier SEC corners. What he did on those reps made NFL scouts turn their heads.
Dominating reps against both Derion Kendrick and Roger McCreary proves Tolbert can win against anyone. Question marks regarding his level of competition should be put away after watching the Senior Bowl tape.
I think Jalen Tolbert can grow into a starting role at the NFL level. A solid athletic profile and good size will lead to teams drafting his potential upside. Teams like the Bears who don’t own any picks until day two will be hoping Tolbert falls to one of their later picks. Chicago should prioritize the development of Justin Fields, and a player like Tolbert can do just that.
Other receiver-needy teams like the Falcons could be calling Tolbert’s name on day two. After the Calvin Rdiley suspension, their receiver-room is devoid of talent. Auden Tate won’t cut it. For a rebuilding team Tolbert can develop into a full-time starter by the time they have their quarterback situation figured out.