Welcome to the first article in the Draft Outlook series, where we look at possible draft candidates for the Tennessee Titans. Today, we focus in on receiver DJ Chark, from Louisiana State University (LSU) as the deep threat target.
Tennessee Titans Problem:
As mentioned in the Paul Richardson article, the Titans lack a true deep threat, especially if Corey Davis is penciled in as the No. 1 receiver. Rishard Matthews has most likely lost a step, and is settling in as a good No. 2 receiver for the Titans. Tajae Sharpe is coming off an injury, and ran a 4.55 forty-yard dash, so he’s more of a possession receiver. Taywan Taylor does have speed but I’m not sure he functions well as a deep threat, given his size. The Titans could definitely use a speedster with upside at the No. 2 or slot positions, which would help open up the deep game for Marcus Mariota.
He was a mid-round prospect going into the Senior Bowl, but he may have played himself into second round consideration with his performance there and at the combine.
2016: 26 receptions, 466 yards, 3 TDs
2017: 40 receptions, 874 yards, 3 TDs
On the outset, these stats don’t look amazing at all, rather pedestrian, but if you take a deeper look, it becomes a bit more interesting.
In 2017, LSU completed 179 passes total, and Chark caught 40 of those passes, therefore he caught 22.3% of the passes completed. LSU passed for 17 touchdowns, and he caught 3, therefore 17.6% of the TDs thrown. LSU passed for 2645 yards, therefore he caught 33% of the yards thrown on offense. It may not seem like much, but let’s look at Calvin Ridley this year. I picked Ridley because he’s all but the consensus top wide receiver pick this year, but also faced a similar situation as the top receiver in a run heavy offense in the SEC, although he did have a better QB.
Receptions (Percentage of team’s completed passes):
Chark: 40 (22.3%)
Ridley: 63 (30.8%)
Touchdowns (Percentage of team’s passing touchdowns):
Chark: 3 (17.6%)
Ridley: 5 (17.8%)
Yards (Percentage of team’s passing yards):
Chark: 874 (33%)
Ridley: 967 (35.7%)
The numbers aren’t terribly off, although Ridley does edge out Chark in all three. I’m not arguing for Chark above Ridley, just the hypothesis that their productions in 2017 were fairly similar given the circumstances.
Combine: (Compared to Sammy Watkins)
Height: 6’2” (and 7/8- almost 6’3”) (Watkins: 6’0” – ¾)
40 Yard Dash: 4.34 (Watkins: 4.43)
Arm Length: 32 and 3/8 (Watkins: 32”)
Vertical: 40” (Watkins: 34”)
Broad Jump: 129” (Watkins: 126”)
Bench Press: 16 (Watkins: 16)
Hand Size: 9.25 (Watkins 9.62)
The caveat being that Chark did not run the 3-cone drill or the 20-yard shuttle, so those times can’t be compared at this moment. The full numbers won’t be known until the Pro-day, although since Watkins didn’t blow those drills out of the water, the worst-case scenario for Chark should be close to the numbers put up by Watkins. It also bears to mention that Chark beats fellow receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the 40-yard dash, vertical, broad jump, and bench press stats as well. However, Beckham Jr. dominated in the 20-yard shuttle and 3 cone drills, which is why I didn’t make the comparison here on their combine performances. Keep an eye out for Chark’s Pro-Day workout.
Personal Combine Scouting:
As mentioned on Twitter, I drove up to the combine this year to see the wide receivers (and QBs) for myself. Prior to the trip I had Calvin Ridley as my top receiver from the draft (which is still the case), and Equanimeous St. Brown (a post I’ll make later this month) as my top sleeper receiver. However, in person Chark stood apart from all of them. Ridley seemed to be somewhat out of control in his cuts and there is one point where he runs the wrong route in a drill (it was a comeback route and he ran right by the cone indicating where he should break). The mistake perplexed me because he’s extremely smooth on tape. DJ Chark looked very smooth and caught passes with ease in the gauntlet, showing good concentration. I charted most passes thrown in the drills (although I missed a few because they happen in quick succession) and didn’t have Chark down for a bad route or bad drop. He was extremely consistent in his route and tracked the ball well down the field. I wrote down great catch on two of the balls that he caught and came out of the combine impressed with how smooth his routes are around the cone. However, this is just the combine and there have been combine superstars that have fallen by the wayside (Stephen Hill comes to mind) so I’m not going to jump him into the first round. I see him as a late second round, high third round pick right now, that has great potential but also lacks some production in college. If he nails the drills at his pro-day, then the late second round pick becomes more likely.
This is a deep pass against Alabama and top ten pick favorite Minkah Fitzpatrick. From the initial set up at the line of scrimmage, it looks like Chark attacks the cornerback slightly to the outside and then turns upfield with inside leverage. Unfortunately, it’s one of the limitations of not having All 22 film, but it’s my assumption of the route and how he got off the line. As you can see, he blows up the potential top 10 pick, with at least one if not two steps ahead, yet the QB woefully under-throws this pass. This should have been a touchdown, instead it goes into the books as an incomplete pass. I want you to notice the head fake down the field, because he gives a slight head turn as if he’s going to run an outside out route, and it causes Fitzpatrick to slightly move off-course. I noticed this at the combine as well when he was running a route, using the head fake (on a cone drill route) and he uses it here. LSU is known for developing technically sound receivers, so it’s good to see that Chark has ability to disguise his routes with slight jabs and head fakes.
Don’t pay attention to what is happening on the play, it’s just a terrible play by the LSU offense. Chark is lined up outside to the right side of the formation on No. 39 Levi Wallace to the bottom of the screen. Notice the move he puts on Wallace, who is matched up in man coverage. Chark gives a slight step to the outside, and then turns to the outside, which helps to turn the hips of the defender. Once the hips are turned, Chark cuts back in sharply to the inside, becoming open for an easy pass as the defender has to make a 180 degrees turn to match the receiver. This is excellent route set up by the LSU receiver as he manipulates the hips of the defender in one on one coverage.
On this play, Chark is matched up with Ronnie Harrison, another Alabama defender that can go in the first round of the draft. The majority of the route happens off-screen so I can’t comment on it. I put this one here to show NFL level footwork, because notice how he drags the foot as he’s going out of bounds. NCAA rules allow for catches with only one foot down, but Chark shows good footwork here by getting his lead foot in, while still being able to drag his second foot down.
On this play, Levi Wallace looks to commit defensive pass interference, Chark makes the catch with great coverage on him. It shows excellent concentration and hands, although it’s another bad throw by the QB. There are some instances where Chark struggles to make catches in traffic, but he makes the play here.
This play doesn’t count because there is a block in the back penalty on LSU, but I wanted to show how Chark is useful on special teams, and can relieve Adoree’ Jackson from punt return duties. He’s nowhere near Dante Pettis in terms of return skills but he can still be useful, which can go a long way in roster construction.
If the first deep pass in this game was under-thrown, the QB makes up for it by overthrowing this pass so Chark can’t reel in the catch. Notice the last second separation because that is a critical skill in the NFL, as receivers can maintain their speed while tracking the ball. You will see this plenty of times where the cornerback loses speed as he’s trying to track the ball, but receivers that can track and still run at their top speed can get those last second separations to reel in long passes.
The first real negative play for Chark in this game, as he drops a long pass down the field. As you can see, he clearly runs past his defender with the safety coming over the middle, but the pass is once again under-thrown. Chark tries to adjust to the pass while still maintaining some speed and lets the ball go through his hands. It’s a bad drop for Chark, who really needs to haul in this pass to keep the team’s hopes alive against Alabama. He shows off great speed once again, and natural separation ability, but the under-throw makes him lose his concentration. Part of the blame has to go on the QB, but this is just a flat out drop by Chark.
This is from the bowl game against Notre Dame, although he didn’t have a good day in this one. He drops punt returns in this one, but it did look like a torrential rain storm there with a wet field. I’m not highlighting the catch here, but rather the toe drag as he slides his feet going out of bounds. Once again, that is an NFL caliber technical skill and it’s great to see that he has this down pat in the college.
This is a play from the Senior Bowl, where Chark runs a simple go route and gets by the defender. Unlike the LSU QB, Mike White drops a great pass in for Chark and he makes the catch. He’s very good at the go route, and that fits in well with the Titans’ needs. The one downside to this play is that he’s running by Jamarcus King, who ran a 4.7 on the 40 yard dash.
Another play from the Senior Bowl, and another deep pass that is on the money, this time from Kyle Lauletta. He’s wide open down the field and Lauletta hits him for the easy pass, and the receiver does the rest for the touchdown.
If you are wondering why he’s still a late second, early third round pick, here is why. He tends to have a case of dropping passes, when it’s underthrown, which is curious because he’s a punt returner. This is another case where he is wide open for a pass, but it’s under-thrown as he needs to wait for the ball to get to him, and then fumbles the ball as he’s getting tackled.
Danny Etling makes Zach Mettenberger look like a Pro-Bowl QB, because this is just another horrible throw. This is just a prayer thrown near Chark, who makes a great adjustment to the ball and reels it in for a major conversion.
- Chark has great speed, former track star, and will bring an element of deep threat to any team
- Underutilized in an archaic offense focused mainly on running the football
- An inaccurate QB coupled with tough SEC defenses limited his chance to shine
- A great go route runner, and he looks smooth in his release and can adjust to the ball
- Can help on special teams, which always adds value for prospects
- Chark has a penchant for drops, especially in inclement weather
- Route tree is limited because the LSU pass offense is limited in itself
- Benefited from a great running game, which produced more one on one match ups
As you can see from the film review, he did not play in an ideal offense, which has hurt his status on the national level. If he played in a better system or with a better QB, he might be a borderline first round pick based on his talent, but it’s hard to tell. I think his limited exposure to complex route trees, coupled with the lack of explosive stats will keep him in the late second round to mid third round range.
Fits for Titans:
The Titans mainly need a speed option because Matt LeFleur has been influenced by Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. Shanahan brought in Taylor Gabriel with the Atlanta Falcons and then Marquise Goodwin with the 49ers, as both players served as deep threats on the offense. McVay, meanwhile brought in Sammy Watkins as a deep threat and that offense thrived as well. Right now, the only real deep threat on the team is Taywan Taylor and he’s not a proven commodity as an outside receiver. I believe he fits in much better as the slot receiver because the speed and agility can wreak havoc on defenses over the middle. Rishard Matthews is going to be a free agent after the year, so grooming a pick like Chark to take over can be beneficial in the long run. I don’t believe Chark is a Day 1 starter, but rather someone that needs to learn the nuances of route trees, but his potential is excellent.
Pro-Comparison: Martavius Bryant – Without off the field issues. They are both explosive athletes that are raw around the edges when first entering the league. Bryant benefited from excellent coaching with the Steelers (probably one of the best teams at developing receivers in the NFL) and turned into a star before facing problems with suspensions. Put Chark with an accurate QB and a good supporting cast and he can be a No. 2 star who terrorizes defenses with go routes. Bryant fell to the 4th round in the draft because of character concerns and spotty hands in college, but I think Chark will be gone by the mid-3rd round range because he performed too well at the Senior Bowl and the combine.
Thanks for checking in with us for this Draft Outlook article for DJ Chark. It’s much harder to decipher college prospects because the angles just aren’t there. Most of the routes are away from the TV angles so it’s a guessing game. The colleges won’t release All 22 tapes (at least they haven’t for me, despite asking) so there is a larger chance of error. As usual, please like, share, and subscribe to the website. I’ll post some more articles soon, but I do have to focus on work with real estate, especially with lead generation. So if anyone one of you wants to buy homes, let me know!
Primarily, I work as a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Franklin, Tennessee. I’ve lived in Nashville for almost a decade now, and my love for the city only grows deeper, like a 440 pothole. I follow the Titans closely, so I enjoy writing about the team and breaking down film. However, my main job consists of being a real estate agent, therefore if you need any kind of help with the sale/purchase of a home, I’d be happy to help you through the process. If you just want to talk about real estate, feel free to email me as well. I write a real estate blog as well, which I’ll leave a link to at the bottom of this section (as well as a few other places on the website) so please check it out.
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