The Tennessee Titans should consider drafting Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the 2018 NFL draft, partially because I think he can be a diamond in the rough. It’s a projection pick, and most likely a late round one at that, but it can certainly pay off in the long run.
As mentioned in the DJ Chark article, the Titans need speed, and the coaches have mentioned the implementation of speed into the offense as well. It’s vital for a spread offense to have deep speed, especially if the speed can be placed on two ends of the field. Imagine a single high safety look from the defense. Corey Davis on one end, and a speedster like Valdes-Scantling on the other end. In this scenario, Mariota has a one on one match up at two ends of the field for a deep go route, if correctly identified. The safety can’t defend both routes at once, which will force him to pick a side to lean over towards. The other side has a one on one match up with no safety help, which is exactly what QBs are looking to exploit in a spread offense. The offense has the advantage over the defense in one on one match ups because they know the destination of the play, while the defense reacts. So, let’s go back to our aforementioned scenario and see how the Titans can tweak this look. Davis and Valdes-Scantling on two ends with size/speed combination means the defense now has to react. Either they move a safety back into a two-safety look, at which point you’ve now opened up the middle of the field a bit more for other routes. Otherwise, it’s a one on one match up for either Davis or Valdes-Scantling. Since Davis is more established, let’s assume now that our lone safety defender is leaning towards his side. This leaves the cornerback (who might be the No. 2-3 CB on the opposition) with a one on one match up, with no safety help. The defender has to protect the deep route, which leaves easy comeback or slant routes open. If the defender plays press cover, then it’s a foot race down the field and Valdes-Scantling can fly. In the case that the defender can stay with the receiver down the field, then he has the size to win a jump-ball situation as well.
The Titans offense is set up almost perfectly for quick paced spread offense, because it’s a match up nightmare.
QB: Marcus Mariota: An extremely accurate passer with dynamic speed once he gets running. It’s one of the most dangerous combinations in the game because he’s a polished passer, who can still force you to respect his running game.
RB: Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis: According to NextGenStats, they are two of the most elusive running backs in the game, especially in tight situations. This means the defense has to worry about wrapping up either running back, and they can catch passes out of the backfield.
Here is some food for thought: The NFL passed rules against lowering the crown of your helmet when tackling, which means defenders have to keep their head up. When your head is up, the your center of gravity is higher, and you are more likely to go for arm tackles. If you can’t lead with your head, you lead with your shoulder, but that forces the defender to pick a certain side of the body to hit the offensive player. If you have extremely elusive running backs, it should (at least in theory) lead to more broken tackles. The higher center of gravity means less balance for defenders, therefore more prone to missed tackles. While I’m not sure if the pairing of Henry/Lewis was planned around this rule change, it certainly helps them in the long run.
TE: Delanie Walker: The tight-end is the big chess piece in this offense because he’s a willing blocker, along with a being an excellent receiver. So if the defense is worried about Mariota and the running back as possible ball carriers, they have to dedicate stronger guys towards the line to defend the run. In last year’s offense, the spacing and speed of outside receivers negated this advantage for the Titans because the deep threat rarely existed. If the safeties can’t come up, then matching up with Walker becomes an issue. If they match a fast linebacker with him, then he’s going to block well and open up lanes for a runner behind him. If a run blocker is matched up with him, then he’s going to run right by him in a passing situation.
WR: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae’ Sharpe, Michael Campanaro, Zach Pascal, and Darius Jennings. Here is the issue with the weapons. Corey Davis is the No. 1, let’s get that out of the way and move on. Rishard Matthews is the No. 2, and there isn’t much to debate here either. He’s a good route runner, and he’s reliable. Taywan Taylor is the No. 3 and slot guy (and as of right now, the deep threat). Tajae’ Sharpe is coming off a major injury and I’m not quite sure how much he can be relied upon. Michael Campanaro is a good slot receiver, who reminds me of Zach Rogers, from a few years ago at Tennessee, but he’s more of a return guy right now. He’s also the backup to Taylor for slot duties. Darius Jennings is a speedster but also buried on the depth chart.
The Titans need a speed/size combination here. I advocated for DJ Chark, but there are plenty of options in the first 2-3 rounds. I picked someone outside those projections because information and breakdowns on them are widely available. The Titans need someone to keep the second safety back in an 11 personnel situation, where they can interchange Taylor/Valdes-Scantling and have the mismatch.
So why should I argue for a guy that had 119 catches overall in his collegiate career, spanning two schools? Potential.
Combine: I’m going to compare him to Player A as well
|Player:||Height||Weight||40 Yard Dash||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||20 Yard Shuttle||3 Cone Drill|
As you can see, Valdes-Scantling is most likely the better athlete than Player A. Who is Player A? Jordy Nelson. However, Nelson was picked in the second round after a monster year in 2007. In fact, Nelson caught more passes in his senior year than Valdes-Scantling in his entire career (122-119). The difference is that in the last year of Nelson’s collegiate career, Josh Freeman broke out and became a legitimate first round QB draft option. However, prior to that event, they ran a similar run based option, so I’ll enter the stats here for comparison. I’m going to combine the stats for the first two years of Nelson’s career, and the last two years of Valdes-Scantling’s career. Some other Stats included:
Percent of passes throw that were caught: I’m calculating the total amount of passes that were thrown, and then just looking at the amount that were caught by the receiver. I’m using this stat to show how much of a prime receiver the player was for their offense. Between 2016 and 2017, South Florida threw 724 passes, of which 75 were caught by Valdes-Scantling. Therefore, the percentage would be 10.3% of overall passes. Between 2005-2006, Kansas State threw for 731 passes, of which 84 were caught by Jordy Nelson, for a percentage of 11.4%.
Percent of TDs caught by receiver: I’m looking at the touchdown passes thrown, and the percentage caught by the receiver. Between 2016-2017, South Florida threw for 51 touchdowns, of which 11 were caught by Valdes-Scantling, for a percentage of 21.5%. Between 2005-2006, Kansas State threw a total of 25 touchdowns (Yes, that is correct), of which 9 were caught by Jordy Nelson, for a percentage of 36%.
Percent of Passing Yards caught by receiver: The yards gained by the receiver, in comparison to the total amount of yards gained by passing. In 2016, South Florida threw for 2941 yards overall. In 2017, South Florida threw for 2987 yards, which is extremely consistent. The overall total for those two years were 5928 yards. Valdes-Scantling caught 1294 of those yards, therefore 21.8%. In 2005, Kansas State threw for 2215 yards, and the following year they threw for 2573 yards. Technically they threw for 28 more yards, but they were thrown by Jordy Nelson, which defeats the purpose of this exercise. Overall, in those two years, they threw for 4788 yards, of which Nelson caught 1216. The percentage works out to 25.3%.
All these numbers are derived from the 2005-2006 stats from Jordy Nelson, and the 2016-2017 stats from Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
|Player:||Catches||TD||Yards:||Percentage of overall Passes caught:||Percentage of overall Passing TDs caught:||Percentage of overall Passing Yards caught:|
What can we draw from this?
One, the Kansas State passing offense was abysmal until 2007, when Josh Freeman broke out. However, Jordy Nelson has the advantage in production here. It’s relatively close in terms of the percentage of passes caught and passing yards, but Nelson takes a commanding lead in terms of TDs caught. It’s also important to remember that the 2007 season for Nelson is blocked out from this because Nelson would blow out these numbers easily, therefore the scale in already tilted towards Valdes-Scantling. I thought 2007 Josh Freeman was too good of a QB in terms of talent to correctly correlate the stats. I don’t think Quinton Flowers is on the same level as a passer, which is why I compared the two years prior to Freeman breaking out.
Let’s look at some film review as well:
On this play, Valdes-Scantling is lined up to the outside (No. 11) to the right side of the formation. He’s not involved in the play, as the QB decides to scramble. However, I want you to notice the space given by the cornerback, and the easy slant route that is available. It’s a direct result of the respect for his deep speed, but you can also see how he’s somewhat underutilized in the offense. Quinton Flowers is such a great runner that short passes pose more of a threat than running the ball himself. In a pro-system, this is an easy pass to Valdes-Scantling.
Remember how the defense gave him space in the previous play? Well in this instance, they decide to play press man coverage, and you can see how he absolutely beats his man down the field. Notice how he uses his hands to swipe away the leverage of the defender, and then just run right by him. He’s got at least 3 steps down the field, but this ball is severely under-thrown, which causes him to slow down to make the catch. If it’s a decent pass, this is an easy touchdown as he’s going to run by everyone. I think this play might be indicative of his lack of overall stats, because the offense just doesn’t take advantage of his skills due to Flowers not being a great passer down the field. The last thing I need you to notice on this play is exactly how he catches this pass. He doesn’t turn around, and give an open lane for the defender to get a shot at the ball. Instead, notice how he uses his body to block the defender from having any shot at the ball, and catching it with his hands. He shows an excellent ability to use his size and body to block out defenders in what turns out to be an almost 50/50 situation.
The defense is once again playing man coverage, but notice how Valdes-Scantling gets off the line of scrimmage with his feet. He shuffles his feet quick, and gets the cornerback to be slightly off balance before cutting inside. The thing to notice here is the last step towards the outside, because you can see the defender sway in that direction. The move allows for a free release to the inside, and once again provides a throwing lane. The play doesn’t go towards him, but I wanted to highlight his ability to get off the line of scrimmage with good mechanics.
In this situation, the defense decides to play press cover once again, and it results in an easy catch for Valdes-Scantling. Notice the defender on Valdes-Scantling because his hips give away the respect for the deep route as soon as the receiver gets off the line. The defender turns his hips to the outside to run stride for stride with Valdes-Scantling, but he cuts inside for the easy pass, and then shows off some skills to get yards after the catch. The point I’m highlighting here is how deep speed is affecting the defense on this play, and it’s a skill that creates many opportunities for the offense with easy passes.
In this case, Valdes-Scantling is lined up to the right of the formation, but as the slot receiver. He shows good awareness in zone coverage, and finds the sweet spot down the field, and gives his QB a nice target for the conversion.
Valdes-Scantling is a willing blocker, but his slight build means that he’s is not an extremely effective blocker. I put in this example to show how he’s a willing blocker, who puts his body in the way of the defender. However, notice how the defender knocks him back, because he’s just stronger than Valdes-Scantling. He’s coming into the league more as a deep threat, so blocking is not going to be his forte.
I want you to notice the defender on this route, because he’s going to start out in man coverage at the line of scrimmage on the outside to the right side of the formation. As we saw in one of the previous clips, the defender turns his hips early to run down the field with Valdes-Scantling. However, the receiver is running a curl or comeback route. When Valdes-Scantling catches the ball, the initial defender isn’t even in the frame. There is no way a defender can turn his hips this early with fear of speed, and expect to defend this route because Valdes-Scantling is just an excellent athlete.
This may not look like a great feat of athleticism, but it shows the potential of Valdes-Scantling. First of all, notice how much space the defender gives Valdes-Scantling on this play. The defense is trying to prevent the deep pass, which is exactly what USF is trying to run here with Valdes-Scantling. In theory, the defense is therefore prepared for this route from the receiver. The distance should mean the defender wouldn’t let the receiver get by him. However, once the pass is in the air, the defender isn’t close to Valdes-Scantling. A good throw by the QB, and this is another easy touchdown. The ball floats behind Valdes-Scantling, which causes him to slow down and reach back for the ball, allowing the defender to tackle him. A great adjustment by the receiver as well, showing good ball tracking and body control in this situation.
Rinse and repeat. This route is consistently available to him because the defense just has too much fear of the deep route, with justified reason as you saw in the last clip. Once again, the cornerback turns his hips early, and he’s left in the dust for this curl route, making it an easy catch. I can show about 20 examples where he’s wide open on routes like this.
Temple is the stringiest defense faced by Valdes-Scantling and he didn’t have a great game in terms of production. However, he has a step on the defender (Derrek Thomas – who is a converted receiver, hence the size similarity) down the field but the ball is thrown off course. While it’s a horrible throw by Flowers, to complete this pass, you need NFL starter type accuracy. It’s a throw the stars in the NFL can make consistently, but you rarely see these completed in college. The angle of attack to get the ball over the defender, but still in the arms of the receiver is a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, I wanted to point out this play as an example of how his low stat line doesn’t reflect the skill-set he displayed in this game. Another thing of note on this play is that he’s clearly being held by the jersey on this play, but the officials miss the call. It’s not evident on this angle, but a secondary angle shows clear holding, which is partially why you don’t see Valdes-Scantling increase his clearance down the field.
Valdes-Scantling has adequate hands, but he doesn’t have great hands, and this is an example of him having trouble adjusting at the last moment. It’s not a blatant drop while he’s wide open, which usually stems from a lack of concentration. However, he’s maintaining contact with the defender going down the field, locking their arms, but he doesn’t bring around his arm quickly enough to make the catch. This is an NFL caliber throw from Flowers, as the ball is placed perfectly, but Valdes-Scantling can’t recover quickly enough to make the catch. Once again, it’s not a major problem, but his hands are merely adequate.
This is another TD that falls incomplete due to a terrible throw. Valdes-Scantling is wide open on this play, as he starts out in the slot, and then runs outside. You can make an argument that the defender makes contact with him while the ball is in the air, but this should be an easy touchdown. Instead, Flowers leads him too much into the end zone and it falls incomplete.
This has absolutely nothing to do with Valdes-Scantling, I just wanted to highlight the issue with decision making on the part of Quinton Flowers here. Valdes-Scantling is wide open in the flat, after he starts out in the slot, for an easy pass and the chance to run into the end zone. Flowers doesn’t take the option at all, and instead throws a pass that should have been intercepted.
This is the second, and final catch of the game for Valdes-Scantling, but once again I wanted to point out how it’s a bad pass. The receiver goes in motion, and then essentially performs a wheel route, being wide open down the field. The throw has to be made to his inside shoulder or has to arrive earlier, allowing him to cut back up the field. Instead, the throw is behind Valdes-Scantling, which causes him to cease his momentum, and reach backwards to catch the ball. The throw essentially functions as a back shoulder pass when it wasn’t called for. It’s another instance where yards were left on the field because of an inaccurate pass.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling shows excellent down field speed, adequate hands with good body control. He has excellent size/speed combination, which can lead to match-up issues for defense. He shows good release at the line of scrimmage with footwork and hands. His stats are limited by the USF offense, which is more based on RPOs slanting towards more runs. While Quinton Flowers is a great runner, he’s a sub-par passer, which also limits the production of his receivers. As a deep threat specialist, Valdes-Scantling shouldn’t have trouble adjusting to the NFL.
The biggest con for Valdes-Scantling is the route tree. In the games that I watched, the curl routes, slant routes and the go routes were the mainstays in his arsenal. From time to time, he would run a double move faking a curl route into a go route, but overall the route tree is extremely limited. It shouldn’t affect him as much as a 4th receiver coming into the league, but unless he improves his route tree, he won’t be more than a deep threat in the league. The second issue is the competition, because USF played some horrible pass defenses. According to the NCAA stats, the highest ranked passing yards allowed defense faced by the team was Temple (ranking 56th), and Valdes-Scantling was limited to 2 catches for 26 yards, although as I’ve showed, he should have gotten better stats. However, there are 129 teams ranked for passing yards allowed in college. USF faced 3 teams of the bottom 4 including dead last ranked East Carolina, along with 4 teams from the bottom 6. Therefore, take some of the stats with a grain of salt, because the competition was horrible. I avoided showing clips from those games because it’s useless to see him run past guys that have no shot at ever playing in the NFL.
Pro-Comparison: Robby Anderson (NY Jets)
Robby Anderson was an undrafted free agent for the Jets, who has blossomed into one of the better down the field receivers in the game. He fell in the draft because of off the field issues combined with a lack of eye popping stats while playing at Temple. The Jets picked him up mainly to act as the deep threat 4th receiver, and he’s excelled in the NFL.
I know I compared Jordy Nelson earlier in the article, but it’s unrealistic to expect Valdes-Scantling to be that good, especially after Nelson broke out in his final year. I believe Valdes-Scantling shows potential like Nelson did prior to his senior year, but the more apt comparison is Robby Anderson.
The fit with the Titans is excellent because he provides both size and speed, which fits perfectly with the spread offense that could be implemented with Marcus Mariota at the helm. He has shown great potential, and he might be under-valued because of the system in which he played at USF. Please don’t get me wrong, Valdes-Scantling is not a can’t miss prospect, but for a 5th-6th round prospect, he has excellent upside. If the Titans fill other needs early in the draft, keep an eye out for Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Thanks for checking out this article, and please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
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.
Keller Williams Realty
9175 Carothers Parkway,
Franklin, TN 37067
Office: 615 – 778 – 1818
Fax: 615 – 778 – 8898
Mobile: 347 -249 -8442
License Number: 342828