Why Drake London is my BOOM or BUST prospect in this year’s receiver class. Player breakdown and projection
USC star Drake London very well might end up being the most polarizing receiver of the 2022 draft class. London, the former basketball player, has been on the NFL’s radar for a while, as he is a supremely gifted athlete. As a freshman, London made a quick impact and put up 567 yards and 5 TDs. This was followed by a 502 yard performance in just six games as a sophomore. However, London’s stock truly soared following his insanely productive 2021 season.
Expectations were high going into 2021, as London was slated to be USC’s featured receiver, and it is safe to say, he did not disappoint. In just 8 games with the Trojans, London racked up 88 catches, for 1084 yards, and 7 touchdowns. London was a true problem for opposing defenses. The star wideout was not just consistent, but consistently great, as he put up over 130 yards, in 6 of his 8 games played, before having his season derailed by injury.
After missing the NFL combine as he rehabbed from his ankle fracture, London showed out at his combine. Although he did not run the 40, something some teams may be concerned with, his performance in the other drills likely cemented his status as a top 15 pick and has created some WR1 buzz. London certainly possesses supreme size and athleticism, and in my eyes, it is certainly within his range of outcomes to become one of the league’s best. Despite this, I can also see a very realistic scenario, in which London is a huge disappointment, and his playstyle just does not translate at the next level. Where does London rank in this year’s receiver class? Is his production in college misleading? Why do I view London as a BOOM or BUST player in the 2022 draft?
All that and more in my breakdown… let’s get to it!
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 219 lbs.
Hands: 9 3/8"
13.4 yards per reception
London is truly an athletic freak at the wide receiver position. At 6'4", 219 lbs., he has the desired size for a possession receiver at the next level. In contested catch situations, London is excellent. The former basketball standout uses his frame to box out defenders and attacks the ball in the air like it’s a rebound. London has very strong hands that help with this, as he uses them to secure the ball while in traffic.
London’s body control is another thing that stands out to me. London has an uncanny ability to track the deep ball. This combined with his outstanding catch radius and jumping ability makes London a problem in jump ball situations. As a route runner, London may not be the fastest guy, but finds ways to get open. As big as London is, he has very rare footspeed, and stop-start ability for his size. This allows him to cut quickly at the top of his routes, and stop on a dime to create separation. He also uses this footspeed as a ball carrier. After the catch, London has surprising acceleration, and the quickness and agility to make defenders miss to gain that tough yardage, especially with his size.
Here is a list of strengths that I feel are most important to Drake London’s game…
- Huge catch radius, uses large frame to snag the ball out of the air
- Excels in catch in traffic situations
- Does an excellent job contorting his body to catch deep balls
- Uses his large frame to ‘Big Body” defenders, uses this to win his routes, and is tough to bring down and tackle
- Is a willing, and effective run defender, loves to get down field and block for his teammates
So with all of this, it may seem like London is a sure-fire star receiver. Although he definitely does have the potential to reach that ceiling, I still do have my doubts. There is no doubt that London has a very unique skill set that allowed him to be ultra productive at the college level. The problem that I see is these skills are much harder to unlock in the NFL. London is very different than the other guys at the position that will be drafted in the first round. Receivers like Wilson, Olave, and Williams are natural route runners, with the speed at all 3 levels, that London simply lacks. These other receivers can be plugged in almost anywhere, and you can expect them to run the full route tree, and be able to create separation in any scheme. Smart football teams at the next level will use London’s lack of natural route running and speed against him, and press up on London.
London is not twitchy, or sudden. Good defenses will dare London to win on the outside, as they stack their corner, making him win with speed that I don't believe he possesses. The other way that London can win is by developing an elite back shoulder game which I think he is highly capable of doing. However, this is not only reliant on a good connection between a receiver and his QB, but on a Quarterback that has the arm talent to make the throws in the first place. With some of his limitations, London’s success at the next level may not be as simple as many are making it out to be.
List of weaknesses that may affect London in the NFL …
- Not sudden or elusive
- Did not run the 40, casting even more concern of his top speed
- Not very quick off of the line of scrimmage
- Will struggle to find the desired separation from breaks and turns versus man
- Does not have much experience out wide, as he played mostly in the slot
PROJECTION AND SUMMARY:
Scheme Fit: Vertical passing offense
Ideal Role: Big slot receiver
Team fits: Bills, Chargers, Packers
My final projection for London is hard, as I genuinely believe his level of success may be so highly dependent on where he ends up that it makes it hard to derive a conclusive answer. As stated earlier, a specific scheme will help London flourish, and if used correctly, I think he can reach his ceiling. At times, you may need to scheme London open, and that is okay, but I think this will require a creative play-caller and a skilled Quarterback to get him the ball. I've seen many comparisons to players like Mike Evans or Mike Williams, but in my opinion, that's not the role I would want London to fill. There is no doubt that London has the downfield explosiveness, and it’s not that he is incapable of winning on the outside, but I believe that London’s skillset will be best served in the slot.
For me, rather than a Mike Evans, Michael Thomas would be a better High-End Comp. In this role, London would be able to use his quickness and foot speed, as well as his ability to work back to the football to thrive in short to intermediate scenarios. From the slot, it would be much harder for opposing defenses to scheme up press man coverages on London, as a creative play-caller can use bunch formations, as well as several pre-snap motions to create space for Drake London before the play even begins. His size would also become even more of an advantage as he works on 5'11" slot corners, and catches contested balls at an even higher rate. All of these things can be done, while still drawing up legitimate vertical concepts, such as deep posts, seam, and wheel routes, that play to London's downfield abilities.
Ultimately, where London ends up, may make the difference between him being the next Michael Thomas or the next N’Keal Harry. If you told me that Drake London had a breakout rookie year, regardless of his landing spot, as he was able to use his size and athleticism to make plays on the football field, I would not be surprised. However, I think the concerns mentioned prior are legitimate, and as a fan of the game, I selfishly would love to see London slip a bit and hear a team with a great offensive coach and a talented quarterback call his name on draft day. Drake London is certainly worthy of a top 15 pick and has all the potential in the world to be the class’s best receiver. Only time will tell.