The 2018 college football season kicked off this week, and it has already started off with a bang. On Thursday, the disputed 2017 National Champion Central Florida squad picked up where they left off last season, drubbing UConn to continue their undefeated streak. Then last night, number 11 Michigan State barely survived a scare from a surprisingly tough Utah State team, squeaking out a 38-31 win.
In the night-cap, the Pac 12 picked up where it left off, giving us fireworks in the form of Stanford’s K.J. Costello having a career night. Most of his damage going to his favorite target, senior wide receiver, and deep-threat extraordinare, JJ Arcega-Whiteside. How does Arcega-Whiteside translate to the NFL? I break it down in my first draft profile for the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Name: JJ Arcega-Whiteside
Position: Wide receiver
Positives: The bulk of the damage that JJ Arcega-Whiteside does comes deep down field. Unlike most lethal deep threats; however, Arcega-Whiteside doesn’t beat opponents with blazing speed. Where Arcega-Whiteside wins is being able to eat up any cushion he’s given with his lanky frame. At 6’2” and leggy, Arcega-Whiteside is in a DBs pocket before he has time to react. And as the old adage goes, “If he’s even, he’s leavin’”.
In addition to being a lethal deep-threat, Arcega-Whiteside is one of the best in the nation at coming down with contested catches. He has good leaping ability, paired with long arms and good height to give him a great catch radius. Coming down with contested catches is about more than a great catch radius, though. Arcega-Whiteside pairs his radius with strong hands to make those 50/50 balls more like 80/20. You have to like those odds if you’re K.J. Costello!
To round out the senior’s skill-set, he exhibits plus body control in all areas of the field. He’s primarily a deep-threat receiver, but he’s far from a one-trick pony. Arcega-Whiteside can be trusted to haul in catches along the sideline, being nimble enough to keep his feet in-bounds.
He also has a toughness about him that I personally love to see from my receivers. He’s not afraid to mix it up in the middle of the field from time-to-time, and he exhibits some good blocking skills to boot. He’s an all-around solid receiver.
Negatives: Though Arcega-Whiteside is a legitimate deep-threat receiver in the college ranks, he’s likely to struggle to find success in that facet at the next level. He has the luxury of going up against some sub-par DBs in the Pac 12; he won’t be so fortunate at the next level.
Arcega-Whiteside lacks the speed to beat even mediocre pro cornerbacks deep downfield on a consistent basis. His size advantage that allows him to be a college deep-threat isn’t going to be nearly as pronounced at the next level, and his competition will be far more skilled at compensating for it.
Perhaps more troubling is that Arcega-Whiteside’s shortcomings at the current level are going to be even more pronounced at the pro level. Without having the ability to be a bonafide deep-threat to fall back on, Arcega-Whiteside will inevitably be called upon to be more of a factor in the short-to-intermediate game. So far in his college career, Arcega-Whiteside hasn’t exhibited the speed or agility to be able to consistently win in this area.
He struggles to gain separation from defensive backs already, an issue that will only be more pronounced against stiffer competition. He’ll have all season to work with his coaches to get better in this facet of his game, but he has a long way to come.
Outlook: We’re only in the first week of the college football season. There is a lot of football left to be played and nearly all of the evaluation process yet to go. But as things stand right now, I see the talented Stanford wide-out as a plus version of a personal favorite of mine from last year’s class, Iowa State’s Allen Lazard.
Arcega-Whiteside isn’t as big as Lazard, but conversely he’s faster and translates better to the NFL than Lazard ultimately did. In retrospect, I was too high on Lazard last season. I’m not nearly as high on Arcega-Whiteside at this early juncture. He has plenty of time to show me some development, but right now I see him as a fringe WR2 in the NFL. As for his NFL Draft stock, I see him as a likely, but solid, option somewhere early on Day 3.