Jake Wieneke may not be a name you know. Yet. But believe me, by the time April’s NFL Draft rolls around, he’s going to be a hot name. Wieneke is a prototypical outside possession receiver who has a ton of potential at the next level. As with most guys who play at the FCS level, he’s going to get knocked for playing against lesser competition, but make no mistake about it, this kid can play. And can do so at a high level.
From the very beginning of his career, Wieneke has been a dominant force for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. His freshman year, Wieneke quickly established himself as a favorite target, hauling in 73 receptions for just over 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns. And his production from there has been consistently outstanding.
In each of his three years, Wieneke has surpassed 70 receptions and 1,300 yards. He’s also brought in 10+ touchdowns in each season for a total of 43 touchdowns. With one year left to pad his stats, Wieneke’s already impressive resume can only grow from here. With a solid senior campaign, Wieneke could see a Carson Wentz-like rise up draft boards. But the question will be, is Wieneke a Day 1 prospect? Let’s take a look at his breakdown.
I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that Wieneke might just have the best hands of any wide receiver in this class. I haven’t watched every draft-eligible receiver yet, but of the ones that I have seen, Wieneke’s hands far exceed them. There’s almost nothing he can’t catch. With his 6’4” frame giving him a great catch radius, it’s almost impossible to miss a throw in his general direction.
Hands Grade: 6.5
For as talented a prospect as Wieneke is, there’s a lot to be desired when it comes to his route running abilities. He gets solid releases off the line, but his routes aren’t crisp. He always seems to find himself a step or two behind the defensive backs, but it’s more of a ‘level of competition’ issue than it is that he’s adept at shaking or deceiving the defensive backs.
Wieneke is far from a speedster, so he’s going to have to improve his route running prowess dramatically if he’s going to be consistently successful at the NFL level. However, I’m of the opinion that route running can largely be taught, and Wieneke has the potential to develop serviceable skills at this trait. He’s never going to be a great route runner, but many receivers succeed at the next level with only average capabilities.
Route Running Grade: 5
Agility & Quickness
Much like with Allen Lazard, Wieneke isn’t going to beat anyone with his agility or quickness. Unlike Lazard, Wieneke is almost exclusively an outside receiver, which fits with his skillset. He doesn’t have much, if any twitch about his game and he’s not going to break away from any defensive backs in the open field.
That being said, he always finds himself with at least a step on his defenders, which should not be discounted. He beats defensive backs with his size, yes, but he also beats them by getting a great break off the ball and his long strides with his frame. Wieneke is likely going to run something like a 4.6 at the Combine which isn’t going to impress anyone, but speed isn’t his game. Nuance and size is.
Agility & Quickness Grade: 3.5
Speed & Acceleration
Some wide receivers are speed burning track stars. Some guys are the twitchy, quick slot guys. And some guys are neither. Wieneke falls into the latter category. He’s not going to beat people at the next level with his speed. He doesn’t really beat people at the FCS level with his speed, to be frank. He’s also not a guy who wins with quick, sudden movements. But he is a guy who wins, and that’s really all that matters at the end of the day.
Wieneke wins with his incredible size and catch radius, and his great body control. Watching his tape could fool you into thinking there’s more speed present than there really is, as Wieneke is always a step or two behind the defensive back, but that’s simply a product of lesser competition and corners allowing him a clean break off the line. He’s not a fast guy and isn’t likely to run much faster than a 4.6 40-yard dash come NFL Combine time. A possession receiver through and through.
Speed & Acceleration Grade: 3.5
The primary responsibility of the wide receiver is to catch the ball. That’s a skill that Wieneke has in spades. He may not be a great route runner, and he’s certainly not going to blow you away with his speed, but he can make great catches all day. However, there’s more to playing the wide receiver position, especially at the next level, than simply being good at catching the ball.
Blocking is a sometimes overlooked aspect to playing the position, but it something scouts look for. The running game has become less important in today’s wide open style of play, but if you want to be good in that phase of the game, you need consistently good blocking on the outside. If your tight ends and wide receivers can’t block, you’re toast. That’s the probably the biggest question I have with Wieneke right now, can he block?
Honestly, I just don’t know. He’s not asked to do it much in the Jackrabbits offense. When he is asked to block, I see a guy who is certainly eager. Which is more than you can say for some outside receivers. But I don’t see a guy who is particularly adept at it. He lunges for a lot of blocks and has a tendency to get pushed around by smaller defensive backs. However, with some training, both fundamentally and in the weight room, it’s a facet of his game that can likely be worked on.
Blocking Grade: 4
I’ve talked a lot about size and guys having “prototypical size” for their positions. Wieneke is another one of those guys who has the ideal size for the position he plays. There isn’t necessarily one ideal size for a wide receiver, but each different type of receiver has a size that goes with it. For what Wieneke provides, that is a bigger, possession-type receiver, he’s got the ideal size. He could stand to put on a bit of weight, but I think that’s something that will come with getting into an NFL weight room and routine.
Weineke wins with his size, not with his agility or his superior route running. That can possess a problem at the next level, as the corners he’s going to face in the NFL are nothing like the ones he’s faced in his years with the Jackrabbits. At only 215 pounds, he may struggle at times when getting jammed by the Richard Shermans of the world. But who doesn’t? He’s solid in this department, and is likely only going to go up from here.
Size Grade: 6.5
Miscellaneous: -1 Competition
Jake Wieneke is without a doubt the most intriguing prospect I’ve watched so far in my look at the potential draft class in 2018. From a physical standpoint, he has just about all the tools you could ask for from a big, possession receiver. He has the height. He has great length which gives him an incredible catch radius. His hands are phenomenal and he catches just about anything that comes his way. There is a ton to like about the kid from South Dakota State from a physical standpoint.
If you’re looking for speed and quickness from your receivers; however, then Wieneke isn’t your guy. He’s a lumbering runner who isn’t going to beat anyone with his speed at the next level. He’s consistently a step or two behind the defensive backs when you watch his tape, but I believe that’s a product of playing against lesser competition and not seeing any physicality at the LOS. That’s not a luxury he’s going to be afforded after his departure from the comforts of the FCS.
The obvious comparison that is likely to be drawn when discussing Wieneke’s potential draft position is going to be Cooper Kupp. A third-round selection in last year’s draft, there are a lot of similarities between what Kupp and Wieneke provide for a team. Both are highly-talented receivers who slipped through the cracks of the D-1 schools and dominated the FCS. Both are outside, possession receivers who don’t necessarily give you much in the speed game.
Ultimately, I feel that Wieneke will have a draft slot slightly lower than Cooper Kupp’s. Where Kupp was drafted at the top of the third round, I see Wieneke as more of a late third to early fourth option.