From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#19 J.J. Arcega-Whiteside/WR/Stanford/ 6’3”, 225 Lbs
-Impressive body control with big, thick frame
-Boxes out defenders and high points the football consistently to win contested catches
-Strong hands to snatch the football out of the air with conviction; vice-grip like hands to hang on through contact
-Basketball background pops off the tape when the ball is in the air; boxes out like he’s going up for a rebound routinely in the red zone
-Consistently beats press coverage thanks to explosive lateral movement and adept hand fighting to keep him clean from defenders initial punch
-Massive catch radius that allows QBs to put it in his vicinity to make a play
-Has a false step in his get-off when not facing man coverage that needs to be eliminated; sort of hops out of his stance, wasting valuable time
-Will double catch the football at times when coming back towards the line of scrimmage; tends to be concentration rather than technique
-Doesn’t possess high-end speed to pull away from defenders on vertical routes
-Won’t provide much pop with the ball in his hands in terms of YAC
-Limited route tree at Stanford that rarely asked him to work across the middle of the field; focused solely on vertical third on right side
-Finished four-year career at Stanford with 135 catches for 2,219 yards (16.4 yards per catch) and 28 touchdowns, including senior year production of 63 catches, 1,059 yards and 14 touchdowns
-Played all four seasons, but saw just three years on offense. Was mostly a special teams/depth guy freshman year in which he didn’t catch a pass
-Named a team captain at Stanford for his senior year
-Finished Cardinal career with 28 touchdowns, good for second all-time in program history
-Recorded nine 100-yard receiving games at Stanford, which is the third-best mark in program history
-Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2018 and was named Second Team All-Pac-12
-Son of former basketball players; Mom is the all-time leading scorer in Appalachian State history, father played overseas in Spain; Uncles Fernando and Jose Arcega played nationally for Spain in the 1984 Olympics
In such a deep wide receiver class in the 2019 NFL Draft, Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside seems to be flying under the radar despite putting up huge numbers for the Cardinal last season.
Standing 6-feet-3 and weighing 225 pounds, Arcega-Whiteside has the ideal build for a wide receiver in today’s game. He’s got a thick frame, long arms and huge hands, which allows him to play through contact and win contested catches consistently.
A lot of his draft stock will come down to how he tests in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine – especially in the 40-yard dash – but one things for certain: Arcega-Whiteside will make an immediate impact in the red zone wherever he lands.
Against TCU in the Alamo Bowl after the 2017 season, Arcega-Whiteside dominated, hauling in three touchdowns on the day, two of which came on his trademark box-out play in the red zone.
He’s not going to fly by you on his route and beat you to the back pylon. What he wants to do is get you into your backpedal, and then get in front of you and box you out, allowing his quarterback to throw it up to him. Arcega-Whiteside is either going to high-point the football for the score, let it come to his body and force the defender to try and go through him to draw a flag, or just outmuscle the defender and make a routine catch look easy.
Here against TCU’s Ranthony Texada, Arcega-Whiteside gets his hips flipped and boxes out the Horned Frogs corner, forcing Texada to try and fight through him. That draws a pass interference call in the end zone, but it doesn’t matter; Arcega-Whiteside still makes the catch for the touchdown.
He’s just so big and strong in these situations, and you can clearly see his basketball background coming out, allowing him to consistently make these types of plays. A times, it was laughable to see corners just hanging all over him and the Stanford product still come down with the football.
This play from 2017 against Oregon is similar to the touchdown against TCU in the bowl game. This was Stanford’s go-to in the red zone with Arcega-Whiteside. He’s just too strong and knows how to use his body perfectly to put him between the ball and the defender time and time again.
During the 2018 season, there seemed to be a lot of concerns about Arcega-Whiteside’s overall game as a receiver. Was he just a red zone specialist and a vertical weapon?
Yes and no, honestly. A lot of those concerns had to do with the way Stanford used him. Throughout his film you could see the great footwork early in this routes to get him open. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to showcase his full route-running abilities on film as the Cardinal asked him to work primarily in the vertical third. I do believe he can run a full route tree through, largely due to his footwork and athleticism.
Again, he’s trying to work vertically here, but watch the footwork and the nuance in his route running to get him open. That’s some impressive stuff right there. He completely fools the corner by getting him to bite on the in-breaking stuff before slipping outside for the wide-open touchdown. I’d like to see him get to a situation in the NFL that asks him to be more of a possession guy in the NFL because I think he can dominate in that regard. I do have questions about his ability to win vertically as much as he did in the NFL, but there’s no denying how talented he is.
If he cleans up the concentration drops, develops a full route and really buys into the possession mentality, a team that takes a chance in the 2019 NFL Draft is going to get a darn good No. 2 receiver that is nearly unguardable in the red zone.
Games Watched: Oregon (’17), USC (’17), TCU (’17), Oregon (’18), Notre Dame (’18), Washington State (’18)
Projection: Late Day 2