From now until the 2020 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.
#3 James Proche/WR/6’0 193 lbs
- Operates best out of the slot
- Amazing hands
- Hangs on to tough grabs in traffic
- Very quick and shifty
- Lightning quick break at the top of his routes
- Creates an ample amount of separation
- Runs a very diverse route tree
- Great concentration
- Punt return experience
- Struggles to win jump balls or contested throws
- Playing on the boundary limits his ability
- Has to show that he can handle press coverage
- Wins with quickness but lacks a true second gear of speed
- 2019: 111 receptions, 1225 receiving yards, 15 TDs
- Career: 301 receptions, 3949 receiving yards, 39 TDs
- Led AAC in receptions in 2018 and 2019
- Led NCAA in receptions in 2019
- Most receiving yards and receiving TDs in AAC history
- Unanimous First Team All-ACC in 2019
- 2020 Senior Bowl invite
SMU wide receiver James Proche is slick, he’s smooth and he has incredibly strong hands. The 6’0 receiver has been a playmaker with the ball in his hands and was the focal point of the SMU offense this year. His 111 receptions led both the AAC and NCAA last season. A very dynamic receiver, Proche is a very compelling prospect for many reasons.
The first trait that pops out on Proche’s tape is his hands. The SMU receiver has very strong hands and makes one handed catches on the regular.
One of the many incredible catches that Proche showcased during his time at SMU. Before getting into the actual catch, watch how the SMU receiver sells the route by leaning inside for a brief second before turning it back up the sideline. Really a great job at stemming the route and this allows Proche to have the space he needs to complete an acrobatic one-handed catch.
Now Proche is not the biggest or even fastest receiver in this year’s draft class but he is still very effective on deep go routes. If smaller receivers wish to be successful vertical threats, they are going to need to great space at the top of the route. Proche flashed this before by doing a good job selling his route but he shows a different way to win on the play below as he uses a subtle arm push to separate from the coverage. The cherry on top on this play is yet another one-handed catch from the SMU receiver.
A big reason why Proche flashes such great hands is his incredible concentration. He tracks the ball well in the air and is typically in a great position to make a play. This does not just account for deep routes either as he is able to haul in the football on all sorts of patterns. Proche not only concentrates well with the football in the air but he also maneuvers his body well to put himself in position for the catch. Watch him focus and put himself in position to come down with this back-shoulder throw.
The best receivers use the football field like a canvas with each route representing one stroke of their brush. The top receivers in the game can paint in a variety of ways and much of Proche’s success can be attributed to his advanced route tree. Proche has experience playing both outside and in the slot, though he is a much more effective weapon from the slot.
Proche is lined up in the slot on the play above and watch how he uses his quick feet to garner enough separation on this out route. The SMU receiver has a quick breakdown at the top of the route before breaking towards the sideline. His quick feet leaves no opportunity for the defender to get close enough to make a play.
Proche runs an out route lined up out wide on the play above and once again his savvy route running gives him the space needed to operate. It is hard to see above but the SMU receiver plants his inside foot firmly before cutting outside.
With his ability to run almost any route required, Proche puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. He can beat you deep with his strong hands or he can beat you in the intermediate areas with his elite quickness. Watch how sudden and quick Proche is able to breakdown and come back to the football on this curl route on the play above. The impending threat of running down the field keeps defenses compromised as they must account for his ability on all levels of the field.
Now, there is no doubting that Proche is a playmaker with the ball in his hands, the only question is how will teams in the NFL get the ball in his hands. The most obvious answer is to stick him in the slot and allow him to work to his strengths, which is route running, catching the football and racking up yards after the catch. There is room for him to grow into an option out wide but I would first need to see more evidence that Proche can handle press coverage.
He also has punt return experience which will be very valuable to his draft stock. Adding special teams’ value to an already excellent route runner with some of the most reliable hands I have seen thus far, Proche has the chance to really make a name for himself even if it may be a deep receiving class. The SMU receiver reminds me a bit of Emmanuel Sanders and his performance in Mobile for the Senior Bowl will also go a long way in determining his draft stock.
Projection: Early Day Three
Games Watched: vs Memphis, vs Temple, vs FAU, vs Cincinnati (2018),