From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a dynamic wide receiver comparable to current young and talented Steelers’ wideout, Diontae Johnson. With shaky QB production, this prospect has been underrecognized to a degree when discussing the top 2022 NFL Draft WRs. His 2021 season exemplified why he should not be slept on.
#5 Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State, (Sr.) — 5105, 178 lbs.
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Jahan Dotson||5105/178||9 1/2||30 3/4||72 1/8|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Decent size and build
— Great speed and acceleration, good quickness and twitch. Wholly well-rounded (I’m torn on how he will test – could he be elite in certain metrics? -> reported 4.3 40-yard dash)
— Can line up at the X, Z, and in the slot. Depends how his franchise wants to deploy him. Splitting time in the slot and outside would be an advantageous use of his versatile skill set. Has shown the ability to fight through/beat physicality on the outside, and is fearless in the middle
— Able to stretch the field vertically with technique and speed
— Nuanced route runner with some polish
— Commonly run routes: go’s, slants, outs, hitches, drags, posts, used on screens
— Runs the occasional dig, corner, crosser, comeback
— Has shown the ability to run double moves (2019, 2020, and 2021). Patiently anticipates the defender’s reactive movements after setting them up
— Has shown the ability to run some niche slot routes (whip, ^ double moves)
— Fluid hips. Able to sink/snap his weight urgently. Incorporates head fakes to sell cuts. Smooth, glides. Able to vary tempo in his releases/route stems. Solid footwork
— Shifty off the line at the snap. Hard for DBs to consistently get hands on him (they can slow him down when they do though)
— Great use of hands at the line and in the stem of his routes vs. physicality. Able to fight through contact
— Elite, sticky hands. Instinctual hands catcher. Great at tracking the football at all levels of the field, makes highlight reel catches look easy, great catch radius
— Great body control in the air. Very good leaping ability and timing. Attacks the ball at the catch point, able to finish above the rim
— Great RAC ability. Dangerous and elusive/shifty in both close quarters and open space. Able to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands. Good open field vision
— Good spatial awareness, able to find soft spots/open lanes in zone
— Utilized as a motion man for designed touches (screens, jet sweeps) or to influence the defense
— Plays tough for his size. Fights for extra yards, able to take a hit
— Fundamental, very willing blocker
— Has some experience as a returner
— Will be 22 years old at the time of the 2022 NFL Draft (born March 22, 2000)
— Can further diversify his footwork in his releases. Should work to expand and refine his release packages. Needs to show consistency when it comes to attacking his defender with a decisive plan of attack (tries to show too much at times)
— Gets stuck on jams on occasion, lacks burst/explosion to accelerate as a result. Can be knocked off his spot in his stem, also translates to open field – can be taken down rather easily without built-up momentum
— Can further improve his footwork and lower/upper body control in his breaks (specifically out-breaking routes), breaks are a bit choppy/rough at times, rounds his route break occasionally
— Lacks true breakaway juice on crossers/short drags at times. Will be interesting to see his testing numbers at the combine. Doesn’t seem like a top-tier elite athlete in any one category (could test elite based on reports)
— Would have liked to see him run the full route tree at the Senior Bowl. He has the ability to run a complete route tree based on film, but he needs to show that he can win on every route consistently, especially deeper-breaking routes (out, comeback, curl, etc.) that he only ran on occasion at Penn State (without having All-22). He will need to be a complete technician at the NFL level (the promise is there)
— Willing blocker but limited at times by his size/frame
— 2021 Stats (12 games): 91 receptions, 1,182 yards, 12 touchdowns
— 2020 Stats (9 games): 52 receptions, 884 yards, 8 touchdowns
— Career Stats (41 games): 183 receptions, 2,757 yards, 25 touchdowns
— One of ten Nittany Lions to reach 2,000 career receiving yards
— Top 5 all-time at Penn State in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns
— 2021 Biletnikoff Award semifinalist
— 2021 Walter Camp Player of the Year Award semifinalist
— PFF grade in 2021: 87.5 (highest amongst draft-eligible Big Ten WRs)
— 18.1 yards per catch in 2019, 17.0 yards per catch in 2020, 13.0 yards per catch in 2021
— 2.78 yards per route run in 2020 according to PFF, which was 2nd for returning Power 5 outside WRs
— Majored in Telecommunications
— Team captain as a senior in high school
— 4-star high school recruit
— Originally committed to UCLA, but switched to Penn State
— Middle name is Waltè
This past July, for Steelers Depot’s Summer Scouting Series, I detailed why Jahan Dotson was one of the wide receiver prospects that I would be keeping a very close eye on for the then upcoming 2021 college season. Dotson rewarded me (and many others) as a result. Despite not being targeted by top-notch QB play (for his career), Dotson proceeded to post 91 receptions, 1,182 yards, and 12 touchdowns in his final, 2021 senior collegiate season.
Combining those numbers with his shortened 2020 year–that resulted in fans and analysts predicting a full breakout in 2021–served his 2022 NFL Draft outlook well, because he came through on the hype. At this point, testing numbers will be the key factor for Dotson to further separate himself from the other receivers in his current tier (top 8). I initially thought he would test as a well-rounded athlete rather than elite in any one category, but now I can’t wait to see his testing numbers because of reports about his potential and previous results.
On the field, Dotson is a well-rounded wide receiver with some polish. He does have room to further improve and refine his technique altogether, but his foundation is currently fantastic. He has consistently flashed as a route runner underneath, over the top, and across the middle of the field. His tracking ability is great and pairing it with sticky hands gives him a great catch radius overall. His body control and leaping ability (as well as timing) further aids in that regard. He is a playmaker with the ball in his hands and can be used in motion on manufactured touches or to heavily influence the eyes of the defense. As such, he can be moved around the formation. He is capable in the slot, but he also shines outside. With his ability to attack the middle of the field and hold on to tough catches, he offers versatility as for how he is deployed. Now to the clips.
First, let’s open with the anti-climactic. To get it out of the way, this play did not result in a reception. However, that was not due to any fault of Jahan Dotson. I marked this clip because of Dotson’s release. The descriptor that came to mind upon viewing it was “filthy.” This game is from Penn State at Wisconsin. Dotson is lined up out wide field side at the bottom of the screen. At the snap, he gives a slight hop forward to get in the face of the soft-pressed DB. Then, Dotson gives the DB a head and shoulders shimmy initially to the outside that makes the DB drop his outside foot, which is exactly what Dotson wanted. As a result, Dotson is able to shift the head/shoulders shimmy to the inside. The DB has to “open the gate” to turn and run with Dotson, who has now put his head down and exploded vertically as if shot out of a cannon. The decisiveness and acceleration Dotson illustrated on this release was impeccable. No time wasted. Dotson continues forward then angles on a skinny post towards the end zone, but his QB overshoots him for what most likely would have been a long score.
Moving on, I now have some combined elusiveness and YAC/RAC clips to show.
The first clip shown is from Penn State’s game against Auburn. Dotson is at the top of the screen boundary side, and works through a soft press drop off the line. Then, Dotson eludes another defender on his break inside. Next, he gets his eyes to the QB. He receives a throw in the open window and secures it. With a defender closing in on him full steam ahead, Dotson gives him a very nice, preemptive side-step juke just after he begins to cradle the football. After the side-step juke, he turns and positions himself square upfield, and gives another closing defender a juke to make his way to the first down marker. YAC via elusiveness shown.
The second clip is from a snow game against Michigan State, which was Dotson’s final collegiate appearance. Dotson is at the top of the bunch trips set with a total of four receivers field side. He nearly blends into the snow. Post-snap, he waits for the other two pass-catchers in the bunch set to clear before jogging inside on what he makes look like a drag. Then, he suddenly drops and pivots on a whip route. With the other pass-catchers clearing out the underneath space, Dotson is wide open for an easy catch. He grabs it and spins, now focusing on generating YAC. Like the first clip, Dotson displays his RAC elusiveness to evade a few defenders and find the first down marker. Good vision to use the blocks from his teammates.
The third clip is from Dotson’s game against Maryland, which I will discuss further later on. Sheer vision and RAC ability from Dotson here. At the bottom of the screen field side, Dotson runs a dig below the nicely set up pick combo from the inner receivers. This gives Dotson a free catch, and he scoops it in then turns on the afterburners to streamline across the field, his vision providing him with a path to break loose and nearly beat the angle of the last defender that brings him down by the waist/legs on the sideline.
This third clip contains a much more satisfying result than the first clip. It comes from Penn State vs. Villanova. Here, Dotson is lined up at the top of the screen field side. Dotson puts his head down on a speed release after the ball is snapped. He maintains a uniform, straight-line route stem as the DB outside of him attempts to judge his route intentions and keep eyes on the QB in a half-turn, side-shuffle technique. Dotson builds momentum into a full-on sprint for the skinny post route, so the DB ends up steps behind with no inside help deep after trying to run after him far too late following the angled inside break. Dotson straight up beats the DB in a foot race.
I initially questioned how Dotson would test in terms of long speed (and every other area for that matter), which I now surmise was a mistake. I believe that because of how smooth he is, his effortless athleticism can be undersold upon viewing and reviewing his film study (me included at first). Consequently, I am now fascinated to see how he ends up testing, especially his 40 time. I have seen reports that he’s a 4.3 guy, so I can’t wait for some official confirmation. If he’s able to hit that mark, he’d certainly provide the much-coveted over-the-top speed that every NFL franchise seeks in the modern age of football. The Steelers currently have a glaring and desperate need for that type of homerun-hitting receiver who can stretch the defense vertically with his route running and speed, to keep the D honest for RB Najee Harris and the short passing game.
Next, we have an example of Dotson’s ability as a playmaker when he has the ball in his hands. Dotson takes the direct snap in wildcat after aligning over from the top of the screen. He then follows his blockers boundary side, showing good vision and burst to the outside, and finally contact balance and grittiness as well to cross the plane for 6.
Dotson was also used as a motion man at Penn State, so that he could receive manufactured touches, or influence the defense’s eyes. The Steelers would hopefully be able to put that same tactic to good use with Dotson (having multiple receivers capable of it is a plus) in the pros.
This is another combination of clips, and it is from Dotson’s game against Maryland, a game which you got a glimpse of earlier. Dotson dominated in this outing, finishing the day with 11 catches for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. These clips provide a clear understanding for Dotson’s nuanced route running.
In clip #1, Dotson is in the slot boundary side and runs a phenomenal route. He runs a sluggo (in-between slant and post based on depth), so he plants with his outside foot to angle inside, giving the look of an in-breaking route. Once the defender bites on the move, Dotson utilizes the double move and plants with his inside foot to angle back outside/more so vertical, now able to run free and get his head around to track the throw. He has to slow up for the throw and it drops in the bucket as the recovering defender proceeds to hit him into the end zone.
In clip #2, Dotson is out wide field side. Post-snap, he effortlessly maintains a uniform route stem, then he slightly curves outside to masterfully manipulate the defender’s blind spot and anticipate his reactive movements. This is perfection. It’s teach tape on how to make a defender look silly in off-bail coverage. The defender is in a half-turn technique, so Dotson knows that if he makes the defender lose sight of him, he’ll be able to burst across his face in the defender’s moment of panic, which Dotson is ultimately able to accomplish. To cap off the play, he jumps to high point the throw then he brings it into his frame as he goes to the ground.
In clip #3, Dotson is lined up out wide boundary side, at the top of the screen. His intelligence is on display here. At the snap, he loafs off the line to indicate to the underneath defenders that he is not a threat, moving as if confused or uninterested because of his involvement on the play (or lack thereof). However, this fools the defenders into a sense of false comfort, and Dotson’s spatial awareness then sends him slicing between the two defenders in his close proximity, and he jets up the seam to wide open green grass. The back-end defenders have been pulled toward the sidelines, so Dotson hauls in the semi-over-the-shoulder throw without contest. Then, he accelerates into his RAC ability, again exhibiting his long speed to turn the reception into a touchdown with the remaining defenders unable to catch him.
This clip comes from Penn State-Michigan. Dotson is the receiver in motion field side. His route is crisp here, as he initially angles inside to signal an in-breaking slant, but he then gives a hard inside plant with his right foot, also simultaneously dragging his left and dropping his chest over his toes. This allows him to break outside on an out-breaking route (out/corner). He gets his head around and hops to catch the over-the-shoulder pass in the bucket. He ensures that it is secured before being tackled from behind.
These combined clips are both fourth down receptions where Dotson was the go-to target in the do-or-die situation.
First is another clip from the game against Michigan. Dotson is at the top of the screen boundary side. He utilizes a great release to uncover. The main components of his release are tempo and the use of stutter steps with arm pumps. His tempo change is high-low-high, with the most violent yet succinct movements taking place just before he breaks. For his inside break, he walks the DB backwards to the first down marker with the tempo and a stutter/arm pumps, then when he reaches the depth he needs, he sinks and swivels inside on a slant, immediately turning his head to the QB. The pass is thrown, and Dotson extends outside and above his frame to snatch it with soft hands, also being able to maintain his built-up momentum to pick up even more YAC.
Second is a clip from the Michigan State snow game. Dotson is out wide at the top of the screen and again works a slant route. This time, he angles himself directly toward the DB to eat up the cushion between them. Then he effortlessly eyes him up before cutting inside to a throwing window. Now open, he slows up a little to ensure that he remains open and traps the throw for a completed catch, then he travels upfield for some YAC. This truly effortless route reminded me of how easy it looks for Davante Adams to gain separation on slants. A very impressive rep to see from Dotson, and one where he made it look easy on another fourth down.
Lastly, this clip comes from the Wisconsin game. Dotson is at the top of the screen field side. He’s jammed off the line (twice actually) and this allows his defender to stick with him upfield. I’ve seen Dotson work aggressive corners well with his own hand usage and release packages, but on the other hand I’ve also seen reps where he was pressed and jammed with success. It was something I noticed and noted in the Summer Scouting Series, and it’s also something I noticed a few times in his 2021 games. For Dotson, really what this just comes down to is becoming consistent. He has a great foundation as a technician for his releases and routes, he just needs to continue to develop by learning and growing.
As for routes, my other main note for the “bad” is that I would have liked to see more of how he runs deep outs, comebacks, curls, those types of routes. The recent Senior Bowl would’ve been an optimal showcase for some of the deeper and less-commonly run routes from him in one-on-ones, but Dotson did not attend. Not having All-22 for his reps made it difficult to analyze his breaks on those types of routes, which is also something I noted in the Summer Scouting Series as being an area I thought he could develop to improve.
In spite of that, Dotson has a great foundation for a wide receiver prospect, as mentioned. As for Dotson’s career arc, the franchise that selects him will have a considerable amount of talent to work with, given that Dotson is both an athlete and technician, which is naturally vastly promising for his future outlook.
Mentioned in the introduction of this article, a Jahan Dotson comp that makes sense is Diontae Johnson (I first saw this comp made by Steelers Depot’s very own Tyler Wise). I absolutely loved it. Personally, I view Johnson as even more precise, elusive (with and without the football), and twitchy overall, but perhaps not by all that much. On the other hand, Dotson has not been plagued by a drops tendency heading into the NFL, which is obviously a plus for him. Upon further copious film study, another comp I believe works for Dotson is Emmanuel Sanders. I appreciate a lot about Dotson’s game and potential for the NFL level. I do not expect him to go round one (it is a possibility with the way he played in 2021, testing numbers could vault him into the late R1 conversation) due to the wide receivers that I currently see as above him on the pecking order (I view Treylon Burks and Drake London as currently having the best odds to be round one locks), but Dotson should provide great value in Round 2, if he ends up available in the early to mid range (especially if available late R2). If his testing numbers warrant the justification, the Steelers could have Dotson on their list as a potentially elite speed addition to the WR room. Dotson’s technical ability would provide much more than just speed though, which would aid the Steelers’ comfortability (put their minds at ease) if selecting him in Round 2.
A pairing with Diontae Johnson would surely prove enjoyable to watch for Steeler Nation. The Steelers would also be reuniting Dotson with former Nittany Lion teammate Pat Freiermuth.
Projection: Early Day Two
Depot Draft Grade: 8.5 – Future Quality Starter (2nd Round)
Games Watched: @ Wisconson (2021), vs. Auburn (2021), vs. Villanova (2021), @ Ohio State (2021), @ Maryland (2021), vs. Michigan (2021), @ Michigan State (2021)