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 sleeper wide receiver that was hindered by inconsistent and statistically measly QB play over the duration of his collegiate career. This receiver’s statistics don’t stand out, but his tape and testing numbers do. He also showcased his talent at the 2022 Senior Bowl. Next are his measurements:
#18 Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers, (R-Sr.) — 5110, 189 lbs.
Senior Bowl, Combine Invites
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Bo Melton||5110/189||9″||31 1/4″||76 1/2″|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
*Short Shuttle was from Pro Day
— Decent size and build
— 4.3 speed. Deep threat: Able to stack and track vertically. Good tracking ability in unison with being able to contort and position his body to make impressive catches
— Projects as a Z or slot receiver. Splitting time at both would be an advantageous use of his skillset, line up in either situationally based on how his team will want to attack the specific defense
— Commonly ran routes (some much more than others): gos, posts, corners, hitches/stops, outs, slants, digs, “now” “smoke” routes, various screens (bubble/hitch-now/tunnel, etc.)
— Has some crafty releases, double moves, and routes in general on tape (potential for further refinement, then consistent use). Glides in instances. Good tempo variety
— Efficient route runner and releases when he needs to. Effective. Good understanding of DB leverage
— Great weight drop/body sink in breaks. Good balance
— Often used in motion. Given a multitude of designed touches–in motion and not (e.g. jet motion touch passes, jet sweeps, reverses, pitches, other creative motions into routes or just as a decoy). Took some of said touches from tight alignments as basically part of the backfield (potential for RB usage in the NFL)
— Great full-body (head especially) incorporation to powerfully sell breaks. Great body control and agility. Able to use every part of his body very well to sell route breaks, flexible
— Elusive RAC to gain YAC. Accelerates with ease. Good vision and burst, tough to grab hold of in small areas, cutting capability, good wiggle and COD, slippery and smooth overall. A fight to take down
— Good catch radius. Able to go up and win jump balls in contested catch situations. Solid hands (impressive hand catches away from his frame, highpoints for example, but does catch with his body at times – something to focus on in the NFL)
— Brain working at all times on the field. Knows how to find/work his way into open spaces (specifically zones) in the defense
— Very willing blocker with good fundamentals, does the dirty work. Sets his teammates up nicely. Knows how to angle himself to shield the ball carrier
— Has some experience as a returner. Also other special teams work
— Limited college production. No seasons with 700+ yards
— Can work to tweak and touch up his releases, stems, and breaks–route running altogether. Looks out of control and/or shows too much at times: overdoes it by going too fancy and/or creative. Can and most likely will be cleaned up with NFL coaching
— Not the most expansive route tree in games I watched. That could be due to his system possibly limiting him. He seems to be a good enough route runner to handle an expanded route tree, but I can’t definitively say without seeing it (based on him not running certain routes). Also, mostly similar releases on tape, but Senior Bowl showed he can augment in that area
— Given a lot of free releases and/or non-aggressive defense in the games I watched (how will he fare against NFL press and physicality?)
— Constricted to the sideline every so often on vertical routes
— In-breaks can lack technical, clean and swift deception on occasion, allowing DBs to stick with, and/or break on them
— Lacks explosion to get into top-end acceleration off the line on occasion, also struggles to pull away from defenders in certain instances
— Catches with his body at times. Reportedly had some drops throughout the duration of the Senior Bowl, was unable to reel some moderate to tough passes/catches in on tape. Will need to focus on his technique for contested catch and 50-50 jump ball situations
— More smooth than physical as a runner (does possess surprisingly deceptive strength but nothing too crazy)
— Size sometimes limits him as a blocker
— 2021 Stats (11 games): 55 receptions, 618 yards, 3 touchdowns
— 2020 Stats (9 games – best statistical season): 47 receptions, 638 yards, 6 receiving touchdowns, 2 rushing touchdowns
— 2019 Stats (12 games): 30 receptions, 427 yards, 2 touchdowns
— 36.8% Target Rate per Route per SIS
— 2021 Biletnikoff Award Watch List
— Finished his Rutgers career as third in program history with 56 games played, sixth with 164 receptions, tied for eighth with five 100-yard games, and tenth with 2,011 receiving yards
— Team Captain in 2020 and 2021
— 2021 Rutgers Offensive MVP
— According to Rutgers bio: only the sixth true freshman to start the season opener on offense or defense since 2002
— Majored in criminal justice
— Played football, basketball, and ran track in high school
— Star-Ledger’s Cape Atlantic League Football Player of the Year and Courier-Post Offensive Player of the Year in 2015
— 200m, 400m, and long jump track champion in high school
—Four-star recruit out of high school
— Father, Gary, played football at Rutgers. Mother, Vicky, played basketball at Rutgers
Steelers fans; with JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Ray-Ray McCloud departing in free agency, you can bet that Steelers brass will be gunning for wide receivers in this year’s draft. This is welcomed news for me (although I would’ve liked to have re-signed JuJu on another team-friendly deal), because I have been focusing my time this year on evaluating WRs and QBs.
Bo Melton is a WR name that yinz should get to know for the later rounds. He’s a receiver out of Rutgers who flashed at the 2022 Senior Bowl–where he made some impressive plays, and he also tested exceptionally well at the 2022 NFL Draft Combine. Both boosted his drafted stock.
I saw statistics similar to the following mind-boggling morsels on Twitter, which made me decide to do my own research:
In 2021, Rutgers starting QB Noah Vedral threw for just 1,823 yards (other players combined for 416 yards). Bo Melton accounted for 618 of those yards. That’s 33.9% of Rutgers’ first-team offense’s passing yards. In 2020, all Rutgers QBs threw for a combined yardage total of 1,789. Melton accounted for 638. That’s 35.6% of the team’s entire passing yardage for the season.
Also, Melton finished his Rutgers career as third in program history with 56 games played, sixth with 164 receptions, tied for eighth with five 100-yard games, and tenth with 2,011 receiving yards. So, from the surface level his college stats may not look all that attractive, but context does help explain them more favorably for his draft outlook.
Now let’s discuss Melton as a player on the field. His strength on tape was winning vertically. A lot of the time, he was either being sent deep or he stayed around the line of scrimmage on shallow routes. Melton’s foundation and enticing promise as a route runner suggests that he will be of great value as a discounted prospect in the later rounds. His testing numbers support the potential seen on tape, evident in the “measurables” section above. Now to the tape breakdown.
First clip comes from Rutgers’ 2021 game at Northwestern. Bo is out wide at the top of the screen field side. He has a free release as the two field defenders are both playing far off, so he darts off the line post-snap. He keeps his route stem uniform until he decides it’s time to break. At this moment, he stems slightly outside and snaps his head toward the sideline, then towards the middle of the field. This misleads the DB covering him, by giving him the impression of a possible outside break. With a sturdy outside plant of his right foot, he directs his path to the middle of the field on a post route. He then turns his head to the QB to track the pass. He created enough initial separation after forcing the DB into a turn to try and recover, for this to be a catch-and-run TD, but he has to slow down, then leap into the air to grab the ball (he catches it with his body), finally cradling it with his arms as he’s latched onto and brought down from behind.
Now here’s a set of dual clips depicting Melton winning vertically again.
The first of the two is from Rutgers’ 2021 matchup with Delaware. Melton is at the top of the screen. Working with a free release post-snap, he stems his route inside. Seeing that the safety who dropped deep on his side of the field is watching him, Melton pushes him back then makes a quick frame flip to the outside corner, with body and head in sync. After doing so and continuing outside and upfield, he turns his head to track a throw. It drops in over his shoulder and he hops to catch it, trapping it to his chest. He’s then tugged to the ground from behind after trying to get loose for extra yards. Smart ball security to lock the football up with a two-armed wrap.
The second of the two is from his 2021 game vs. Wisconsin. In it, Melton is off the line and in the slot field side. He runs a corner/fade route. The DB eyeing him off the line is playing off coverage, so Melton builds up momentum vertically. As he does, he stares down the defender then shifts his attention to the middle of the field, trying to indicatively telegraph to the defender what he “wants” to see. The defender bites on the bait, so Melton then shifts and bolts outside past him to open space. Simple and efficient cut. Following, Melton tracks the throw that makes him turn/adjust his body, but he makes it look easy as he then catches the ball in the basket.
Moving on, Clip #3 is a TD from the 2021 Delaware game. Melton is isolated at the bottom of the screen, working against soft press. He gives a little bit of quick hand movement before exploding into a speed release up the outside. Good use of tempo change for the release. The DB stays side-by-side with Melton as they run downfield, reaching the end zone. It looks like Melton tries to keep space with his arm into the DB’s chest, and the DB tries to keep hold of Melton as well. Melton sees his QB has arced him a pass, so he tracks it to where he’s able to jump, spin, and catch the football despite it being behind him.
Another set of dual clips here.
In the first–from Rutgers vs. Indiana, 2021–Melton provides another example of his contested catch, jump-ball ability. He boxes out the defender and high points the pass, despite being yanked down backwards. After making contact with the ball at the high point, he pulls it into his frame so that it’s secured while he goes to ground.
In the second–from Rutgers vs. Maryland, 2021–Melton is at the top of the screen field side and catches the soft-pressed DB looking off the line to accelerate right past him with a speed release. His QB sees this transpire and lofts him a chance. Melton puts a swim/swipe through technique to use, to work through and past the contact of the DB. He positions himself to make a play on the ball as a result. With the defender now hugging him, Melton scoops the football into his chest and holds it tight as more defenders close on his position.
This is a combination of three combined clips. Depicted are instances of route running competence, which signal promise for his future potentiality as a technician.
#1 is from the Northwestern game. Melton is at the top of the screen (offscreen). He runs the look of a sluggo (slant + go) double move to toast his defender and create ample separation. To accomplish this, he gives a strong plant with his inside left leg, then he crosses over (like in basketball) with a great deal of body lurch. Knowing he left his defender in the dust, he turns his head around and tracks the football, trapping it to his chest and hugging it as he tip-toes his feet inbounds for the score. Good inbounds awareness to toe-tap for completed catch insurance.
#2 is from the Delaware game. Melton is at the top of the screen. This clip stood out to me, because of his full-body involvement to sell the in-break on the dig route of a Dagger concept, with a cross attached for the trips set. Melton isn’t targeted, but he forcibly whips his head as if trying to give himself whiplash. Superb use of both head and body motion to sell the route break. Elements to work with are apparent.
The third clip in the set is what I’m calling a bonus clip. I was unable to confirm that this is in fact Melton (I usually am able to confirm the player as best as possible with their numbers even when the broadcast does not show replay footage, but this time I couldn’t completely make out his #18). It does seem to be him though based on the left arm sleeve, white cleats, white/red gloves, and the look of #18. He is at the top of the screen and runs a simple hitch past the first down marker, but the way he sells it, and the result, is anything but simple. He does a masterful job of head-faking while also sinking his hips and sweeping his legs on the floor to sit down in a chair on a solid base of footwork, with his chest rotated downward. The initial low-to-high tempo increase resulted in the DB opening up, and Melton sits him down on his butt with the hitch break. To add insult to injury, Melton pops back up after his break drop, then points at him as he begins to run inside.
Moving on, here’s two more combined clips. Both clips exhibit Melton working on screens.
First is a bubble screen attachment on the play. Post-snap, Melton backpedals away from the QB while facing him. He’s able to catch, turn, and accelerate through an open path that his vision charts. He almost side-jukes his way for more yardage at the end, but he is taken down.
Second is an immediate hitch screen (looks like a tunnel screen, but the WR does not work his way inside to the alley, he backpedals/shuffles backward to receive the pass). The crashing DB is handled by receiver #2, so Melton receives the pass then turns upfield and squares up three closing defenders. He cuts past all of them before the O-linemen reach out in front of him to block. His next course of action is slipping through arm tackles of both new and recovered defenders for as many yards as possible. First-down play.
This clip depicts a release and dig route from Melton in 2022 Senior Bowl one-on-ones. Here, he does create separation, but there is a lot going on in his approach. His arsenal of sweet feet and crafty and nuanced body movements does come across, but he overdoes his freestyle to create the separation. Taking this long to get open in the NFL, would usually not result in a successful release/route (unless his release/route allows him more time than normal, such as certain red zone or progression/backside read situations – specific situational use). Efficient and effective is the goal. No unnecessary movements.
This area of critique is not something I brought up as a detrimental blow to his draft stock, however. It shouldn’t be viewed as an issue that can’t be cleaned up with NFL coaching, I just wanted to mention it because I saw it in Senior Bowl clips and in watching some of his game tape. In fact, it’s more so encouraging because Melton dusted DBs off the line quite a few times at the Senior Bowl (same as with some of the other WRs I’ve been watching), and his releases show that he has a great repertoire of moves and understanding to work with. He just needs to reel it in, fine-tune it all, and glue himself to watching and learning from the tape as a result, to know when and where to use what as a route operative–in order to achieve consistency.
Finally, we have some of Melton’s blocks that grabbed my attention.
#1: 2021-Deleware. Melton is out wide field side on the line, as the outermost receiver. The QB tosses a swing pass to RB Isaih Pacheco (who balled out in the film I watched). Melton engages with a defender and drives him to the sideline, thus erasing him from having the chance to make a play on Pacheco. Melton keeps his body between him and the defender and maintains engagement until Pacheco is past him, to ensure this is the case.
#2: 2021-Michigan. Melton is at the bottom of the screen. He flattens the safety that comes down in an attempt to make a tackle, then he sticks his nose in the group of defenders closing from behind the ballcarrier. He gets up in the face of a D-lineman to do so. Noteworthy for sure (even if the D-lineman wasn’t going 100% because he saw the incomplete drop).
If the Steelers are going to beef up their WR room with a couple additions, Bo Melton could be a later-round option in this year’s draft, as noted. As a later-round pick, he’d have time to develop into a potential top-three contributor at the wide receiver position for Pittsburgh. As a 200m, 400m, and long jump track champion in high school, Melton’s speed and technical ability as a football player would surely provide an option to test out and see at Z receiver. His flashes on tape, paired with his testing numbers, will make him worth the look in the Round 5-6 range.
I have Melton down with a Round 5 grade (I think his synopsis is more in-line with the “raw traits/upside prospect” of Round 4), but due to this year’s depth at the WR position, either Round 5 or Round 6 makes sense for his evaluation (without having fully deep-dive watched all of the later-round upside guys yet).
Curtis Samuel is a pro comp that came to my mind based on their similar builds and roles (Melton has the potential for WR-RB hybrid usage in the NFL).
Projection: Mid-Day Three
Depot Draft Grade: 7.0 – Backup/Special-Teamer (Round 5)
Games Watched: vs. Delaware (2021), @ Michigan (2021), @ Northwestern (2021), vs. Wisconsin (2021), @ Indiana (2021), vs. Maryland (2021)