From now until the 2023 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 SMU WR Rashee Rice.
#11 Rashee Rice, WR, SMU (SR) – 6004, 200LBS
Senior Bowl Invite
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Rashee Rice||6004, 200lbs||9 1/2||32 1/8||77 1/4|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Proficient, intelligent route runner
— Has a tendency to win jump balls and make the spectacular catch
— Solid after the catch forcing missed tackles in space
— Comfortable with trusting and securing the ball with his hands rather than his body
— While not as big as listed in college, still possesses a sturdy frame
— Wildly productive in college
— Gives a willing effort as a blocker
— Frustrating drops on routine plays
— Doesn’t have over-the-top speed
— Route tree still requires development
— Doesn’t create the widest separation in man coverage
— Inconsistent body control when tracking the ball
— Birthday: April 22, 2000 (23 years old at the NFL Draft)
— Three-star recruit out of Texas
— Made the AP All-American 2nd Team in 2022 and was a Biletnikoff Award finalist.
— Four-Year contributor for the Mustangs
— Broke the SMU single-season receiving yards record with 1,355 yards on 96 receptions with 10 touchdowns
— Career Stats: 233 receptions, 3,111 yards, 25 touchdowns
Rashee Rice is a highlight reel-style player with a ridiculous amount of production in SMU’s spread system. He’s liable to fill the SportsCenter Top 10 with his spectacular catches.
This catch against Maryland in double coverage is a testament to how this young receiver is able to position himself well and highpoint the ball with strong hands.
How about another, this one a back shoulder fade fighting through defensive pass interference in one on one coverage against the Terps.
But, don’t get too excited. Rice isn’t a perfect prospect. He makes the unbelievable catches look easy and makes the easy catches leave you sighing ‘unbelievable.’
Here are some over-the-middle drops against Cincinnati, a game he really struggled to get going in because of these plays.
Now, his drop rate isn’t at an alarming number, but it’s higher than you’d reasonably like it to be. These two drops above are particularly concerning because of the perceived potential that he can be a slot receiver in the NFL. That requires making those catches with even more dangerous linebackers and safeties bearing down.
Part of the reason many scouts will allude to him being a big slot option is because of his run-after-the-catch ability. Now, the four games I watched didn’t provide much evidence of that, especially considering most of his production in those games came on the outside. However, one play against Houston showed a glimpse as he juked a linebacker as cleanly as you can hope to see, only to put the ball on the turf seconds later.
To poke more of a hole in the slot option is his limited route tree out of the box. What routes he does run are well executed. Coming out of SMU’s system though, it’s a lot of slants, fades, curls, digs, and long-developing crossers. I didn’t see many of the zigs, outs, and drags that slot receivers are frequent users of nor did I see a deep post or deadly comeback to the boundary when he lined up outside the numbers.
It’s frustrating because he clearly has the aptitude and athletic ability to pull it off.
Still, being the best target on a middle-of-the-road team made him susceptible to getting locked down against stronger, smarter competition. That limited route tree did him no favors, but he isn’t the most dynamic guy in terms of creating separation. He’s strong and tough, but he lacks that bit of nuance to make a play in a situation such as this one against Cincinnati. He fights through the contact well, but the lack of separation (and a less-than-perfect ball placement) allows the defender to break up the pass.
But to speak to that toughness, he is a willing and capable blocker. He’s no Hines Ward mind you, but he sticks his nose in there and gets some movement. If he can ratchet up his nastiness a bit, he can make more efforts like this screen play against Houston. Watch as he squares up, initiates contact, allows the defender to create the lane for the runner and then finishes him outside of the boundary.
I wanted to watch Rashee Rice for a specific reason: With all the talk that the Steelers need a slot receiver, the prototypical small agile guy hasn’t been the team’s most successful option (not to mention they drafted one of those last year in Calvin Austin.) Instead, it’s been tough or big guys. Hines Ward in the later years of his career, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chase Claypool are some of the notable names that have filled that role over the years with varying degrees of success.
While Rice is 6’ and not the 6’2” we were led to believe, he is a sturdy athlete that displays toughness in his game. He has the framework to eventually fit the mold of what the Steelers have employed in the past.
Still, he’ll be a work in progress on his catching in traffic and his ability to create separation as he diversifies his route tree. And even then, he spent most of the four games I watched outside the numbers. He may not be exactly what the Steelers need if they opt for this type of slot receiver in the early portions of the NFL Draft out of the box, but he most certainly can grow into it as his predecessors did.
That said, he’s a playmaker and a productive one at that. I don’t see a first-round difference maker, but I do see a strong contributor within the first few years of his career that most any team would be happy to have in its offense next season and beyond.
Projection: Second Round
Depot Grade: 8.3 (Future Quality Starter)
Games Watched: Maryland ‘22, Cincinnati ‘22, Tulane ‘22, Houston ‘22