From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will 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, we’ll be profiling Cincinnati WR Tre Tucker.
#7 / #1 Tre Tucker, WR, Cincinnati (Sr.) — 5085, 182
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Tre Tucker||5085/182||8 5/8″||28 7/8″||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Elite speed to run by man coverage and destroy angles after the catch
— Great acceleration off the line of scrimmage to eat up cushion
— Possesses the ability to stop on a dime
— Quick feet to execute secondary releases
— Good contact balance after the catch to pick up extra yards
— Two kick-return touchdowns
— Displays ability as a gunner on punt coverage
— Size will limit him to only playing in the slot
— Can take too many steps at the top of his breaks while trying to get the defender to lean
— Short arms will limit his ability to bring in contested catches
— A lot of manufactured production and underneath work (career aDOT of 8.6)
— Some concentration drops on tape
— Not going to offer much as a blocker
— Never had more than three touchdowns from scrimmage in a season
— 111 catches, 1,426 receiving yards, 12.8 avg., and 8 touchdowns in 46 career games
— 2 career kick-return touchdowns, 24.9-yard kick-return average
— 15 career special team tackles
— 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl participant
— 2022 team captain
— 2022 Bruce Feldman’s Freak List
— 2020 All-AAC second-team selection
— Squats over 600 pounds
— Has 11 siblings
— Three-star recruit out of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Cuyahoga Falls, OH
— Track star, winning the Ohio State Championship in the long jump, 100-meter dash, and was on 4 x 200-meter relay team
— Friends with Mike Tomlin’s son Dino after meeting him at The Opening Combine
Tre Tucker is an impressive slot wide receiver hailing from the University of Cincinnati. He initially caught my attention during the 2023 Senior Bowl week. Despite his small stature of 5’9″ and 182 pounds, Tucker’s lightning-quick feet allowed him to effortlessly create separation from defenders throughout the week in Mobile.
But there’s more to Tucker’s game than just his quickness. His most notable asset is his elite speed, which earned him a spot on Bruce Feldman’s 2022 Freaks List. Though he was rumored to run in the 4.2s, Tucker ultimately clocked in at a 4.4 flat at the NFL combine, which is still plenty fast for any NFL team.
He isn’t just fast in his underwear either. As seen below, Tucker has the play speed to blaze past defensive backs in coverage. His ability to destroy angles after the catch is truly impressive.
In addition to exceptional speed, Tucker’s explosive burst off the line of scrimmage is another tool in his arsenal that sets him apart. Defenders have to be careful not to get burned as he quickly eats up their cushion, forcing them to respect his speed.
Take a look at this speed-out, and you can see how Tucker’s initial get-off forces the safety to open his hips and turn to run. Tucker carries his speed through the break, and if the outside corner doesn’t make a great read on the quarterback, this could have been a big play.
After one of the Senior Bowl practices back in February, I had the opportunity to speak with Tucker and ask him about his exceptional short-area quickness and ability to maneuver around defenders. He replied with an interesting analogy, likening his speed to a sports car without brakes – it’s great to have top-end speed, but equally crucial to be able to come to a stop and change direction quickly. It’s evident that Tucker has continuously worked on this aspect of his game through his training.
Below are some examples of Tucker using his quick feet to get in and out of his breaks with minimal steps to create separation.
Tucker’s shiftiness and burst are valuable assets in the open field, after the catch. He has a knack for making defenders miss and can be elusive with the ball in his hands. Even the slightest bit of space is enough for Tucker to accelerate and turn a short gain into a big play.
It’s worth noting that Tucker’s ball security has been generally reliable throughout his career, with only two fumbles, one of which is shown in the second clip above. It shouldn’t be viewed as a major concern.
Aside from his game against SMU in 2021, there weren’t many instances of Tucker making contested catches on his tape. This is likely due to his relatively short arms, measuring in at 28-7/8″, which puts him in the first percentile of receivers in the MockDraftable database.
His lack of length limits his ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and keep the ball away from defensive backs. An example of this can be seen in the clip below. Tucker is unable to extend his arms to make a play on the ball against Alabama.
However, in the aforementioned 2021 SMU game, Tucker put on a show with not one, not two, but three high-difficulty contested catches. While this performance shows that he has the potential to make contested catches, it’s unlikely something he’ll ever be able to do at a consistent level.
Overall, Tucker has solid hands, but he can be prone to the occasional concentration drop.
Examining Tucker’s blocking, it is an area that he should prioritize improving on at the NFL level.
Despite his smaller frame, Tucker has impressive strength, demonstrated by his 16 bench reps of 225 and 600+ lb. squat. However, he needs to refine his technique and become more engaged in the fight to fully utilize his strength. If he does not work on these areas, he’ll become a liability in the run game.
As our own Alex Kozora likes to remind us, “Special Teams matter!” and that’s where Tucker is likely to make an impact in the early stages of his career.
Tucker’s explosive speed and burst make him a valuable asset as a kick returner. He holds the distinction of being one of the best kick returners in Cincinnati’s history with two kick-return touchdowns and a career average of 24.9 yards per return. His ability to make quick decisions, hit the hole, and accelerate through gaps makes him a prime candidate for a team’s starting kick returner from the get-go.
Despite only having five punt returns during his college career at Cincinnati, Tucker showed his potential as a punt returner in 2022 by returning three for an impressive 15.3-yard average. While he was never the Bearcats’ full-time punt returner, there is nothing in his skillset that suggests he cannot be a one in the NFL.
In addition to his return abilities, Tucker also brings valuable special-teams versatility as a gunner. He was able to use his speed to track down punts and rack up an impressive 15 special teams tackles over his career, including eight during his freshman season. That is the type of versatility a team loves for the back end of the roster.
Tre Tucker’s elite speed, acceleration, and quickness, make him a potentially dynamic weapon out of the slot. While his overall size will limit him to the slot position, his ability to create separation and gain yards after the catch could be valuable for any NFL team looking to add a speedy/gadget weapon to its receiving corps. Tucker will need to work on his contested-catch ability, as well as his blocking technique, but his athleticism and special-teams ability likely makes him a pick on day three.
Tucker feels like a guy that’s on the back end of almost every roster. Pittsburgh has seen the likes of them come and go over the years like Ryan Switzer, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Steven Sims. None of them were the type of athlete Tucker is with a 4.4 40-yard dash and a 37.5″ vertical. But I still see his career likely going down a similar path unless a team is able to unlock his athletic ability more than they did at Cincinnati. Tucker can carve out a niche role and there’s certainly a place for him in today’s NFL, but expecting anything beyond that is likely overreaching.
Considering that the Steelers already have a receiver in Calvin Austin who possesses a similar skillset to Tucker, it may be wiser for the team to look for help at the slot position from a player with a larger build and the ability to play both inside and outside, as well as provide solid blocking in the run game.
Projection: Day 3
Depot Draft Grade: 6.8 – Backup/Special Teamer (5th Round)
Games Watched: Arkansas (2022), UCF (2022), Alabama (2021), SMU (2021), Temple (2021), USF (2021), Senior Bowl (2023)