Height: 6’ 5”
247 Rating: 0.9087 (4 Stars)
By: Nate Christian (@NateNFL)
A somewhat controversial prospect, Drake London was one of the best and most productive receivers in college football this season until he suffered a foot injury against Arizona in late October. While the injury doesn’t affect his long-term outlook, the film he put together has some question marks for many. Was London simply the lucky recipient of a very concentrated offense or is he a future top wideout at the next level? Depending on who you ask you will get a variety of answers.
Throughout his first two years at USC, London put up decent numbers of 72 receptions and just over 1,000 yards with 8 touchdowns. This was over 14 games, so overall rather impressive numbers. But the real breakout was in 2021, in the injury-shortened season, when London handled 88 catches for 1,084 yards and 7 touchdowns… in 8 games. That’s an average of 11 receptions a game for over 130 yards. London was the USC offense in 2021 and he was on a historical pace before the injury. Now going forward, where does he fit into the 2022 draft class? There’s a lot more to London than just a high volume of receptions.
- Small Forward Size- Most football fans get excited when they see a 6’ 5” wide receiver join their team. That size can give them an advantage in many situations, and people will get even more excited when the announcers mention something about a basketball background. Yes, London was a two-sport athlete at USC, playing on the basketball team as well. But don’t be fooled by that knowledge, as impressive as it is to be on the USC basketball squad London only ever appeared in two games for a total of six minutes. Still, the basketball background only helps this wideout as he bodies up defenders and gets up for those contested catches.
- 70/30’s- Simply put, 50/50 balls are not 50/50 balls when they are headed London’s way. Not only does he have the size and length, but he’s obviously got the timing and body control down to take advantage of jump balls against smaller defenders. This works for him up and down the field as any ball thrown his way has a chance to end up in his hands.
- Volume/Efficiency- In 2021, London showed us that he could contribute at a high level and handle the workload of a WR1 on a team. He’s capable of having an offense run through him and not letting his quarterback down. Opposing defense knew where the ball was going on every pass play and still London would come down with the catch. On the flip side though, it doesn’t seem like London has to be the main target to produce. In 2020, he averaged 15.2 yards per reception and has shown the ability to make big plays down the field when given the opportunity.
- Separation?- Often times when we think of receivers who handle a ton of volume and short yardage receptions we imagine great route runners like Kennan Allen ($20,025,000) or Diontae Johnson ($1,070,241) who create a lot of separation quickly and often. London doesn’t fit that mold. Despite the high volume he carried at USC, he’s not a consistent separator like some of the other wideouts mentioned. This brings up some concerns, as good as his contested catch ability is, what will it look like in the NFL? Will he manage to win at the same high-rate? Or is he a little too reminiscent of N’Keal Harry ($2,524,587)?
- Is He The X?- At 6’ 5” you expect London to come into a team and become the bona fide X receiver out on the sideline right? Well, he played mostly in the slot until this past season and while he did well on the outside, it was against PAC-12 corners and I’m not convinced he has the strength and physical dominance to continue that production at the next level in that position. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being the big slot receiver, in fact it could even be better for fantasy football production, but let’s take a moment to temper our expectations. I don’t have London pegged as the next Vincent Jackson or Mike Evans ($16,500,000) just yet.
Things to Watch:
Is London going to be healthy enough to do any testing during the pre-draft process? I’m really not too sure either way, but I will certainly be watching for anything that he may take part in. For his size, I’m not too worried about his athleticism. He’s not a burner but he’s got enough juice to compete at the next level. Would I love to see some numbers attached to his name? Yes. Do the numbers really matter? No.
Everyone has Drake London as a first round draft pick and at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if I agree or not (I do not), so that’s where we will project him. The injury shouldn’t cause too much of a drop, unless there are reports of a setback, so I’d expect London to hear his name called at the back end of the first round, in that sweet spot for WRs between 20-28. He’ll likely have a contract hit similar to Rashod Bateman ($3,149,853), earning a deal of about $12m -$13m over four years.
So many teams could use a big receiver like London. Whether he develops into that dominate outside receiver or if he becomes the ultimate mismatch in the slot, either way a team should be able to use him. Does a team want to pair him with another big, physical receiver? Then look no further than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Chris Godwin ($15,983,000) moves on to another team, then the Bucs will likely need to find a new pairing for Evans. Now we don’t know who will be throwing the ball, but with two 6’ 5” receivers on the team, it might not matter that much. Bruce Arians is going to air it out no matter who is under center, so the front office might as well give him another wideout to catch it.
A team I really haven’t heard mentioned in the same sentence as London is the Miami Dolphins. Jaylen Waddle ($6,771,498) has shown the potential to be a great playmaker, but the team needs a physical receiver to pair with him and Devante Parker ($7,625,000) doesn’t seem to be the future of that position. London would be the strength to Waddle’s speed, giving Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,859) the wideouts he needs to continue building confidence in the Dolphins offense. As Mike McDaniel starts to build his team and dynamic offense, it will be certainly worth watching how he address the wide receiver position this year in the draft.