Artavis Scott will take the field in the national championship game against Alabama with 242 career catches. In securing two catches for 16 yards against Ohio State, he eclipsed Sammy Watkins for the all-time lead at Clemson.
Scott entered college as the No. 8 WR recruit according to 247Sports and immediately burst on the scene with 965 yards and 8 touchdowns. He’s confirmed his intelligence and maturity by graduating in three years. You might expect a receiver with that pedigree to be the focal point of the Tigers offense and a surefire early-round rookie pick in 2017. Surprisingly, the future, while bright, is definitely not that clear.
In my original 2017 prospect rankings, I argued that we might forgive Mike Williams at least a portion of his market share weakness since he shares time with such a deep and talented group of receivers. If Williams is the Odell Beckham of Clemson’s loaded WR corps, then Scott is the Jarvis Landry.1 Even within that context, the career path for Scott is bizarre.
|Year||G||Rec||Yds||Avg||TD||Rush Att||Rush Yds||TD||msYD||msTD|
- Scott immediately broke out as a true freshman with a combined market share of 0.32.
- He logged 18 carries and gained more than 900 yards as a kick and punt returner.
- Even while dealing with a meniscus cleanup late in the season, Scott led Clemson with 901 receiving yards during Williams’ 2015 absence.
- Scott’s production has dropped every year, and he finishes with a career market share of 0.20, well below the level achieved by prospects who go on to NFL success.2
- As Clemson’s 2015 receiving leader, he still only managed 21 percent of their receiving yards.
- He averaged a mere 10.2 yards per reception for his career and an even more pedestrian 8.3 for 2016. Those numbers are below the level for projected possession receivers like Zay Jones and Trent Taylor. It’s well below the yards per reception for RB star Dalvin Cook.
The Bigger Picture
Possession receivers are playing a more vital role than ever in the contemporary NFL, and Scott’s background suggests he is a solid prospect of that type. However, his recent results raise numerous red flags. Deshaun Watson has only averaged 8.0 yards per attempt this season and has thrown 17 interceptions. While it’s only human nature to nitpick superstars, those aren’t the numbers of a draftable QB playing with a full complement of NFL receivers.
Watson’s 2016 struggles could be entirely his fault, but they raise questions about the cannibalization argument. Beckham and Landry have both hit the top end of their range of outcomes based on market share-style projections, but the teammate narrative is overstated. Neither player required a host of caveats to make the positive argument for their NFL prospects. Both finished well above the 0.30 msYD threshold in their final seasons.3 The argument for Scott has to go beyond Mike Williams and extend to other receiving threats, and maybe it does … because Scott finished fourth on the Tigers in receiving yards.
This argument cuts both ways, of course. Scott has been outgained by Jordan Leggett (641-7), a legitimate NFL prospect at TE, and by Deon Cain (630-9), an uber-recruit/star prospect who may get the Mike Williams treatment himself next season. If there’s a secondary concern attached to this, it’s the yards-per-reception numbers for the players involved. Cain operated as the deep threat, managing 19.1 yards every time he hauled in a pass. Leggett sprinted to 16.4 yards per reception. When the team’s TE is doubling up your per-catch numbers, it really hammers home the possession label.
If Scott hadn’t entered college as such a prized recruit, posted such an impressive freshman season, and played for a high-profile program like Clemson, he wouldn’t still be mentioned as a potential third-round pick based on his 2016 performance.
On the other hand, I place a strong emphasis on prospects who excelled early in their collegiate careers. As a true freshman, Scott was the equal to the sophomore version of Mike Williams.4 I’ll be closely monitoring his offseason progress and NFL landing spot.
- Williams is almost certainly not Beckham and Scott isn’t Landry, but making exceptions for the one logically requires making some exceptions for the other. (back)
- In an interesting bit of symmetry, Landry finished with a career msYD of 0.20, but his final season market share was 0.37. (back)
- And while Landry is notorious for his low yards per reception in the NFL, he was much more explosive than Scott during his junior year in college. (back)
- Scott caught more passes (76 to 57) and scored more TDs (8 to 6). He came in just behind in yards (1030 to 965) and averaged far fewer yards per reception (18.1 to 12.7). (back)