Wide receiver Courtland Sutton‘s final game at Southern Methodist ended in disappointment as the Mustangs were demolished 51-10 by the Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl. He finished the game with six receptions for 68 receiving yards and was heavily targeted by SMU quarterback Ben Hicks. Sutton ends his career second in SMU history in receiving touchdowns (31) and third in receiving yards (3,152). He is one of just three SMU receivers to post 3,000 career receiving yards. The consensus among many NFL Draft gurus is that the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Sutton is a middle to late first-round pick. Can Sutton’s metrics match up to the hype?
THE EARLY YEARS
Sutton played his high school football at Brenham High School in Texas. As a junior, he was named first-team All-District as a safety. As a senior, he was named first-team All-District as a tight end and second team as a safety. A three-star recruit, he chose SMU over offers from BYU, Colorado, and Rice. Sutton was signed to play safety but ultimately transitioned to WR.
Sutton was given a medical redshirt in 2014. He made two catches for 27 receiving yards before being shut down. In 2015, he started and played in all 12 games at WR, leading the Mustangs in catches (49), receiving yards (862), and TDs (9). Sutton set the SMU freshman record for receiving yards previously held by Ron Morris (688) and tied Emmanuel Sanders for most receiving TDs. He was named to the USA Today Freshman All-America team and to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.
2016 AND BEYOND
Did you know that Sutton became the first SMU WR to earn first-team all-conference honors since Cole Beasley in 2011? He led the Mustangs in receptions (76), receiving yards (1,246) and receiving TDs (10). Sutton set a single-game school record for receiving yards (252) on a career-high 13 receptions against USF. He currently holds the SMU sophomore receiving record that was previously held by Aldrick Robinson. Only 18 WRs accumulated more receiving yards in 2016. Sutton was named to the 2016 First-Team All-American Athletic Conference, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose National Player of the Week (November 22), and to the American Weekly Honor Roll three times. The hype would only continue to rise heading into his junior season.
Sutton was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and received numerous accolades, including being named a preseason first-team All-American. He was also recognized as an All-AAC offensive and top 30 AAC (No. 3) Player by College Football News. Sutton’s overall production in 2017 was lower than his breakout sophomore season, but he still finished with 62 receptions, 1,017 receiving yards, and 12 TDs. He finished his SMU career averaging 62.3 catches, 1,042 receiving yards, and 10.3 TDs from 2015 to 2017.
Kevin Cole’s regression tree helps us put his production in context and places a premium on market share of receiving yards, yards per reception, and age.
The model gives a higher success rate if the subject player is 21 years or older. Sutton turned 22 on October 10. Sutton had a 27.5 percent market share on receiving yards last season and 39.3 percent back in 2016. He averaged 16.4 yards per reception in both seasons. This suggests that Sutton was being used to attack opposing defenses vertically.
Sutton has the frame, athletic ability, and ball skills to become a No. 1 WR in the NFL. His collegiate production suggests he will get off to a fast start. If Sutton has a solid performance at the combine, it will only strengthen his selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
He could be a good fit in Indianapolis if Donte Moncrief leaves in free agency. Depending on how many of their receivers depart, the Jaguars would be another potential landing spot. Have I changed your perception of Sutton moving forward? Please let me know in the comments or better yet reach out on Twitter @EricNMoody.