In the Steelers’ first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, James Washington reminded everyone of the physical skills that made him a second-round draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
James Washington 👀👀👀 pic.twitter.com/9ltceznMJn
— Boone Pickens State © (@BPSTATE_) August 9, 2019
It’s no surprise that Washington’s ADP is on the rise, and it’s likely to hit the 100-overall mark by the time the Steelers play their next game against the Chiefs on Saturday.
With that in mind, let’s reexamine Washington’s college profile and explore a few player comps that arise from his disappointing rookie season.
The Next Stephen Hill?
Washington made it all the way to the finals of our 2018 WR Prospect Tournament. He put up nearly 3,000 receiving yards through his final two seasons at Oklahoma State on his way to a second-round draft selection by the Steelers. So, it’s mildly surprising that he only managed 217 yards in 12 games as a rookie.
Our first three comps come from the similarity search in the RotoViz Screener and focus on opportunity, efficiency, draft slot, age and weight.
Rookie WR efficiency may not be sticky, but it does matter, and it’s weighing down Washington’s outlook.
These are just three of the more intriguing names I pulled from the Screener. The three closest comps on a per-game basis were Derek Hagan, Devin Thomas, and D.J. Chark.
Longtime RotoViz readers probably felt a twinge of pain and sadness seeing Stephen Hill’s name in print again, a player who once scored almost as highly as Julio Jones on our Megatron Index.
We don’t quite know what fellow-sophomore Chark is yet, but Nelson Agholor was a big, fast, and productive WR who didn’t break out until his third year in the NFL.
…Or the Next JuJu Smith-Schuster?
The outlook is improved when we use the Box Score Scout to focus solely on Washington’s college profile, which still carries weight in a receiver’s second year when projecting NFL success.
His combination of size, speed, and solid market share numbers make for some eye-popping comparisons.
- Although he can’t match JuJu Smith-Schuster’s .29 Dominator Rating at 19 years old, Washington had similar market share numbers throughout the course of his career and better final-year numbers. He’s the same size and speed and was drafted two spots higher. Washington won’t be the next Smith-Schuster, but these arrows do hint at his potential.
- With similar market share numbers and weight, Washington’s college career also stacks up well against Michael Thomas.
- And, while it’s a sim score of just 24, seeing DeAndre Hopkin’s name on this last adds intrigue — if only Washington was a first-round draft pick.
This cross-section of comparables gives us a good idea of Washington’s range of outcomes. He has the tools and profile to emerge as an elite option, a middle-range late bloomer like Agholor or a bust like Hill.
The question is when he’ll get his chance. Washington’s performance hasn’t vaulted him past free agent acquisition Donte Moncrief for the No. 2 job. The veteran WR has been getting starter treatment in camp and appears locked into that role. That said, there is an anti-fragility element to this situation. With Antonio Brown gone, Washington would be thrust into a significant role if either guy in front of him were to miss time.
I’m still avoiding Washington for the most part in redraft since I’m building Zero RB teams and am therefore targeting RBs in his ADP range instead. His going price — often ahead of Moncrief — was already a little too high even before Friday’s flashy showing. Any further ADP increase makes him a difficult buy given his rookie inefficiency and his relative standing on the Steelers depth chart.