Scouting: Courtland Sutton. WR, SMU
That’s not Joe Flacco getting posterized. East Carolina University has a similar number font on their purple jerseys.
This is the first in my series of scouting reports leading up to the NFL Draft on April 26-28. I’m starting with the prominent WR names first and foremost. If you watch the Ravens, you know why. They need playmaking wideouts like the Orioles need starting pitchers. Good ones, in bunches.
Courtland Sutton is listed on Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft as the 27th pick to the New Orleans Saints. One pick after Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, whom he picks at #26 to the Falcons. What’s the difference in the two? About five inches as Sutton stands 6’4” and Kirk 5’11”, among other things.
Kiper has him going 27th, but others speculate he’ll go off the board as the first WR selected. Before Calvin Ridley (Alabama) who some mock drafters are putting in the top-10 pick range.
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The only things not to like about Sutton are small technique things on the field. Off the field he is blue collar kid from Brenham, Texas. Half way between Austin and Houston. A farmhand who grew up working his hands to the bone on the family ranch. He’s an avid fisherman which would suit him well if he were to call Maryland his next home.
Sutton was a bit of a late bloomer as the three sport star in high school was 6’0”, 190 lbs. He was a tight end as a junior because he was better blocker. He was passed over by schools like Texas and Texas A&M, took a visit to Colorado only to be told they were out of scholarships. The week before signing day, SMU came calling. Between his junior year in high school and college, he grew up to 6’4”, 225lbs.
As a freshman, SMU coach June Jones made him a safety where he also played in high school. Sutton suffered a back injury and redshirted after two games.
The next season, Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris took over head coaching duties and saw something else in Sutton. The same thing he saw in his former Tiger protégés, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Sutton had to be a wideout. The X-wideout going up in one on one battles with undersized corners, forcing teams to use safety help if they wanted to defend him.
Sutton had a breakout season in 2015 and an even bigger one in 2016 as he earned the respect of his fellow teammates and coaches becoming team captain. Players used to cut of their athletic tape before getting in the cold tubs and leave it lying around for the staff to pick up. Sutton noticed this when he stayed late through practice one day working on his game. He helped the staff clean up, and the next day told his teammates they would be throwing their own tape away. Not a piece of trash had been left on the ground since. “Servant-Leader” is what they call him.
SMU’s WR Coach, Justin Stepp recently got hired for the same position at Arkansas. But because of Courtland Sutton, he decided to stick around and coach him in their bowl game. Stepp and his wife have a baby on the way which they will name Courtland. That’s the kind of impact Sutton has on people.
Hard worker, strong leader, amazing character, but can he play ball?
Of course he can. He’ll likely be the first SMU player drafted in the first round in 32 years. But that’s not to say he’s flawless. I think if you watch the tapes. You’ll see the transformation from 2015-2017. In the early years, albeit breakout years, it was a little evident at times that if he wasn’t the primary target, he was a little sluggish. He didn’t run the crisp routes as he would round them off. A lot of his yardage was on plays where he was just left open. Drops seem to be a concern and he didn’t ever really showoff a big catch radius. He’ll push off at times for no real reason. He’s not afraid to “bump” a defender after the play who might be jawing at him, getting baited in to penalty flags.
The 2017 tape though you can see him grow. If he’s wide open It’s because he out ran the coverage on a 9 route. Or because they have to respect the deep speed, he stops on dime on a hitch route. If he caught the ball on a short crosser, he has the speed to go all the way and shed a tackle if needed. If you threw him a fade route in the endzone he would be blanketed but would go up and get it. As they say, when you’re 6’4”, you’re always wide open four feet above your head.
The Bottom Line: Sutton has a size/speed combo that teams salivate over. He’s more than checks all the character boxes. Kiper has him going 27th, but CBSsports Mock draft has him going 2nd to San Francisco where Kyle Shanahan will look to get Jimmy Garappolo the next Julio Jones. I think that’s a bit much as small parts of his game seem a bit overrated. But as a late bloomer, I see no reason why he can’t develop in to a superstar one day. Maybe just not day one. I think his true ability lands him somewhere in the middle. 2nd overall might be a reach, but I don’t see him falling to 27th either.
For the Ravens, picking at #16, if Courtland Sutton is there, you might as well take him. Hard to tell whether he’ll be scheme fit but some guys are whatever shape of peg you need them to be to fill your needs. Sutton looks like that guy. I’d say a fair comparison is Demaryius Thomas who went 22nd overall in 2010. Both guys can run the short routes, deep routes, have big frames, are sneaky elusive in open space.
I don’t think anyone would be upset at the Ravens picking this fine young man at #16, or maybe earlier if trading up a couple spots is in play.