This past week, the Redskins drafted two wideouts -- Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon — to join a group of mostly middling receivers left over from last season.
The best receiver on the Redskins ‘18 roster, former Duke Blue Devil Jamison Crowder, is now a New York Jet.
Duke may be a basketball powerhouse from the ACC, but as any NFC East fan knows, Duke is not a football powerhouse, and the last player from that school to be drafted by an NFL team and play in an NFL game was, in fact, former Redskin Jamison Crowder. Well, the Redskins are hoping that Blue lightning can strike again in the form of another Duke receiver, this time of the undrafted variety.
Let me introduce you to T.J. Rahming.
Rahming led Duke in 2018 across all categories with 75 catches for 811 yards and eight touchdowns.
Since he wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, his comparative workout numbers can be a bit hard to come by; I’ve seen a range of 40 times reported for Rahming ( ESPN: 4.41; DraftAnalyst: 4.43; CBS Sports: 4.47; DraftScout reports “Low: 4.55 Time: 4.64 High: 4.71”).
For reference, here are recorded times for some of the Redskins other receivers, including a former Redskin and current Eagle known for his speed:
- Desean Jackson: 4.35
- Terry McLaurin: 4.35
- Paul Richardson: 4.40
- Robert Davis: 4.44
- Josh Doctson: 4.50
- Trey Quinn: 4.55
- Kelvin Harmon: 4.60
To put some perspective on that, had Rahming run 4.47 at the combine, it would have tied him for 15th among wideouts, equal with Jaylen Smith and one spot ahead of Hakeem Butler. A 4.64 time, by contrast, would make him even slower than Kelvin Harmon, who is not fleet of foot; it is known.
Most of what I read about him indicates that he’s fast — and that the middle of the 4.4 - 4.5 range is probably the most correct.
Rahming is a small guy; he stands 5-foot-10, 170 pounds - roughly the same size as Desean Jackson and Jamison Crowder — so he needs to be fast, or tough, or both.
If he is going to play in the NFL, T.J. Rahming will likely have to do it as a slot receiver in the mold of Crowder, as he doesn’t seem likely to unseat the the recently drafted and blistering fast Terry McLaurin.
However, in addition to competing with draft picks McLaurin and Harmon, Rahming will be in a camp battle with other young players like Trey Quinn, Cam Sims and Robert Davis, each of whom is a young veteran with his own limitations trying to return from injury.
Cam Sims, who was a UDFA from Alabama himself this time last year, was blocking on the kickoff-return team in the opening seconds of the 2018 season when he suffered a high ankle sprain against the Arizona Cardinals. Carted off the field, he didn’t play again the entire season.
Robert Davis, a 2017 sixth-round draft pick, spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. As a second year player in 2018, Davis was placed on injured reserve after suffering a broken tibia and a torn LCL during training camp, keeping him out the entire 2018 season.
Trey Quinn, 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant, and the once-presumed successor to Jamison Crowder as the Redskins slot receiver, went on IR not once, but twice last season, logging only 143 snaps in 3 games, and finishing with 9 receptions for 175 yards. His season finally ended in Week 12 when his high-ankle sprain was re-injured.
All three will be in a dog fight to retain their roster spots this season against two draft picks for whom most fans and analysts have high expectations. Rahming will face a lot of competition in his efforts to make the roster. He probably has to beat out Trey Quinn at the very least.
What does this mean for the former Duke Blue Devil?
Rahming will be hoping to avoid the injury curse that has seemed to plague Redskins players for at least the past two seasons in his effort to break into the NFL. While the Redskins recent explosion of injuries might have given Rahming reason to question the wisdom of joining Washington as a UDFA, there are a couple of factors that may have had a hand in convincing him to join the Redskins roster.
First, judging by the recent draft, the Redskins are looking for speed in their young players on both sides of the ball. If Rahming really is a sub-4.5 guy, that may make a difference.
Second, Washington’s receiving corps is thin, and there is not a lot separating the best and worst receivers on the roster. If Rahming can use his speed effectively, show reliable hands, and carve out a place on special teams, then he has a shot at a roster spot — especially if injuries once again take a toll on other receivers during preseason.
One key element of making the Redskins team will, in fact, be special teams, and this may provide an opportunity. Rahming had limited success as a returner, averaging 5.8 yards on 25 returns as a senior.
But he was able to put together an impressive bowl game that included a 14-yard punt return. I think he’ll need to shine in preseason as a Redskins return man to have a shot at the 53-man roster.
His 14-yard punt return gives @DukeFOOTBALL's T.J. Rahming the single-game I-Bowl all-purpose yardage record with 276 yards, breaking the mark of LSU's Kevin Faulk (271 vs. Michigan State in 1995). #GoDuke— Walk-On's Independence Bowl (@IndyBowl) December 27, 2018
The projections I read for this player on scouting websites generally had him graded as a practice squad candidate, which is consistent with the fact that Rahming wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. As I just mentioned, unless he can establish himself as a valuable special teams contributor, I would expect that Practice Squad is the most positive outcome he can expect in 2019.
But let’s not rely on my interpretation of second and third hand reports to form an opinion. I have access to a film analyst who has volunteered to give his take on the Redskins UDFAs.
James FitzGerald (@GMDfitz7765) is a former college player, high school coach, and an avid college football fan who has spent hours in the film room watching opponents and his own teams. His analytical skill adds depth to these profiles that I can’t supply on my own.
Let’s see what he has to say about T.J. Rahming.
Fitz’s film review
Film Watched: Duke v. Clemson, Duke v. Miami, Duke v. Pitt
T.J Rahming is fast and he uses his speed to gain separation from the defense. He also uses his speed to gather yards after the catch, and the Redskins need more speed on their roster.
He is also willing to block on run plays. I wouldn’t say he excels at run blocking, but he at least shows he is willing.
He runs mostly out of the slot, and he is a fairly versatile player from this position. He executes many routes, runs end-arounds, and he even threw for a touchdown. This versatility would come in handy for the Redskin’s offense.
In fact, the good news is that Rahming was the most athletic player on the Blue Devils receiving corp, and it shows in almost every aspect of his game. However, the bad news is that it isn’t too difficult to be the most athletic player on the Duke football team.
Like all players, Rahming has limitations. There were times when he used his body to catch a pass. He should, of course, be using his hands as catching with the body will cause drops, and it takes longer to catch the ball when using the body.
He is also very easily knocked off of his routes. This is his greatest weakness. He is not very strong, and I almost feel as if a breath from an NFL cornerback would knock him off of his route.
He also often seemed out of position when running his routes. Daniel Jones would miss him, but it would be because Rahming ran his route too shallow or made his cut too late.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
Aside from his speed and athletic ability I don’t see any reason Rahming would make an NFL roster. It’s natural to compare him to Jamison Crowder, as they did both go to Duke, but Rahming is not even close to Crowder’s level.
Rahming did return punts for Duke, but I don’t see him as special in that category either.
In my opinion, T.J. Rahming will have a very short NFL career: he most likely will be cut at the end of pre-season.
As UDFAs go, rate T.J. Rahming:
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How good are the chances that T.J. Rahming is on the Redskins roster in 2019?
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A taste of T.J. Rahming’s Twitter feed:
More than happy for my brother @Daniel_Jones10 ... we knew he was great since day 1— TJ Rahming (@3GotTheJuice) April 26, 2019
I’m ready for whatever comes with it... I been slept on since the beginning— TJ Rahming (@3GotTheJuice) April 8, 2019
“SPLIT RELEASE” Here I’m using a Towel and dropping it at either Side of me Forcing you to make an Instant Split Decision to cross his Face while Catching the Towel with your inside Hand. This forces you to Turn your Shoulder to make the Defender miss when he Jams. #TeamTSP pic.twitter.com/OvQUDqhUck— TJ Brown (@Topshelf_TJ) January 20, 2019