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Why Drake London’s versatility as a route runner makes him a viable target for Washington

Film Session on USC receiver Drake London

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Drake London, WR, Junior

School: USC

Height / Weight: 6’4” / 219 lbs

Hand size: 9 3/8"

Arm Length: 33"

Wing Span: 77 3/4"

Projected Draft Status: Round 1

Player Overview

London is a junior who had 23 starts in 27 career games at USC. London played for Head Coach Clay Helton all three seasons with the Trojans, London's offensive coordinator was Graham Harrell. Harrell utilized an air-raid system with mesh, stick, smash, sail, and verticals concepts from various formations and personnel groupings.

London is a very good athlete, slender build, with very good height and weight for his position. In addition, London has very good agility, balance, change of direction, quickness, average acceleration, and average foot speed.

College Stats

In 2021, the Trojans averaged 298 passing yards per game (17th), 145.6 rushing yards per game (81st), and averaged 28 points per game (t-138th).

Injuries

2019 - None

2020 - None

2021 - Back (Week two versus Stanford, no time missed); Fractured right ankle (Week eight versus Arizona, out for season)

Strengths

Context: Arizona v. USC (Week 8, October 30, 2021), 7p est .

Analysis: London displays very good mental processing in this rep to create separation. USC faces Cover 1 man, and London has a comeback against press coverage. Starting at his release, Drake displays a very good double move at the line of scrimmage to get into an inside release. As London gets into his stem, he already has gained leverage against his defender, and he knows it. London successfully attacks his defender's outside shoulder to manipulate his defenders' hips, and when his defender turns around to find him, London breaks for his comeback. Although you want to see fewer chops at the breakpoint to get into his comeback, London still displays a solid change of direction to create the separation that he did.

Context: USC v. ND (Week 7, October 23, 2021), 7:30p est. 1st and 10 @ USC 14.

Analysis: London is facing off-bail coverage in this rep, and while he is running a corner-post, the most critical part of this play for London is closing the cushion between him and the cornerback. London displays very good acceleration at the line of scrimmage to close the defender's cushion and very good mental processing in his double move to sell corner. With the defender's eyes mainly on the quarterback in this technique, London knows that he has to press the defender's blind spot, which is toward the sideline, and he successfully manipulates the defender. At the breakpoint, when he goes into his post, London displays a very good change of direction and explosion to gain additional separation. In addition, London shows a very good adjustment to an underthrow as the ball is thrown to him, attacking the contested pass, securing it, and maintaining possession after contact with the ground. Strong hands and competitive toughness after his route is what made this play.

Context: UTAH v. USC (Week 6, October 9, 2021), 8p est.

Analysis: Another skill in his toolbox is play strength to create separation. London is running a curl route facing soft-press coverage from his defender. The defender has good technique and discipline throughout the entire rep until he and London reach the route's breakpoint. London's play strength to create separation at the breakpoint as his defender attempts to jam him at the first down stick exemplifies his physical nature and competitive toughness to get open at the top of his route.

Context: USC v. COLO (Week 5, October 2, 2021), 2p est. 1st and 20 @ COLO 29

Analysis: London is running a fade versus soft-press coverage. London displays good initial quickness at the line of scrimmage to get into his stem. However, London's foot speed is below average, and he cannot separate from his defender as he gets into his stem. Despite his inability to separate downfield, London displays an elite adjustment to the ball to make a play over top of his defender. London also displays elite hands in his ability to attack the ball and grab at its highest point while maintaining possession as he falls to the ground. This is an excellent display of competitive toughness and adjusting to a sideline/endzone pass in a contested-catch situation.

Context: USC v. COLO (Week 5, October 2, 2021), 2p est. 2nd and 8 @ USC 49

Analysis: Like the rep against Notre Dame, London's job is to attack the safety cushion and threaten the defender. London is successful in his release, displaying very good acceleration to close the defender's cushion downfield. London also utilizes good mental processing at the top of the route to sell the corner route before breaking into his post; he would not be able to manipulate the defender if he is not successful with his release. Although he and the defender collide, London has good play strength at the breakpoint to run through the defender without losing speed and very good hands at the catch point to attack the ball over the defender and maintain possession on the fall. London, again, displayed a very good adjustment to his quarterback's pass, which is over his shoulder, and he high points the ball to make a play over the defender.

Weaknesses

Context: USC v. COLO (Week 5, October 2, 2021), 2p est. 1st and 10 @ USC 42

Analysis: Here is London's inability to separate downfield. With below-average foot speed, he cannot create separation at the breakpoint versus off-zone coverage. Marginal release at LOS due to marginal acceleration, marginal footspeed at breakpoint to separate from the defender.

Context: USC v. COLO (Week 5, October 2, 2021), 2p est. 1st and 10 @ USC 36.

Analysis: Here is another example of below-average foot speed. London is facing soft-press coverage, running a slot fade. London utilizes a speed release to get off the line; however, with below-average acceleration and foot speed in his route, he is unable to separate from his defender. He also struggles in his stem, displaying below-average play strength to maintain the proper line in his stem. But London fights back, and while his foot speed was a quickness, he is able to counter at the catch point. London has elite play strength and body adjustment at the catch point to shed his defender and fight back inside for the ball at the last second. London displayed elite competitive toughness, concentration, and coordination to win the fight for the ball and maintain possession on the fall.

Scheme Fit

London can fit in multiple offensive philosophies, but his best fit is with an offense that will allow him to primarily run short to intermediate routes (bubble, slants, curls, comebacks, outs), with occasional deep double-move (corner-post/post-corner) routes that allow him to utilize his mental processing.

Projection

London is a starting level X or Slot receiver that you will win with in an offense that will allow him to primarily run short to intermediate routes (bubble, slants, curls, comebacks, outs), with occasional deep double-move (corner-post/post-corner) routes that allow him to utilize his mental processing.

London will win with very good initial quickness, mental processing, and competitive toughness. London has several release techniques that allow him to win at the line of scrimmage versus press coverage. He has good acceleration to threaten defender's cushions when facing off-coverage. London displays a good knowledge of coverage concepts and has good awareness in attacking defenders' leverage or blind spots when facing bail coverage. At the breakpoint, London shows good athletic traits in his change of direction and balance, maintaining his speed as he plants his feet. He displays very mental processing at the breakpoint, displaying the necessary patience to set his defenders up by manipulating their hips to win on a route. He also displays the ability to separate with play strength, fighting through jam attempts at the line of scrimmage or at the breakpoint to beat the defender.

London has elite hands and ball skills that make him a threat against any defender in front of him and at any level of the field. He catches passes around his frame and away from his body, whether on the move or stationary. London has made adjustments to passes that were low, high, or behind him, with excellent sideline awareness and ball tracking. London is excellent after the catch, displaying many elusive traits to make defenders miss or using more physical methods (lower shoulders/stiff-arm) to gain additional yards. His vision as a ball carrier is good, and he should be utilized in the screen game. He is an effective blocker and will occupy defensive backs in 1 on 1's or as a wham blocker.

London will struggle as a separator with his foot speed and should not be consistently asked to run routes in the deep areas of the field (post, fade, or fly). London also struggled on fades and fly routes at times to maintain space between him and the boundary. This will be an issue for quarterbacks as they won't have a pocket to throw to if London is sent on a fade or fly, so he will need to develop in this area through his awareness and play strength. While London is an effective blocker, he loses focus at times after his initial engagement, which allows defenders to get back into plays after he engages. London also abandons his technique or leverage to utilize a lunge versus defenders in the box and will need to use his technique consistently.

Conclusion: The controversy surrounding Drake London stems from his big-play potential, specifically the thought that London cannot separate from defenders, and that's completely false. London is effective on all levels of the field because he has multiple tools in his toolbox to create separation. London is a smart, athletic player with elite competitive toughness and playmaking potential. London's lack of foot speed is notable; however, some of the better receivers in the NFL aren't blazers on the field. Some receivers are technicians, some are burners, and some are physically dominant. With better quarterback play at the professional level, I expect London to disprove the notion that he cannot win on the NFL level.

Games watched: USC v. Washington State, September 18, 2021; USC v. Colorado, October 2, 2021; UTAH v. USC, October 9, 2021; USC v. Notre Dame, October 23, 2021; Arizona v. USC, October 30, 2021.

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