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How will Penn State standout WR Jahan Dotson fit into Washington’s offense?

Breaking down Jahan Dotson’s strengths and weaknesses and how he fits into Washington’s offense

Penn State v Maryland Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Jahan Dotson, WR, Senior

School: Penn State University

Height / Weight: 5’11” / 181 lbs

Hand size: 9 1/2”

Arm Length: 30 3/4”

Wing Span: 75 1/8”

40-yard dash: 4.43

3-cone: 7.28

Broad Jump: 10’01”

Vertical Jump: 36

225 lb bench: 15 reps (pro day)

Projected Draft Status: Round 2

Player Overview

Jahan Dotson is a senior who played in 42 career games (36 starts) at Penn State. Dotson has played for Head Coach James Franklin each season, and his offensive coordinator was Mike Yurcich in 2021. Jahan Dotson has average height and below-average weight for receivers. However, Dotson is a good athlete with very good explosion, good acceleration, foot speed, change of direction, agility, and quickness.

College Stats

In 2021, the Nittany Lions averaged 269 passing yards per game (26th), 108 rushing yards per game (118th), and averaged 25 points per game (178th).

Injuries

2018 - None

2019 - None

2020 - None

2021 - None

Strengths

Context: Auburn v. PSU, Week 3, September 18, 2021. 1st and 10 @ PSU 23.

Analysis: Before the catch, what we don’t see is the route that Dotson ran before the snap. The Tigers are in zone coverage on this down, and Dotson is running a crosser route on the intermediate level of the field. He has the acceleration to gain the depth quickly and very good mental processing to break as soon as he clears the slot defender. What makes this play great is what Dotson does well, attacking passes at the catch point. Dotson displays elite hands and concentration at the catch point. Surrounded by multiple defenders, Dotson reaching out with one hand, and securing it with both immediately after reaching out is a good showing of his catch radius. His adjustment to a slight overthrow is elite, as well as high-pointing the pass and maintaining possession on contact with the ground. (AA, Mental processing, Hands/Adjustment, Competitive toughness)

Context: PSU v. Ohio State, Week 8, October 30, 2021. 2nd and 5 @ PSU 46.

Analysis: On a drive where Penn State is trailing late in the game, this is a pressure moment for each individual on the field, and Ohio State is trying to funnel every throw toward the middle of the field based on their zone coverage. Dotson (or any receiver in this instance) has to win in traffic. Dotson climbs 20-yards downfield with good acceleration at the line of scrimmage and again displays very good hands and concentration over the middle, on the move, with imminent contact. Dotson has another very good adjustment, leaping for the ball and extending above his frame to reel in this pass and secure it in traffic in a pressure moment for the Nittany Lions.

Context: Michigan v. PSU, Week 8, October 30, 2021. 4th and 2 @ UM 22.

Analysis: Another pressure moment for the Nittany Lions and Jahan Dotson in the 4th quarter, trailing 14-6. Penn State lines up against man coverage, and Dotson faces soft-press man. Dotson wins with a very good release, utilizing a double-move, skip release to close space between him and the defender. At the breakpoint, once he wins on his release, Dotson has very good explosion to create separation. Another pressure catch in traffic, he has very good hands and concentration over the middle on the move and extends his arms outside of his frame to possess the football. Dotson takes advantage of a very good opportunity after the catch to turn upfield, ultimately taking a five-yard catch and turning it into a 15-yard gain.

Context: PSU v. Iowa, Week 6, October 9, 2021. 2nd and 10 @ PSU 48.

Analysis: Dotson displays an effective route plan against a soft-zone defender. Starting with his release, his stem is very good, working a triple-move stem (out/up/comeback). As he is working in his stem, he also has the acceleration to close space and threaten the defender, ultimately getting him to commit to the “up” before breaking outside for his comeback. What is being shown here is very good mental processing, change of direction, and agility as he is able to successfully work in the defender’s blind spot creating close to ten yards of separation. At the catch point, Dotson has good hands and concentration on a sideline catch, good adjustment getting both feet in bounds for completion.

Weaknesses

Context: PSU v. Ohio State, Week 8, October 30, 2021. 1st and 10 @ PSU 11.

Analysis: Dotson’s more significant concerns are his play strength and ability to consistently defeat press-man coverage or jam attempts. Dotson has a poor release at the line against press coverage, but it is not due to his footwork. Dotson’s feet are in unison with his upper body; however, he cannot clear the corner’s jam due to an ineffective swipe attempt with his hands and then play strength once the defender gets his hands in Dotson’s chest. As you see, Dotson has been completely driven out of bounds and out of the play altogether.

Context: PSU v. Iowa, Week 6, October 9, 2021. 1st and 10 @ PSU 25.

Analysis: Another example against a good press cornerback. For additional context, yes, this is a run play, but mind games are played all the time, and against the run, receivers will try to get the defender to turn their back toward the run play and get them upfield. Dotson’s attempt is unsuccessful. Dotson loses immediately at the snap, and what needs to happen against a press-defender like this is effective lateral movement instead of pushing vertically at the line of scrimmage. Dotson’s first moments are wasted movements, and the defender shuts down any plan he had immediately and drives him toward the sideline. In the end, Dotson just converted his release to a run block after getting jammed.

Scheme Fit

Dotson is a starting-level slot receiver that you will ultimately win with as an intermediate area receiver utilizing his change of direction and acceleration from primarily 11-personnel formations.

Projection

Dotson will win with very good ability and concentration at the catch point. Dotson is a quarterback’s dream when you ask for a safety blanket. Starting from the top though Dotson, like most of the top prospects, has the foot speed and acceleration to close defenders’ cushions in off-zone coverages.

Dotson’s releases without a press-jam attempt are good and effective due to his acceleration, agility, and stem setups. He has a natural feel against the zone and displays very good mental processing recognizing the open voids in the defense against multiple zone coverages.

He has good foot speed, explosion, and change of direction at the top of his routes which helps with his slants, post, or double move routes. These are all seen through the second gear he has to separate on the third level and maintain that separation from defenders.

Coming back to the catch point now, which is the area that makes him stand out against other prospects. His catch radius is exceptional; he has very good hands in his ability to attack passes away from his body, contested, and while on the move. This is where his competitive toughness is on full display; when the ball is in the air is where Dotson will make his money.

He has elite body control and very good awareness when adjusting to inaccurate passes, sideline throws, and protecting the football in contested situations. He is average after the catch but has good enough vision when the ball is in his hands to be an effective receiver in the screen game.

Dotson will struggle as a separator with his play strength and hand usage versus press man and jam attempts. Dotson sometimes approaches the line of scrimmage without a plan against corners who have no other objective on that play but to slow him down at the snap. He will need to refine his release technique at the line against press, improve his play strength, and find ways to separate from defenders who successfully get inside his chest on their jam attempts.

Dotson has already faced a considerable amount of press coverage on the college level, so odds are it will increase on the next level even more. If Dotson cannot improve against the Press along with his play strength, it may ultimately be why he cannot win on the next level.

Dotson also has moments where he struggles tracking the deep ball, putting himself out of position to get under the football. Ball tracking may also limit his effectiveness on the third level of the field if it is a significant issue.

Conclusion: Dotson is a very smart player and can be effective early in a small role but potentially blossom into one of the league’s better playmaking slot receivers. Dotson will need to come into the league as a developmental player but has a good enough skill set early in his career to see enough reps from the slot and make plays in spread formations.

For Washington, Dyami Brown’s first season opened the eyes of many, understanding that he may need additional time to develop into an effective NFL wideout. Can Washington afford to do the same thing with Dotson? Possibly. Dotson is a playmaker at the catch point, but it will be hard to assume that what Dotson does well right now is what Washington is lacking from a skill standpoint.

Also, if Dotson is lined up against a technically sound defender with good press technique, he will be hard to put on the field altogether, so Washington and other teams will need to make sure he has clean releases at the line of scrimmage.

Games watched: PSU v. Wisconsin, Week 1, September 4, 2021; Auburn v. PSU, Week 3, September 18, 2021; PSU v. Iowa, Week 6, October 9, 2021; PSU v. OSU, Week 8, October 30, 2021; UM v. PSU, Week 8, October 30, 2021.

Watch Jahan Dotson’s full film breakdown below: