Washington's trio of wide receivers is the best in college football. How about the NFL?
In Washington’s win over Texas to advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship, the Huskies’ star receiving trio of Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan were targeted 17 times. They made catches on 16 of those 17 targets. And they turned those 16 catches into 305 yards and two touchdowns. Pro Football Focus charted three contested catches between the trio. All three were caught.
Preparing for Washington’s passing attack is akin to taking a class in differential equations. It’s a nightmare. Offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb knows your defensive principles and has designed his entire system around putting you at odds with those principles. Plus, the Huskies have a guy at quarterback who can make just about every single throw on the field.
But Washington’s passing attack is also a nightmare because it has three wide receivers who will all be starting for an NFL team at some point in the next two years. We don’t talk about that enough.
Odunze was the best receiver in college football this season.
“It’s the touchdowns. It’s the moving of the chains in the big, big moments. There’s been so many we forget about a lot of (them) and you take it for granted the gaudy stats that he has,” coach Kalen DeBoer told the AP in the run-up to the CFP semifinal against Texas. “Just over and over again, think about how many times he’s come through when you really needed it. A lot of times you think about when you lose football games or you didn’t come through in the big moment. You remember those. I can’t remember Rome not coming through.”
He played through a broken rib and a punctured lung against Arizona. Two weeks later, one of Odunze’s two touchdown catches against Oregon served as the game-winner in the team’s biggest game of the season. Down the stretch, he made play after play after play. A third-down conversion to ice the game against Oregon State. A fourth-down conversion to set up the game-winning kick against Washington State.
Washington reported in the offseason that Odunze ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and posted a 37.1-inch vertical. He leads all of college football in contested catches, with 20 on 27 contested targets, per PFF.
He has every single skill an NFL team wants from a wideout. He will walk into the league and find success from Day 1.
Elsewhere, Washington has seven 100-yard receiving games from Polk and two from McMillan. Had McMillan not been slowed in the third game of the season by a leg injury, it’s entirely possible Washington would have had three receivers challenge for 1,000-yard seasons.
Polk, if he declares, could be a Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft. The list of receivers in this class with better ball skills is short, perhaps nonexistent. He uses his length and strength quite well to make tough catches in congested spots, and he has shown an ability to separate.
McMillan probably could have been a Day 2 pick if he’d left after last season. Now, given the time lost to injury, it’s tougher to gauge his stock. But it’s not up for debate that he’s an NFL talent. Given his ability as a route-runner, McMillan can be a strong slot option at the next level.
Washington has the best receiving trio in college football. And I have a question: if you took the three and dropped them onto an NFL roster this season — any NFL roster — which teams would see all three at the top of their receiver rotations by the end of a campaign?
Let’s have some fun. And one disclaimer: if you feel your pro team of choice has been slighted, maybe have better wideouts in this not-at-all subjective assessment of receiver rooms.
Teams: New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals
The poo-poo platter. Among the seven teams listed here, there’s only one receiver represented among the 25 highest-graded wideouts in the NFL this season by Pro Football Focus — Kansas City’s Rashee Rice. Here we have a handful of teams that have completely neglected wideouts in the early rounds of the NFL Draft for years and have paid the price. Others have just flat-out missed on their early-round receivers.
Two of the three
Teams: New York Jets, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Washington Commanders, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons
Lots of teams with good top-line receivers here. Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Moore, and a few guys who were just recently first-round picks and therefore not likely to be pushed aside quite yet. But still plenty of opportunity for Odunze and one of McMillan or Polk to step in.
Teams: Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks
There are some outstanding rooms in this group. Quite frankly, there are some teams where even Odunze would have to be at his very best to push up beyond the No. 3 spot.