I was looking at the UDFA (undrafted free agents) the Chiefs picked up, I saw some interesting moves at the wide receiver position and some money thrown at it as well. Many have said that UDFA is the only area in the NFL that you can conceivably buy yourself an advantage and the Chiefs took some shots at WR, giving Cody Thompson $50,000 guaranteed and Jamal Custis $100,000 guaranteed. I know looking at that money from the perspective of a fan is hard to imagine, but for an NFL team, these contracts are a way to give themselves an upper hand at a manageable value.
Many of these UDFA won’t make the roster, and that’s to be expected, but giving these two guys that much money in their pockets means that the coaching staff wants to see what they can do. So I took that as an invitation to do something that’s a little different and I hadn’t done before; we are going to take a look at both of these players a bit more closely as a comparison.
|Career Stats||Receptions||Total Yards||Average||Total TDs|
Stats are good for tons of things but without context, it’s difficult to see what they actually mean. It’s pretty clear that Thompson had a much more productive college career than Custis. Custis played eight games in his career up to his senior season where he played in all 13. Thompson had two 1,000 yard seasons as well as two seasons with ten or more touchdowns. Custis’ senior season was his best where he put up just over 900 yards and six touchdowns. I wanted to show you all why it’s extremely important to watch the tape on guys because if I were to show you these stats, you would wonder how Custis got signed and why Thompson wasn’t drafted at all. With all that out of the way, let’s look at some tape.
Thompson’s route running is extremely impressive, he has the ability to break down a corner and burst out of his cuts seamlessly. At 6’2 he’s not a small receiver even though he played most of his career out of the slot at Toledo, but here he’s lined up on the outside, showing some of that versatility Reid is looking for in his receivers. He runs toward the corner and breaks down like he’s about to do a short out-route. When the corner breaks on the route, Thompson turns it upfield and runs by him. Assuming this route was planned by the offense, the throw needs to be made with anticipation and Thompson would have made a nice gain here in a tight window.
The route running and ability to break a corner down is where Thompson shines. He runs such smooth routes and breaks out easily with his adept short area quickness that he always creates separation from members of the secondary. Its a skill that will allow him to succeed in the NFL, especially with Andy Reid’s ability to scheme players open.
Custis is still a rather raw receiving prospect and only playing one full season in college didn’t help that. But this is what he did very well, he ran a ton of deep routes and did most of his damage in this area. Custis doesn’t have the burst or short area quickness to throw a corner off his route, but he’s got pretty decent long speed. He’s good at finding a way around a corner and locating the ball. Here, he gets around to the boundary side of the defender and gets a step on him. With Custis’ frame at 6’5, it’s going to be very difficult for most corners to make a play on the ball while trying to keep up. The subtle push off at the end is something that Deandre Hopkins has excelled at in the NFL and here it allows Custis the separation he needs to make the catch.
Custis knows when he can start looking for the ball and you can see him get his head around as soon as he beats the corner. He understands when he is open and how to get open downfield. In an offense like Reid’s, deep threats are always welcome and Custis certainly fits that bill.
Something that Surprised
Thompson’s awareness of the field around him is not something that I expected to see when I started watching film. He’s very smart and knows where the defense is at all times. Here, he runs another out and up route, he knows the ball is coming as soon as he beats the corner on him in coverage and still stays in bounds to make the catch near the boundary. Then he spins back and away from the safety over top to create some more yards after the catch.
Pairing his awareness with the short area moves we just saw can help him excel in the NFL. Creating quick separation and making people miss can go a long way in any NFL system. He’s not going to run away from defenders with straight line speed, but he’s got the quickness and burst to play inside or outside in this offense.
I didn’t look at Custis’ measurables before I started watching him and then I saw this catch and I had to go and look. He has almost 11-inch hands. Meaning he’s got some pretty huge mitts on the end of his arms, which can make catches like this easier. His hands were on display all the time on film, not many drops that I saw but his run after the catch here was something I found interesting. He’s nothing special when trying to make defenders miss, but when he gets into the open field, with his size, he could become very difficult to bring down when he gets up to speed.
He’s a physical receiver and a size mismatch just about anywhere on the field, that could be a real asset in the red zone and a place where he becomes a contributor rather quickly, given his natural over the shoulder ability paired with his massive and strong hands.
Needs some Work
I saw this quite a bit on film, and it bothers more than his ball skills. For not having the best ball skills he doesn’t show many drops on tape so I can deal with development in that area. But this hop-step route bothers me because not only is it unnecessary, it throws off timing with the QB. If he’s the hot receiver, the QB has to wait for you to make a decision in where you’re going. Timing is huge in the NFL, especially in Andy Reid’s offense, and being in the spot you’re supposed to be at all times is paramount. It’s what helps in the run-pass option plays, if you’re not where you need to be, the QB can very easily be sacked. It wasn’t always this bad on tape, but out of his stance, it happened too much, which also takes away from your burst.
Being a Senior at Toledo and running the routes he does at this point in his career, I would have assumed that hop-step was seldom used. I believe he has the ability to unlearn this habit, and that will help him continue to develop and create space early on in his NFL career.
Custis’ route running is not up to par for what is needed for him to succeed at the next level, and some of the issue is his lack of short area quickness. He’s not a great horizontal mover and the way he attempts to break a corner down you can tell. His chop steps are too leggy and slow, that combined with his lethargic “burst” from his stance makes it easy for corners to move with him out of breaks and off the line. A big reason he ran a ton of vertical routes last year was due to the unpolished nature of his routes.
Even assuming he works hard to develop more routes in his tree, it’s not going to be easy to get it down in one camp due to his lack of burst and short area quickness. But even developing a double move at the next level will make it more difficult for corners to know where he’s going to go.
For the most part, there are good reasons why these players went undrafted. But looking at their tape, I can see why they were given bigger guaranteed money than most other UDFA’s in their class. Potential isn’t always going to get a player drafted, but it will certainly put them on a roster for training camp. Thompson and Custis have traits that Reid finds appealing. He’s been looking for a bigger body, possession-type receiver to add to his arsenal and both of these guys show enough potential to invest in that area.
The deal breaker for me is that Thompson is a more polished route runner than Custis and has played on special teams his whole college career; that can go a long way with him earning a potential roster spot. If I had to pick one to make the roster I am betting on Thompson. He’s got the short area quickness, burst, awareness, and routes to find himself useful to Reid in the short term. Custis, for his size, lacks the leaping ability I would have assumed he’d have. Thompson’s vertical is 38.5, four inches higher than Custis. I have a hard time believing Custis makes the roster, even though he was given the most money to come be a Chief. Time will tell, but I hope the best for both of these guys come training camp.