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NFL Draft prospect to know: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU Mustangs

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Is Courtland Sutton in consideration for the Cowboys’ first-round pick?

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NCAA Football: North Texas at Southern Methodist Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Blogging The Boys will take a look at some of the NFL Draft prospects that will be in the 2018 NFL Draft class. Some weeks, we will look at potential targets that will be within the Cowboys’ expected draft range. Others, we will highlight some of the elite members of the class.

We at BTB have taken a dive into one prospect each Friday night or Saturday morning for every week since September. It’s crazy that this is the last one of this series, as the 2018 NFL Draft begins this upcoming Thursday in Arlington, Texas.

And, yet, we still don’t have a very clear answer of which direction the Cowboys will go at pick 19. Do they take an offensive guard or wide receiver? A defensive tackle or EDGE? Do they make a splash and trade up, or maybe they trade back and gain some more picks?

If you read our FPW “slam dunk” and “shaking your head” picks, you’ll get an even bigger picture of just how many routes that the Cowboys can go next Thursday evening.

I personally said that Isaiah Wynn would be slam dunk pick, but Will Hernandez would count as well. My head-scratcher would be Taven Bryan. Dave Haplrin, on the other hand, believes that Calvin Ridley would be a “slam dunk” pick at 19.

Slam Dunk pick: WR Calvin Ridley. I don’t care about his size or his production numbers in a run-heavy Alabama offense with shaky quarterback play in the passing game. He’s got the three things this offense needs in a receiver. He is the best route-runner in this group; he’s silky smooth. He has speed, not off-the-charts speed, but enough speed to threaten cornerbacks so they have to respect it, opening up his underneath routes. Those first two qualities lead to something the Cowboys desperately need, a receiver that can create his own separation. And he has good hands. A high-quality route-runner with speed and hands? Sign me up.

Another wide receiver that is on the Cowboys’ radar plays in football in North Texas. Could this be a potential trade-back pick for Dallas?

Courtland Sutton — wide receiver, SMU Mustangs

6-foot-3
218
Junior

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Courtland Sutton is one of the more intriguing talents in this draft class. In a wide receivers group that has Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and Maryland’s D.J. Moore as the top two prospects, Sutton’s name is all over the board — some have the SMU wideout in the top half in the first, while others have Sutton falling to the middle of the second-round. Needless to say, it’s hard to get a read on where the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder will go come draft day(s).

Courtland Sutton was a three-star safety and tight end prospect out of Brenham High School in the class of 2014. The then 6-foot-2, 190-pound athlete had offers from programs such as BYU, Colorado, and Washington State in addition to SMU. After being passed up by the big time programs in the Lone Star State, Sutton decided to play for the Mustangs in Dallas.

Sutton was converted to wide receiver when he arrived on campus. Unfortunately, his true freshman campaign was cut short when he injured his lower back two games into the season. In 2015, though, Sutton began to show a little of what he is capable of: 49 catches for 862 yards, and nine touchdowns as he played in all 12 of the Mustangs’ games. He set the record for the most receiving yards by a freshman in program history, and USA Today named him a Freshman All-American.

One-year wonder? Hardly. Sutton only improved in 2016. In fact, he was seen as a potential candidate to come out early. Sutton’s sophomore season saw the Brenham native catch a career-best 76 passes for a career-best 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns. He became the Mustangs’ first first team all-conference receiver since... Cole Beasley, in 2011. Sutton set school records in receiving yards in a single-season by a sophomore and receiving yards in one game — 252 against the USF Bulls.

After flirting with the entering the draft, the SMU product opted to return to school for another year. USA Today’s Luke Easterling wrote on the SMU wideout during the November of his sophomore campaign:

If you’re looking for an underclassman sleeper at wide receiver who could make a big impact in the NFL, your search should stop with SMU’s Courtland Sutton.

A third-year sophomore who received a medical redshirt after suffering a season-ending injury in 2014, Sutton has been a highly productive pass-catcher for the Mustangs over the past two years. After averaging over 17 yards per catch and hauling in nine touchdowns in 2015, Sutton has already matched that scoring total this season, while racking up 1,186 yards on 70 receptions.

At 6-4, 215 pounds, Sutton has the prototypical frame of an NFL receiver, and he puts it to good use by beating corners with physicality at the line of scrimmage and the catch point. An impressive natural athlete, Sutton even spent time with the Mustangs basketball team last season.

And Bleacher Repor’s Matt Miller wrote last June that some NFL scouts believed Sutton would have been the best WR prospect in last year’s class.

College football’s best wide receiver prospect wasn’t in the 2017 NFL draft, according to NFL scouts.

Sutton was considered a top-15 player in this year’s draft class, one team scout told Bleacher Report before the January deadline for underclassmen to return to school. That’s why it was such a surprise when he opted to return to SMU for his redshirt junior season.

Sutton’s size and ability to win down the field profile him as a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL.

Sutton had yet another big time season for the Mustangs in 2017. While the hype isn’t as high as it was after his sophomore season, the Texas native put together quite the junior season in Dallas: 68 catches, 1,085 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns last fall. He also added a 20-yard touchdown run on his lone carry of the year. His four touchdown performance against North Texas is a program record.

At the scouting combine in Indy, Sutton measured in with 32 3/8” arms and 9 3/4” hands. He clocked in a 4.54 40, vertically-jumped 35.5 inches, and had a three-cone drill of 6.57 seconds. The SMU product isn’t the fastest receiver in the world, but he does have an ideal frame to be a quality outside receiver on the professional level.

What do the experts say?

There are some differing opinions on Courtland Sutton. Some believe he can come in and grow into a number one receiver, while others believe he will struggle to create separation against NFL defensive backs. Here are a few thoughts from some different writers.

Brugler: It would be too early for me, yes. But the Cowboys might disagree. It might come down to how committed they are to finding the new “X” receiver. Sutton has the potential to be a No. 1 in the NFL. He is a big, loose athlete with strong ball skills, making him an obvious candidate to fill Dez’s role. But right now he lacks polish as a route runner. Will he get there? He certainly could. But it is a projection. Personally, I’d rather bet on Ridley or Moore, two pass catchers further along in their development. But the Cowboys might look to bank on the potential of Sutton. If they do, a trade back scenario is possible, taking Sutton in the mid-20s and picking up an extra day two draft pick.

Brugler compares his 37th ranked prospect to a player similar to Alshon Jeffery. Again, he says that Sutton is one of the rare receivers in this class with “No. 1” potential:

Overall, Sutton lacks seasoning and will likely never be a receiver who can uncover at will, but his fluid athleticism and competitive ball skills project him similar to Alshon Jeffery. There are very few wide receivers in this draft class who project as potential No. 1’s in the NFL -- Sutton is one of them.

Courtland Sutton, SMU

Sutton might be the most natural fit if the Cowboys want a player in the same vein as Bryant from a physical standpoint. He has prototypical WR1 size (6-3, 218). Although he lacks plus speed or separation quickness, he’s extremely physical and has the ability to make contested catches on a consistent basis. League sources say Sutton’s draft stock has improved since coaches and GMs have become more involved in the evaluation process down the stretch. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett made the short trip to work out Sutton at SMU’s pro day.

You may recall that Britt was a late first-round pick by the Tennessee Titans when he came out in 2009. That is pretty much what I see Sutton as, too.

For some folks this may seem like a knock on Sutton, especially if you only look at Britt’s stats since he’s been in the league. However, while Britt’s off-field issues have overshadowed, and in some cases, curtailed his performance on the field, there is no doubt that Britt was and is still a pretty good football player when he has his head on straight. I know its been awhile, but thanks to Google we can all be reminded that in his second season, nine of Britt’s 42 catches went for touchdowns and he averaged 18.5 yards per reception.

Provided he doesn’t follow Britt’s path off the field, I see Sutton as being the same kind of player with the potential for much better production in the NFL.

White also says Sutton is a strong blocker, which is a necessity in the Cowboys’ offense.

Wide receivers who are willing to really take it to defensive backs in the run game are always good money in my book. Most of the time when you see a long run by a running back there is at least one wide receiver wearing somebody out downfield.

Sutton can, and I believe, will be that kind of blocker in the pros.

Courtland Sutton looks the part of an NFL outside receiver (6’3”, 218 lbs), but there are questions about speed and agility that weren’t answered when he declined a Senior Bowl invite and then failed to wow in testing at the combine. Sutton is a gamble due to unknowns, but the payoff in the right scheme could be huge.

GRADE: 6.99 (Round 2)

PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles

  • Our own Michael Sisemore describes Sutton as a prospect with “WR1 confidence that will work back to QB” but notes that his speed and technique are a concern.

Fit for Cowboys: Sutton has tremendous WR1 upside and would fit the role best left open by the Dez Bryant departure. He’s a better route runner than he gets credit for and is able to create the necessary separation early and late in the quarterback’s progressions.


All-in-all Courtland Sutton is a very intriguing wide receiver prospect that has as much upside as anybody at his position in this draft class. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t very high on the former SMU star before digging a little deeper on him to write this profile. Sure, I knew he was a big-bodied target with Alshon Jeffery and prime-Dez Bryant type of potential and ceiling if everything goes right, but I wasn’t sure if he could be a fit in the Cowboys’ scheme.

Though he is not the fastest receiver and he can therefore struggle to get open and create separation, Sutton is a talent that can make any offense better. His big frame and ball skills gives him a much larger catch-radius than his counterparts in this class. His background in basketball — averaged 15.2 PPG and 10.2 RPG in high school, while also playing in three games for the Mustangs in the 2015-2016 season — has allowed him to learn how to “box out” and elevate over opponents on the gridiron. That’s an aspect that has certainly benefited the Antonio Gates’ and Jimmy Graham’s of the world.

No matter whose “side” you’re on, it was easy to tell that, for whatever reason, Dak and Dez could never get on the same page; however, despite some similarities to 88, Sutton could work with Dak in silver and blue. Dak’s favorite target during the 2014 season — in which he was a legitimate Heisman trophy contender and led the Mississippi St. Bulldogs to number one for the first time in program history — was De’Runnya Wilson. Wilson, 6-foot-5 and 215, had eerily similar size to Sutton, and he also had a background on the hardwood (Alabama’s Mr. Basketball in high school). Wilson finished with 106 catches for 1,513 yards and 19 touchdowns over his sophomore and junior seasons with Dak running the show.

I’m not sure if Sutton is worth the 19th pick, as concerns regarding his speed, ability to create separation, and the competition that he played against could make him a reach, but he has a high ceiling and some see him as the second best wideout in a class that could have three go on day one.

If the Cowboys want to trade back, though, I definitely wouldn’t mind seeing the Texas native repping The Star.

It also doesn’t hurt that Jason Garrett and company are interested in the SMU star.



Would you like to see Courtland Sutton stay in Dallas, BTB?

*Stats gathered from sports-reference.com and SMU Athletics, unless otherwise noted.

Catch up with our previous installments below!

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Austin Bryant, DE Clemson

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Tarvarus McFadden, CB Florida State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Martinas Rankin, OL Mississippi State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Daron Payne, DT, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Derwin James, Safety, Florida State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Ronnie Harrison, Safety, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Deontay Burnett, WR, USC

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

NFL Draft Prospect to know: Vita Vea, DT, Washington Huskies

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Cedrick Wilson, WR, Boise State

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NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa Hawkeyes

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Deadrin Senat, DT, South Florida

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA Roadrunners

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: PJ Hall, DT, Sam Houston State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

NFL Draft Prospect to Know: Tarvarius Moore, FS, Southern Miss