Cowboys draft prospects scouting reports for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Name: Rashee Rice
Weight: 206 pounds
Texas native Rashee Rice garnered a lot of interest in high school as a three-star prospect. He earned offers from nearly every Pac 12 school, a few Big 10 and SEC schools as well, but Rice opted to stay close to home and chose the SMU Mustangs.
Rice saw playing time as a true freshman and offered glimpses of his potential in his first three seasons, but was ultimately playing third fiddle to the likes of Reggie Roberson, Jr. and Danny Gray. With Roberson and Gray leaving for the NFL this year, Rice had the chance to be the top dog at SMU in 2022, and he did not back away from the challenge.
Rice finished the year fifth in catches and third in receiving yards, an impressive feat for him. Now, he’s trying to convince NFL scouts he can be more than just that one year of stellar production. Could Rice continue to play in Dallas, this time for the Cowboys? His skill set would certainly be welcome.
Route Running: Rice spent his first and last season at SMU playing in a spread offense, with the two middle seasons in an Air Raid offense. That meant Rice wasn’t really given an overly complex route tree to work with, thus requiring some projection for him at the next level. On the routes he did run, he appeared to be very smooth and precise in his movements. The biggest question here is how quickly he can incorporate more routes into his game.
Hands: Drops have popped up at times for Rice, especially this past year when he dropped an alarming 8.6% of his targets. But he also demonstrates a consistent ability to make highlight catches, with nearly 49% of his catches this year being contested. It seems that his issue with drops is more focus-based than anything, as he has really good hands that can clearly catch anything thrown his way. He just needs to be more consistent in this regard.
Playmaking Ability: Simply put, Rice is a big play waiting to happen. He led the nation in receptions over 20 yards this year, with nearly half of them being contested catches. He is more than just a deep ball receiver, but his four years of experience have a consistent theme of excelling on the big shot plays.
Release: Due to the offenses Rice played in at SMU, as well as the quality of competition, he was consistently afforded clean releases through most games. It’s hard to project how he’d hold up against consistent press coverage in the NFL, but he does possess the frame and footwork to overcome the challenge. The question is just how quickly he’ll be able to adjust to that kind of coverage after little exposure in college.
Run After Catch: Rice is a dangerous player with the ball in his hands. He was fourth in the nation in yards after the catch and ninth in broken tackles. As a result, SMU utilized Rice on screens at the fifth highest rate of any receiver, although Rice produced YAC from all kinds of concepts. He isn’t an elite athlete, but he is good enough to produce extra yards with his great vision and ability to quickly convert to a runner after making the reception.
Blocking: Rice has a dog mentality, and that’s evident when given blocking assignments. He has a keen understanding of leverage, and just seems to love the physicality that comes with blocking a defensive back.
Versatility: A year ago, Rice played almost exclusively out of the slot and set career highs (at the time) for receptions and touchdowns. Outside of that season, though, he’s almost exclusively played out wide. That’s definitely his best spot, given his size and ability, but the 2021 season is proof positive that he offers great value as an occasional slot receiver as well.
Size: He has great size for the position at 6’3” but doesn’t sacrifice any fluidity of movement. He has a great catch radius to go along with excellent contested catch ability. It’s rare to see a player this big not only play like he’s this big, but also have the speed and elusiveness to be a YAC demon.
Intangibles: Rice saw significant playing time all four years at SMU, not even taking a redshirt year when he first arrived, and he showed marked improvement every single season. That’s a testament to his work ethic and coachability. He will have plenty of room to grow at the NFL level, largely related to route running and release questions, but seeing his strong linear development suggests he’s up for the task.