Drake London is more than you would expect from a big contested-catch wide receiver. The shiftiness and the run after the catch ability stand out. Both of which give him the potential to be a well-rounded receiver. With a 6’5” body you’d expect London to be a tree who wins on only contested catches. The reality is that the USC offense used him on a number of bubble screens and short routes where he was a significant chain mover.
Before the 2021 season, London was a two-sport athlete, playing basketball in the offseason. In a 2021 Interview, London confirmed that he was able to be more prepared for the football season, yet the basketball background shows up play to play. London was elected a captain in his junior year and the hustle on the field shows up consistently. London had a fractured ankle late in the 2021 season but should be ready for the 2022 NFL season. While London didn’t finish the 2021 season, he still finished with an impressive 88 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns.
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Name: Drake London
Jersey: No. 15
Position: Wide Receiver
Weight: 210 lbs
Games Watched: Notre Dame (2021), Utah (2021), Stanford (2021), Arizona (2021), and Oregon (2020)
Major Injury History: Fractured Ankle (2021)
Hands/Ball Security (7.5/10)
London had eight drops of which were mostly contested but he has strong hands which come through on the most difficult of catches. He has shown the ability to correct and catch errantly thrown passes. Additionally, he uses his hands to secure the ball, but drops come from concentration and not securing the pass. However, London does not body catch which is why he is so good when making a catch with a defender draped on him. He may suffer from some odd drops in the NFL but he has some fixable concentration issues. Some thrown passes do get past hands, see interception from Stanford where the ball goes right of his hands for six points the other way.
Contested Catch (9.25/10)
When London is in the air, he is special. His length threatens defenders in every way as he’s able to extend long arms and tear the ball away. When he catches through contact, he squeezes the ball. Not only can London make catches when the defenders are hitting him, but he’s willing to make catches over the middle knowing he will get hit. Catching through contact and securing the ball progressed as a skill from 2020 to 2021. There was the odd time the defender was able to knock the ball out of his hands. Thus, the concerns are if London’s contested catching ability will translate to the NFL where defenders are strong and better at knocking the ball out.
Tracking/Body Control (8.75/10)
Tracking along with body control are high-level traits for London. He’s able to make adjustments quickly with such a large frame. Body control on contested catches is a dominant trait where London can use his frame to create a larger throwing lane for quarterbacks. Body control in the air allows him a higher chance to secure the catch. Tracking of the ball gives him the ability to catch any errantly thrown passes that may come his way.
Route Running (7.75/10)
London has shown the ability to battle through contact on routes, which is important for his transition to the NFL. Since he wouldn’t be able to separate like he did in college, working through contact will be significant and likely be the difference between him being good or great. Timing routes and quickness allowed him to be a chain mover at USC. On out and in-breaking routes, London showed suddenness which was impressive in such large frame. He also appears to understand zone coverages and where to sit in the open areas. London also has the ability to stack when going on a vertical route. On top of having really nice speed out which should help him in transition to the NFL.
The grade here factors in London being 6’5” and 210 lbs. For his size, he has really good quickness and suddenness. London shows the ability to fluidly snap off routes. His quickness, strength, and length help him generate some separation. The reality, however, is that London needs to adjust to the NFL by creating open lanes to catch the ball. His ability to box out defenders along with good quickness should give him opportunities to make easy catches. However, the transition for separation from college to football will be a significant question for London.
In 2020, London had free releases as he primarily played in the slot. In 2021 he was asked to play outside receiver and when London did have to beat press, he used quickness which may not be the way he can win in the NFL. London did show good arm extension and hand strength to keep defenders away from his torso, and he was able to drive defenders off when they made contact. London will have to develop release technique to become an effective outside pass catcher in the NFL.
Run After the Catch (8.75/10)
There will most certainly be a role for London to use his run after the catch ability in the NFL. The big man can move quickly in short areas which allows him to juke and make defenders miss. He has quickness and acceleration which sets him apart from other big receivers. London can fight through contact and has good contact balance if he’s met behind the line of scrimmage. Additionally, as you could imagine, he does not go down on first contact. USC fed London the ball on screens and he constantly produced despite some bad blocks. He was able to show off a hurdle against Utah, but not sure that will be in the toolbox in the NFL.
Vertical Speed (7.5/10)
London is not going to be a burner but has the speed to get downfield. He will have to beat defenders with strength, hand fighting, and stacking in the NFL on vertical routes. During the NFL combine, he will likely run high 4.4s or low 4.5s. London’s ability to modulate speed is something that shows up but can be inconsistent given his physical tools.
London’s acceleration and burst are exceptional for a receiver at his size. He is able to accelerate quickly for someone his size off the line of scrimmage. The burst shows up consistently when he has the ball in his hands and when running after the catch. Burst gives him more opportunities to stop and start, which he can learn to use more deceptively in the NFL.
Basketball ability shows up play to play with vertical leaping ability and short-area quickness. He understands how to use basketball skill set in the air and the spatial awareness when in the air is a standout trait. London is not a speedster but has effective long speed. London’s short-area quickness and body control show up when making catches.
Blocks and plays hard play-to-play. Despite the ball not going his way, he hustles. Voted as a captain and shows on film that he’s willing to do hard work. Has good strength and base when making contact with cornerbacks. He isn’t good enough to block inside the tackle box, but he can be effective in springing some runs past cornerbacks.
This is where the Marques Colston comparisons for London come from, as he can effectively play on the inside. He played mostly as a slot receiver in 2020 and proved he could be an effective outside weapon in 2021. London projects to be more of a slot receiver in tough situations where he can get a free release off the line of scrimmage and make catches.
London is going to be a contested-catch, 50-50 ball type player. In addition to being a player who also brings some good run after the catch and smooth routes to any team. His quickness and burst will allow him to develop into a good route runner, capable of threatening all levels of the field. The quickness in a 6’5” and 210 lb receiver is exceptional and sets him apart from others his size. London will bring a vertical element to a team, but also one where he is able to correct errantly thrown passes play to play. Expect London to be best friends with opposing endzones. His quickness on slants, catching radius, ability to box out defenders, and secure tough catches are London’s calling card.
However, there should be some concerns about London’s ability to translate to the NFL. Specifically, if London can maintain and improve his ability to run routes through contact. In addition to concerns of London being able to consistently catch through contact in the NFL. He should be a starting slot receiver his rookie year to protect him from cornerbacks pressing. His best usage may be that of a Colston, where he threatens defenses from the slot position on difficult downs. Then London can also beat defenders on the outside in contested catch situations.
Rookie Projection: Starting Slot Receiver
Third Year Projection: Dependable No. 2 Receiver
Final Grade (82.5/100): Mid Second-Round Pick
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