Why the Slide?: DeDe Westbrook

By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Three years ago, we started a series of articles on why certain prospects went undrafted. In that series, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. We got a lot of positive reader feedback about the series, so we decided to expand in the genre to investigate why some prospects slid in the draft. A year later, we started the Why Slide? series, and this year, it is back. Feel free to email me requests for “Why the Slide?” and “Why Undrafted?” at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely respond.

One of the most productive and devastating offensive weapons in college football in 2016 was Oklahoma’s DeDe Westbrook. As a junior, Westbrook made 46 catches for 743 yards with four touchdowns, so it was surprising when the senior exploded for 1,524 yards on 80 receptions with 17 touchdowns. He was a speedy play-maker who challenged teams vertically. Westbrook was considered to be a Heisman Trophy contender late in the year and had a lot of hype in the national media. Thus, it was surprising that Westbrook was never a hot prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft and slid to the fourth round before coming off the board.

In speaking with sources from multiple teams, there were a few reasons given for Westbrook’s slide. Every team said independently of each other that he had significant off-the-field issues. There were incidents going back to his time in junior college, and teams felt that Westbrook had significant character concerns. They also all said that Westbrook’s thin build hurt his draft stock. At 6-foot, 178 pounds, teams had durability concerns, which were given some validity with the concussion Westbrook suffered late in the 2016 season.

Some team sources had some choice words on Westbrook’s character and what they thought of him off the field. On a softer note, here’s how one team source described why Westbrook slid, “Character and frail body. Little guys get hurt far more frequently in the league to justify taking him high. For every DeSean Jackson and Darren Sproles, there are a lot more guys like Tavon Austin, Ryan Broyles, Jahvid Best and Ameer Abdullah.”

The Jacksonville Jaguars took Westbrook early in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. That is a mixed landing spot for him. The Jaguars have their long-term No. 1 wide receiver in Allen Robinson, while Marqise Lee finally started to show his skill last year and should be locked in as the other starter. Jacksonville gave third receiver Allen Hurns a big extension, but some sources that were with the Jaguars said that was a mistake. They say that Hurns is a great guy and one of the nicest players you will ever meet, but they think he has some limitations as a player. Still, Hurns will probably be Jacksonville’s third receiver as the organization made a big commitment to him and will want that contract to work out. That leaves two or three roster spots left. Westrbook will have some tough competition in Rashard Greene and Arrelious Benn, both of whom are valuable on special teams. The other wideouts are nothing special, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Westbrook makes the team. However, Westbrook getting targets on offense over Robinson, Lee and Hurns seems unlikely.

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