NFL Draft 2022: What Penn State WR Jahan Dotson brings to the Washington Commanders

NFL Draft 2022: What Penn State WR Jahan Dotson brings to the Washington Commanders

Jahan Dotson returned to Penn State for his senior season because he wanted to leave no doubt that he was an early-round NFL Draft pick.

At 5-foot-10 ½ and 178 pounds, Dotson knew that he didn’t have some of the physical attributes that would jump out to talent evaluators. He’ll never be the biggest or the fastest, but Dotson believed that if he could excel as a route runner, get stronger and continue to catch seemingly everything thrown his way, NFL teams would have to take notice.

He was right, as the Washington Commanders selected him with the No. 16 pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft after trading the No. 11 pick to the Saints.

Dotson ranks second at Penn State in career receiving touchdowns (25) and receptions (183) and fourth in receiving yards (2,757). He eclipsed 100 yards receiving in 11 games during his career and was the team’s primary punt returner the past two seasons.

He became the offense’s go-to player by further dedicating himself to the weight room. He’d work to maintain his weight throughout the season and became stronger. Putting up 15 reps on the bench at pro day was an important mark, as he wanted to show everyone that he was strong enough.

On the field, he’s been consistently gliding past Big Ten defensive backs or making jaw-dropping catches. Dotson is smooth route runner who routinely made difficult catches look easy. He caught just about everything thrown his way.

According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted 288 times during his collegiate career and had just 10 drops (3.5 percent drop rate). Last season, he was targeted 137 times and had just two drops. His 2021 drop rate (1.5 percent) was best among FBS players with at least 100 targets and he was the only FBS wide receiver last season with 10 or more touchdowns and two or fewer drops.

Penn State knew it had to get him as many touches as possible and did so by moving him in and out of the slot.

“One of my biggest traits is my versatility. Being able to play inside and out. I feel like that’s what I do best, creating mismatches for people,” Dotson said. “I’m ready to do that at the next level. I’ve been practicing all my life.”

Dane Brugler on Jahan Dotson (No. 6 WR, No. 25 overall prospect in The Beast)

A polished pass catcher, Dotson puts defenders in conflict with his twitchy speed to defeat press and manipulate coverages at the stem. Although he is undersized, he has above-average hands and natural body control with maybe the largest catch radius of any sub-5-foot-11 receiver I have ever scouted. Overall, Dotson isn’t a tackle-breaker, and his marginal play strength will be more noticeable vs. NFL defenders, but his dynamic speed, route instincts and ball skills make him a difficult player to cover one-on-one. He is an NFL starter in the Diontae Johnson mold with better hands and punt-return skills.

Top college highlight

There’s a lot to choose from, but with Penn State trailing by 18 points early in the fourth quarter against Ohio State in 2020, Dotson didn’t shut down. He made not one, but two spectacular one-handed catches on back-to-back plays, turning the second one into a touchdown. After that drive, he entered the conversation as one of the best receivers in college football. He stayed in that conversation in all of 2021.

media moment

After shattering Penn State’s single-game receiving yardage record with an 11-catch, 242-yard, three-touchdown performance against Maryland, tears welled in Dotson’s eyes. Having a career night in front of his parents and extended family was more than he hoped for. His parents’ sacrifices while his mom battled multiple myeloma for a second time were never far from his mind.

“They’ve been sacrificing ever since I was a little kid. My parents working multiple jobs, just making sure I’m in the best (spot) to be successful in life,” Dotson said. “Driving me all across the country to football camps, different stuff like that. I don’t get to spend Thanksgiving at home, but they drive up three hours just to spend an hour with me and bring me all types of food. I’m super grateful to have people like that.”

Coachspeak

“He’s consistent. He’s a hard worker. He’s very competitive. He’s explosive. He has a high IQ. He has great hands. He’s fast. Shoot, you won’t have to worry about him off the field because he’s a guy that you’d want in your program, in your organization, and he’d represent the organization extremely well. He’ll be worth every penny.” —Penn State receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield

(Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

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