After winning the Biletnikoff Award, given to college football’s most outstanding receiver, one would think Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt would garner more hype in the dynasty community at this point of the year. Given Hyatt’s track star speed, he is someone I fully expect to gain traction after the NFL Combine and college pro days. In terms of real-life football, Hyatt is already seeing his draft stock rise. He often appears in the first round of many mocks across the internet.
Dynasty managers, it seems, are being rightfully cautious of Hyatt at this point. Yes, the production in 2022 was solid: 67 catches for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns. Yes, the blazing speed is there. But as most know, success at the wide receiver position, both in the NFL and in fantasy, requires more than raw pace.
So, how should we, as dynasty managers, approach Hyatt in upcoming rookie drafts this year? Let’s take a deeper dive and look more closely at this year’s version of Jameson Williams, who is impossibly explosive but whose overall refinement as a receiver is in question due to the limited sample size in college.
College: Tennessee University
Age: 21 (09/25/01)
Draft Projection: Top 50 pick
Hyatt’s junior-year production looks impressive on the surface. His 67/1,267/15 receiving line jumps off the page, but before 2022, Hyatt never produced anything close. He caught 41 passes for just 502 receiving yards and four scores during his freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
Hyatt’s statistical production this past season was largely due to presumed No. 1 receiver Cedric Tillman missing over half the season due to injury. Tillman was the Volunteers’ leading receiver the previous season (2021) with 64 catches for 1,081 yards and 12 touchdowns, nearly an identical statline to Hyatt’s 2022.
Hyatt’s out-of-nowhere junior season, combined with Tillman’s injuries and their eerily similar production as the Vols’ No. 1 (Tillman in 2021, Hyatt in 2022), begs the question. Was Hyatt’s past season due to his greatness, or was it the scheme and opportunity for volume that Tennessee’s offense afforded him?
Legit 4.2 Speed
An obvious one to start. Hyatt’s speed is his calling card, and his nearly-19 yards per catch in 2022 prove that his speed translated to big plays on the field this past season. As you will see in the clip below, this kid chews up real estate and eliminates a cushion with eye-popping swiftness.
I think Hyatt will ultimately run in the 4.2’s at the combine or his pro day. He reportedly ran in the low-4.3 a few years ago, and he has stated in interviews that he has been timed in the 4.2’s since then. Take athletes’ personal brags with a grain of salt, but judging by his tape, I don’t think Hyatt is lying.
In addition to being a flat-out burner, Hyatt mixes his pitches well. He is excellent at entering his break at about 70 percent speed, lulling his opponent to sleep before switching gears and exploding by the defender. His acceleration and ability to switch it on immediately are special and constantly on display. As elementary as it sounds, Hyatt’s gliding style of running also seems to fool opponents at times.
So many advantageous situations arise due to Hyatt’s speed aside from just the threat to run deep with pace. Tennessee would routinely throw screens to Hyatt right at the line of scrimmage partly because the defensive back would usually give a ridiculous cushion off the line. This was a staple of the Vols’ offense in 2022. Hyatt also forced defenses to respect his speed, helping out Tennessee’s run game and short passing attack.
Deep Ball-Tracking Skills
Some deep-threat wide receivers are fast but need to earn clear separation and a perfect throw from the quarterback to secure the catch down the field. Hyatt will never be accused of being a beastly contest-catch demon, but his ability to track the ball downfield is noteworthy. He rarely runs into issues where he slows down too early or missteps and loses pace because he is overly worried about finding the ball in the air.
Hyatt also possesses the rare ability to continue accelerating while tracking the ball, creating many examples where he is gaining separation from the chasing defender even as the ball approaches.
Dealing with Press Coverage
Simply put, Hyatt is bad against press coverage. He only had one recorded catch versus press in 2022; some argue that opportunities against press were limited due to defenses respecting his speed. This is correct, as Tennessee made a concerted effort to get Hyatt in the slot, in stack formations, and getting him in motion to limit the physicality he faced.
However, in the example where defenders can jam him at the line, Hyatt shows major issues releasing. Hyatt will need extensive work with his release packages to not allow physical play completely derail his NFL routes. It is possible, though, that Hyatt is just the type of player whose physique and skill set does not lend very favorably to physical play, no matter how much he develops. His future pro team might have to go to similar lengths to protect him.
Reliance on Scheme
As I mentioned before, when you watch Tennessee play, it’s hard to argue that their spread scheme did not consistently put Hyatt and the receivers in good situations.
The main example of this that kept flashing was how often the Vols lined up their receivers wide and in stack formation to eliminate the defenses’ ability to get physical with Hyatt. Also, by stretching defenses out horizontally, Tennessee could increase the space in the middle of the field for Hyatt to release into. At the next level, in a more pro-style offense that asks its receivers to defeat all sorts of coverages with an array of route combinations, it remains to be seen if Hyatt will be as effective. He won’t be able to rely as much on the spacing that the Vols’ system provided.
Hyatt’s route tree at this stage is limited. Tennessee limited him to mostly short screens or deep nine-routes. He ran very little in between in 2022. Hyatt will need to become a little more proficient in running a vast array of routes to realize his potential and justify a likely first-round selection when it’s all said and done.
Lack of Statistical Production in College Outside of 2022
Like “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba or “Take On Me” by A-Ha, Hyatt definitely fits the “one-hit wonder” label in terms of his college production. Some argue that Hyatt waited his turn and finally took advantage of the opportunity to show his skills. Others contend that Tennessee’s system did all the heavy lifting, and Hyatt could only put up great stats due to Tillman getting hurt.
As we mentioned before, Hyatt’s stats in 2020 and 2021 were not impressive in total. Additionally, he averaged just 12.2 yards per catch over those two seasons in 17 games. That contrasts sharply with his incredible 18.9 yards per catch in 2022 in his new, bigger role. The question remains whether this discrepancy results from Hyatt’s actual development as a player.
The Wrap Up
Hyatt will immediately infuse whichever NFL team selects him with a shot of elite speed. He has a Randy Moss-like ability to destroy cushions and eat up off-coverage as he blazes downfield. Whether Hyatt can become good enough at all the other facets of the receiver position will depend on himself. Right now, even receivers such as Mike Wallace, Kenny Golladay, or Allen Lazard, whom we tend(ed) to view as relatively-one dimensional deep threats, are/were far, far more advanced at playing the position than Hyatt. The raw tools are there, though, for Hyatt to develop into one of the most dangerous young weapons in the league.
I expect Hyatt to be drafted in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft despite the flaws we’ve discussed. You cannot teach raw speed. NFL front offices and coaching staffs look at a guy like Hyatt and salivate. They always believe they can be the ones to harness the gifts of a player like Hyatt. Teams like the Ravens, Vikings, Giants, Cowboys, and Bills towards the back half of the first round could be interested in Hyatt’s services.
I think Hyatt eventually becomes the quintessential “better in real life than in fantasy” type of receiver due to his boom-or-bust style as a deep threat. Again, comps are hard because all players are different. Still, Hyatt reminds me of the likes of Will Fuller or a less refined Jameson Williams, which is saying something because I don’t think many would describe JaMo as a super-refined technician.
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