This past Saturday, College Gameday was hosted at Beaver Stadium. You know it’s serious when the Nittany Lions faithful bust out their not-so-secret weapon, “The White Out.” They should coin “When in doubt, White Out.” I might have to make a call to my agent and trademark that one. With a maximum capacity that fills a full house of 106,572, Happy Valley was rocking for the #22 Auburn being hosted by #10 Penn State. A great contest on paper, but I was never watching solely for the game. I wouldn’t say I like Penn State (proud Notre Dame fan).
Regardless of bias, I can’t help when a player catches my eye like a hot Bahama mama. These starstruck eyes were locked in on #5 in the Blue and White for Penn State. A receiver that at top speed is barely under the campus speed limit of 25 mph, the one that some call “Ja-Hands,” Jahan Dotson. The electric deep threat is worth the price of admission alone. Before he got here, there was his journey to this moment, and every step along the way builds the confidence I have in the future NFL wide receiver.
Footprints of a Lion
From Nazareth High School and hails from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, 4-star recruit (info courtesy of 247sports.com), Dotson received scholarship offers from many top college programs. After initially committing to UCLA, he would eventually de-commit and sign his letter of intent with Penn State. This is where our young superstar would have to earn his stripes.
His freshman year with the Nittany Lions, Dotson was a little more than just a body on the 120 man roster. He would squander 13 receptions, 203 yards, and no touchdowns (all stats courtesy of sports-reference.com). Opportunity and volume rise for the worthy, and Dotson would increase these freshman numbers in his sophomore campaign.
Dotson is still dwarfed by now Denver Bronco speedster KJ Hamler, although Dotson may have an inch on Hamler. Dotson’s presence on the field was shadowed by Hamler, the former alpha of the Penn State receiver room. A more respectable sophomore campaign would net 27 receptions, 488 yards, and five TDs.
With the departure of Hamler, Dotson was primed to explode his junior season. Any QB would be wise to dial up the launch codes and send missiles to the dangerous Dotson. With a major in Telecommunications, it’s only poetic and fitting that he connects with his signal-caller at wide-ranging distances.
In the 2020 covid shortened season, the junior found himself at the top of the WR depth chart. In nine games, Dotson would break out with 52 receptions, 884 yards, and eight touchdowns. He established himself as the unquestioned alpha and PSU quarterback Sean Clifford’s top man. There is no good reason to believe Dotson won’t beat out all of his previous career highs in his senior season with the Nittany Lions this fall.
“Couch experts” would claim anybody can catch with the gloves they are using these days. Go pull up the one-handed 2020 catch of the year that “Ja-Hands” snared in against Ohio State. Hand strength and catching ability are far from a lacking ability for Dotson.
His speed in the modern NFL will make any quarterback blush. If you can’t separate in today’s NFL as a WR, your opportunity will never be that of someone that is often getting open. With his talent archetype, Dotson will assuredly be valued by his future NFL team. If you study his film, you may be led to believe his routes are limited to that of DK Metcalf. Straight nine routes, quick slants, crosses over the middle and out routes. Just gaging his lateral quickness and quick-twitch ability that we see in his punt returns, I believe we haven’t seen anything close to his potential ceiling as far as being a future route servant.
Dotson’s run after the catch ability should be no surprise with his size and speed. It’s beyond impressive. His slight frame would shock many that he possesses the strength to body up a defender and outman his coverage when needed. Jump ball ability is there for Dotson for sure, but it is his hands that give me faith in these one on one battles.
At the college level, because Dotson is so much faster than his cornerback matchup more often than not, you often see the coverage lining up ten yards off. In hope that Dotson doesn’t blaze right past them. Defenders are trying to avoid seeing the number five on the back of the uniform at all costs. This will not happen as often in the NFL, where every cornerback has respectable speed. They will make him work, and his wiggle ability in and out of cuts will be much more relied upon since his speed won’t be levels ahead of every defender.
In the offseason, Dotson was driven to improve upon his speed. Dotson recorded the second-fastest 40-yard time in Penn State football history behind only his old running mate, Hamler, blazing a 4.33. Dotson had this to say in an article by Mark Wogenrich of SI.com, “That was something that I was focused on getting better at going into my last year.” Fueled by the memory of getting run down from behind by a Minnesota defender, Jahan is determined never again to allow that. He claims that Hamler gives him serious guff about the incident. I love that this sparked a fire under someone ready to show out in the 2021 season. Stories like these are permanently attached to the greats, and Dotson is no different.
After digging deep on Dotson, I have come up with four player comparisons that make the most sense with his abilities. If the cards fall right, we are looking at TY Hilton or Emmanuel Sanders. Both of these men had great speed but would develop into excellent route runners once in the league. The lower end of the player comparisons that I see personally is he can be used to the extent of young and developing talents Mecole Hardman or Parris Campbell. Their speed isn’t undervalued in their offenses, and they very much help their teams with defenses unable to ignore them for fear of the big play. Draft capital and immediate opportunity will affect how we view Dotson coming into the NFL. Still, if we sniff anything close to Hilton or Sanders in Dotson, we will be looking at a home run pick late in our rookie drafts. I choose to believe he will be closer to Hilton and Sanders than Hardman and Campbell. Like Sheriff Woody from Pixar’s “Toy Story” famously says, “Reach for the stars.”
In the DynastyNerds DynastyGM tool, the Devy rankings currently have him ranked at 96 overall as their WR32. Not high at all, but with another year of big numbers, and when he blazes at the NFL Combine, I can’t see a world where he slips past the third round.
Gameday Prize Fight
The watchful eyes of the college football world were on the Penn State vs. Auburn game this past Saturday. The matchup to watch for me was between Jahan Dotson and one of the elite cornerbacks in the nation, Roger McCreary. I’m by no means comparing him to Darrelle Revis. By the end of the night, I referred to the future stud as McBlanket Island. With lockdown abilities that allow him to cover his opponents, McBlanket fits perfectly. If this one-on-one matchup were featured on a poster for a Pay Per View, it would read “Happy Valley Showdown: Ja-Hands vs. McBlanket.”
If this was a prized title fight, it’s tough to say anything other than McCreary came out on top. Judging only Dotson’s final stat line, you wouldn’t think as much when you see he had ten receptions, 78 yards, and a touchdown. It turns out only one of these catches came with Dotson getting shadowed by one of the top cornerbacks in the nation.
Clifford was throwing darts all night and was very deliberate in his avoidance of McCreary. Attacking all levels and all parts of the field, the only guy that Clifford went out of his way to avoid was throwing in the direction of McBlanket Island. Whenever Dotson would lineup away from the future NFL cornerback, he was electric. He had another one-handed snag for the highlight reel. Would I have liked Dotson to get the better of McCreary more? Absolutely. Combined with Clifford’s accuracy and decision-making, the play calling seemed to be made with McCreary’s talents in mind. I’m not holding Dotson’s lack of dominating this matchup against him at all.
It’s not often we see future pros faceoff against each other in college. In these matchups, we need to take more note of the performances than when Jahan Dotson drops a major stat line against, let’s say, Appalachian State. By no means am I knocking Dotson. I applaud Penn State for avoiding him almost altogether. I’m not calling him McBlanket Island for no reason.
Dotson will have many more opportunities in the future to show he can beat NFL talent, and it’ll just be when he paves his path in the NFL. I am looking forward to seeing the hybrid of Hilton and Sanders leave a mark at the next level. The arrow is pointing up for Jahan Dotson.
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