2022 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Drake London (Fantasy Football)
Over the last decade, we have seen the University of Southern California produce some impressive prospects. From Robert Woods back in 2013 to Amon-Ra St. Brown in 2021, USC has had a plethora of wide receivers find success in the NFL. And in this year’s draft, another USC receiver is set to make a significant impact in the league: Drake London. Boasting an impressive age-adjusted production profile, London should be in contention to be the first wide receiver taken in your dynasty rookie drafts.
Let’s dig into London’s production and film to assess his outlook at the next level!
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2022 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2022.
College Production Profile
Drake London entered his collegiate career as a 4-star recruit and was a dual-sport athlete in football and basketball. As a true freshman, London was an immediate producer totaling a solid 567 yards in 8 games and accounting for 18.7% of his team’s receiving yards. And while it was not necessarily the most dominant campaign, London finished the year strong with at least one receiving touchdown in each of his final five games. Keep in mind, the 2019 USC offense had two NFL-caliber wide receivers in Michael Pittman Jr. and Amon-Ra St. Brown, slightly limiting London’s immediate opportunity.
With Pittman declaring for the NFL, London was set to lead the receiving corps alongside St. Brown in 2020. In fact, he would seize that opportunity and take a significant step forward, breaking out in his Sophomore campaign. He would average a 26.2% receiving yards market share and a solid 1.91 receiving yards per team pass attempt. In addition, London would finish the season as the leader of their passing offense, averaging more yards per game (83.7) and yards per reception (15.2) than St. Brown. It was a truly impressive season that put London on everyone’s radar heading into his Junior year. However, with players like Garrett Wilson and Treylon Burks still outproducing him in 2020, he had to take it up to another level to truly entrench himself as one of top tier wide receivers of his class.
Fast forward to 2021, London would put together a season that would vault him into the WR1 conversation. His production really speaks for itself as he accounted for 42.98% of USC’s receiving yards per game while averaging an elite 3.26 receiving yards per team pass attempt. Unfortunately, his dominant season ended prematurely as London suffered an ankle fracture midway through the year. Thankfully, he should be ready for his rookie year. And while we only got to see him play for half of the season, it should not diminish the fact that London was one of the most elite producers through 8 weeks of the 2021 season.
Finally, something to keep in mind about London’s profile is that he will enter the NFL as one of the youngest receivers in this class. Therefore, it is even more impressive to see him produce at an elite level considering he is a year younger than both Wilson and Burks. In fact, here is a list of all first-round wide receivers since 2010 to enter the draft as a 20-year old prospect, with an age 19 or younger breakout age, and a collegiate average of at least 2.00 receiving yards per team pass attempt:
These 6 receivers have averaged 15.3 PPR points per game in their first 3 seasons in the league. And with London all but locked in as a first-round selection, he could become the 7th receiver to join this impressive list.
As mentioned above, London suffered an ankle fracture that ended his 2021 season. Since he is still recovering from that injury, we did not see him participate in the NFL combine. However, the good news is that London will likely take part in a pro-day sometime in the near future, giving him an opportunity to showcase his athleticism. But based on the measurables that we received last week, London (similar to Treylon Burks) has the frame of a potential top-tier wide receiver in the NFL. While he did measure in a little shorter than what he was listed at USC, he weighed in nearly 10 lbs heavier than he did in college. And while many are clamoring for London’s 40-time – especially since he does not project as one of the fastest receivers in this class – keep in mind that there is very little correlation to NFL success with that metric. So even if he does end up running a slower 40-yard dash, we should not disregard the fact that London is one of the most productive wide receiver prospects in this year’s class.
What’s on Tape
If you followed along with my weekly Dynasty Report, you might already be familiar with my film-evaluation process. In short, I watch 4 to 6 games, taking notes on nearly every offensive snap that the player was involved in.
Games Viewed: 2021 vs Washington State, 2021 vs Oregon State, 2021 vs Colorado, 2021 vs Utah, 2021 vs Notre Dame
1. London was the focal point of USC’s offense in 2021
If you watched any of London’s games in 2021, you will notice that he was heavily relied upon in USC’s offense. He was by far their most productive receiver averaging about 43% of their entire receiving offense in 8 games. London was truly used in a multitude of ways – lining up in the slot, out wide, and in motion. And from a route running standpoint, he boasted a diverse route tree ranging from slants, out routes, double-moves, and curls. And while he was frequently tasked to haul in some deep receptions, London was also adept at creating yards after the catch. In short, he showcased a wide variety of skills in his final season at USC, proving that he can absolutely operate as a lead receiver at the next level.
2. London’s length and physicality help him win in contested situations
When you watch London’s film, he immediately stands out as one of the tallest and longest players on the field. Standing at 6’4” with a wingspan of 77 inches, he presented a physical mismatch against most defensive backs that he faced. And while he was never the fastest player on the field, his ability to use his physical traits to gain separation is what sets him apart from most wide receivers in this class. In fact, this is where his basketball background comes into play as he frequently boxed out defenders with his larger frame to reel in contested catches. His body control and relentless pursuit of the ball further add to his already impressive catch radius, allowing him to consistently win at the catch point. Below is just one of many plays showcasing this skill set.
3. London was fearless after the catch/contact
Considering his larger frame, one might assume that London is merely a slow-footed, contested-catch receiver, which couldn’t be further from the truth. His usage in his final season at USC disproved that as he excelled in the short and intermediate game as well. As a result, London had plenty of opportunities to create yardage for himself via screens, fade routes, and shovel passes. Because this offense was not the most talented (outside of London), the coaching staff clearly made it an effort to get the ball in his hands as quickly and frequently as possible. What impressed me the most was London’s ability to seek contact and rarely go down after the first tackle. He is deceptively elusive for someone with his length, and he always keeps his feet churning through contact to fight for additional yards. In short, I love London’s game as he has shown that he can win in more than just one way, which bodes well for his outlook in the NFL.
What’s Not on Tape
1. Elite acceleration and speed
I already addressed this earlier, but elite speed and acceleration are not a part of London’s game. You will rarely find him sprinting past a defensive back on a go-route because he simply does not have that kind of athleticism. And while that might seem like a negative to his game, it does not necessarily impact his ability to win because he excels so much after contact and at the catch point. So when he runs his 40-yard dash at his pro day in a few weeks, keep in mind that his straight-line speed should not affect our total evaluation of London’s game. We have seen plenty of receivers like Dez Bryant and Mike Evans produce in the NFL by using their physicality to their advantage.
2. Initial separation on deep routes
Because of his lack of top-end speed, London does not always create yards of separation coming off the line of scrimmage. Especially on longer-developing routes, it may look like the defender is draped all over him. By contrast, a receiver like DeVonta Smith or Garrett Wilson will create multiple yards of separation through their release. And while London certainly had moments where he succeeded early on in his route, he is not a route technician like the two receivers I mentioned above. Once again though, while this is not his strength, he still finds ways to win when it matters the most. Once the ball is in the air, even if the defender is right at his hip, London will almost always make a play for the reception. And because of his tenacious effort and physical gifts, he does not necessarily need multiple yards of separation to win on the field.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
Considering his production profile, first-round draft capital, and unique physical traits, London should be ranked in the top tier of this talented wide receiver class. Arguably, the only two wide receivers that have a similarly complete profile are Treylon Burks and Garrett Wilson. And as I mentioned earlier, London’s age-adjusted production is what makes him such an intriguing prospect. The fact that he dominated in a Power 5 conference at ages 19 and 20 proves just how special of a prospect he is.
A couple of interesting landing spots per the NFL Mock Draft Database include the New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, and the Green Bay Packers. And while I doubt he slips all the way to Green Bay’s 28th pick, what better way to prove to Aaron Rodgers that you are fully committed than moving up in the draft to pair Davante Adams with London? But regardless of where he ends up, London is the type of receiver that should command targets, especially if he is selected within the first 20 picks of the NFL draft. As a result, London should be considered a top-5 pick in all rookie drafts with a very high likelihood that he contributes immediately for your dynasty teams.