2022 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Jalen Tolbert (Fantasy Football)
Amid the talk of the lackluster QB and TE options in the 2022 draft class, there is a glimmer of hope in this offensive lineup – the wide receivers. This year’s incoming WR class is as diverse as it is deep. You have your speedsters and durable runners and your undersized specimens and statuesque athletes. You have your Drake London‘s and Chris Olave‘s, but the class is so deep that there is a high chance that teams will be able to find a hidden gem in the later rounds. One such possibility is Jalen Tolbert from South Alabama. Let’s look at his measurables, college production, and college tape and see if we can theorize his 2022 fantasy outlook. Here we go.
Editor’s 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.
Jalen Tolbert was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, and was only a two-star recruit graduating in 2017. He played basketball, baseball, and football in high school where he did not become a starter until his senior year. Despite offers from Michigan State and Vanderbilt, he decided to stay close to home and chose to attend South Alabama. Tolbert was ready to jump right in as a true freshman but suffered a season-ending knee injury during his opening scrimmage. He rehabbed until 2018 and began his college career as a redshirt freshman. In his first year playing, he did not contribute much, but the following year he played over 93% of the snaps and started to make an impact on the field.
Tolbert made a considerable jump in volume as a redshirt junior, eclipsing 1,000 yards that year and scoring 8 TDs. He peaked his senior year at South Alabama, logging the 3rd most yards of all WRs during the regular season; only Deven Thompkins and Jerreth Sterns had more receiving yardage. Tolbert played 12 games in the 2021 season, and he went for over 80 yards in all but two of them. He put a bow on his collegiate career by winning the Sun Belt offensive player of the year.
|Year||Games||Receptions||Rec %||Yards||Y/Rec||TDs||YAC||ADOT||CTC||CTC %|
|Height||Weight||Wingspan||Arm||Hand||10 yd split||40 yd||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||3 cone|
|6′ 3″||194 lbs||76 3/8″||32 1/4″||10″||1.54||4.49||36″||123″||7.08|
Tolbert thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Senior Bowl this year, being an event held close to home. It gave an athlete from a small school the chance to get his feet wet against more seasoned defenders. He earned praise from scouts and analysts alike, with Ryan Wilson from CBS Sports saying that his draft stock certainly rose due to a strong showing in Mobile.
What’s on Tape:
Games Viewed – Tennessee (2021), So. Miss (2021), LA Monroe (2021), GA Southern (2021)
The first thing you notice watching Tolbert is that he is an overall great athlete. He is slightly below the preferred size for NFL WRs – he weighs less than 200 – yet he does not seem to come across as small as some other WRs. He has the height, standing close to 6’3″, and his arm length and hand size are great, helping him with his ability to pluck the ball out of the air with one hand on contested catches. Even with not being the largest on the field, he does not shy away from going after the contested balls. Tolbert was tied for the 4th most contested targets in 2021 with 27 and came down with 44% of them. Add a few more pounds of muscle to the kid, and I feel like he would come down with a few more. While watching him pursue these contested targets, you really see his ability to adjust his body to make the catch. Tolbert has a great sense of body control, whether illustrated through his ability to be aware of the sideline and keep his foot in bounds or stretching his arm up to make a catch over a defender.
My favorite Day 2 WR for the Packers (because I don’t think Pickens or Watson will be there at 53).
Jalen Tolbert is so good. pic.twitter.com/Kg5i7WlT94
— Peter Bukowski (@Peter_Bukowski) April 12, 2022
Deep Ball Threat
So many of Tolbert’s catches are in the intermediate and deep areas of the field. He had the 3rd most deep targets in 2021 and tied for 4th with the most deep catches. Out of his total 1474 receiving yards that year, 646 of them came on deep targets. His yards after catch are also impressive. He went for 581 yards after the catch in 2021. With his clear acceleration after a reception, he managed to garner an average of 7.1 extra yards per reception. Even though he likes to go deep, he does not always manage to hold on to the ball. He can have a case of the dropsies at times; in 2021, he had eight dropped passes, the most of any of his years as a Jaguar, and for deep passes, he only earned a 58.6 rating from PFF for drops. Not great, Bob, not great.
South Alabama WR Jalen Tolbert at the bottom of the screen. Attacks the cushion he’s given and then goes up and gets it
— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) April 18, 2022
Tolbert’s speed gets another chance to shine through with his fantastic route running ability. He is an intelligent route runner who continually finds ways to get open. He often employs quick stops, and head fakes to elude his defender and create separation. After separation, Tolbert’s explosiveness shines through. He can turn on the gas after the catch, leaving defenders in the dust. He can stretch the field vertically, making him the tremendous deep threat that he is. Tolbert also has excellent footwork, has the ability to break off his routes sharply, and has a stellar burst off of the line
What’s Not on Tape
Since Tolbert took advantage of all four years in college, he will be over 23 come draft day. For context, when he enters the NFL, he will already be the same age as CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson. Tolbert will be one of the older WRs to be drafted this year and one of the latest aged breakout WRs according to the rookie measurables chart in the UDK+ Dynasty Pass. Tolbert’s breakout age was 20.5. Being an older declare does not mean he cannot put up fantasy-relevant numbers in the NFL, but one of the best metrics to foreshadow future WR success in the NFL does seem to be early declares. With four full years in a collegiate system, Tolbert is batting from behind here.
While watching Tolbert’s tape, I noted how frequently blown coverage led to a big play. His speed and excellent route-running ability were no match for the cornerbacks he played against throughout his career – Tolbert has not faced a power-five opponent since 2019. NFL cornerbacks will not allow nearly the same amounts of blown coverage, and Tolbert will have to rely on his athleticism to make the play while still having the defenders on him. A potential NFL player from a program like South Alabama SHOULD look like a star on the field there; therefore, he is a bit of a gamble since teams will not know for sure what he can handle at the elite level. There is a reason players from massive programs like Alabama and Georgia get the notice they do – iron sharpens iron; if you are surrounded by talent, you will play to that level.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
When looking at the metrics that often suggest WR success in the NFL, Jalen Tolbert is missing two big ones – he is not from a big program, and he was not an early declare. Now don’t hear what I am not saying. Tolbert can still have success as a fantasy asset in the NFL, but it might be prudent to temper expectations and keep an eye on his landing spot. The big word with Jalen Tolbert is potential. Grindingthemocks.com has Tolbert being drafted as the 15th WR off the board in the mid to late third round, and NFLMockDraftDatabase.com suggests Detroit and Cleveland as possible landing spots for Tolbert. I have seen comparisons to Kyle Borgognoni’s beloved Marvin Jones Jr. in addition to Adam Thielen, and for Tolbert to live up to these comparisons, he will need to land in a spot where he has the chance to develop. There is no doubt that Tolbert is a hard worker – he accounted for close to half of South Alabama’s targets in 2021, but will the same work ethic be visible with a target share that no doubt will be shrunk? I am betting on this late-round gem. I think he would make a great complimentary downfield deep threat to any WR group.