2023 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Rashee Rice (Fantasy Football)
The 2023 draft is filled with talent, but this year the chatter is falling on RBs. And QBs. And TEs. Basically, every position player besides WR. After last year’s bounty of WRs, it seemed like we came back down to Earth with the pass-catchers of this year. But talent still exists. Even past the JSN and Jordan Addisons, there exist several diamonds in the rough. This is the rookie profile for Rashee Rice, WR out of SMU.
Southern Methodist University has slowly become a solid institution for pumping out talented WRs into the NFL, with Courtland Sutton the star as of late, and Rice has the potential to be the next Mustang star. After being born in Philadelphia, Rice and his family moved to the Fort Worth area; Rice grew up in North Richland Hills, Texas, attending Richland High School. Rice played basketball and ran track prior to concentrating on football in high school. He was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and fielded offers from 27 schools.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2023 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 2023.
Rice made a statement from the word go at SMU, taking the field his first year with 25 receptions on 41 targets for just over 400 yards. He managed to put that together playing only eight games. His yardage took on a solid upwards trajectory, peaking at 1,355 receiving yards during his final season at SMU, which was the third-highest among his draft class. His TDs also increased as he aged; he only had one TD in 2019 and finished with ten in 2022. After WR Danny Gray left for the NFL draft after the 2021 season, Rice took the reins of the passing attack in SMU, commanding 31% of team receptions per game and 36% of receiving yards. He was a first-team All-ACC honoree, a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, and broke Emmanuel Sander’s record for yards in a season at SMU.
Rice had a solid combine. His 40 time was 4.51 seconds, which put him in the middle of the pack speed-wise. However, Rice’s 10-yard spit was where he shined. He clocked a 1.49, which tied him for the third fastest in this metric. This incredible short area burst corresponds with Rice’s ability to quickly explode and change direction. In comparison, DK Metcalf had a 1.45 10-yard split, and Julio Jones had a 1.5 split. Size-wise, Rice hits the nail on the head, having the weight, height, and breakout age of the average NFL WR. Rice’s vertical was tied for the best among WRs and his broad jump was also equally explosive.
What’s on Tape:
Games Viewed: Houston (’22), TCU (’22), Maryland (’22), Tulsa (’22)
1. Explosive Jumps and Body Control
We saw it at the combine when Rice nailed the vertical jump – the kid takes off like a rocket, and you see it play after play in his tape. Body control, in general, is Rice’s bread and butter, and this talent coming from a player lacking top-end speed down the field – illustrates just how robust his control and explosiveness are. Rice can track the ball in the air and time his leaps for the grab, often bending his body in the most awkward ways.
WHAT A CATCH, RASHEE RICE 🤯 pic.twitter.com/q0MiQL9h1z
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 18, 2022
2. Yards After Contact
If we are giving away prizes for this draft class, then Rashee Rice would be your YAC king. He had almost 600 yards after the catch in his final season at SMU, the most in his class. Over his entire college career, he clocked 1,560 YAC. Among WRs in his draft class, he was the most targeted in deep passes over 20 yards, and he was outstanding in zone coverage. He had the most YAC in his class against man coverage with 463 yards, more than 100 yards ahead of the next WR. It is a specific level of talent to be this successful after the catch without that separator speed that Rice is lacking. Slow clap.
What’s Not on Tape:
1. Elite Top-Level Speed
Rice’s 10-yard split is some of the best in the business, but besides that, you can see that he lacks that top-level, turn-on-the-gas type of speed. He has the talent to separate himself from defenders early on in the route, so often, he does not have to rely on this to break away, but when he does, it can fail. Missing this high-level speed, Rice tended to encounter more contested catches – he had 33 contested targets in 2022. His quick moves helped him pull down a large percentage of them, 48.5%, but if he were able to pull away from defenders prior to the catch point, he would have much fewer contested targets. Heading into the NFL, Rice will have an even harder time pulling away from faster, stronger corners. In a game against Navy in 2022, Rice caught a wide-open pass at his team’s 25-yard line, and it looked like he would take it to the house until four defenders caught up with him, and he was pushed out of bounds still 30 yards shy of a TD. That would never happen to Tyreek Hill.
2. Solid Hands
Rice can have a case of the dropsies. In 2022, he had nine drops, tied for the second most among WRs. He has 21 total drops in his college career. Rice also had four receiving interceptions and three fumbles during his last year at SMU. He has a way of making the tough catches look simple, for example, corner-of-the-endzone toe touch grabs, but he tends to cough up the easy catches. In a game against Houston, he made a beautiful 12-yard grab in the corner of the end zone and then, three minutes later, bobbled a short wide-open pass in the middle of the field. This is bad in college but especially bad in the NFL. If you drop an easy catch in the NFL, frequently you are sent directly to the bench. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
I also noticed a little bit of a focus issue. When Rice is not the primary focus of the play, he kind of gives up. It was like watching the ten-year-old at my kid’s baseball game sit in the outfield picking flowers. Well, not completely, but the importance of selling one’s routes and being present throughout the entire play is what separates the amateurs from the professionals. This will be demanded of him if he is to be successful in the NFL.
Despite a few inconsistencies in Rice’s game, mainly his tendency to drop or bobble passes, he is a pretty well-rounded WR. He is a walking highlight reel that will no doubt catch the eye of many scouts, and he could slide right in as a solid WR2 or WR3 on a team. Most sites are mocking him in the third round, with NFLMockdraftdatabase thinking he will be drafted around pick 73. The 2023 draft is not the year of WRs – we all know this, so minus three or four stars, most WRs will be looking at the second round or beyond. There are many mocks envisioning Rice going to the Buffalo Bills, where he could fit in nicely as a complement to Diggs, Gabe Davis, and speedster Khalil Shakir. I love the idea of eyeing Rice late in dynasty drafts or grabbing him off the waiver wire early on as long as he goes to a team with a QB who likes to sling it. Rice will need some time to find his footing in the NFL, but the consistency of his numbers in college gives me faith that when he finds his niche, he will capitalize.