Enter stage right, Isaiah Weston.
The Northern Iowa receiver has a massive frame (6’3) and is also an elite athlete. The term elite is thrown around liberally during draft season, but Weston deserves to have the word attached to him after his combine performance. Using the RAS score developed by Kent Lee Platte, we can see that the former Panther tested as the third-best receiver EVER since 1987.
Isaiah Weston is a WR prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.99 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 3 out of 2613 WR from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/Z6pgmfAKxA #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/1DVuWoWrKU
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 23, 2022
In the NFL draft, you bet on rare traits over everything else. Players with Weston’s athletic profile come around once every decade by RAS metrics, something Chris Ballard will surely take into account when looking at talent to add later in the draft.
Isaiah Weston hails from the University of Northern Iowa, where he had three productive seasons for the Panthers. His best season came in 2019 when he racked up 1053 yards on 43 catches and 10 touchdowns, including a 3-touchdown performance against South Dakota. Weston was named a first-team all-conference (MVFC) player and second-team All-American for his efforts. After a Covid-shortened 2021 spring, Weston took a slight step back in production last year with 37 receptions for 883 yards and 5 touchdowns but still led the FCS in yards per reception with almost 24. He was also named second-team All-MVFC last year.
While there is no doubting Isaiah Weston’s athletic prowess, there are a few reasons why he isn’t considered a top receiver prospect in this class. As with all FCS players, one knock on their resume will be the lack of competition they faced throughout college. Weston didn’t have the opportunity to compete under the Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl microscopes either, so his learning curve will be steep when the NFL training camp begins. Fortunately for Weston and wide receiver needy teams like the Colts, all of the tools are in the tool bag, so to speak. The Northern Iowa product has a massive catch radius to go along with game-breaking speed, and he uses both to his full advantage on tape.
43-yard TD catch for Isaiah Weston. Those long strides just get on top of you by the looks of it. If you're not familiar with the kid, get familiar. pic.twitter.com/da2CZpiYOt
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) February 25, 2022
While he didn’t run a diverse route tree in college, Weston has showcased the ability to beat press corners with variety in his releases. He is excellent at stacking corners at the top of routes while also boxing them out when necessary to come back for an underthrown go ball.
— EJHolt_Draft (@EJunkie215) March 12, 2022
Right now, I would consider Isaiah Weston to be a one-trick pony, with his ace card being that he’s a huge, fast receiver that can take the top off of defenses. There is very little to no nuance in his intermediate routes, and he runs every single route at the same speed. The transitions out of his breaks suggest that he has tight hips, as he often takes more steps than he should when breaking at the top of his routes. All of these deficiencies can be corrected with good coaching, and the Colts just happened to hire Reggie Wayne this offseason. It remains to be seen if the former Colts great can get the most out of the athletic, raw receivers the Colts already have on their roster, but giving him another ball of clay to mold with a 6th or 7th round pick can do no harm.
The speed, tracking and adjustment on this 70-yard catch by Isaiah Weston are all top-notch. Again, at 6'4, 210 you can bet his name gets called higher than you may think if you're unfamiliar. pic.twitter.com/NkNNEraEQ3
— Matt Alkire (@mattalkire) February 25, 2022
Chris Ballard has taken a chance on a Northern Iowa receiver with a day three pick before with Daurice Fountain. Fans may remember the tear Fountain was on during training camp in 2019 before injuring himself in practice.
He was never the same.
Isaiah Weston is a considerably better athlete than Daurice Fountain and has a comparable profile to Dezmon Patmon and Mike Strachan. While neither Patmon nor Strachan have made a huge impact yet, both are young players who will have the chance to seize a roster spot, especially with the lack of depth currently at the position.
If you continue throwing darts at the dartboard with ultra-athletic receivers, one may eventually turn into a quality player. To put the icing on the cake, you aren’t spending premium assets drafting a player like Weston late on day three, and if he hits, your ROI (return on investment) is colossal.
Other players that fit the general late day three uber-athletic category include Idaho State’s Tanner Conner, who ran a 4.37 40 at 6’3 225 pounds with a 40-inch vertical and converted quarterback to tight end Armani Rogers from Ohio. Rogers may have the highest ceiling of any tight end in the class and yet could easily end up as a priority UDFA.
Meet Armani Rogers, the 6'5" 225lb former QB who is converting to TE for this draft. The words "tools" and "upside" do not even do him justice, but he is BRAND NEW to the position.
How new? This was the second route he ever ran in a practice in his entire life. Not bad, eh? pic.twitter.com/bgMmoU1mbn
— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) March 2, 2022
Chris Ballard has shown time and time again that he will take receivers like Isaiah Weston late on day three and allow his coaching staff to try and turn them into productive NFL players.
Under the tutelage of Reggie Wayne and the calming presence of veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, 2022 may finally prove to be the year that one of Ballard’s dart throws hit the bullseye.