A basketball player who lines up at wide receiver, USC’s Drake London is one of the best pass-catchers in a loaded class. He’ll look to capture his dominant, pre-injury form and turn it into first-round value in the 2022 NFL draft.
Here is everything you need to know about the Trojans’ big-time receiver prospect:
London is an exceptionally well-built athlete, possessing a long frame and big body. He routinely uses these physical traits along with his basketball skills to dominate contested catches. Beyond those catches, he uses his massive frame to break free from tackles and routinely rack up yards after the catch.
A versatile weapon, London was often moved to multiple positions on the field, playing in the slot as well as outside, which led to a lot of serious matchup problems for opposing defenses. This should work similarly in the next level, where London will likely be moved to whatever position is needed to take advantage of his size/speed mismatch. Even NFL defensive backs might struggle to match his combination of athleticism and physicality at that size.
Where London excels the most is on the deep ball. While he may not be a track star, he makes the idea of separation irrelevant as he consistently dominates the contested catch on deeper routes. He’s always adjusting his body into ideal positions to locate and snatch the ball, boxing the defender out of the play, or simply out jumping them.
While London’s deep-ball play is excellent, there will always be some concern about a receiver that lacks the ability to create consistent separation. That can lead to defenders squatting on routes in anticipation, and basing part of a game plan on his ability to win those contested catches constantly against elite defenders. Some teams will shy away from that. His quickness is not noteworthy either, instead having to use his body as a shield on shorter routes rather than burning past defenders.
He also dealt with a fractured ankle at the mid-point of last season, which limited his breakout campaign. That could bring durability concerns, as well as impact the ability of tape teams are able to see.
London is a rare prospect with an Antonio Gates-level of ability on contested catches, and teams will covet what he brings as a deep-ball and red-zone threat. Matchups are exceedingly important in the NFL, and London is a pure matchup nightmare. Look for him to go in the top half of the first round.
Projection: Top 20