Advertisement

Lions draft prospect of the day: Javon Baker, WR, UCF

The Lions Draft Prospect of the Day was once a backup to a current Lions starter in college, albeit with a different style of achieving the same type of play. 

The focus for these prospects is on players who should hold some appeal to the Lions in the draft, with a focus on the more likely positions the team will be targeting: OL, EDGE, CB, DT, S and WR. Not all will be top-100 players, and today’s prospect is right on that borderline. 

Javon Baker, WR, UCF

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 202 pounds (measured at NFL Scouting Combine)

Baker started out his college career at Alabama, where early on he was a backup to more established players, including Lions starter Jameson Williams in 2021. After two years of light playing time (9 catches and 116 yards in 20 games), Baker transferred to UCF.

The Georgia native bulked up in the move, and it really helped his game. In a more featured role at UCF, Baker emerged as a physically impressive vertical threat capable of winning from both outside and in the slot. Baker progressed from 56 catches for 796 yards and five TDs in 2022 to 52 catches for 1,139 yards and seven TDs in his senior year for the Knights. That earned him a spot in the Senior Bowl, where Baker thrived in practice sessions against a more consistently higher level of competition.

Baker turned 22 in February.

What I like

  • Muscular athlete with good core strength

  • Nuanced route runner with good feet and body control for a bigger wideout; sinks his weight and shifts his shoulders and hips nicely

  • Changes speeds and strides exceptionally well to create space for himself

  • Very good at tracking and hand-to-hand combat with the ball in the air

  • Really good at catching throws that aren’t where they’re supposed to be, either time or placement

  • Difficult to tackle after the catch if he can get a step to work with

  • Sets up cornerbacks for later with some moves

  • Savvy at working with the QB on broken or extended plays

What worries me going into the NFL

  • Lacks top-end speed to blow past outside cornerbacks

  • Acceleration is decent but falls lower when pressed

  • Had some weird drops when in open space, though that wasn’t an issue late in the year or at the Senior Bowl

  • Good effort but inconsistent technique and outcomes as a blocker; hands get too high

  • Almost no special teams experience

Best game I watched: Oklahoma

Worst game I watched: Boise State

Overall

It took Baker some time before he lived up to the 4-star recruiting promise, but in his final season at UCF and then at the Senior Bowl, he definitely proved the part. Baker is an odd type of wideout. He’s a deep threat who doesn’t have great speed, a nifty craftsman of a route runner who looks like a contested catch type of receiver.

The speed is indeed off-putting; the 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine was expected, but Baker doesn’t win with straight speed. Akin to Amon-Ra St. Brown, his ability to change speeds and use his strength and savvy help Baker mitigate the lack of blazing jets. He can win inside or outside as a No. 4/No. 5 receiver early on and has the potential for the hiccup 100-yard games every so often.

He’s a more polished, professional type of prospect than last year’s seventh-rounder, Antoine Green, but not blessed with as much speed or twitch. Or, if you prefer, a much more reliable overall version of ex-Lions wideout Quintez Cephus.  Baker generally projects in the fifth or sixth rounds, though some recent mocks have him going as high as the late 3rd. On Day 3, he’s well worth the pick, but the Lions’ current third-rounder is a little too high for me.

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire