With the 79th overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the New York Jets selected wide receiver ArDarius Stewart from the University of Alabama. Let’s take a closer look at his game and how he fits with the Jets offense…
- 2014: 12 receptions, 149 yards, 0 TDs
- 2015: 63 receptions, 700 yards, 4 TDs, 5 carries, 14 yards
- 2016: 54 receptions, 864 yards, 8 TDs, 8 carries, 68 yards, 8 kick returns, 161 yards
- 5 foot 11
- 204 pounds
- 4.49 forty yard dash
- 34 inch vertical jump
- 23 Years Old
- Player Profile Comparison – Shaq Evans
- NFL.com Comparison – Chris Hogan
Stewart is a violent, physical runner after the catch with good speed. He thrives on creating after short screens, swing passes and manufactured touches in the running game. Stewart is type of receiver who is the regular recipient of “long hand offs” in the passing game, meant to make life easier on the quarterback and put the onus on the pass catcher to create yards.
Similar to his running style, Stewart is a physical player when the ball is not in his hands. He is a willing blocker on the edges and in the screen game and is the type of receiver who is constantly looking for the “kill shot” on a cut block or crack-back. Alabama would not just regularly use him on wide receiver screens as the pass catcher but also as the lead blocker.
When asked to go down the field Stewart tracks the ball well in the vertical passing game. He has good straight line speed and was able to regularly run by slower corners at college level and convert when the ball was put reasonably in his catch radius.
While Stewart never broke a big one at Alabama in limited opportunities, he has a skill set that should be conducive to being a productive kick returner. He showed good vision in the outside running game and on the slower developing, reverses and double reverses that Alabama set up for him. It would not be surprising to see him make an impact as a returner at the next level.
Stewart was given a limited route tree in college and many times looks like a running back being asked to play wide receiver. He does not have great natural hands and does not show a consistently good feel on how to set cornerbacks up and run more complex routes. Unlike his vertical routes, he does not always track the ball well in the short to intermediate passing game and has tight hips when working through his route breaks.
Stewart’s releases against more physical cornerbacks and press coverage is inconsistent at best. He usually tries to just bully his way through, rather than setting up a move for a clean release or using his hands. This leads to the timing on his routes occasionally being thrown off.
When working against zone coverage, Stewart doesn’t show a consistent feel on finding windows or knowing when to “sit” in the open hole. He is unlikely to be a threat in the red-zone due to his size and style of play.
Despite being a willing blocker, Stewart too often looks for the kill shot, instead of just focusing on walling his defender off. This style of play leads to some big hits but also some big misses.
Stewart has a unique build and style of play to the rest of the receivers he will be competing with for reps and targets, especially with Jalin Marshall starting the season suspended for four games. Stewart is likely going to have a package of plays that allow him to work out of the backfield or slot, built to take advantage of his ability to run after the catch. The majority of his work could be focused within five to seven yards of the line of scrimmage. He is going to make the team as a third round pick but may actually take more targets away from Matt Forte, Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire than Eric Decker, Quincy Enunwa or any other receiver the Jets would have working in the slot. Stewart is also likely to be a core special teams player on coverage units and compete to be the kick returner.
Stewart is a rich man’s version of Marshall. He is built like a running back and runs after the catch like one. Similar to Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, Stewart is noted for his intangibles, competitiveness and being an “alpha dog” out on the field. He is still raw as a wide receiver in many aspects, particularly on his route tree, working back to the football, hand consistency and selling cuts with his hips. If Stewart can develop beyond a situational weapon on offense and core special teams player, it will be a pleasant surprise.
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