By Adam Aniba
A few prospects were lucky enough to get an invite to this year's Senior Bowl, made the most of their opportunities during the week-long event. This year's roster featured a few prospects from the HBCU level that could hear their names called earlier than expected on draft night. One particular receiving prospect opened eyes during his week in Alabama, which just happens to be his home state playing HS ball in Mobile.
South Alabama receiver Jalen Tolbert gained the attention of NFL scouts in '21 with his ability to blow the top off opposing defenses. This season Tolbert put it all together registering 1,474 yards receiving, but his 18.0 per reception raised his stock leading to his senior bowl and NFL combine invites.
6'1" 195 lbs | WR | S.Alabama
Draft Proj 3rd Rd
Career (40 games) 178 rec 3,140 yards & 22 tds 17.6 per rec
'21 (12 games ) 82 rec for 1,474 yards & 8 tds 18.0 per rec
Tolbert dealt with some early drops during Senior Bowl practices and had his struggles when facing press coverage. Tolbert admitted he rarely faced press coverage playing in the Sun Belt Conference.
“I saw a lot of different coverages while I was at South Alabama. Here they play press-man,” Tolbert said. “That’s what we want as receivers. We love the one-on-one competition. So, just get used to it.”
Despite some early hiccups, Tolbert impressed NFL scouts with his ability to excel on go routes, often showing his speed off the the line and quick-twitch ability to shake defensive backs. The S.Alabama receiver's combination of size and speed make him an intriguing day 2 prospect, whose stock is on the rise.
Although the official team site lists Tolbert at 6'3", he came in at just over 6'1". The height discrepancy won't matter to scouts, who were impressed with his 32 1/4 inch arm length and 76 1/8 inch wingspan. Tolbert's length allows him to routinely make highlight reel catches, while shielding off defenders. His best attribute is his versatility to line up as an outside receiver and also to slide into the slot.
Tolbert attended McGill-Toolen HS in Mobile, AL contributing to a 13-1 team record during his senior season and advancing to the 7A championship. Tolbert lettered in three sports as a standout for the Yellow Jackets' football, basketball and baseball team, making the playoffs his junior and senior seasons (won state title in B-ball his junior year).
Although Tolbert only recorded 37 rec for 696 yards and 9 touchdowns during his senior season, his 18.8 yards per reception was an early tell of his potential as a big play threat. Tolbert was a 2-star recruit with limited offers. Tolbert gained the attention of the University of South Alabama and accepted the offer to pay for their football program.
Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury that required surgery, putting an end to his freshman season before it could even begin. Still regaining his form in 2018, Tolbert was only able to suit up for five games, recording five catches for 60 yards. In 2019, Tolbert finally put the injuries behind him, and it was all engines go from that point on.
He proceeded to rack up a combined 173 receptions for 3,080 yards and 22 touchdowns over the next three seasons. Keeping a close pace with his high school production, Tolbert maintained an impressive 17.8 yards per catch. His production profile is the type that NFL organizations covet.
Extremely quick and understands how to utilize his speed and downshift when needed, while ball-tracking
Natural hands catcher with good ability to adjust to overthrows (makes one-handed catches look routine)
Go-route specialist with little wasted movement to get to top speed
Versatility to play the X, Z and Slot
Utilizes his strength and length to excel in 50/50 situations
Needs work with route tree concepts (only asked to run a few routes at USA)
Route running needs refinement (tends to round-off routes)
Makes the big time downfield catches, but has concentration lapses at times with routine catches in the short game
Struggled a bit when facing press coverage during Senior Bowl practices (rarely faced james/press coverage at S.Alabama)
Doesn't effectively utilize his strength or burst in the short/intermediate game
Will be a 23 year old rookie (minor concern)
Tolbert is a dangerous deep threat who's still learning the nuances of the game. Facing sub-par defenses, who allowed him to get clean breaks off the line, will be far and few between when facing physical NFL DB's.
It's been established that Tolbert is a dangerous deep threat who can also excel at underneath routes. That allows him to to utilize his ability to gain yards after the catch. The combination of the Alabama State receiver's short area quickness and power will lead to big plays on the next level.
Tolbert will get a few more opportunities to showcase his skills at his pro day and the NFL Combine. Evaluators expect Tolbert to run in the 4.35 range and if he does, he could see a team make a move for him late in the 2nd round. As it stands, Tolbert would be a high value pick, if available, in the 3rd round.
Starting his career in the slot and special teams is the best way to immediately utilize his skill-set. With NFL coaching and refinement, the Alabama State receiver could go down as one of this most productive receivers from this year's class.
*Games Watched- 9/4/21 vs S. MIss, 9/11 vs Bowling Green, 10/23 LA-Monroe, 10/30 vs ARK St, 11/6 vs Troy, 11/13 vs APP St, 11/20 vs Tenn & 11/24 vs CCU
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