With about a month left before the NFL Draft, I’m going to be releasing a Prospect Focus article every couple of days.
Prospect Focus articles will be familiar to those that have read my Big Board Breakdowns when I was with Russell Street Report, but will have an additional focus on how the prospect can make the Baltimore Ravens a better team.
We’re going to start with Tennessee’s wideout, Josh Palmer. Let’s get into it.
Josh Palmer – X-WR – Tennessee Volunteers
- 6’1″ (+)
- 210 pounds
- 79″ Wingspan
- 9-3/8″ Hands
- 33″ Arms
2020 Stats: 33 receptions for 475 yards and four TDs in 10 games.
Don’t let the statistics fool you – Palmer was handicapped by inconsistent-to-terrible quarterback play for the entirety of his career at Tennessee. He’s shown fundamental improvements through all three seasons, while still leaving some room for growth at the position.
Reuniting him with Tee Martin should accelerate his growth timeline, lending familiarity and cohesion to the player/coach relationship.
He’d provide a big outside target for Lamar Jackson, which (theoretically) would improve the passing game immediately. It would also take attention off of Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews, providing more opportunities for downfield attacks or threatening short-yardage and red zone opportunities.
Contested catches and physical short-mid catches are where Palmer has made his money, catching with his hands instead of relying on his body and waiting for the ball to come to him. He’s good at boxing out the defender, using his physicality to win at both the catch point and during his routes (more on them later).
He’s extremely good in the air, with plus body control and above-average ball tracking skills. He can use this, combined with his contested catch ability, to bully bigger (or smaller) NFL corners. You don’t have to look any further than his tape against Georgia to see his ability against NFL-ready cornerbacks.
While you don’t want to see your X receiver getting absolutely rocked by a defender, there are some examples on his tape of him dragging two or three guys down the field for an extra few yards. This has led to more first down catches for him, as about 70% of his catches went for first downs – something that Ravens fans will love hearing.
More about Palmer versus corners: he uses the sideline extremely well when he is working around the corner during his route. He’s shown decent ability to twist his body like a pretzel to make an ‘uncatchable’ toss into a reception. He doesn’t have more than a handful of ‘circus’ catches over the past few years, but he does have some that elicit a ‘how?!’
I mentioned his routes earlier, and.. woof. He’s going to need some work. He wasn’t asked to do a lot as far as route-running, but he also has some hiccups that are blatant. He’ll need to not only expand his route tree at the next level, but improve on those that he can already run.
I’m also not in love with his releases. He has to work himself open after the release, which will mean slower-developing plays. Lack of burst hurts him just as much as his lack of route-running, which is why he uses his contested catch ability to stay afloat when against longer corners.
Projection can only take you so far, and admittedly, Palmer requires a decent amount of it. The Ravens better hope that their revamped WR coaching is up to the task, because not only do the current Ravens wideouts need more of it, but if they add Palmer, he’ll need to be a focal point of the training.
However, assuming that the coaching staff can do their job for once, Palmer projects to be a much better pro than he was a college wideout. The Ravens will like his size/speed/toughness combination, and his age (22 at season opening) will lend itself to growth with his quarterback and teammates.
Some of the ‘errant’ throws that are missed/dropped by certain current Ravens wideouts would turn into receptions when tossed Palmer’s way. Lamar Jackson would see an immediate increase in his completion percentage (assuming routes improve quickly).
An Early Day 3 prospect, Palmer looks the part of a higher-rated wide receiver, who is not only knocked down because of a deep wide receiver class, but also because of his lack of production at Tennessee.
Josh Palmer shouldn’t be in anybody’s Top 10, or even Top 15. But he’s an underrated prospect who deserves more attention than he’s getting, even with the lack of production.
Don’t agree? Come argue with me on Twitter, @LateRoundCorner.