When the head coach is comparing you to Steve Smith and DeSean Jackson, the bar is set high.
That was the case with Jahan Dotson, which already has fans excited. But let's be clear: Dotson is a good football player, but he is not Jackson or Smith. He's his own player, with a skillset that is unique to him.
In the film break down of Dotson, Coach Rivera was able to point out some of the reasons why he felt those comparisons were justified.
In the first clip, Dotson is lined up to the boundary (the ball is on the near hash meaning Dotson is to the short side of the field) the offenses left and is the single receiver in a 3-by-1 set, and he's on the ball, which means he would likely be classified as your X wide receiver in this look. That means he's someone who can win against any coverage. Think Julio Jones or Calvin Johnson.
Physically, Dotson is the antithesis of those players, but there are outliers, like Smith, who can thrive in the role. Smith was listed at 5-foot-9 but was constantly winning contested catches that are traditionally associated with the bigger bodied wide receivers.
Dotson has this same quality. "He [Jahan] seems to time it out, so that he can get the best advantage in terms of the high ball," Coach said. "He gets himself above the man, that way if the guy does jump, he jumps…and elevates him even more. That's what you see right here with Jahan."
Coach brings up a fantastic point. Winning a contested catch is more than just being big and physical. It's about timing and coordination, knowing when to turn when to jump and having the focus to execute the catch.
I played with a lot of big wide receivers who look great coming off the bus, but when the football is in the air, they couldn't find the right position to catch the football. Dotson has the timing element down.
Like with all complex athletic movements, it's complex and multifactorial. Dotson also has maybe the most important element of winning a contested catch: fantastic hands.
In the second clip, Penn State is in the red zone. Dotson is lined up to the boundary to the side of the tight end. In this look, he would be most likely be classified as the Z receiver. He runs what's called a Jerk route in the Shanahan system.
This concept involves the No. 2 receiver -- in this case the tight end run a corner route -- to hold any quarters coverage while allowing the Jerk runner to be isolated in a one-on-one against the middle linebacker. It's a common concept that gives your best offensive player an easy win.
However, in this clip, Indiana plays some form of bracket, essentially doubling the No. 1 receiver to the right and left of the formation. As a result, Dotson is forced to run the Jerk route against a much better coverage player.
Windows are always tight in the red zone, but this change in coverage shrinks the window even further. It's one of the reasons why coaches tend to prefer larger players in the red zone, because they're always open.
Dotson can play like a larger player, because not only does he have tremendous body control and coordination, but he also has the best hands in the 2022 draft class.
Coach Rivera points out, "Watch the eyes, watch how he catches the ball. His hand and eye coordination seems together; because as he catches the ball, he is turning with the ball into the end zone and tuck."
Another element of his game that is exciting is the courage he plays the game with. I selected the punt return during this breakdown, but his physicality is all over the tape.
During Dotson's punt return Coach pointed out another skill, "He has deceptive speed. He is such a smooth runner. [There are a] couple of shots from the tight end zone: guys look like the have an angle, it looks like it is closing up, and he runs right by them."
Dotson ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at the combine. The man is fast, but the thing that stands out about how he runs is how easy he makes it look.