On Friday night, the Jets selected Alabama wide receiver ArDarius Stewart with the 79th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Stewart is 5'11" and 204 pounds and was a second-team all-SEC selection last year. The 23-year old caught 130 passes in three years at Alabama, including 54 last season. He also rushed for 82 yards.
Stewart, who played running back and quarterback in high school in addition to wide receiver, was recruited to Alabama in 2013 but sat out his freshman year.
As a sophomore, he caught 12 passes in a rotational role, but became a starter in 2015 following the departure of Amari Cooper.
In his first year as a starter, Stewart missed three games but still caught a career-high 63 passes for 700 yards and four touchdowns. He set career highs for receiving yards (816) and touchdown receptions (seven) in 2016, although he only caught 54 passes.
He was selected by the Jets with the 79th pick after they had traded down from 70. Most pundits had him graded as a third round pick or thereabouts, so the pick seems to be reasonable value.
Let's move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Stewart brings to the table, based on my research and film study.
Stewart put up mostly uninspiring numbers at the combine, although he didn't work out fully because of a groin issue. On film, his burst and acceleration is outstanding.
He's not very tall - just over 5'11" despite having been listed at 6'1" in the past - but he has a pretty strong physique.
Statistically, Stewart has amassed just under half of his production over the last few years from the slot. However, this stat is misleading, because Stewart ran a lot of jet sweeps where the quarterback pitched the ball forwards to him to constitute a pass completion.
While Stewart doesn't do as much conventional slot work as his numbers would indicate, it's worth noting that Alabama doesn't often spread their offense out very wide. Therefore, a lot of the time, even though he was the outside receiver, he'd have been close enough to the edge of the line that the routes he would have been running would basically be the same as someone in the slot would run..
Stewart also sometimes lined up as an effective extra tight end or in the backfield in two-back sets on third down.
Stewart has had some success on deep throws, although he was held back over the past couple of seasons by the fact that Jake Coker and Jalen Hurts were inconsistent throwing the ball down the field.
As a result, there weren't as many examples of him blowing past a receiver down the field for a pass over the top as there might otherwise have been.
Here is one long touchdown, but this was more a case of the defensive backs losing track of where he was and letting him in behind them when the play was extended:
You can see the problem here on this play, as Stewart looks to have half a step on his man, but has to reach back for the ball and this enables the defensive back to break it up:
With a better quarterback, Stewart shows the potential to develop into a deep threat, but is this something the Jets have?
Stewart has a reputation as a great blocker, as this was something he impressed with early on in his career to increase his role. However, from watching the film, his consistency lets him down at times, both in terms of his effort or finishing his blocks.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of impressive moments too. He got control of his man here to kick him out and and create the lane for a late touchdown:
Stewart will initially fire out with an aggressive punch and will battle to control the point of attack, but he does at times allow his man to get off his block and back into the play. He can also be inconsistent at locating his target in space.
When he gets a chance to blindside someone, either in open space or when blocking down on a linebacker, it's not uncommon for him to put his man on the floor. Here was the most aggressive pancake block I saw from him, but there were plenty of others:
Stewart is good at getting separation, but he often relies on his pure speed to do so. A lot of his success just came through running away from his defender rather than deceiving them:
He is capable of making sharp cuts, scoring after a nice whip route in one game, but when running in or out routes he has a tendency to round these off. He'd need to sharpen that up to get separation at the NFL level. He's good on slant routes and not afraid to go over the middle, though:
Technique-wise, he is excellent at breaking down on hitch routes, but I was unimpressed by his attempts at running a double route. One thing I would say is that his routes seemed better in 2016, so this is a developing area.
Stewart had a good catch rate last year - over 70% - but he caught 30 of 30 passes behind the line of scrimmage, mostly on simple pitches, and if you take those out of the equation, his catch rate was barely 50%. I'd perhaps attribute that to the quarterbacks though, because there were a lot of passes to him where the throw was way off-target.
Stewart only had a handful of drops last season, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. He often seemed to double-catch the ball, which could at times allow defenders to knock it away from him.
On this play he made a juggling finger-tip grab, but in order to complete that in the NFL, he'd have had to get both feet in-bounds, rather than just one:
A few of the drops he did have were difficult plays because the ball was thrown behind him. Concentration let him down on this play though:
He has two fumbles in his career, not including the above play, which was incorrectly ruled as a forward pass.
Stewart is capable of spectacular catches, like this beautiful leaping catch below:
Yards after the catch
As he catches a lot of passes behind the line, a high percentage of his production is generated after the catch. Stewart uses his speed to find gaps in the defense, but is also capable of breaking tackles and has an affinity for dishing out punishment at the end of a run:
He showed more playmaking ability in his senior year, increasing his average per reception from 11.3 in his first two years to 16.0 in 2016.
Physicality is definitely something Stewart brings to the table in terms of his blocking and ball carrying. However, there are times where he lets defenders make a play on the ball or fails to secure the ball after having made a catch:
He has had eight penalties in his three seasons, one of which was on special teams. He had just two in 2016, though, one of which was an offensive pass interference call that seemed somewhat harsh.
Stewart has outstanding open field running instincts and vision. As many of his receptions were, for all intents and purposes, running plays he produces well, especially in terms of finding cutback lanes on jet sweeps. He changed course and ran right up the middle for a 67-yard touchdown on one last year.
I did see a couple of mental errors from Stewart, who ran a wheel route from the backfield on one third down play, but the quarterback was obviously expecting him to stop in the flat and threw behind him, berating Stewart after the play. On another occasion, the team had to call a time-out after it seemed that he should have gone in motion but didn't.
It's a fair bet that Stewart will be a good fit for John Morton's offense, which remains something of a mystery for the time being. The team is likely to have targeted players with specific roles in mind.
He may need to sharpen up some of his route running for an NFL scheme, as I expect he'd be required to get separation on short-to-intermediate routes more often.
With his skill-set, Stewart should be a really good return man. However, at the collegiate level, he didn't see much success, averaging just 19.1 yards on 10 return attempts.
On this return, he had to field a wide kick and got stuffed while trying to break across the field:
Earlier on in his career, he played on coverage units, getting in on three tackles in his redshirt freshman season.
Stewart was suspended for one game by the team last year after an undisclosed breach of team regulations. Scouts have praised his toughness and competitiveness, but there were some times where he appeared to take a play off.
Stewart missed two other games in 2016 because of a leg injury but hasn't otherwise had any injury concerns. As noted, he was dealing with a groin issue during offseason workouts.
My first reaction to the Stewart pick was that he seemed very similar to Quinton Patton who the Jets already brought in via free agency. Without spoiling Patton's scouting report, which I shall now be publishing tomorrow, I think he may have more advanced route running skills and more reliable hands than Stewart at this stage of his career.
Maybe that's deliberate and the team will be planning for Stewart to compete directly with Patton in camp, perhaps learning from him as he does so.
Some among the stats-based analysis community are a little down on Stewart because he didn't break out until he his third year in college, but that doesn't really account for who was ahead of him or the quarterbacks throwing him the ball.
The Jets have certainly added a good athlete with a dynamic skill-set to the team and will be hoping he meets the requirements for a role they have ear-marked within their system. Once again, the question becomes whether he can reach his full potential before the Jets have a viable option at the quarterback position.