Scouting Rookies: ArDarius Stewart vs. Ole Miss (2015)

The Jets selected ArDarius Stewart in the 2017 NFL Draft, and many fans are intrigued as to how he will fit in with the current group of receivers.  He’s not as highly touted as star Calvin Ridley, but functioned as a very good No. 2 receiver for the Crimson Tide.   The “All-22” tapes for college games are far and few in-between, so we are limited in our pool of games.  Today, we will be looking at Alabama’s loss against Ole Miss in 2015, which is beneficial to us because the Alabama offense did not go into preserving the lead mode late in the game.  Let’s see how ArDarius Stewart did in this game.

1. 

This is a basic “Jet Sweep” and it doesn’t go far on this play.  Stewart was utilized fairly often on these types of plays, since he showed a good ability to find spaces, akin to a running back.  However, Ole Miss has this play bottled up from the start, and there are a couple of missed blocks that lead to a short gain.

2.  

It’s a running play and Stewart (slot to the left of the formation) is not involved in the play, but he runs a crisp route here and would be wide open if this is a pass play.  This is one of the harder aspects of scouting players in colleges, because teams play defense based on systems.  On most teams, there is little chance that Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart would be one on one with off coverage.  However, since Alabama runs the ball so often, teams hedge their bets at times.  Notice the space maintained by Stewart on the break, which is produced by a quick cut to the outside.  Stewart does show some tendencies to “round off” his routes later in the game, but he also does show the ability to make quick cuts as well in his routes.

3.  

The good on this play:  Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) shows good speed and good hands on this play.  He is slating to the inside as he’s running, which makes the CB (already facing inside) to remain facing the middle of the field, and spin around to the outside.  The CB loses momentum with the spin around, allowing Stewart more time to create separation.  It doesn’t matter much on this play, because of the cushion he had in the first place, but in tighter coverage with the NFL, this will come in handy if he can do this consistently.   He also makes a very good catch, because this ball is thrown somewhat high and he goes up and and gets this ball.  The bad on this play: Notice how he rounds his cut to the outside, which allows the CB to close the gap, and hit him as he’s coming down with the ball.  If it was tighter coverage, the rounded cut would have let the CB back in the play.

4. 

This is a staple play from Alabama (and a lot of colleges with some variety- you will see a bunch if you look at Baylor games) where there is an outlet receiver that acts as insurance.  This play goes for bare minimum because the blocking is off on the play.  The lead blocker (hard to tell the number from the tape) abandons his block early, leaving the defender free to attack Stewart (outside receiver to right of formation).   Cooper Bateman started this game for Alabama (later Jake Coker takes over) and he misses a huge opportunity to the left side of the field.  Although, this play should have been more successful because there is only one defender near two Alabama players.  Unfortunately, the lead defender abandons his block for some reason, and blows the play.

5.  

The defense is in zone coverage, and Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) is on his way to being open in coverage, but the QB decides to throw it up into double coverage instead.

6. 

Even though he ends up being tackled before the end zone, Stewart (slot receiver to the right of formation) shows very good hands here because the ball is thrown behind him.  He has to completely turn around to catch this ball, and does a 360 degree spin in the middle of this route.   It also doesn’t help that one Alabama player fell down, which freed his defender to come and tackle ArDarius Stewart.

7. 

On this play, there seems to be major miscommunication.  Stewart (second slot receiver to the right of formation) runs a double move, while the QB throws the ball as if the play call only called for a single move to the outside and up the field.   There is a chance that the QB is throwing the ball to the outside receiver, but he is nowhere near the ball, and Stewart’s trajectory at the time of the QB’s release matches up with where the ball eventually landed.  There are a few instances in this game, and during the year where Stewart did not seem to be in-sync with his QB, especially on deep passes.

8. 

Stewart (outside receiver to right of formation) is wide open on one of those safety valve routes.  However, QB ignores him and throws an incomplete pass instead.

9. 

The CB playing Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) gives him a big cushion to start this play, and Stewart takes advantage.  He runs a comeback route and stops extremely well.  He’s not involved in the pass, but this is a very good comeback route by Stewart, and he is wide open had the QB chosen to pass him the ball.

10

Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) is facing zone defense on this play, and he finds open space for a target.  Notice the route path, because there is an outside CB that he has to worry about in zone, but he splits the CB and LB, which causes the CB to stay further up field.  If he runs the same route adjacent to the CB, then it’s more likely the CB floats backwards to cover the back end of his zone.  Stewart does a very good job with the route, and makes a decent cut to the outside, but the ball is wildly overthrown, as it lands out of bounds.

11. 

This play goes for an incomplete pass, but Stewart (slot receiver to the left of the formation) is wide open on this play.  Notice how he sets up this route by slanting his route path to the inside, which causes the defender to turn his hips to the inside.  Once the defender turns his hips, Stewart goes outside, which forces the defender to turn around, and therefore lose momentum.  We have now seen a couple of instances where Stewart has adeptly manipulated the hips of defenders to his advantage.  He is open for the pass, but isn’t involved in the play.

12.  

On this play, Stewart is running a “Jet Sweep” again, but with  a twist.  As most of you know by now, ArDarius Stewart played QB in HS before moving full time to WR.  On this play, he is to throw a pass on this “Jet Sweep” but he realizes that the CB hasn’t disengaged from the receiver, and has safety help over the top, thus he decides to run with the ball for minimal gain.  He showed superior play recognition than Ryan Fitzpatrick on this play.

13.  

This play has Stewart going in motion right before the ball is snapped, and the whole set up is to have three players (OJ Howard, Stewart, and Drake from backfield) match up against two defenders to the right side of the formation.  However, the QB gets a blitz and looks at the wrong side of the field, which causes an incomplete pass.  Once again, Stewart was open for an easy pass.

14.  

Stewart (outside receiver to the right of the formation) shows off his speed on this play, as he runs by his defender down the field.  He shows explosive speed and is a good two steps past his defender.  Unfortunately for him, the QB gets flushed out of the pocket and forced to scramble.

15.  

This is a hot read from Coker and Stewart (slot to the right of the formation), so as soon as the defense shows blitz, they have a quick pass option set up.  It’s a good route and catch, but what is impressive is the last ditch effort to gain an extra yard with the flip at the end.  Scouts have noted that Stewart doesn’t go down easily, so it’s good to see the effort to gain an extra yard.

16. 

Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) scores a TD on this play.  This is a play you have seen before, because if you are reading diligently this far down the article, you have also watched all of his highlight tapes as well.  This TD is featured on most highlight reels, although it’s not quite as impressive as they make it out to be.  It’s a simple route, and good catch.  However, the play is really made by the horrible angle taken by the defender.  If the defender takes a straight angle to the receiver, he probably has a good chance of tackling him, but the defender takes the outside angle, which allows Stewart to move inside.  Stewart makes a great cut to avoid the safety, so the run after the catch and his open field ability to make the cut is impressive.  However, the root problem for this TD is really the defender, who seems to realize he’s on an island and wants to cut off the outside turn as much as possible.

17. 

Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) runs a double move again, and once again it seems like the QB assumed that it was a single move route.  The QB did face pressure again, but this is another example where the QB and receiver just aren’t on the same page.

18.  

This is a great catch and route by Stewart (outside receiver to the right of the formation), as he sets up the defender brilliantly again.  Once again, notice the angle of the route and the hip direction of his defender.  Stewart slants the route inside enough to keep the primary CB facing the field, so when he makes his cut to the outside, the defender has to turn around again.  He also makes a great catch on this play, as he’s going out of bounds.  This is an expertly run route and he shows off good hands.

19.  

On this play Stewart (outside receiver to the right of the formation) runs right by his defender.  He shows very good speed and explosion and gets two steps on his defender, but the ball is under-thrown.  Good thing he has Robby Anderson on the team, they can share their experiences with each other.

20.  

Stewart (slot receiver to the left of formation) isn’t involved in the play, but he runs a good route and is open for the pass, but the QB throws the ball to the other side.

21.  

On this play, Stewart (outside receiver to the right of formation) runs a simple crossing route, and is open for the pass, but the QB rushes with the ball.  Again, he runs a good route and gains separation from the defender, but is ignored on the play.

22.  

This is a horrible play by Stewart (outside receiver to the right of the formation) because he doesn’t look back for the ball as he’s running past the defender.  In his defense, the under throw is unpredictable because the QB absolutely got destroyed on this play, which negated his ability to throw the ball further down the field.  However, Stewart has his head facing the wrong way and doesn’t read the safety’s reaction until it’s too late.  It’s an easy interception for the defense.

23.  

The Alabama offense is in desperate mode as they are down 6 with under a minute to go, with the defense is prevent mode.  The route isn’t special, but the throw is off-line.  However, Stewart has to make this catch considering the situation, even though the pass is not ideal.  He gets his hand on the ball, which is thrown behind him, but he can not come up with the ball.

Conclusion:

Speed:  Stewart shows excellent speed on the field in this game, as he runs by his defender a couple of times.  However, it should be noted that Alabama did not primarily use him as the deep threat, which is more justifiably reserved for Calvin Ridley.  Since it is a run first offense, the opportunity to show off the speed is few and far in between.

Route:  He shows a very good ability to set up his defenders with subtle changes in his route angle.  There are some instances where he is rounding off his routes, which could be problematic in the NFL.  Unfortunately, there are instances where the receivers tend to not be involved in plays when there is a running play called to the inside.  This is similar to Baylor telling it’s receivers to take plays off when they aren’t involved.

Hands:  Stewart shows good hands, but not great hands.  He can make some very nice catches, but he also can drop passes that may not be perfect.  While it’s hard to criticize a receiver for dropping passes that are thrown behind him,  it’s not completely out of the question that a receiver with great hands brings in those passes.

Toughness:  He shows good toughness and is a willing blocker.  Those examples aren’t highlighted here because your phone (or computer) is struggling enough to load these gifs, we don’t want to kill it.  He does miss some assignments with blocks especially if he’s supposed to read the defense before blocking, but when he’s given a straight target, he does well with blocking.

Agility:  Stewart shows good agility in the open field, but he’s not going to remind anyone of Tavon Austin or Tyreek Hill.  He is more of a one cut runner, that fights up field rather than trying to make tacklers miss in the open field.  His style of running is reminiscent of Quincy Enunwa.

Overall, Stewart looks like a good receiver with the potential to be a good No. 2 type receiver.  He may grow into something more than that because he does have the physical gifts, but there are things that he needs to work on before being a good player in the NFL.  It’s hard to judge players from systems that are slanted towards one style of offense (be it Air Raid with passing or triple option with running) so there is some mystery to Stewart.  It is feasible that his stats would be much higher if he was the primary focus of an offense, but it’s also feasible that a great running game coupled with a stud receiver in Calvin Ridley caused Stewart to see lax coverage.   Jets’ fans should be excited about the pick, because he does show some potential, but they shouldn’t expect him to be a star out of the gate.

Forum Question(s)

  1.  What do you think is his upside?
  2.   If he played at Clemson, what would Stewart’s stats be?
  3.   Who is your pro-comparison? 

 

 

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