2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Auden Tate, Wide Receiver

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In a wide receiver class that lacks size, could Auden Tate establish himself as the alpha?

For my next scouting installment of scouting reports based of my simulated 4-round mock draft using Fanspeak’s On the Clock Mock Draft Simulator (shown below), I will detail Florida State WR Auden Tate. I used Matt Miller’s Big Board as of February 19, 2018, and I was on the “difficult setting,” which is supposed to be more realistic.

Projected Measurables (via NFLDraftScout):

Height: 6’4”
Weight: 225
40 Time: 4.58

Strengths:

Hands: Auden Tate has great hands. Tate is a “hands catcher” which means he catches the ball with his strong hands rather than letting the ball get into his body. This helps him make a living in jumpball/contested catch situations because he can pluck the ball out of the air easily.

Beautiful hands catch here against Clemson.

Tate also does a great job of tracking the ball all the way into his hands, like he did against NC State. Bonus points for making sure he got two feet in bounds.

Ability at the Catch Point/Body Control: Auden Tate is a 6’4″ receiver that plays like he’s 6’4″. Tate uses his size and strength to his advantage in one on one situations to outmuscle defenders for the ball. He also shows unreal body control for his size. Showing the ability to contort his body quickly to make 

 I did an impromptu scouting session on Twitter about Auden Tate (here) in January and this was the first play I saw. Look how Tate high points the ball and makes an incredibly acrobatic jump to pull it down. He never takes his eyes of the ball and is able to secure it as he goes down. There are plays like this all throughout Tate’s tape.

Another play where Tate makes another amazing leaping grab. Tate’s ability to high point the ball, then make acrobatic jumps and catch with his hands makes me salivate. I love big receivers who make big time plays with the ball in the air.

Watch Tate fight through pass interference and snatch the ball out of the air. Note how strong his hands are to hold onto the ball as the corner tries to rip it out.

I can go on and on, and post more gifs to illustrate Tate’s ability, but I think you get the picture. Tate is the best receiver I’ve studied (at this point) when it comes to making contested catches. He has amazing body control and length, can jump out the gym, and makes catches away from his body with his hands.

Leverage/Positioning: One thing I always harp on with receivers, is the ability to get inside leverage on a defender, and keep it. We have already seen Tate do that on a few plays I showed earlier, but let’s run through some more.

Here, Tate fakes outside before cutting inside. He slaps the defender’s hand away, securing his position on the inside, and shields his body from the defender to make the uncontested catch.

These two plays illustrate the same thing: Auden Tate is great at getting positional advantage and leverage down the field so he can use his size and catch radius to make big plays. This helps counteract his lack of consistent separation, especially down the field (more on that later).

Route Running: Commonly attributed to Tate as a negative, I actually think Tate is an above average route runner. Where I think he can use some improvement is in the suddenness and explosion in his breaks, but in terms of nuance and ability, he’s got it down.

Tate’s deep ball ability forces the defender here to respect the go route. Taking advantage of this, Tate hit him with a curl route. Left without all-22 film, we can still see that Tate was obviously quick out of his break back to the ball and made the grab.

Once again we’re left without all-22 film, but we see Auden Tate run a textbook comeback route. We see the defender on him was completely left in the dust. Tate looks very smooth in his routes, especially for his size.

 This is one of my favorite plays from any draft eligible receiver this year. Tate fakes like he’s going outside, gets inside separation by cutting back in, slinks past the buzzing defender, and finishes the play by catching the wide open touchdown. Tate shows a lot of nuance here and shows off his athleticism.

Red Zone Monster: All of he traits stated above culminate in Auden Tate being a beast in the redzone.

Tate is a fade route aficionado, and he makes this touchdown (and many others) look so easy. Tate was able to box out Minkah Fitzpatrick (arguably the draft’s best prospect) then use his length to make the catch away from Fitzpatrick.

This play look familiar? Tate loves to do this fake outside, go inside move near the goal line, and it works. Once again he slinks past the buzzing defender, but this time he makes an unbelievable leaping grab in the back of the endzone.

Blocking: Auden Tate is definitely not afraid to block. He often uses his strength to physically overpower defenders, but he also has good technique when attacking defenders.

Look at Tate engage the defender on this run play, and he doesn’t give up an inch. He threw the defender back like a ragdoll, all while staying engaged.

However, I would love to see more consistency from Tate because he sometimes lets up and doesn’t block hard, or he doesn’t engage at all, like he does above.

Toughness: Auden Tate is one tough dude. He’s a big guy, and he knows this, so when you find a guy like him so confident and fearless, you pay attention. He played through the Wake Forest game, catching the game winning touchdown, one week after separating his shoulder. This toughness translates through the field too.

Here he catches a screen pass, then turns and goes. He takes a hard shot to get pushed out of bounds, but he stays on his feet. Then he chirps afterwards. I love players who trashtalk.

In this play, Tate catches a ball over the middle of the field and takes an absoulte shot. However, Tate doesn’t even flinch. He didn’t drop the ball or stay down on the field, he got right back up and went directly to the next play. You need receivers who aren’t scared to go over the middle of the field and take a shot, and Tate is that guy.

Weaknesses:

Separation: All throughout this report, it’s not hard to see that Tate lacks consistent separation. Tate makes a lot of his non-red zone catches in contested situations. However, Tate shows the potential to get more separation, like the gifs above where he explodes out of his breaks back to the ball, and the gifs where he is able to fake out the defenders at the line of scrimmage. Until Tate improves his route running even further, he will still be a red zone monster.

Despite getting inconsistent separation on his routes, when Tate is in the red zone he gets open. We saw it with the gifs above where he was able to fake out and gain leverage over defenders, which he has done more times than I have shown here. He also has elite leaping and high point ability, rounding out his red zone skill set with strong hands and great concentration.

Deep Speed/Explosion: The reason why Tate doesn’t get as much separation as many would prefer, is because of his lack of deep speed, and explosion out of his breaks.

With regards to his deep speed, he can get down the field for big gains, but he’ll never be a burner. He wins deep with his size and positioning ability rather than pure speed. This isn’t the worst problem to have, there are many good receivers that don’t have blazing speed, they just have to win with other methods/traits. Tate has other ways to beat defenses than outrunning them, but not having the ability to be a homerun threat every play does limit him to an extent.

Better explosion out of his breaks is necessary for him to become a better route runner. Tate is a smooth mover, but his breaks are somewhat slow. Explosion is needed to sell his moves/fakes better, and to get him just that much more separation from defenders when he cuts.

Production: If you remember from my Saquon Barkley scouting report, I hate using stats without context to justify taking or not taking a player. 

Auden Tate played through some minor injuries the last couple seasons, but the biggest issue was Florida State’s QB situation. The injury to Deondre Francois threw the whole season, and the whole offense, into complete disarray. His replacement was true freshman James Blackman, who was okay at best. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like James Blackman’s potential, but he was very inconsistent as a true freshman, and flat out bad sometimes. In addition to rough QB play, FSU’s offense has been heavily focused on running backs the last two seasons (Dalvin Cook and Jacques Patrick/Cam Akers). Try putting up huge receiving numbers in that offense.

We know Tate is good, we see that Tate is good, we understand the potential of just how good Tate can become, so why would we throw all that knowledge away because he only posted 548 yards, but 10 touchdowns.

How Does He Fit with the 49ers at the #59 pick?:

Bottom line, Auden Tate should not be available this late, so taking him here would be a steal.

Tate is the big bodied receiver that the 49ers’ offense lacks. The tallest receiver currently on the 49ers roster is Max McCaffrey at 6-foot-2. Tate would be a terror for defenses in the red zone, something the 49ers clearly lacked this season, ranking 27th in scoring efficiency (scoring touchdowns in only 47% of their trips to the red zone). Tate would not only give the 49ers a red zone weapon, but he would also be someone that defenses would be afraid of and lock in on, allowing other receivers to have one on one coverage.

Tate would also benefit from playing in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Instead of running a large number of isolation routes, Shanahan uses a lot of bunch sets and pre-snap motion that help receivers get open faster by confusing and/or outnumbering defenders. This would help mask some of his separation issues by scheming him open to use his size and athleticism better, rather than forcing him to get open on his own.

Of course, one question should be asked here: What about using free agency to help the wide receiver position?

Now, I firmly believe that the 49ers will use their large amount of cap space to sign a big name receiver in free agency. Whether it is Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins, one more receiver is necessary for the 49ers as they want to surround Jimmy Garoppolo with as much talent as possible. With that said, even if the 49ers sign a receiver in free agency, I don’t think they should not pass on a talent like Tate. Not only is having too many receivers a good thing, but Pierre Garçon is going to be 32 by the start of the preseason, and the 49ers have the option to release him starting in 2019, saving over $24 million over 4 years. Tate would be a perfect replacement, especially with a few years of NFL experience and  development under his belt.

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