November 25, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon (14) runs with the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Blackmon's Role

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After dominating Big 12 defenses at Oklahoma State, Justin Blackmon was unanimously considered the top receiver going into the 2012 NFL Draft. Months before the draft, criticism over Blackmon’s lack of size, speed, and overall physical tools started to hamper his draft stock. Nonetheless, Gene Smith deemed Blackmon worthy of trading up to the fifth overall pick in the draft.

Dec 30, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon (14) can

Blackmon really came on at the end of the season despite some trouble with drops.

After starting out slow, Blackmon exploded against the Houston Texans in week 11 for 236 yards and finished the season strong. Lacking exceptional top end speed, Blackmon’s role was akin to a possession receiver – making tough catches in the middle of the field and getting yards after the catch. But how well did Blackmon perform in the areas he’s supposed to excel in?

Blackmon is not going to be a big play, deep ball receiver given his skill set. In order for Blackmon to live up to his draft selection, he’s going to have to maximize a handful traits:

  • Making tough catches in the middle of the field and on short routes
  • Displaying good hands and minimizing drops
  • Getting yards after the catch

Let’s see how Blackmon performed in these areas.

Area of the Field

Catch (%)

YAC

Drops

Left (0-9 yards)

77.27

26

1

Middle (0-9 yards)

48.39

97

5

Right (0-9 yards)

50.00

25

1

Middle (10-19 yards)

47.37

28

1

Blackmon had a majority of his drops in the short, middle part of the field –  easily his most targeted area (31) –  in addition to having one of his lowest catch percentages. Blackmon did a good job fighting for yardage after the catch though, averaging about 6.5 yards after getting the ball in the short field.

Let’s contrast Blackmon’s numbers with the player he’s most often compared to – Anquan Boldin.

Area of the Field

Catch (%)

YAC

Drops

Left (0-9 yards)

60.00

58

0

Middle (0-9 yards)

42.11

41

1

Right (0-9 yards)

64.71

92

1

Middle (10-19 yards)

75.00

63

0

Blackmon and Boldin have somewhat similar numbers in the short field, but Boldin has displayed much better hands in his career than Blackmon did in his rookie season. Boldin also contributed significantly more in deeper parts of the field, as Boldin had 16 receptions over 20 yards compared to Blackmon’s 4. A lot of that has to do with the quarterbacks, since Flacco was much more apt to stretch the field than Gabbert and Henne were.

Blackmon might never be a big play threat, but he’s a great compliment to the Jaguar’s other promising young receiver – Cecil Shorts III. If Blackmon can limit his drops and continue to improve his route running he’ll contribute heavily over the next few years.

*All stats from ProFootballFocus.com

– Daniel Lago

Yell at me on Twitter @dlago89

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