Better Legette Than Never
NFLMDD not only has a composite board that ranks each prospect after combining a large volume of other draft boards and mock drafts, but it also tracks each player's ranking over time, so you can see how they rise and fall. Prior to the start of the 2023 college football regular season, South Carolina WR, Xavier Legette, was an obscure nobody who wasn't on the draft radar. In late August, he was ranked approximately 680th overall. In that range, he at best be looking at trying to get a tryout invitation to a team's rookie minicamp, he wouldn't even be a strong candidate to be an UDFA.
It is very understandable why no one expected Legette to get drafted at that time. His career high for receiving yards in a season prior to 2023 was only 167 yards. Even though he had started 17 games over a 3 year period, he only had one truly notable game as a receiver prior to 2023. It was USC's 2022 bowl game vs Notre Dame, in which he made a highlight TD grab and finished with 78 receiving yards. Other than that, his impact had primarily been as a kick returner.
It only took one month for Legette's NFL prospects to become flipped upside down. In the very first game of the season, against UNC, Legette exploded for 178 receiving yards. He had more production in that single game than he did in the entire 2022 season. In the 4th game of the year, he had another monster performance, with 189 receiving yards vs Mississippi State, including a viral long TD where he raced away from the defense, clocked at a blazing 22.3 MPH. In only 4 games, Legette had announced his arrival to the NFL draft community. Today, Legette is sometimes mocked as a 1st round pick.
The be fair, it is likely that Legette already was on the radar of at least some NFL teams prior to his 2023 breakout. The HC for USC said that in the fall of 2022, an NFL scout was watching practice, saw Legette running routes and catching passes and exclaimed "Who in the heck is that?!" Legette plays for a power conference school, so all the area scouts for NFL teams likely had very similar reactions the first time they saw Legette in action. He is a jaw dropping athlete. So, my suspicion is that NFL teams knew plenty about this player even when the national media was sleeping on him. A common player comp for Legette that people throw out there is DK Metcalf and just like Metcalf got plenty of attention with his Combine performance, I wonder if Legette's stock will continue to climb if he puts on a show at his combine.
Legette's meteoric rise is very rare. Only a few other players have experienced such a dramatic change in their draft stock, including Ezekiel Ansah of BYU, a pass rusher who went from being just a backup to become the 5th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Zach Wilson of BYU went from being a projected UDFA to become the 2nd overall pick in 2021. Then, he proceeded to play like he was an UDFA.
Is Xavier Legette the real deal? Or is he a mirage? Will he be a big flop in the NFL or is he a late bloomer who will become a star in the pros?
Name: Xavier Legette. Turns 23 years old in 2024. 5th year bonus senior. Media calls him "X".
School: South Carolina. Degree in sport and entertainment management
Size: Listed 6'3'' tall, 227 pounds.
3 start to 4 star recruit from SC. Was 190 pounds and played QB in HS. His mom died from cancer in 2015. His dad died in 2019. Mostly small school offers. South Carolina made him a greyshirt offer.
2019: 9-80-1. Played mostly special teams.
2020 (6 starts): 7-113. Missed final 4 games due to hamstring injury.
2021 (11 games, 4 starts) 8-63-1. Involved in a scooter accident during the season.
2022 (13 games, 7 starts) 18-167-3. This was supposed to be his breakout season, but it didn't materialize. He averaged 29.4 yards per kickoff return, including a 100 yard TD vs TXAM. Had wrist injury in spring of 2022.
2023 (12 games): 71-1,255-7. Upper body injury vs Missouri, missed most of that game. Team had a new OC in 2023.
Career 26.4 yard KR average, 29 attempts, almost all coming in 2022 and 2023. 2 career fumbles.
Has a deep voice, speaks in a slow, southern drawl. Fun loving, loose, self-confident. Coaches and teammates praise him for his work ethic, leadership and predicted that he'd have a big 2023, because he had a great offseason.
PFF 32nd overall, 7th WR
PFN 50th overall (Dalton Miller 26th, Ian Valentino 65th, Ian Cummings 64th)
Steve Shoup 180th (6th round). Apparently, he didn't get the memo or isn't sold on Legette and smells something fishy.
NFLMDD consensus board 37th, 8th WR
Shane Hallam mock draft 114th (4th round). Representing the middle POV regarding this player, not placing him super high or super low.
Luke Easterling mock draft 32nd overall
Josh Edwards (CBSSports) 74th overall
In offseason, trained with former South Carolina star, Deebo Samuel. Similar to how Aaron Donald has mentored a number of Pitt defenders, this appears to have helped Legette substantially improve his game.
Height, weight and speed specimen. A "one play" prospect, because you don't need to study his tape. Just watch one play and it is immediately obvious that he looks like a potential monster in the NFL. Big, strong and very athletic.
On his long TD catch, the ball is on USC's 23, Legette is running a shallow drag route. He turns upfield after the catch, runs by the S with a turbo boost. When the WR is on his own 35, the CB is just behind him, but by the 45 yard line, the CB is 4 yards behind the WR.
Has both height, length and a muscular build. Towers over CBs. Lean, does not have excess body fat.
Coordinated athlete. Hands and feet work together and are effective getting by jam attempts.
Bursts off the LOS. Gets on top of CBs quickly, attacking them and threatening to go vertical. Surprising acceleration relative to his size.
Has shake at the top of the route. Can lean into the CB with his body. Nods and shoulder fakes to set up double moves.
Smooth route runner, carves out routes well. Good on deep over routes. Sudden and explosive out of break creates good separation and leverage.
Violent hands to shove away jam attempts. Uses physicality to create late separation.
Large effective catch radius. Strong hands. Flexible, with good body control. Can dig out low throws, adjust to off target throws behind him, or extend his arms and catch over his head. Good concentration to pull in an underthrown deep pass. Made diving catch on low pass.
Outstanding at winning contested catches. Even if it is a 40/60 ball, he has the ability to flip the odds and win it. Attacks the ball when it is in the air.
Versatile. Lined up both left and right, inside and outside. Used frequently in orbit or ghost motion. While his body says he's a classic "X wide receiver", he's very dangerous when placed in the slot. Wins leverage from the slot with combination of speed and wiggle.
Good route tempo. Speed places stress on CBs to stay in phase.
Explodes out of breaks. Sinks hips, can snap off routes, sit and turn fluidly towards QB. Can make sharp angle turns.
Big and powerful runner after catch, not easy to bring down. Can juke after the catch. Heavy, can withstand hits and stay upright. Follows his blockers as kick returner and as runner.
Gives good blocking effort, though he doesn't always connect or sustain his block.
Tucks the ball tightly to his chest and covers it up with 2 hands in traffic.
Played on a bad team. USC had terrible pass blocking issues. Spencer Rattler was running for his life or getting sacked too often, wasting many plays and not resulting in opportunities for the WRs to make anything happen. Their play calling and play designs at times were unimaginative and frustrating to watch.
Looks like he can add even more muscle to his frame and continue to physically develop.
Has Pro Bowl potential. Marvin Harrison Jr. is a safer WR prospect with less bust potential than Legette. In terms of ceiling, however, I believe that Legette has a higher ceiling than Marvin Harrison Jr. If you subscribe to the school of thought that a team should draft a player based on their top potential, there is a legitimate argument that Legette should be ranked higher on the draft board than Harrison.
Large frame presents a big target for jams. Can get momentarily delayed coming off the line.
His arms don't appear to be as long as DK Metcalf's arms.
Large size limits his lateral jump cut ability and his start/stop explosiveness.
Gives very simplistic answers to interview questions.
Timing of his leap occasionally off, either too early or too late. Appears to have good, but not elite vertical jumping ability. He beat college opponents, but I suspect that some NFL defenders will be able to match him and contest the catch point better.
Looks back to the QB too early at times, tipping the CB off that the pass is coming.
His habit of pushing off the CB when the ball is in the air could result in offensive PI penalties.
Ran too fast through passing window, not helping his QB and contributing to the pass being behind the WR. Needs to learn to adjust the tempo of his route to fit the defensive coverage.
Struggles to find and defend the proper blocking angle. Tends to overrun the angle.
Inconsistent play strength when blocking. Has great length and size to block, but sometimes allows smaller defenders to win the rep, stacking him or pushing him backwards.
Could tuck the ball away a little faster after catch.
Doesn't sell fake to set up WR screens, inviting defenders to drive on the screen and blow it up.
2023 stats driven by seeing a high target volume and getting quite a few short or easy passes to inflate catch number.
Dropped a low pass on slant route.
KR success helped by some good blocks by his teammates.
Was only eligible for 5th season in 2023 due to covid rules, otherwise he would have had to enter last year's draft and never would have had his breakout season. This oddity where he's about a year older than an average prospect, but still playing at college level perhaps helped contribute to his success. Only one season of production, a potential one hit wonder.
He had a combined total of 335 receiving yards vs Furman and Jacksonville State.
Legette is so athletically gifted, I'm concerned why it took so long for him to make an impact in college. The guy didn't even have 200 receiving yards in a season prior to 2023. How is that possible for a player with his size and speed? A real head scratcher.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
1st round grade. (Terrell Owens, 3rd round 1996, Niners, Chattanooga)
I didn't feel that Legette's draft grade was overly difficult. Brian Quick was the very first pick in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. That draft was stuffed with tremendous top tier talent (e.g. Andrew Luck, Luke Kuechly, Fletcher Cox.) Even though some of the prospects disappointed in the pros (e.g. Trent Richardson), on paper, 2012 was a very strong and deep draft class. Alshon Jeffery from South Carolina was a 2nd round pick in that draft. If Legette, Quick and Jeffery were all in the same draft, even without hindsight, how would we rank those 3 WRs? IMO, the best prospect of the 3 is Xavier Legette.
TO played basketball, football and was on the track team in college. He shot 42.9% from the free throw line as a seldom used backup on the basketball team. He only ran 4.63 seconds in the 40 in pre-draft testing. TO never had at least 750 receiving yards in any season in college. He played on a series of bad teams that won 3, 4 and 4 games his final 3 seasons. Sean McVay's grandfather, John McVay, wasn't with SF's front office the year TO was drafted, because he retired, though he would return a couple of years later as GM.
Owens was drafted at the bottom of the 3rd round. The Niners lucked out, because there were 3 players on the board that they liked and were indifferent as to which one they got. The other 2 were taken in the two slots immediately before TO was selected, so it was just chance that he was the last one remaining. The other 2 players only played one season with the NFL team that selected them. One had a very brief pro career, while the other one was primarily a journeyman backup.
The Niners perhaps were lucky to have the last choice of the 3 players, because Carolina held the slot ahead of them only because they were an expansion team that was given extra draft picks by the NFL. If the Niners had a higher slot, I wonder if they still would have taken TO.
Owens ended up playing a role that was supposed to be filled by JJ Stokes, the UCLA star that the Niners drafted 10th overall in 1995. The Niners traded up to get Stokes, giving up a package of picks, including their 1st round pick in 1996. Their trade partner was the old Browns, who became the Ravens in 1996 and Ozzie Newsome used that "extra" 1st round pick to select Ray Lewis. While Stokes wasn't a bust, he never became the superstar he was projected to become.
If you are a defender, Xavier Legette is a scary player. Dude is a load to handle. Big, strong, fast, but also with developed technical and ball skills.
Exactly how Legette ranks in relation to some of the other WRs in this draft and whether he should be the top draft target for the Rams in the 1st round aren't questions that need to be resolved right now. The draft is so far into the future, still only on the horizon. I think it is sufficient just to say that I consider the hype around Legette to be real and I believe that he's one of the most intriguing prospects in the class. As we work through the draft process with the Senior Bowl, Combine and other events, he's a player that merits close attention from Rams fans.