Jalen Tolbert Draft Profile
Every year there are a few guys whose tape I don’t love but have sky-rocketed after the season ended. Jalen Tolbert is one of those guys and it is because he put on an absolute show at the Senior Bowl in February! Throughout the week, Tolbert gained chemistry with Liberty quarterback, Malik Willis, and was his number one target during the game. Having grown up in Mobile, Alabama, football is all Tolbert knows. At the Senior Bowl, Tolbert dominated in the one-on-one period and was really able to showcase his skills. In his final year at South Alabama, he won “Sun-Belt Offensive Player of the Year” awarded to the best offensive player in the Sun-Belt FBS conference. While I did not love Tolbert’s tape, he has been able to benefit from playing against greater competition and has put on a show while the scouts have been watching.
The biggest reason why Tolbert dominated in the one-on-one period at the Senior Bowl is that he is a dominant route runner. He is one of the better intermediate route runners in this year’s draft, so that means “dig” routes, deep outs, and corner routes are where he is killing defenses. At the top of his routes, he forces defenders to bite and draws a lot of pass interference/ holding calls. He wins on a lot of double-moves against undisciplined defensive backs and will be used as a second-level receiver in the NFL. Tolbert is dynamic after the catch, he is very savvy on screens and does a nice job at turning on the jets once the ball is in his hands. While Tolbert played at a lower-level school, he was not flustered when going against SEC defensive backs. He had a huge game against Tennessee, and he obviously stood out at the Senior Bowl. At the combine, Tolbert was listed at 6’1 and had quite a few contested catches and jump balls in the games of his that I watched. He is physical when the ball is in the air and is not afraid to go up and get it. I did not love Tolbert’s tape, but based on how his senior bowl week went I could see him going much higher than I have him graded.
While Tolbert turned heads in Mobile, there was a good amount of film that forces scouts to turn their heads away from him. One thing that bothered me when watching him run routes is that It just didn’t seem like he was running very hard. I have seen him run full speed and cut, but it looked like he was just taking a few plays off. There were other times when it looked like he was overshadowed by other receivers on the team as well. On film, Tolbert lacked quickness and any twitch. He didn’t separate as much as I’d want a receiver who is going against FBS corners to do. While Tolbert would go up for a one-handed catch here and there, it seems like he has too much confidence in his hands which resulted in quite a few drops. I project Tolbert to be a number three receiver at the next level who is used on a lot of digs and on intermediate routes.
Even though I was disappointed when watching Tolbert’s film, I still see teams taking him towards the end of day two of the draft. I have a mid to late fourth-round grade on Tolbert because I don’t think I would personally take a number three receiver any earlier than that. Tolbert reminds me a little bit of Detroit Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus. I believe the Washington Commanders, Los Angeles Charges, and Arizona Cardinals would all be good fits for Tolbert because they wouldn’t ask him to be an every-down receiver, but he can come in on third-downs and passing downs.
Ability to Separate: 7/10
Release/Top of Routes: 5.75/8
Route Running: 7.5/8
Contested Catch: 6/8
Hands + Catch Radius: 5.5/8
Speed + Control: 5/7
Natural Talent: 3/5
Final Rating: 75
Pro Comparison: Quintez Cephus
Team Fits: Commanders, Chargers, Cardinals
Draft Grade: Mid - Late Fourth Round Pick
Draft Projection: Mid - Late Third Round Pick