Dwayne Jarrett, up until last August coming into Panther's training camp, was competing to be the team's number two receiver behind Pro Bowler Steve Smith. He had made big strides during the offseason and was poised to finally live up to his potential as a 2nd round draft choice for the Panthers. That is, until he got his second DUI in three years and was released. Jarrett, who was a two-time First Team All American and had a career 219 catches and school record 41 TDs in three seasons at USC, never found that success in the pros, and has ultimately washed out of the NFL.
He stayed on his couch most of last year until he was given a call by Pete Carroll and came in for a tryout in late November when the Hawks were experiencing injuries at receiver (now-retired Bobby Engram was invited too). He wasn't signed at that time, but I still find myself wondering if Pete told him to get his crap together, get in shape, lift hard, and be ready for next year's camp.
Jarrett's specialty in college was winning jump balls and possessing good body control for a WR of his size. Why did he fail so badly in the NFL? One, he was a young receiver in a run-first offense with a inconsistent quarterback. Two, he was typically the 3rd or 4th option in that offense, so opportunities didn't come often. Three, he had questionable work ethic, did not study/learn the playbook enough and/or reportedly rubbed players and coaches wrong with a lazy attitude in practice. Finally, he found trouble with the law and was released.
I'm of course ignoring the idea that maybe he just can't play at the NFL level, but according to a lot of the stuff I've read that's not necessarily the case - I've seen several reporters close to the Panthers and many fans fuming in forums arguing that he shows solid on-field skills, starting practicing well and was showing a lot of promise as recently as this last preseason - but ran out of chances with the front office because of his off-field issues. I'm sure his immaturity and cockiness were factored into the decision to drop him from the Panthers, but it seems his trouble with the law (2 DUIs) was the main driving force behind his dismissal. Because of this, rather than a flat-out lack of talent, I can see a case for the Hawks giving this guy another tryout this offseason.
By most accounts, analysts stated that Jarrett would have served himself better by staying in school another year to refine his skills and gain maturity. He also put in a sub-par 40 yard dash time (4.62) that hurt his draft stock (originally he was projected as a first rounder, ended up 2nd round). His short shuttle time was 4.2 and any time you have that level of disparity between forty time and short shuttle you're looking at a guy whose strength is quickness over straight line speed.
Here is how CBSSports described his skills coming into the 2007 draft:
Has long arms and legs with a frame that can carry at least another 10 pounds of bulk ... Plays with only adequate quickness, but shows very good ball concentration and aggressiveness going after the ball ... Has very good timing and leaping ability to get to the ball at its high point ... Needs to add more bulk and upper body power to run through the press, but once he gets into his route, he is able to build his acceleration nicely ... Has quick hands and the ability to uncover working underneath ...
Very consistent extending for the ball and builds to top acceleration nicely if he is able to beat the press ... Has only adequate timed speed, but does a fine job of tracking the ball in flight and has outstanding ball adjustment skills ... Uses his tall frame to create mismatches vs. the smaller defenders competing for the jump balls and is never affected by traffic in his quest to get under the pass ...
Not the fastest you will find on linear routes, but shows good cutting agility to separate after the catch ... It is rare to see Jarrett glide out of his breaks like most bigger receivers tend to do ... With Jarrett's low pad level and ability to open his hips, he is very effective at getting in and out of his breaks without having to throttle down ... Does a good job going deep and is alert to pocket pressure, making a conscious effort to come back for the ball. Quite effective at keeping his feet in bounds along the sidelines ...
Excels at making the tough catch inside the red zone, especially on corner and fade routes ... Might not be able to overpower a defender going through the seams, but he has the flexibility to turn to the off-target balls and catch outside his frame ... Finds the path of the ball quickly to settle underneath it, compensating for a lack of timed speed ... The thing you see on film is his ability to reach and snatch the ball over a defender's head ... Has only adequate speed and acceleration, but he has the loose hips to avoid tackles and maintain balance through his running stride ...
Good at taking a shallow crossing pass into big yardage when he makes a conscious effort to escape rather than try to run over the defender ... Uses his hands well to shade, mirror and control edge rushers on contact and won't hesitate to get physical ... Good position blocker in attempts to seal off and takes good angles to deliver a solid cut block vs. second level defenders.
Lacks the timed speed to get down field in a hurry, but has the body control and ability to catch outside his frame to adjust and compete for the ball in flight ... Has adequate ability to retain plays, but does need several reps ... Alert to coverages, but will get a little sloppy and run right into spots at times ...
Consistently works back to the ball and while he can adjust on the move, he is not going to be the type who can handle multiple position assignments ... Was almost ruled ineligible in June for violating NCAA rules by not paying enough rent for the apartment he shared with former Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart ... There is a lot of the brash Keyshawn Johnson and the flippant Mike Williams attitude in this kid ...
Plays hard until the whistle, but will look lackadaisical at times and goes through the motions in practice and needs some structure there ... While he will compete for the ball in a crowd, he will struggle vs. strong press coverage and gets frustrated at times when he can't separate from the speedier cornerbacks ... Lacks the overall strength to defeat a strong jam and doesn't demonstrate the blazing speed or suddenness getting into his routes ... Looks sluggish with his burst off the snap and relies more on his size mismatches than speed to get under the ball ... A long strider rather than a receiver who takes short, quick steps ... When he tries to lower his shoulder to run over a defensive back, that is when he gets into trouble, as he doesn't have the brute strength to break tackles.
KEYSHAWN JOHNSON-Carolina ... While his work ethic and lack of speed remind some of Detroit's Mike Williams, Jarrett's ability on fade and corner routes and timing on his leaps for the jump ball rival that of another former USC receiver. Jarrett is much better at keeping his feet in bounds than Johnson, and he has some of the more natural hands you will find out there. However, he needs to show that he is maturing off the field and must improve his overall strength and hand usage, as he will struggle vs. physical press coverage."
Here are the things that stick out to me: great in the red-zone and going up for jump balls, smooth in and out of his cuts, will go up in traffic and exploit his size against smaller defenders. Good at coming back to the ball, and an ability to uncover underneath. His issues center on his lack of maturity and work ethic - they compare him to Mike Williams - obviously because they're both tall, successful USC WRs, but also because they both had through-the-roof potential and ceiling, but lack(ed) the ethic and maturity to follow through with that talent. Well, we've all seen what Mike Williams was able to do with his career with a dose of reality, some hard work, and a shot from Pete Carroll.
Similar to Mike Williams, Jarrett isn't going to be an outside deep threat. He lacks the quickness off the line for this, but his effectiveness lies in other areas. Take the other comparison to Keyshawn Johnson as an example - Johnson was considered one of the better possession receivers of his time by catching everything and using his length to fend off corners or defenders. To say that Keyshawn was excited when the Panthers drafted Jarrett is an understatement. He had plans to mentor the rookie but was dropped before he got that chance.
I am not in the Hawks' front office and I wasn't able to see the workout that he put in last November. It's probable they were just desperate because of the injury situation at the time. I'm not going to be surprised though if he is invited to camp this year to try and make the team. I just take a look at a guy that was able to score 41 TDs in 3 years playing in the Pete Carroll system, and I have to wonder if Carroll can do for Jarrett what he did for Williams. That is, if Jarrett is committed to getting back into the NFL. With a year at home, thinking about his future, perhaps Jarrett has matured and is ready to do what's necessary to play at the NFL level. Right before he was cut by the Panthers, he was quoted as saying:
"I don't think I understood what it was going to take. It's not that I didn't want to work hard. I just didn't understand what it took in the NFL - I really didn't get it. Things were happening so fast and I didn't have down the mental part of it. It robbed my aggressiveness."
He's got potential to be a possession style guy. People hate that term but I keep coming back to it. The stereotype is a guy that's not as fast but catches everything thrown his way. He keeps the chains moving. Mike Williams has done this on the outside and Brandon Stokley was the guy in the slot doing this for that Hawks in 2010. I guess it would be easy to argue that Jarrett doesn't really fit on this team - you don't need two Mike Williams. First, Jarrett would cost nothing. Second, I would argue that it doesn't hurt to have two of your best receiver. Why did Ruvell Martin have a roster spot, if not as depth behind BMW?
It's actually an decent comparison: Martin ran a 4.6 coming out of Saginaw Valley State. He's 6'4, 220. He does a decent job with what he's asked to do and had good rapport with Whitehurst. Why not bring Jarrett in to compete with him? While I like Martin as solid depth, I'd argue Jarrett has an edge in the upside department if he could get his head screwed on straight. He's got the 'unteachables' - body control for a player his size, excellent timing on jump balls, innate ability to keep his feet inbounds, and soft hands to catch difficult passes. There are good reasons he dropped out of the NFL - but that doesn't mean he doesn't have potential if put in the right system and gets his act together. Quite often, it takes wide receivers several years to transfer their skills to the NFL level, and perhaps Jarrett is a classic case of that.
According to this article by Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, Jarrett came into camp last preseason a changed player. Even John Fox commented early that "He's better - the players see it and I see it. We haven't played a game in six months, but he's way further ahead right now than he was this time last year."
He was seemingly ready to make the jump to the next level but was derailed immediately by his 2nd DUI. While those DUIs are obviously a concern, I don't believe it's reason enough to completely write off a 25 year old player with the skillset Jarrett possesses. Vincent Jackson got DUIs and we still tried to bring him on. Jarrett's DUI trial is set for July, and if he's acquitted, he'll be looking for a place to land. "I still believe I can make an NFL team. I haven't given up on that yet," he said. "This lockout is putting everything on hold -- for everybody. But we'll see."
WR may not be the position of greatest need for the Hawks but why not take a flier on a guy like Jarrett? He'd come cheap, could provide depth at the position, and the potential upside could be huge. Talent doesn't just disappear - we saw that with Mike Williams. Sometimes effort and fire is the difference between an NFL success or failure.