A familiar name returned to Seattle following the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp early last month. Damore’ea Stringfellow, a former University of Washington recruit who was suspended from the team following a fight with fans in Seattle after Super Bowl XLVIII, then ultimately transferred to Ole Miss, signed with the team after impressing during a tryout.
Following his transfer from the Huskies, Stringfellow went on to play two seasons at Ole Miss, posting 82 receptions for 1219 yards and 11 touchdowns before going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Stringfellow impressed as a rookie free agent with the Miami Dolphins, catching four passes for 130 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown in his preseason debut. Despite the raw talent and explosive preseason, Stringfellow spent the majority of his rookie year on the New York Jets’ practice squad and now finds himself in a wide receiver group lacking experience and in need of a playmaker to step up.
Stringfellow will be a part of a competition to replace, largely, the departed Paul Richardson’s snaps. Richardson spent the first three years of his career battling injuries and providing little more than a vertical threat, before breaking out in 2017. Richardson began excelling in other patterns, mainly digs over the middle of the field and comebacks along the sideline. Encouragingly, the wiry receiver with a tremendous catch radius seemed to have a complete understanding of Russell Wilson and the scramble drill, providing timely catches throughout the season. The former second round pick was rewarded for his strong season, signing a 5-year deal worth $20M guaranteed with Washington in free agency, leaving the Seahawks with a glaring vacancy at wide receiver.
In Stringfellow, Seattle has a receiver in camp whose game resembles Richardson’s. A long, lean receiver capable of stretching the defense vertically, high pointing the football, winning contested balls as well as winning over the middle and along the sidelines.
Of the games I charted, Stringfellow excelled the most running comebacks on the perimeter. The receiver breaks back to the ball with decisiveness, keeping the defender across from him on his back.
The Rebels and quarterback Chad Kelly consistently went to back-shoulder throws with Stringfellow, trusting the high profile transfer to break with timing and anticipation, and Stringfellow continuously rewarded their trust. Body control and timing are both great traits of Stringfellow’s that pop off the screen on timing patterns.
Superior body positioning is apparent across Stringfellow’s route tree, not just on timing throws. After comebacks, slants were the route Stringfellow ran the most often, with the majority of his wins on the route stemming from his release. He comes off the line with one intention, to get inside leverage and not give it up. A receiver’s ability to do this on in-breaking routes is invaluable, providing an offense with easy yardage: Either the ball gets into the receiver’s chest for an easy completion, or the defender comes through their back and gets flagged for pass interference.
On intermediate and deep in-breaking routes, Stringfellow still gains inside leverage off his release, but also maintains it across the field. Admittedly, Richardson’s play speed is quicker than Stringfellow’s. While Richardson was able to win on digs by maintaining a step or two on the defender, Stringfellow has to use positioning to win on intermediate routes over the middle of the field and keep the defender on his hip.
Similar to Richardson, Stringfellow uses his length and body control to his advantage on contested catches. Despite having a string bean frame, Richardson won consistently on contested balls during his time with the Seahawks, averaging 27.2 yards per catch on tight-window throws in 2017. Thicker than Richardson but still not big-bodied by any stretch, Stringfellow is excellent at contorting his body and winning on 50-50 balls all over the field.
The most encouraging development during Richardson’s breakout 2017 was him finally seeming to have an understanding of what to do in the scramble drill. It’s an adjustment all Seattle receivers have to go through and it’s something Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin mastered with the Seahawks. When the play broke down at Ole Miss, Stringfellow would work back to the sideline and the quarterback, making himself available for the pass.
Of course, Stringfellow isn’t coming into camp as anything close to a roster lock, or even a favorite. There’s at least four wide receivers firmly ahead of him. There’s the character concerns that caused him to transfer from Washington and ultimately go undrafted. There’s flaws in his game; drops related to a lack of concentration happen far too often and he tends to jog out routes if the ball is going away from him.
However, with so many question marks and projects currently filling out the wide receiver depth chart, getting production out of someone unexpected in 2018 would be a massive boost to the offense. Stringfellow resembles a receiver who provided Russell Wilson with a consistent target in 2017 and could bring the same skill set as Richardson in 2018, should he be able to put it all his physical tools together.