April 13, 2024

Rookie Spotlight 2024: Jalen McMillan

4 min read

Rookie Spotlight: Jalen McMillan

By Nick Goodwin

 

 

It’s combine week! If you’re looking for under-the-radar rookies to take a chance on, I’ve got you covered. Dynasty managers must call their shots on guys in the later part of rookie drafts and if you're hoping to find the next Puka Nacua or Kyren Williams, we must look way past consensus rankings and dive deep into the prospect list. Jalen McMillan is one of those guys outside top-ten positional rankings that’s a must-have in rounds three to four of rookie drafts. 

 

  • 6’1”
  • 180lbs
  • D1 recruit in Baseball
  • Varsity Track and Field athlete
  • 4 Star High-school Recruit

 

McMillan’s breakout season came in 2022 while playing alongside Rome Odunze and catching bombs from Michael Penix Jr., posting 79 catches for 1,098 yards and nine touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. McMillan was on par with Odunze in production, yet is presumed to go rounds later in the upcoming NFL draft. In 2023, production was minimal as he missed multiple games due to injuries and even when returning to action, didn’t quite look a hundred percent. That said, it’d be a mistake to judge him based solely on his 2023 film or stat totals. To get a fuller picture, we have to turn on the tape from 2022. 

 

 

STREGNTHS

What pops on that tape is his fluidity, which allows him to shimmy defenders and break in and out of his routes with suddenness. Short area quickness and a smooth release allow McMillan to create consistent separation against defenders. Despite his slim frame, there are examples on film of him playing through contact and maintaining his balance to earn extra yards. He’s not a guy who will run you over but is quick enough to make defenders miss. He has enough vertical speed to be a deep threat and has shown he can adjust his body to make the catch downfield. He primarily worked out of the slot in college and that’s where I see him having the most success in the NFL. 

 

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WEEKNESSES

While there is a lot to like, I have concerns about his versatility as he can get pushed off his spot by stronger corners. This leaves me questioning if he can win consistently on the outside at the pro level. Most coordinators want to move their guys around the formation and McMillan needs to show he can play outside to reach his full potential. His lack of strength shows when playing through contact, blocking, and coming up with the contested catch (33.3% on contested catch opportunities in 22’).

 

 

NFL Player Comparison

 

Christian Kirk

At worst, McMillan will be one of the faster slot receivers in the league. Like Christian Kirk, his smooth release and short area quickness allow for easy separation. McMillan is taller and possibly faster than Kirk but will fill a similar role within an offense. He’s shown he can command a heavy target share while operating in the slot even playing alongside other NFL wide receivers in Odunze and Polk.

 

 

Top 3 Landing Spots for Jalen McMillan

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

Treylon Burks might be a bust and DeAndre Hopkins is 31 years old. The Titans need to give Will Levis a shot at being successful and if they forgo drafting a receiver with one of their top picks, McMillan can be a solid contributor immediately in their offense with one of their later picks.

 

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

The Steelers have an eye for drafting wide receiver talent and I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue that trend by selecting McMillan. He would be a great match playing opposite George Pickens as their games would complement each other perfectly.

 

CINCINNATI BENGALS

Staying in the AFC North, the Bengals would be an excellent fit for McMillan. With Tyler Boyd likely leaving and Tee Higgins playing on a franchise tag, McMillan can fill a void both this year and offer insurance for the future. The Bengals have shown they want to give Joe Burrow weapons and in a stacked receiver class, it would shock me if they left the draft without one.

 

 

FANTASY IMPACT

While he has things to work on, there is a lot to like about McMillan as a player and prospect. He is a smooth operator in the slot, but the tape tells me he can be more. I can see him contributing immediately as a WR3 within an offense, and given the right opportunity, can develop a more well-rounded game. He’s going in the third to the fourth round of rookie drafts, and at that price, he’s a steal. He’s an immediate contributor in the slot and if he continues to develop, will demand a target share within his offense. In dynasty, I want all the shares of McMillan I can get. It wouldn’t shock me if in three years we’re re-ranking this wide receiver class and McMillan is one of the best. As always, draft capital and situation matter but I can’t help but love him as a prospect. If I’m an offensive coordinator prioritizing a long, fast, fluid route runner who can attack the middle of the field and take the catch in stride to the house, McMillan is my guy on Day 2 of the NFL draft.

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