Receiver production can be a solid predictor for NFL success, but what if a receiver never quite gets beyond the cusp of elite production? Louisville wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick is an interesting case study for the 2021 NFL Draft. He produced at a respectable level in every collegiate season, but he never broke out, despite having the traits to do so. Where does he fall now, and where does his upside lie?
Dez Fitzpatrick NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Louisville
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’2″
- Weight: 209 pounds
- Wingspan: 80 5/8″
- Arm: 32 1/2″
- Hand: 9 1/4″
Tony Pauline’s Dez Fitzpatrick Scouting Report
Positives: Nice-sized wideout who flashed ability in the past. Has nice length, uses his size as an advantage, and boxes out opponents with his frame. Tracks the pass in the air and possesses terrific eye/hand coordination as well as soft hands.
Extends and exposes himself to the big hit, looks the ball into his hands, and grabs the pass out of the air. Adjusts to the errant throw and effectively times his receptions. Sells routes and works hard even if he’s away from the action. Solid downfield blocker who works to move defenders from the action.[sv slug=”drizly”]
Negatives: Not sharp in and out of breaks and tends to round off routes. Does not play to his 40-yard dash time and lacks a deep burst. Never capitalized on a terrific freshman season.
Analysis: I believed Fitzpatrick could potentially be a top-100 choice with the receiving skills he displayed in 2017. He got lost in the shuffle at Louisville and his game leveled off, though Fitzpatrick showed signs of life last season. He’s a dependable receiver with reliable hands and has shown ability as a red zone threat in the past. In the right system, Fitzpatrick could be a fifth wideout.
Dez Fitzpatrick Player Profile
Some players grow into their traits. Others have them from the start. As obscure as Fitzpatrick might be compared to the draft’s top talents, he clearly had the traits in high school. Fitzpatrick was a 6-foot-2, 191-pound pass catcher out of Farmington, Michigan. He was a four-star prospect on ESPN’s board and ranked as the ninth-best receiver in Michigan.
Fitzpatrick’s pedigree earned him interest from many of the midwest’s top teams, including Michigan, Indiana, Iowa State, Nebraska, and Cincinnati. However, Fitzpatrick instead chose to travel south to Kentucky. There, he signed with the Louisville Cardinals, intent on helping a rising program reach its potential.
Dez Fitzpatrick’s career as a Louisville receiver
Fitzpatrick’s career with the Louisville football program began with plenty of promise. The highly-touted recruit redshirted his freshman campaign, but in 2017, he contributed to Lamar Jackson’s Heisman campaign.
As a redshirt freshman, Fitzpatrick totaled 45 catches for 699 yards and nine touchdowns. Fitzpatrick accounted for 18% of his team’s receiving production just two years removed from high school and earned All-ACC honorable mention recognition as a result.
It seemed to be a sign of things to come. Yet, Fitzpatrick’s career wouldn’t take the expected upward trend. The passing offense regressed mightily without Jackson in 2018, and the arrival of speedy freshman Tutu Atwell siphoned opportunities from Fitzpatrick.
The Louisville wide receiver only caught 31 passes for 422 yards and three scores. In 2019, the offense recovered with Malik Cunningham, but Fitzpatrick still played second fiddle to Atwell, hauling in 36 passes for 635 yards and six touchdowns, while Atwell logged over 1,200 yards and 11 scores.
Fitzpatrick’s final season with the Cardinals
Fitzpatrick debated entering the 2020 NFL Draft but ultimately decided to come back to Louisville, with his eyes set on appreciating his stock before making the leap to the NFL. At the very least, Fitzpatrick accomplished that. In an 11-game season, Fitzpatrick led the Cardinals in receiving for the first time in his career, accruing 43 catches for 833 yards and three touchdowns. He was named second-team All-ACC for his efforts, finally validating his early success.
Overall, Fitzpatrick was a steady producer for the Cardinals. Across four seasons, he put up 154 catches, 2,589 yards, and 21 touchdowns. On December 29, Fitzpatrick accepted an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. At the event, his quest to keep rising the draft board continued.
Analyzing Dez Fitzpatrick’s NFL Draft profile
Dez Fitzpatrick’s production makes it difficult for him to stand out in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Nevertheless, the Louisville wide receiver has some intriguing physical traits. He’s 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, with long legs and long arms. He also brings good speed and acceleration. Fitzpatrick’s best vertical plays allude to speed that might be in the mid-4.4 range. He ran a 4.49 at his pro day, and also had a 35-inch vertical.
Fitzpatrick also shows good flashes of lateral quickness and twitch. At the line, he can be abrupt with his upper body movements, and he more than once displayed the ability to use that quickness at his route stem. The Louisville wide receiver has the amps to provide some electricity on offense, even if he has room to better channel that energy.
Going further, Fitzpatrick has some of the building blocks as it pertains to route running. As mentioned above, he has enough lateral suddenness to be deceptive at his route stem, and he can also sink his hips a bit, although he’s somewhat stiff there. Furthermore, the Louisville wide receiver is very smooth when breaking inside on intermediate and deep routes. He flows into the middle third and knows how to use his positioning to establish leverage.
Where can Fitzpatrick improve?
As much as Fitzpatrick’s route running potential excites, he has room for improvement there. He can add more overall consistency to his work as a route runner, and routes that break back toward the ball aren’t as crisp for him.
Fitzpatrick has enough burst to build the momentum to feign a vertical route. However, he’s very leggy as a mover. Thus, it sometimes takes him close to a full second to slow down, redirect, and break back toward the throw. Fitzpatrick’s leggy horizontal transitions can be a tell for quicker defensive backs.
Additionally, Fitzpatrick’s play strength isn’t the best. In several aspects of his game, this is apparent. Fitzpatrick is only average as a blocker. He wasn’t afforded many contested opportunities at Louisville, and he didn’t succeed consistently in those instances, as his length might suggest.
Going even further, Fitzpatrick isn’t an overwhelming run-after-catch threat. His speed gives him potential in space, but his contact balance is only average, and he’s not overly elusive with the ball. Perhaps he could infuse some of his quickness into that phase, but that’s easier said than done sometimes.
Dez Fitzpatrick’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Fitzpatrick has definite potential. Depending on how he plays at the Senior Bowl and tests down the line, he could be a late riser. However, with Fitzpatrick’s lack of elite production and his need for refinement, he appears to be solidified as a Day 3 option. Especially in this deep class of wide receivers, Fitzpatrick’s profile, which lacks elite traits, might have trouble standing out.
With that being said, Fitzpatrick has enough speed and explosiveness to be a threat downfield at his size, and if he can learn to use his length more proactively at the next level, he can be a potential contributor. He has enough route running utility to separate and serve as a rotational receiver. And if he learns how to be more active as a playmaker, he could develop into a solid pass catcher.
Are there any specific team fits for Fitzpatrick?
As of now, the depth of the 2021 class likely relegates Fitzpatrick to the mid-to-late Day 3 range. There won’t be many specific team fits for the Louisville wide receiver. His valuation isn’t one that demands a superb fit with a franchise.
Rather, Fitzpatrick’s mold — the long, athletic receiver with upside — is one that should garner fairly universal interest in Round 6 and Round 7. And for a team that has an extra pick or two in that range, he could be a nice low-risk, high-upside addition. Especially after his solid Senior Bowl showing, he’s a safe bet to get drafted as a developmental target.
Fitzpatrick’s collegiate career started with great promise. Although he peaked in his freshman season, the Louisville wide receiver redeemed himself with a quality senior season, and now, he can use the offseason to boost his stock further. At this point, Fitzpatrick can only rise so far. But he has the tools to exceed his draft position in the NFL, with the right coaching.
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