With Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, and Najee Harris all gone to the NFL, someone is going to have to pick up the slack for the Crimson Tide offense. Can that someone be Alabama TE and NFL Draft prospect Jahleel Billingsley? Billingsley flashed in spurts last season, but 2021 may be the time for his scouting report to shine.
Jahleel Billingsley NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Tight End
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 230 pounds
Jahleel Billingsley Scouting Report
Two types of tight ends come from Alabama. There are the designated blockers, like Miller Forristall and Hale Hentges. These players may have some receiving ability but are primarily utility players. And then there are the skilled receivers, like O.J. Howard and Irv Smith. These players ultimately receive more NFL interest because they can impact the game at its most pivotal moments.
Billingsley fits the second mold. Although he has strong blocking prowess, his receiving upside will likely be what earns him a spot in the 2022 NFL Draft. But does he have the upside to challenge for a Day 2 spot like Smith, or even a coveted Round 1 selection like Howard? Let’s dive into the tape and discuss.
Billingsley’s athletic profile
Billingsley’s NFL Draft scouting report isn’t quite what you expect when you think of a tight end. The Alabama product stands at around 6’4″, but he only weighs around 230 pounds. He doesn’t quite have the mass of a traditional tight end but instead fits the more modern mold of a “move” tight end. He can function as a big slot or even as a larger receiver in certain alignments.
Billingsley’s unorthodox frame may turn some off, but he certainly has the athleticism to make up for any size deficiencies. He’s explosive off the line, and he can cover ground quickly with long strides. The Alabama TE also possesses impressive vertical athleticism and leaping ability, and he brings some lateral elusiveness after the catch.
Furthermore, Billingsley’s athleticism shows up on blocking reps. He owns exceptional mobility and leg drive as a blocker, and he showcases solid closing burst when engaging his targets.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Billingsley’s athletic profile sets the stage for his multifaceted projection, and already, he’s flashed his versatility. He can line up outside, in-line, as a lead blocker, or in the slot. With Billingsley’s all-around utility, he provides value in a plethora of ways.
As a blocker, Billingsley is surprisingly solid for his size. He blocks beyond his weight, and he’s willing to throw his frame into defenders. The true junior squares up opponents nicely when engaging and can put similarly-sized defenders in the dirt. He’s not afraid to be physical as a blocker, and that physicality shows up in the passing game on occasion.
As a pass catcher, Billingsley has good focus and hand coordination in contested situations. He actively seeks the ball out with his hands and doesn’t revert to body catches very often. Additionally, the Alabama TE displays some impressive intangibles on occasion. He possesses some awareness of defensive blind spots, and he also knows how to use head fakes to deceive defenders and gain separation.
Areas for improvement
The excitement is building for Billingsley in 2021, and rightly so. The Alabama TE has a high-upside NFL Draft scouting report, and he could feasibly challenge for the TE1 slot. Having said this, some of the current excitement may be premature. At this point, he’s largely a projection, and he has some things to clean up.
Most notably, Billingsley can improve his route running. His routes can be sharper, and his feet can be faster and more precise. Moreover, he can work to be more sudden, abrupt, and urgent at his route breaks. When he does have route breaks, he sometimes rounds them off. This is a habit that NFL defenders might be able to key in on.
Additionally, Billingsley can also further refine his blocking. He can be quicker to adapt blocking angles when necessary, and he’s not overly powerful. His lacking mass makes him less consistent against defensive linemen.
Another cause for patience in Billingsley’s case is his sample size — he only caught 18 passes in 2020. There’s enough on tape to get an impression of his upside, but he’s far from a finished player. His NFL Draft scouting report has a lot at stake in 2021.
Jahleel Billingsley’s Player Profile
There’s a reason the excitement was so quick to build for Billingsley. It helps that he’s attending a school known for producing top-tier NFL talent, but he was a coveted player in high school. Billingsley was a four-star recruit in the 2019 recruiting class and just outside the top 10 at his position. With a 4.64 40-yard dash and a 33.2-inch vertical, he tested as one of the most athletic tight ends in the nation.
With his NFL potential already on display, Billingsley received scholarship offers from a host of college football programs. Among those who approached him were Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa, and Florida. However, the Chicago, Illinois product was enticed the most by an offer from the Alabama Crimson Tide. Thus, ahead of the 2019 season, he chose to join Nick Saban’s squad.
Billingsley’s career at Alabama and NFL Draft ascension
Billingsley’s arrival at Alabama represented the next step in his path to the NFL Draft. However, it would take him some time to earn an extended role. Billingsley was largely a depth player as a true freshman, and he only managed to catch 2 passes for 16 yards.
In 2020, the Crimson Tide returned key offensive playmakers like Najee Harris, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith. Additionally, veteran tight end Miller Forristall remained ahead of Billingsley on the depth chart. Thus, there still weren’t many opportunities for Billingsley to break through. But over the course of the 2020 season, that changed.
An ankle injury suffered by Forristall forced Billingsley into the starting lineup, and the Alabama TE thrived with his limited opportunities. He caught 18 passes for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers were magnified by a 3-catch, 78-yard performance against Kentucky and a 4-catch, 68-yard, 1-touchdown outing against LSU.
Heading into 2021, Billingsley is the top TE on Alabama’s roster, and there will be many more opportunities for him. Between Harris, Waddle, and Smith, there are 188 catches available. Billingsley has the talent to be a legitimate NFL Draft prospect, and in 2021, he should attain the necessary production as well.
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