Every year, there are WR prospects who surprise, out-perform their draft capital, and emerge from the ranks as the group’s biggest stars. Does SMU WR Rashee Rice have the potential to be the 2023 NFL Draft class’ unheralded gem two years down the line? Let’s take a closer look at the tape.
Rashee Rice NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: SMU
- Current Year: Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’1″, 204 pounds
- Length: 32 3/4″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
While SMU may not be given the “WRU” title, there is no denying the talented wide receivers that the team has produced over the years. From established veterans like Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton to promising up-and-comers like Danny Gray, who was drafted in the third round by the 49ers in 2022, the Mustangs have quietly become one of the top WR factories in the country. And their latest product, Rashee Rice, may be their best yet.
Rice was part of a trio of talented receivers that included Gray and Reggie Roberson Jr. Despite being only a three-star recruit in 2019, Rice quickly proved himself on the field for the Mustangs. In his freshman year, he caught 25 passes for 403 yards and a touchdown. He then emerged as a legitimate playmaker in 2020, with 48 catches for 683 yards and five touchdowns.
In 2021, Rice had a great season with 64 catches, 670 yards, and nine touchdowns, while playing alongside Gray. However, after Gray left in the 2022 NFL Draft, Rice became the star player in SMU’s offense. And he definitely proved it during the 2022 season.
Even though Rice was the main target for the Mustangs in 2022, he still had an impressive performance with 96 catches, 1,355 yards, and 10 touchdowns in just 12 games, despite dealing with a foot injury.
Thanks to his excellent performance, Rice was named first-team All-AAC, alongside fellow 2023 NFL Draft WR prospect Tank Dell. This recognition helped Rice to declare for the draft, participate in the Senior Bowl, and receive an NFL Combine invitation. Now, he’s a highly-coveted prospect, with the potential to be selected in the early rounds of the draft.
Rashee Rice Scouting Report
In what’s viewed as a relatively wide-open WR class, where does Rice rank, and can he be one of the group’s biggest gems? To get our answer, let’s look at the traits.
At 6’1″ and weighing 204 pounds, Rice has a sturdy, compact build with well-proportioned limbs. He has the potential to excel in multiple phases of the game due to his build density, wingspan, and overall athleticism.
Rice is an explosive athlete who rapidly accelerates in open spaces. He employs curvilinear acceleration to efficiently achieve greater speed on rounded breaks, and he also possesses the necessary explosiveness to outpace and stack against defensive backs in off-man coverage.
At the 2023 NFL Combine, Rice displayed some of the best explosiveness numbers among wide receiver prospects. His 41″ vertical and 10’8″ broad jump were among the highest in his position group, as was his lightning-quick 1.49 10-yard split time at 204 pounds.
When Rice attacks upfield, he displays dangerous vertical speed with his long strides. Although his long speed is not quite elite, his 4.51 40-yard dash exemplifies that he has enough speed to outpace defenders and create space.
Rice’s game incorporates a definite speed element, including his long strides and quick acceleration. Additionally, as a lateral athlete, he is highly agile with an elevated degree of twitch and foot speed at the line, which allows him to generate displacement against defenders.
Rice is a highly energetic short-area athlete who quickly adjusts his feet and redistributes his weight when heading upfield. He is also remarkably nimble and twitchy in open spaces, displaying an urgent tempo as a short-area mover.
Rice’s brand of athleticism translates well in multiple phases of the game, but his creativity as a run-after-catch threat is especially attractive. He can leave defenders in the dust with rapid jump cuts after the catch, followed by an instant acceleration forward. Furthermore, he can evade tackles with successive cuts and bursts of acceleration.
While Rice’s athleticism is easy to sell to onlookers, his greatest asset is undoubtedly his exceptional catching instincts. Rice has a remarkable sense of timing and coordination at the catch point, effortlessly elevating and contorting his body to secure the ball.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft WR Class
This football player, Rice, has amazing body control and flexibility, which helps him make difficult catches even when being contested by defenders. He has great focus and control, which allows him to convert catches even while being closely guarded by opponents.
Rice also has excellent instincts and uses his length to reach beyond his frame and make high-point passes with authority. He is patient and waits until the last second to elevate for catches to avoid drawing defenders to the ball.
Rice is very athletic and can quickly gain leverage in contested situations. He tracks the ball well downfield and can guide in passes even when pinned against the sideline. He is an acrobatic catcher and easily adjusts to challenging catches.
He often draws defensive penalties due to his intimidating ability. Rice is also a natural hands catcher with strong hand strength, which allows him to secure difficult catches through contact and when off-balance.
Rice is a clutch player who consistently makes crucial receptions to move the chains. He effortlessly flows through contact at the catch and always plays the ball. Overall, Rice is an impressive and valuable player with high-level instincts and skills.
Also impressive is Rice’s timing with his hands — not just his focus and consistency. He can quickly reach and snare passes with his hands, then sequentially cradle the ball inside his torso at contact with the ground. Even when elevating and contorting, the SMU WR makes a concerted effort to extend beyond his frame and catch with his hands.
Rice does most of his damage at and after the catch, but he brings definite route-running upside and a degree of immediate utility. Rice has several releases in his arsenal already. He can use a split release with quick footwork to manipulate leverage early in reps. He’s also shown to control tempo on routes out of a slide release, and he also has a quick-twitch diamond release.
Not only does Rice have a release package, but he has flashed the ability to work off of them. The SMU WR can quickly press upfield off releases, then cut inside with an efficient plant-and-drive technique. To that end, he’s able to accelerate quickly upfield, then stop suddenly and leave DBs lurching at stems.
Rice has solid stopping ability and flashes throttle control. He can pinch tight angles at stems and get displacement on DBs, and he can swiftly chop his feet and swivel around on comebacks after baiting DBs vertically.
Going further, Rice can press upfield into breaks, then rapidly vary his stride lengths and sink his hips on transitions. He doesn’t often key in DBs on breaks with early head turns and is deliberate in uniformly pressing upfield. Additionally, Rice shows good zone awareness. The SMU WR can sneak into DB blindspots, flip around, and decelerate quickly in open seams.
As if his profile wasn’t exciting enough, Rice is also a chippy competitor with an alpha mentality, and he’s physical in multiple phases. Before elevating for passes, he’ll actively use his frame and length to lever and wall off DBs.
He can pry through contact and work his way back to underthrown passes, and he actively uses single-hand swipes while breaking at stems to compound separation and keep his chest clean. Even with DBs in his hip pocket, Rice uses his length to scrape and swim free before elevating for passes.
After the catch, Rice is willing to lower his shoulder and finish forward, although his style allows him to evade direct contact more often than not. Rice quickly recollects his feet after adjusting for imprecise passes in open space. He effortlessly transitions to RAC mode and does so with quickness and consistency.
With his explosiveness and fluid hips, Rice can quickly recalibrate after making catches amidst contact and surge upfield. He’ll actively contort to get ahead of the sticks in short-yardage situations while making catches amidst contact.
Besides, Rice can easily shed arm tackles and recollect his feet to move upfield. His combination of length, play strength, and attitude translates well as a blocker.
Rice’s Areas for Improvement
While Rice is a talented player, he doesn’t always show elite initial burst off the line. He sometimes needs more space to accelerate and can improve his stance to channel more burst. Additionally, Rice may not have elite deep speed, but he can still stack DBs. However, he’s not quite a breakaway threat after stacking.
Moving on, Rice could be more efficient when corralling high passes. He sometimes jumps and swings his legs unnecessarily, slowing his transition to the RAC phase. Although he’s mostly a hands catcher, Rice sometimes resorts to body catching and brings the ball into his frame before securing.
Furthermore, Rice is prone to occasional drops when faced with contact and sometimes clasps and bobbles passes in tight situations. Although he has elite body positioning and control, his hand-eye coordination can be obstructed by contact threats.
As for his route running, Rice has the potential to grow. He has a working release package and can sometimes separate from defenders. However, he needs to perform at a higher level more consistently to sustain his production in the NFL. Rice could also run vertical routes at full speed and use his speed to pressure DBs.
Expanding on his route running, Rice sometimes rotates around at breaks, causing erroneous footwork and keying in DBs too early. On tighter transitions, his plant-and-drive technique could be more efficient. And overall, Rice can more consistently utilize and maximize his route-building blocks.
Moreover, Rice has room to expand his route tree but struggles against press at times. He has the short-area athleticism and length to work against press, but more physical DBs can throw off his rhythm. Rice also has wasted motion at times early in reps, which also serves to delay route concepts.
At times, Rice will attempt to purely outmuscle DBs, sacrificing route tempo and manipulation opportunities and risking penalties. As a RAC threat, his ball security could use improvement. He won’t always withstand direct contact or work through solid form tackles, and he can improve as a run blocker.
Finally, Rice’s injury history is worth noting. His lingering foot injury in 2022 at times hampered his effectiveness, and foot injuries, in particular, can be chronic.
Current Draft Projection for SMU WR Rashee Rice
Opinions are split on Rice, but on my board, he grades out as a top-50 overall prospect and a top-10 WR talent in the 2023 NFL Draft. Running his traits through the three-level threat framework, Rice’s upside at WR is especially appealing, and if he can reach his ceiling, he can be a very exciting weapon in the NFL.
Right away, Rice’s build and athleticism present appeal. At 6’1″, 204 pounds, with arms nearly 33″ long, he has excellent frame density and reach, which help him in multiple phases.
He’s an explosive, physical RAC threat who can break both tackles and tackling angles. And at the catch point, he’s a massive headache for DBs with his length, alpha mentality, and abnormal instincts.
Rice’s catching instincts are elite, as he mixes high-level body control, timing, ball-tracking ability, and hand strength. He’s an alpha with a “my ball” mentality and willing physicality. And after the catch, he’s a twitchy, energetic mover with explosiveness upfield who can shed arm tackles and use successive cuts to manipulate tackling angles.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Creativity and cold competitive toughness are two of Rice’s strongest qualities, but he also has a solid assortment of route-running building blocks. His twitch and foot speed naturally flow into his release package, and he’s shown he has enough stopping ability and hip sink to separate independently. He needs to maximize his skill set as a route runner, but the tools are there.
The biggest question with Rice is this: Can you get his best consistently? But if you can do that, and if you can fully develop his route running ability, you have a truly complete three-level threat who can win on the boundary as an X, play in the slot as a movement Z, and provide a versatile, dynamic playmaking presence with high-impact potential.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Rashee Rice
Strengths: Playmaking receiver whose game took off last season. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, shows a tremendous burst, and immediately gets to top speed. Shows outstanding awareness and does a great job following the QB across the field. Displays soft hands and pulls the ball from the air. Makes the difficult over-the-shoulder reception downfield with defenders draped on him.
Plays with outstanding quickness and extends his hands to make the reception away from his frame. Tracks the pass in the air and gets vertical to grab the ball. Consistent hands catcher who displays terrific eye/hand coordination. Gives effort blocking downfield and gets solid results.
Weaknesses: Has a thin build and struggles in battles. Must improve his route running. Not sharp into breaks and is all over the place with his footwork. Out-positioned by bigger cornerbacks. Lacks a true second gear. Has past off-the-field issues that must be checked out.
Overall: Rice really watched his game take off last season after becoming the primary target for SMU, and he was the go-to guy opponents could not stop. He possesses nice length and next-level speed, as well as long arms. Rice comes with tremendous upside, and if he completes his game and his background checks out, he offers potential as a second wideout.
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