In every NFL Draft cycle, there’s at least one underclassman WR who makes noise in the early rounds. As the 2023 NFL Draft slowly approaches, Washington WR Rome Odunze is one such ascending prospect with his scouting report.
Rome Odunze NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Washington
- Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Height/Weight: 6’3″, 201 pounds
The arrival of Kalen DeBoer at Washington has unlocked a few new levels for the Huskies’ passing offense. That, in turn, has helped to reveal a high-upside 2023 NFL Draft sleeper in redshirt sophomore Rome Odunze.
In truth, Odunze’s breakout has been long anticipated in the Evergreen State. He arrived on campus as a four-star recruit in the 2020 recruiting cycle. And at that point, he was already identified as a potential NFL prospect.
Even as the Washington passing attack struggled in 2021, Odunze still found a way to produce and get his name on the map, accruing 41 catches for 415 yards and four scores in an up-and-down campaign.
In 2022, a new scheme and offensive cast have maximized Odunze’s production. But that production doesn’t come without Odunze’s talent and growth. Having played seven games to this point, Odunze has 50 catches for 756 yards and six scores.
He’s a dangerous offensive catalyst every week. And for NFL scouts, each big play is a preview of what Odunze might be able to provide for them.
Rome Odunze Scouting Report
The more he produces, the more difficult it is to look past Odunze as a 2023 NFL Draft prospect. It’s no guarantee he declares, but already, he could be a prospect worthy of early-round consideration. Below, we’ll discuss why.
Receiver prospects who emerge early in their careers often have natural talent on their side. Such is the case with Odunze — a prospect who both looks the part and plays the part of an NFL-caliber playmaker.
At 6’3″, 201 pounds, Odunze has excellent overall size and length, with above-average density within his lean frame. With that frame, Odunze also brings exceptional functional athleticism. He’s an explosive, fleet-footed athlete who uses quick strides to gain speed with impressive efficiency. He can use curvilinear acceleration to explode into open zones and carve through seams in coverage, and he shows great explosiveness out of breaks.
Odunze has great linear explosiveness, but it’s not quite an elite part of his game. What makes his explosive athleticism so much more appealing, however, is the control with which he maximizes it (and the agility he has to complement it). Odunze possesses tremendous throttle control and freedom as an athlete. He can freely gear up and down and manipulate space, and he has enough suddenness to snap back and forth as a route runner in tight spaces, tugging defenders off-balance.
For his size, Odunze is an incredibly spry lateral athlete who can stack urgent cuts to slice through tight spaces. He has the ankle flexion to accelerate around tight corners and pressure angles against DBs.
His lateral athleticism also translates well in the run-after-catch phase. As a RAC threat, Odunze has impressive creative instincts. The Washington WR quickly processes angles and has the loose hips and foot speed to set up defenders. Moreover, he has the corrective twitch to quickly reset his feet and shift to RAC after leaping for catches.
Of course, one question always comes with a WR of Odunze’s stature — can he use his size to convert at the catch point? The answer is a definite yes. For starters, Odunze has shown he can corral tight boundary passes in stride while keeping his feet in bounds. He naturally adjusts for slightly underthrown passes, as he can swivel around in-stride and guide in low throws, quickly tucking it into his chest.
Even in the deep third, however, Odunze flashes excellent ball-tracking ability, body control, and timing when extending beyond his frame. He has the focus and coordination to secure low passes while diving and lunging, using his hands to cradle the ball, and he’s able to make high-difficulty adjustments against his momentum with quick reaction speed.
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At times, Odunze’s hand technique can improve — that’s something we’ll expand on later — but he has shown he can use hand-eye coordination to extend and secure passes beyond his frame. He’s also flashed the high-end coordination and hand strength to maintain possession through the catch process while contested. He can secure high-difficulty fingertip grabs while contorting for passes.
All of these strengths aside, Odunze’s ability as a route runner, this early in his career, might be one of his most impressive qualities. Already, Odunze has a working release package. He can generate displacement with a squirt release, pressing DBs upfield and surging laterally, and he also has an efficient diamond release. Additionally, the Washington WR flashes impressive nuance on short routes. He can square up defenders at stems and then violently sink and stack direction changes to separate.
More often than not, Odunze boasts smooth, efficient footwork on route breaks, and there’s little wasted motion when planting and driving. There is intentionality with his head and eyes. He keeps his eyes forward at stems until the last possible second and doesn’t tip off DBs. In that same lens, he actively uses head fakes to feign intent and bait defenders into closing early, whereupon he can exploit DBs with quickness and nuance.
Even as a mere redshirt sophomore, Odunze is already an extremely deliberate, efficient route runner. He has excellent throttle control and hip sink on double-moves, and he expertly sells outside releases and can explode upfield past DBs. He can also actively vary his strides, widening in space and quickly chopping his feet at stems. He has a tremendous feel for zone coverage. He can glide into space with smooth athleticism and instincts, at times looking like a taller Chris Olave.
What’s even more exciting about Odunze’s profile is that he has the size and targeted physicality to expand on his route-running building blocks. Odunze can use subtle swipes against press coverage to pry himself free, then accelerate upfield. He can swim across-face at stems and use his length to establish levers and create space off breaks. He actively uses his length to keep himself clean while attacking seams against off-man coverage, and he has the tools to be effective against press.
In the RAC phase, Odunze’s blend of athleticism and size also bears fruit. The Washington WR flashes exciting contact balance with his dense frame. He can absorb solo tackle attempts with his midsection and keep his legs churning. In fact, his hyperactive leg churn allows him to consistently scrape through arm tackles, carry acceleration upfield, and recalibrate in congested areas.
He’s instinctive resetting for RAC as well. He quickly resets his feet on short passes, and he can use shoulder fakes to offset looming DBs and preemptively create space.
Among other things, Odunze has enough speed to stress defensive backs across the field on drag and mesh routes. And he’s a willing blocker with good hand placement and technique, using his frame and length to wall off defenders on the boundary. He engages defenders with urgency and understands angles, squaring up defenders and then rotating his base to seal them outside.
Odunze’s Areas for Improvement
For his experience level, Odunze is already a surprisingly complete and well-rounded prospect. But as is the case with all players, there are imperfections to note and areas to further improve upon.
For Odunze, the most pressing inefficiency, at this point, might be his hand technique. Drops haven’t been a persistent concern for the Washington WR, but he does resort to body-catching often, which can be a source of drops at the NFL level. He too often seeks to cup the ball within his hands and torso.
Odunze’s tendency to cup the ball and let it come within his frame sometimes prevents him from maximizing his leverage in contested situations. Overall, he can be more authoritative in clamping down with his hands and employing a diamond technique. In a similar vein, his hands can be stronger amidst contact at times. He isn’t always able to work through resistance and maintain grip and has room to keep improving his functional play strength.
As a route runner, Odunze has more room for refinement, even if his level of efficiency is already appealing. He sometimes plays a bit tall when attempting to separate and can better sink his hips at stems. There are also moments where the Washington WR can be a bit more consistent playing to full capacity as a separator.
While Odunze’s size, length, and lateral agility serve as important building blocks against press coverage, the redshirt sophomore can still improve his technique in that phase. Specifically, utilizing better synergy with his hands and feet when combating press. He can also more efficiently play spacing against DBs off the line, as he sometimes lingers into their chest upfield too early, reducing the space he has to work with.
Elsewhere, Odunze’s focus wanes at times when double-teamed or when DBs obstruct throwing lanes. This, too, can be a source of drops. And while Odunze has great athleticism overall for his size, he doesn’t quite have elite explosiveness or true breakaway speed in the deep third. He can’t always overtake pursuit defenders laterally to the boundary, and there are times when he isn’t able to fully stack DBs downfield.
Current Draft Projection for Washington WR Rome Odunze
The hype hasn’t fully reached Odunze yet, but he’s playing at an extremely high level so far in 2022. And looking at the tape, the traits are absolutely early-round caliber. In fact, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Odunze could be a fringe first-round prospect at his maximum projection. Day 2 is more likely. But already, he’s grading extremely high in both physical and operational categories.
As a physical talent, Odunze checks plenty of boxes. He has great size at 6’3″, 201 pounds. While he’s a bit lean, he’s shown he can work through contact as a RAC threat and use his high-end length to pry past defenders. That size and length allow Odunze to excel at the catch point. And his foot speed, smooth athleticism, burst, and agility all combine as the composite engine of his game.
There are exciting flashes of agility and creation ability in the RAC phase with Odunze. But he’s also an enticing natural separator with uncanny fluidity, and he shows off intent and attention to detail beyond his years. As is often the case with young prospects, there are still ways to improve. But Odunze is a high-end physical talent, and he’s well ahead of schedule with his development.
The tape presents Odunze as a clear top-10 WR prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft, a clear early-round prospect, and a potential first-round sleeper if he keeps trending up. With his all-encompassing skill set and ability to play on the boundary, in the slot, and in motion, Odunze profiles as a versatile, dynamic weapon for an NFL offense.