Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska | NFL Draft Scouting Report

    The 2023 WR class is far more uncertain than previously perceived in the offseason. So, where does Nebraska WR Trey Palmer's scouting report fit in now?

    Entering the season, the top of the 2023 WR class seemed secure. However, after the season, it is anything but. Where does Nebraska WR Trey Palmer fall in the pecking order, and is his NFL draft scouting report worthy of early-round consideration?

    Trey Palmer NFL Draft Profile

    • Position: WR
    • School: Nebraska
    • Current Year: Junior
    • Height/Weight: 6’0″, 192 pounds
    • Arm Length: 31 7/8″
    • Hand Size: 9 5/8″

    Some players rise from relative obscurity to become sought-after draft prospects — not Palmer. Hailing from Kentwood, Louisiana, his potential was on full display in high school. A former track star, Palmer won the state title in both the 100m (10.42) and 200m (21.11) dashes, with his 200m time setting the state-meet record.

    Palmer found even more success on the gridiron, earning back-to-back all-state honors as a junior and senior. But he saved his best for last. In 2018, he helped his team to a state title with stats you’d expect to see from a create-a-player on Madden:

    Three of three passing for 95 yards and two touchdowns; 31 carries for 275 yards and three TDs; 39 catches for 1,008 yards and nine TDs; nearly 400 total return yards; 95 tackles, eight tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception; and two punts for good measure.

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    With accolades, versatility, athletic prowess, and statistical production, it’s clear why Palmer was a four-star recruit with 30+ offers. Yet, with nearly the entire SEC seeking his signature, including Alabama and Georgia, the Louisiana native opted to stay close to home and committed to LSU.

    But after three seasons (2019-2021) and only a 41-458-3 receiving line on his résumé, Palmer decided to enter the transfer portal. He followed his WR coach Mickey Joseph to Nebraska in hopes of increased playing time on a more pass-happy offense.

    Well, it’s safe to say his hopes came true. Palmer started every game this season and was the Cornhuskers’ leading WR (71-1,043-9), breaking Nebraska’s single-game receiving yards record against Purdue (237). But will his collegiate skill set convert to the pros?

    Trey Palmer Scouting Report

    Palmer found himself buried on a loaded LSU depth chart, spending time behind the likes of Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall Jr., and Racey McMath, all of whom were selected in the 2020 and 2021 NFL drafts. But he’s the No. 1 option at Nebraska, and the NFL is firmly in his sights.

    Where Palmer Wins

    Much of Palmer’s game is predicated on his athleticism — and for good reason. His documented track speed translates to the football field, as indicated by his blazing 4.33 40-yard dash at the Combine. He’s a legitimate vertical threat that can take the top off the defense from any alignment. In fact, corners come in with the mentality that every route is a fade until it isn’t, and Palmer makes them pay underneath.

    Additionally, the Nebraska WR is regularly the first player to react on the snap, showcasing an impressive initial burst. He disintegrates space between him and the CB off the line, as well as tackling angles downfield.

    Although Palmer doesn’t have the lower body strength to break arm tackles routinely, he has the short-area elusiveness to restrict a defender’s ability to get square into contact. He’s also fluid in the open field, accelerating and deaccelerating with ease to freeze defenders before blowing by them.

    Nebraska deployed Palmer on jet sweeps, bubble/WR screens, and as a punt/kick returner for this exact reason. Speaking of his special-teams prowess, Palmer has both a punt and kick-return touchdown in his career, averaging 8.3 and 25.3 yards per return, respectively.

    As a route runner, Palmer can vary his strides, lulling DBs to sleep before torching them over the top. Adding to his downfield lethality is his ability to feign intent with his upper body.

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    The Nebraska WR utilizes subtle head and shoulder fakes to force the defender to flip their hips. Once they do, it’s a wrap, as Palmer explodes in the opposite direction to generate separation.

    Despite not being the largest pass catcher at 6’0″, 190, Palmer consistently high points passes over defenders with skyscraping leaps. He goes up with strong hands and nearly 32″ arms, and when looking the ball in, defenders aren’t able to pry it away.

    Working downfield, the Nebraska WR understands how to stack his defender and challenge various safety looks. Attacking leverage — whether at the release or mid-route — is where Palmer excels.

    He manipulates and sets up the opposition with his upper half, and as the saying goes, “if he’s even, he’s leavin’.” Moreover, he easily tracks passes in and shows his hands late, so DBs don’t rip them down.

    The Cornhuskers’ offense doesn’t require many hard breaks from their wideouts, but Palmer has flashed the ability to snap down at the top of the route. He also keeps his legs underneath his frame for balance and efficiency out of breaks. But even more notable is his feel against the zone.

    Palmer makes himself an easy target by identifying zones and sitting in holes between them. Plenty of his receptions this season have come from this, whether on deep digs/crossers or on underneath drive routes.

    Palmer’s Areas for Improvement

    Currently, the biggest issue Palmer needs to correct is focus drops. He plays at such a fast pace that at the catch point, he can look ahead too quickly, losing sight and feel of the ball. Thus, passes hit his body a bit more than you’d like.

    Another key area of improvement is Palmer’s route running on sharp breaks. He often raises his pad level and takes 4+ steps to get out of cuts. You want to keep a low pad level throughout the route, not giving anything away to the DB and dropping your hips as swiftly as possible.

    Throughout his career, Palmer has spent the majority of his time in the slot (almost 65%). As a result, he hasn’t faced press coverage much, leaving a question mark on his scouting report. However, in the reps he did see press this season, Palmer showed the ability to swipe high and chop low hands.

    But a bigger concern is his experience vs. physical corners. When a DB strikes and latches onto his chest, he has difficulty creating separation. Truthfully, there were many plays where the only reason he gained space was by pushing off. It was called a few times, but the frequency would be much higher in the NFL.

    A lack of a full route tree will also hinder Palmer’s draft ceiling. He simply hasn’t been asked to run much more than go’s, crossers, and screens. The Nebraska WR has the skill set to do so, but his film is limited.

    The Nebraska WR owns a sturdy frame, but as previously mentioned, he isn’t exactly a tackle-breaker in the open field. Furthermore, Palmer gives up catch space a bit too easily, as he isn’t a dominant presence at the catch point.

    This lack of physicality extends to his run-blocking prowess. Palmer gives effort but doesn’t consistently get inside his opponent’s chest or play with a strong base.

    Current Draft Projection for Nebraska WR Trey Palmer

    Palmer’s game has shades of Dyami Brown and Jalen Nailor in recent draft classes — reliable deep threats that struggled with drops and didn’t have a fleshed-out route repertoire coming out. Brown went in Round 3 in 2021, with Nailor going three rounds later last cycle.

    I’d expect Palmer to hear his name called closer to the Round 3/4 range due to owning a longer frame and faster 40 time — which on its own could coax a team to select him in Round 2, depending on the WRs available.

    MORE: NFL draft order

    Speed kills and raw athleticism is highly coveted by NFL decision-makers. Still, Palmer doesn’t create separation at an elite level at the top of routes. Patient and physical DBs give him trouble, which will only be exacerbated in the league. Nevertheless, the tools, versatility, and — in 2022 — the production are there to bank on.

    Palmer might not be an X receiver or a high upside Z, but as a slot/rotational option that can find holes in zone as well as explode downfield, he has value. The traits are there to mold, and on Day 2/early Day 3, it shouldn’t take too much convincing for a team to pull the trigger.

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