Deandre Reaves - WR/KR, Marshall Thundering Herd
Position: WR/Return Specialist
Year: Redshirt Senior
Hometown: Sterling, VA
Experience: 1 year starter at WR, 3 year starter at returner
40yd dash: NA
Broad jump: NA
20yd. Shuttle: NA
Bench Press: NA
Deandre Reaves came to Marshall in the fall of 2011. He made the decision to redshirt after it became apparent he would not receive playing time that year. In his redshirt freshman season, he played ten games on special teams and recorded 9 tackles. At the beginning of his redshirt sophomore season, he broke onto the scene as an explosive kick returner, and settled into a niche as a return specialist for the next two years. However, in his redshirt senior season, his role expanded not only to also returning punts, but also being featured as a slot receiver, catching 56 passes for 706 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2015.
In 2015, Reaves had 9 games where he recorded either 5 or more catches or 75 or more yards. His season high in catches came in Marshall’s bowl game vs UConn with 9 for 88 yards, and his season high in yards came in a triple overtime loss to Middle Tennessee where he had 91 yards on 7 catches. He also had 897 combined kick and punt return yards, leading the Conference-USA in kickoff return average with 30.1 yards per return, and ranking 5th in the NCAA. He also ranked 1st in the C-USA in 2015 in punt return average with 13.1, although his opportunities to return punts were relatively limited.
In a nutshell, Reaves is a prototypical athlete and an explosive return specialist, but is not a well-rounded receiver. He is very dynamic in the open field, enough so that the Marshall coaching staff made an effort to get him on the field on offense to fully utilize his athleticism. However, the majority of his offensive role was relatively simple, whether in screen situations or running simple routes. He has acceptable hands and good football intelligence, but is an extremely raw WR prospect and should not be expected to contribute on offense in 2016.
Deandre Reaves has not missed a single game in three years as a starter. He has no injury history to speak of.
Deandre Reaves possesses the athleticism to make him an effective threat on both offense and special teams. He is not quite in the top athletic tier of 2016 prospects with players like Jakeem Grant, Kolby Listenbee, and Will Fuller, but his acceleration and change of direction ability is apparent both with the ball in his hands and as he’s running routes. His top end speed is very good, his acceleration is extremely good, and his short area quickness and change of direction ability is just shy of elite.
Route Running: 2/5
From the one game’s worth of tape available for analysis, it is evident that Reaves is still learning the tools of the wide receiver trade. His route tree was quite limited, and he was rarely asked to separate from tight coverage with any kind of double move. Most of his targets came on screens, out routes and go routes, and often Reaves was able to take advantage of large holes in the defense due to their reaction to play action from Marshall’s run-heavy offense.
Reaves saw 85 targets in 2015, of which he dropped 7. 63 of his 85 targets were catchable, leading to a drop rate of 11.11%, which ranked 227th out of 331 qualified receivers (PFF). He had two games where he dropped 2 passes and only 6 of his 11 games in 2015 came without a dropped pass.
YAC Ability: 4.5/5
Reaves becomes a man on a mission once the ball is in his hands. He possesses extremely good vision and has the patience to set up blocks, and has both the athleticism and boldness to cut back across the field on both returns and on offense. He is difficult to tackle in space, although more through his speed to take away angles from defenders rather than his ability to make defenders miss in a tight area or “phone booth”.
While Reaves showed the willingness to mix it up with a defensive back in the run game, his lack of size and strength was apparent in Marshall’s bowl game. He was occasionally used as a blocker for other receivers on screen passes, which was not the best utilization of his talents. As he will rarely be used on run downs at the next level, this weakness in his game should not be much of a factor.
Return Ability: 4.8/5
Special teams are where Reaves really shines. His acceleration, vision, shiftiness and patience combine to make him a dangerous returner, especially once he finds a seam to take advantage of. He identifies holes well and reads his blockers effectively. He will occasionally make a poor decision on whether to field a punt or to let it go, but for the most part, is a dangerous enough returner to make opposing teams glad to settle for a touchback.
Overall Grade: 3.0/5.0
Reaves is a versatile weapon to be molded and utilized by an NFL coaching staff as they see fit. It is not out of the question that he can be used on offense in the same way Devin Hester and Percy Harvin have been used in the past. However, he will most likely not be an effective “receiver” in the traditional sense of the word, even in the slot, unless he goes to a team with a good track record of developing raw receiver prospects. However, he can instantly provide a spark to a team’s kick and punt return teams, and also provides the versatility to cover kicks and punts while standing ready on the bench as a team’s 4th or 5th receiver.
If drafted by the Packers:
With the wealth of riches that the Packers have at the wide receiver position, it seems unlikely that Reaves will hear his name called by the Packers. However, there are two possible reasons that Reaves could end up in Green Bay. First, none of the young receivers that are currently on the Packers roster are considered speedsters aside from Jeff Janis. If Ted sees the lack of speed at the position as a serious enough issue, he may look to the later rounds of the draft to find speed at a good price, where Reaves will be found. Secondly, to consider Reaves’ position to be “wide receiver” may be a fallacy. The value he provides on special teams and as a gadget player on offense may be enough to justify a selection and a roster spot. If he does end up with the Packers, he provides depth and a second option on kickoffs aside from Janis, and instantly would become the best option to return punts. Additionally, he can help fill the hole on punt coverage left by Demetri Goodson, as he has the speed and experience to be an effective gunner.
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