California Golden Bears standout Vic Wharton III can contribute in a versatile manner, but he has the tools to become a high-level slot receiver in the NFL.
One of the unspoken truths about professional sports is that they often take shape by studying the trends at the collegiate level. That’s true in multiple regards, including the NFL, where even the systems that are regarded as gimmicks tend to surface as years go by.
One of the most prominent trends in recent seasons has been the rise in the value of the once overlooked slot receiver.
It’s not as though slot receivers have been blatantly disregarded, but instead that they’ve increased in prominence. Stars can be made at a position that was long viewed as the home of the proverbial role player.
Those who lined up outside were the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honorees, while the individuals in the slot were simply making their life easier.
Today, some of the best wide receivers in the NFL are being utilized in the slot on a consistent basis. That list includes the likes of Keenan Allen, Doug Baldwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Jarvis Landry, Golden Tate, and Adam Thielen.
Whether or not he has the tools to become a star is debatable, but it’s fair to believe that one of the NFL’s next standout slot receivers currently plays for the California Golden Bears.
Cal slot receiver Vic Wharton III is coming off of a season during which he made the leap from down on the depth chart to featured in the offense. His production wasn’t explosive, but his efficiency and overall value earned the attention of college football pundits.
Though still not the household name that he could one day become, Wharton is a fascinating case study as far as the 2019 NFL Draft is concerned.
Wharton finished his junior season, 2017, with 67 receptions for 831 yards and five touchdowns. His scoring plays were spread out across five different games, including a clash with the North Carolina Tar Heels, during which he pulled in five catches for 156 yards and six points.
Wharton also provided value in the return game, but the areas in which he thrived were on short throws and intermediate targets.
That’s quite the route tree.
Standing at a reported 6’0″ and 200 pounds, Wharton utilizes his ability to run solid routes to find openings within a defense. He’s not much of a deep threat, but he can line up outside or make a living in the slot as a player who’s trusted to make plays after the catch.
Even when he’s stopped in his tracks, Wharton has the tools to be the type of possession receiver in the slot who simplifies the game for his quarterback.
He has the hands to make plays in traffic, as well as the versatility to turn a traditional slot route into an unexpected break outside. He’s shifty in space, tough when the ball is in the air, and willing to make acrobatic catches.
The potential certainly exists for Wharton to line up outside the numbers, but he could be the prototypical slot receiver in the modern NFL.
There’s more to Vic Wharton III than his potential as a slot receiver, but he appears to be tailor made for one of the most coveted roles in the league today.