Devy Watch: WR Auden Tate, FSU

The ability for a wide receiver to control and contort one’s body in midair is a necessary trait for those who specialize in winning contested catches. Heading into 2017 there aren’t many receivers who do it better than Florida State’s Auden Tate. Tate is a 6’5” 225 lb. mammoth who gave the nation a tantalizing taste of that outstanding body control in 2016. He accumulated 25 receptions for 409 yards and 6 TD’s in 10 games during his sophomore campaign. With the departure of a couple of the Noles’ leading targets, the ACC will receive a full dose of the acrobatics of Tate, as he steps into a starting role in his junior season.

Last October I took an RV trip with several friends down to Tallahassee, Florida to watch the Clemson Tigers take on the Florida State Seminoles. We had great seats at the corner of the end zone about 20 rows from the field. During the game, Deshaun Watson targeted Clemson WR Mike Williams early and often on slants on 3rd down, and he was virtually automatic at converting those plays. Williams is well known for his ability to convert contested catches and bring down 50/50 jump balls.

However, it wasn’t Williams who caught my eye that game by making one of those spectacular acrobatic plays. It was a monster in garnet wearing #18 who made a play down the sideline leaping high and extending his arms to snatch a Deondre Francois pass out of the sky. This was Auden Tate’s lone reception of the game, but it was a memorable one. This play reminded me of one that I had seen Williams make many times throughout his career. After further inspection of game tape and prospect profiles, I believe that Tate and Williams have a very similar skillset.

Much like Mike Williams, Auden Tate wasn’t the most decorated receiver recruit coming out of high school. I took a closer look at these two, and their 247 prospect profiles look remarkably similar. Tate measured in at 6’4.5” 215 lbs. and rated as the 263rd overall recruit and 30th best WR in his class. Williams was listed at 6’4” 210 lbs. and rated 239th overall and as the 35th best WR in his respective recruiting class.

Tate measured in with a 30.8” Vertical jump coming out of high school. I suspect that if he were to test today, it would look very similar to the 32.5” Vertical that Mike Williams just posted at the NFL Scouting Combine. Many were unimpressed with the vertical that the Clemson product posted, but what makes these players so dangerous isn’t necessarily their ability to jump high. It’s their ability to correctly time their leaps, hang in the air, and contort their bodies all the while having a 6’4”+ frame.

Most of you probably are aware that Mike Williams was drafted with the 7th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft this year. These two receivers win in similar ways by utilizing their size, length, and rebounding ability. If Auden Tate can develop his craft and polish his game in 2017 by diversifying his route tree and using his frame on slants much like Williams did in 2016, look out, this giant could be a top 15 selection in 2018!

Best Attributes

Contested Catches

Plain and simple Auden Tate takes high-pointing to a whole new level. He is adept at extending his arms during his jump to catch the football with his hands at the furthest point away from his body. Tate also shows the ability to suck the ball in and tuck it away quickly after extending for it. 50/50 jump balls are his specialty, as he makes incredible adjustments and has elite ball-tracking skills.

Size

Tate has thickened up since his high school days. He’s tacked on about a half inch and a dozen pounds and has already shown the ability to take some hard hits and pop back up. In short, he has legitimate NFL size. For a receiver of his stature, Tate moves fluidly and is a smooth glider. He looks more like a basketball small forward than a wide receiver, and in fact, he was a former basketball recruit according to ESPN. This may also help illuminate why he looks so natural at going up to high point the football.

Hands

At first glance, Tate looks to have a big pair of mitts. We won’t know for certain though until his combine measurables. One thing that is for certain is that his hands appear both soft and strong on tape. He does a great job of snatching the ball out of the air in a Steve Smith Sr. like fashion. Tate didn’t post an exceptional catch rate in 2016 at 55.6%, but I suspect this is more a product of his targets coming from deeper, more difficult passes. I believe that Tate’s hands are one of his strongest assets, and I expect this catch rate to increase as he sees more volume in 2017.

Need to See More

Experience

While the flashes that Auden Tate showed us in 2016 were almost blindingly brilliant, the projection of him becoming a dominant go-to receiver is mostly speculation. The fact of the matter is that Tate simply needs more reps and in-game experience. He has only featured as a part time player in 10 collegiate games up to this point. 

I’d also like to see him gain confidence and turn into an absolute bully on the field as well because he has the size to be just that. Tate is certainly going to get every opportunity to shine in 2017, and his performance for the Noles on Saturdays this fall will dictate whether or not he’s NFL ready and can live up to the hype.

Route Tree

The majority of Tate’s 2016 production came on fade/go-routes or post routes. I’ve seen Tate make a couple of receptions on slants and out routes with relative ease, but it will be more telling when we’re able to see a larger sample of those. His big body and long arms should afford him the ability to shield defenders and create separation as he becomes a legitimate weapon across the middle. Because he is such an imposing threat down the field, I believe that Auden could develop into an excellent target on comeback/hitch routes if he improves his footwork and ability to sell the go.

Yards After the Catch

Tate showed very little YAC ability on his receptions this past season. I’m not sure this will ever be a major part of his game, but I’m certainly not ready to write him off yet on such a small sample and think he can perform similarly to Mike Williams in this department. Even if Tate never becomes a good yards after the catch guy, that’s okay too. Mike Evans is a of similar stature and owns some of the worst YAC statistics in the NFL. He’s turned out alright.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that Auden Tate is a matchup nightmare in single coverage. He’s one of those players that can have the ball thrown in his general direction and he’ll make a play on it. Look for him to explode this season, as he garners Francois’s trust as his go-to weapon in the Seminoles passing attack. I expect Tate to rack up nearly 1,000 yards receiving and double digit touchdowns in 2017, and if he follows through on that expectation, this freakish wide receiver specimen is going to have scouts drooling as we look toward the 2018 NFL Draft.

You should target him in the latter portion of the 1st round of Devy drafts. In more traditional dynasty leagues, you’ll want to go ahead and secure a couple 2018 1st round picks if you want a shot at him. Auden Tate is absolutely the type of weapon that you want firing on your dynasty teams.


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cstefan

Devy Dynasty and Scouting writer for Dynasty Football Factory. Clemson University Alumn and your Devy source for all things Clemson

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