If it hadn’t been for a knee injury in the Citrus Bowl at the end of his 2015 season, we might be talking about whether Jehu Chesson is a first or second-round pick. But a backslide in his final season has NFL teams wondering if the wideout offers enough return on investment.
Chesson wasn’t just a good player in 2015, he was Michigan’s best player. He earned team MVP honors on 50 catches for 764 yards, along with a total of 10 TDs in the air and on the ground. Some of his 2015 performances were outright monstrous (e.g. 207 yards and 4 TDs against Indiana).
But the knee injury, a change in quarterbacks, and the emergence of Amara Darboh pushed Chesson out of the spotlight in 2016. While still productive – 500 yards and 3 touchdowns – it was clear he’d lost some of that explosiveness that defines an elite receiver.
The NFL combine, however, established Chesson as a risk worth taking. At 6-3 and 205 lbs., he has the size of a pro. And while his ability to gain separation in the secondary is in question, his 4.47 40-time proves he can run with the NFL pack.
Most impressive is Chesson’s catch radius. Though not the strongest receiver, he can get in the air (35.5-inch vertical) to twist and battle his way to a catch. The guy simply has a gift for bringing down balls thrown into a crowd. And for NFL scouts, there’s no replacement for a sure-handed receiver willing to sacrifice his body for the ball.
Chesson also blocks with a doggedness that coaches eat up. As it’s unlikely he’ll be the No. 1 target when he’s on the field, his ability to downfield block can only help his stock on draft day.
That toughness, unfortunately, doesn’t translate to contact coming off the line. Stronger college defensive backs were successful in jamming Chesson, an issue the NFL will only magnify. In fact, outside of his knee injury and its impact on his quickness, Chesson’s lack of strength (10 reps on the 220-lb. bench) is probably the biggest concern among NFL teams.
He’s also taken some hits from NFL scouts for questionable after-the-catch and route running. When coming off a knee injury, those are areas a receiver needs to shore up.
So, where does Chesson fall? Barring a surprise, he’ll be the third Wolverine pass catcher taken in the draft behind Jake Butt and Darboh. But that’s hardly insulting in such a Michigan-rich draft.
Chesson has solid size and speed and elite pass-catching ability, and he lacks off-field drama that cause NFL front offices to cringe. That’s an attractive combination for a team seeking depth in its receiver corps. Expect to hear Chesson’s name on draft day as early as the fourth round, and, more importantly, on Sundays in the fall.