STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI - SEPTEMBER 16: Malik Nabers #8 of the LSU Tigers reacts during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 16, 2023 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)
STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI - SEPTEMBER 16: Malik Nabers #8 of the LSU Tigers reacts during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on September 16, 2023 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Malik Nabers Loaded With God-Given Talent, But…

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OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI – SEPTEMBER 30: Wide receiver Kyren Lacy #2 of the LSU Tigers celebrates with wide receiver Malik Nabers #8 of the LSU Tigers after scoring a touchdown during the first half of their game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 30, 2023 in Oxford, Mississippi. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers is one of the more challenging evaluations I’ve done because he has elite traits, but they don’t always translate on game film.

He leaves me with an unsettled feeling in my gut ⎯ and that’s after studying him in a good number of games in 2022 and 2023.

I can’t ignore that feeling.

For every ‘wow’ play Nabers produces when he blows the doors off a secondary, there are a couple of passes thrown his way when he lacks concentration and his route running looks undisciplined.

Nabers loses focus and/or interest at times. Occasionally, he’s not in the right spot or he’ll drop one he shouldn’t have.

That scares me as someone who has aspirations of getting back into the league as a scout and one day running a team. From a management standpoint, that risk has to be accounted for. The only way to do that is to drop his value on the board.

Two years of tape doesn’t lie.

The good stuff

Nabers is explosive.

I have to keep him in the first round because of that fact. He could be the most explosive receiver in this draft class. When he’s ‘on’ he can EASILY achieve route leverage and he’s a master of double moves that leave corners in the dust. Nabers has change direction on a dime when running his routes, which makes him all that more challenging to cover.

Yeah, he’s got it.

The question is which version are we getting on any given play ⎯the all-world version or the ‘what happened there,’ version?

2+2=5

For the most part on the short-to-intermediate routes, Nabers would catch it, but he won’t make much noise after the catch.

Nabers goes into ‘sleep mode.’

At times he shows devastating speed and acceleration, but not always. He flashes it. Case in point, he looked plain ordinary on jet sweeps.

While I respect his deep game, receivers need to pay the rent in the short-to-intermediate game (especially considering most of the offensive plays in the league are scripted at this route depth). Nabers is decent, but he was not running away from defenses after the catch.

Drop facts

I want to make this clear, Nabers isn’t losing focus to the point he’s drop-happy because he’s not, it’s more or less his traits aren’t consistently matching the outcome.

In terms of Nabers’ catch rate:

2021: 28 receptions on 46 targets (60.9%)

2022: 72 receptions on 99 targets (72.8%)

2023: 89 receptions on 130 targets (68.4%)

Nabers three-year college career catch rate average = 67.3%

Where or where should he go?

Nabers fits an NFL team looking to add an explosive element to their offense. I mean a team that’s serious about the deep game and has a quarterback who can consistently place the ball accurately downfield would be perfect.

The Jaguars, Bengals, or Rams would be a marriage made in heaven.

#8 Malik Nabers 6-foot-0, 200 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: First-Round (I would select him)

Projected by 84.7% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of January 21, 2024 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2022 Game Film Creates Questions About Malik Nabers (7 games evaluated in 2022)

Game film reviewed (2023): Alabama, Mississippi State, Arkansas, FSU, Ole Miss, Missouri, Florida, and Grambling State (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

2023 stats: 89 receptions for 1,569 yards (17.6 avg.), 14 TD, long of 51 yards

Note: LSU’s Malik Nabers won’t face charge after weapon arrest (2022)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

A dynamic receiver who stretches the field, but shows lapses of intensity and focus at times. Muscular frame and long arms. Lines up outside, but may factor more from the slot. Burst release. Works all three route levels (short, intermediate, and deep). Explodes into secondaries. Can make crisp breakpoints. Uses frame to box out corners. Excels at curl and stop-and-go deep routes where he can sell the curl and the intermediate dagger route. Knack for exploiting secondaries. Works back to the quarterback when he’s in trouble. Inconsistent on 50-50 balls. Undisciplined routes at times. Can get outmuscled. Decent blocker.

Final words

I respect him, but I don’t love him.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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