When you think of West Virginia football, you think speed and big plays. No one arguably embodies that sentiment more than WR Shelton Gibson. The Eagles took Gibson with the 166th pick in the NFL Draft, after several trades saw them sneak into the bottom of the fifth round. So what are they getting in the former West Virginia receiver?
Despite running a 4.5 (which is great in itself), it is his area quickness that makes him so dangerous, yet intriguing for the right offense. In 32 games, he had 1,898 yards, averaging 22.6 yards per catch..and for good measures, 17 trips to the end zone. Needless to say, Gibson could help boost the passing game, and have QB Carson Wentz going long. The 5’11. 191 lbs, wideout caught 43 passes for 951 yards last season..but interestingly, he was targeted on deep looks 29 times. Of the 17 that were labelled “Catchable”, he hauled in each and every one for 726 yards and a score. In the last two seasons alone, 36% of his receptions went for 25 yards or more.
So, now we know what kind of wideout that Gibson is, it’s time to take a look at the film. As always with wide receiver related film room pieces, I’ll be analyzing a specific set of criteria that one NFL scout told me he uses when trying to evaluate talent, in order to get a more complete view of the player.
Getting off the line:
One of the big setbacks faced by Eagles receivers last year was getting a clean start at the line of scrimmage. For Shelton Gibson, his frame can act as both a strength and a weakness when getting a jump on his defender.
As you can see below, Gibson has a great stutter step at the bottom of the screen, which enables him to break past the corner who is sat in zone coverage and begin charging toward the sideline. What’s impressive is the weight transfer to almost push him past the corner with ease.
The below play is something which could haunt him at the next level however. Gibson takes a couple of steps forward, slowly, selling the inside route before cutting outside to push onto the stem of a vertical look. The problem is that in the NFL, press corners will be a lot more aggressive at the line and if he takes that long to make a decision, he will likely be completely blanketed or see the route disrupted. Gibson is at his most efficient when blowing open zonal looks..but if he fails to assert his presence in man-looks..it could hold him back to an extent.
On the contrary, that stutter step has the ability to really give him an upper hand in the stem of the route if he can sell it correctly, as can be seen in the play below. This seems to be his go-to move when starting a route..but if it’s the only way he can break into the next step of the ladder cleanly..it may see his incredible success at the top of the route become marginalized.
Where Gibson really shines, is creating separation and winning in the heart of the route. The one thing that stood out in this game against Youngstown State was that even though the route concepts he runs are often simple, he’s still able to really express himself..which can be hard to do at times. We talk about “flexion” a lot with defensive ends..but look at how well Gibson is able to carry speed through this route as he cuts inside, opening his hips and planting his feet to fluidly move his body inward and over the top of the corner.
Perhaps the only drawback I’ve seen to Gibson’s play from the perspective of creating this article, is that once he gets going..he’s rarely stopped. Now that sounds moronic to say..but in terms of analysis, I want to see what he can do when he has a corner going stride-for-stride with him and how he wins the route. It’s easy to show nine home-run hits of blown coverage..where Gibson simply makes a nice catch untouched and takes it to the house.. but it’s the tightly contested routes that really show a receivers strength. If there’s one play that shows exactly that, it’s this one. Gibson uses his hands early in the route to ensure he doesn’t get knocked off the route, and then accelerates past both the corner and the safety to catch the bucket pass and take it to the endzone.
Here’s a perfect example of one of those home-runs I was on about. Gibson does a phenomenal job at creating separation..and if it’s a sprint to the endzone, he won’t often lose. If Gibson is able to get past his man early, the rest is history.
So, what happens when the stutter-step, the strength in the stem, and separation all come together? This play. This is the perfect embodiment of what Shelton Gibson can bring to the Eagles..just, damn.
This play against BYU still confuses me. I didn’t realize that humans can teleport, but Gibson might have just defied physics here. Nothing says separation like selling a vertical look against a zone Defense before cutting over the middle over the top of three unsuspecting linebackers to haul in a pass with acres of space around you.
This is one aspect of Gibson’s game that will excite Eagles fans. Gibson may have been a human basketball hoop at times for West Virginia in what to me, seems like a cheat code. Gibson’s game is the equivalent of when you’re playing a friend at Madden and know you can beat him with the same play, same receiver, over…and over…and over again. That’s the power Gibson had for West Virginia last year, but the quarterback wasn’t always the most accurate passer.
This underthrown pass into double coverage left Gibson with a lot of work to do in a crowded space. He’s able to adjust his route, flip his hips and push his torso back to allow the ball to fall snugly into his arms. It’s an impressive effort and an even more impressive catch.
The play below demonstrates something similar, but watch how Gibson is able to snatch this ball out of the air and clutch it into his chest. Underthrown passes and misfires often left the wideout with a lot of work to do, snagging balls out of the air or having to make the extra effort, as can be seen with the instinctive play below.
The most impressive play of Gibson’s tape in my opinion, came on this incredible catch. Not only does the oncoming hit bend Gibson’s back in a worrying fashion, but it removes his helmet in the process. Gibson not only comes down with the ball and keeps it close to his chest, but doesn’t even look for a flag.
The other, and in my opinion extremely important aspect of what Gibson brings to the Eagles, is his upper body strength. Last year, the Eagles screen game was inconsistent at best. Dorial Green-Beckham has the frame, but not the effort..and other receivers have the inverse when linebackers and corners sniff out a swinging running back. Shelton Gibson played a HUGE role in the success of West Virginia’s screen looks..and it’s easy to see why.
Let’s take a look at block number one….
…and block number two..
Well, the Eagles are still in the market for a starting left guard. It’s very rare to see a receiver so willing to not only hold his blocks, but finish them after the running back has passed him..and that alone brings a lot of value to the Eagles, given how versatile their backfield is set to be in 2017.
Gibson is a wideout with incredible YAC ability and one who has the ability to take the top off of an opposing defense with ease. The problem is that I feel he was marginalized in the West Virginia Offense. Most of his route concepts were simple vertical looks and this means that the product we see is “one trick pony” esque’. However, I’m of the firm belief that Gibson is so much more than that. A willing blocker who gives 100% on every play and allows his personality to shine through his game, even in simplistic route selections, Gibson has a lot of untapped potential..and I think that in the west-coast system that Pederson deploys, with Mike Groh tutoring him and Alshon Jeffery alongside him..Gibson may well turn out to be one of the hidden gems of this years draft.
Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports