Jelani Woods Scouting Report: Huge Potential

Casey Sully
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - NOVEMBER 27: Jelani Woods #0 of the Virginia Cavaliers catches a pass in the first half during a game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Scott Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images)

Jelani Woods spent three years at Oklahoma State before transferring to Virginia in 2021. He lacks polish in the blocking game, but he has the size and athletic profile to be an impact player at tight end. He projects to be in-line and isn’t quite twitchy enough to be split outside or used as an H-back. At 6’7”, 265 pounds, and an outstanding vertical, he’s a developmental prospect that could be special.

Positives

Physicality

Jelani Woods isn’t scared of being physical. He’ll stick is nose into the pile in the run game and isn’t afraid of going up for contested catches. With such a large frame, he’s going to physically outmatch most players trying to defend him. He’s not blazing fast, but he is beginning to learn how to use his body to create separation. When in the stem of his route or when he’s breaking at the top, he loves to lean into defenders and leverage them with his arm to create separation.

He won’t make anyone miss after he catches the ball, but if he’s going full speed, he can gobble up ground and is quite the load to try and bring down.

Willing Blocker

While Woods isn’t going to blow guys off the line or have fantastic technique, he is a willing blocker and has the reach to keep defenders off his frame. Virginia didn’t ask him to do a whole lot in the blocking game. They had him down block on power or work kickout blocks on the front or backside where he has minimal impact on the function of the run scheme. He’s also shown the ability to block in space which indicates he could have some potential in zone blocking down the line.

Big Frame

Jelani Woods is big enough that he’s going to tower over almost every defensive back or linebacker he’ll be going against. He might not have the most precise routes or best blocking technique, but his frame gives him potential. He is definitely worth taking a look at if he’s around on day two or three of the draft.

Negatives

Struggle with Outside Zone Blocking

As mentioned, Woods is a willing blocker, but also a limited blocker. He struggles to sustain blocks, take the proper aiming point, and has inconsistent footwork – especially when blocking zone. You don’t expect him to block like an offensive linemen, but this clip is a great example of some of his issues with footwork. Getting your second foot down as quickly as possible and taking the proper aiming point is critical in outside zone. You can see that by the time the entire offensive line has their second step in the ground and some are even beginning their third, Woods is still half way through his second step.

This is not an easy block by alignment, but on the backside of outside zone, he has to cut that player off and take a hard angle to fight and leverage them. His angle is too tight, the defender beats him to the spot, and then contributes to the tackle.

Issues on outside zone were a recurring issue. Both with assignment when defenders moved at the snap and with the technique in his footwork. When he knows where he’s going and who he’s blocking, he ended up in good position with generally good hand placement and leg drive.

Outside Zone
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Outside Zone

Drops

Woods struggled with a number of drops on throws outside of his frame through the year. Not all of them were the easiest catches, but for a guy that won’t run away from you and doesn’t have a ton of short area quickness, he needs to be a guy that can win jump balls and use his frame to make him a big target. That wasn’t the case consistently through the 2021 season.

Route Technique

Woods’ route technique isn’t incredibly nuanced and he often struggles with releases and creating separation without initiating contact. There were a couple of times where he was jammed up by smaller corners despite being bigger and stronger.

Woods leans heavily on using his physicality in his routes – to mixed results. Even when he doesn’t have to, he initiates contact through his route stems. Sometimes that allows him to box guys out and create leverage and sometimes all it did was slow him down and knock him off his rhythm.  There isn’t much else to his route running. He’ll occasionally stem and work defenders away from route-side space, but he hasn’t mastered many routes at this point in his career.

Final Thoughts

Jelani Woods has some things you just can’t teach. He also needs to work on a lot of the things you can teach. The talent is there, but he’s going to need time to develop and should operate as a secondary tight end until he adds technique and nuance to his game. If he can maximize his physical potential, he’ll be an impact player for a long time in the NFL.

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