2020 NFL Draft Sleeper: James Proche
Weight: 201 lbs
40 Time: N/A
College: Southern Methodist University (SMU)
James Proche, have you heard of him? Maybe you have, maybe you haven't, but one thing is for sure, one day you will know the name. He was graded as a four star recruit out of Desoto High School in Texas, but decided to stay local and committed to SMU. Proche would go on to redshirt his freshman year there, but that would be the last time he wasn't producing on the football field. Proche had an uptick in production in each aspect of his game every year at SMU. That's what we like to see, not only in our sleeper candidates, but prospects in general. His freshman year, after the redshirt of course, he posted a 57/709/6 stat line, averaging 12.4 yards per grab. He then stepped it up only a bit, accumulating a line of 40/816/6 in his second season playing for the Mustangs. Proche was also a standout return specialist for his squad. In his upperclassman seasons, James would explode onto the scene, to the tune of 93 catches, for 1,199 yards, and 12 touchdowns in his junior campaign, and 111 catches, for 1,255 yards, and 15 touchdowns in his senior season. His 111 catches tied him with Justin Jefferson for the most in the country, and his 15 touchdowns placed him top 5 in the nation as well.
Now that we've introduced you to the guy, let's talk about why James Proche is headed towards greatness. Based off of just the stat lines above, one would assume that Proche is slated to be a 2nd day type prospect, someone who is going to be drafted second or third round. You would be wrong. Barring anything substantial changing in the next couple of days before the draft, Proche is currently slated to be picked anytime on day 3, or possibly, although highly unlikely, not drafted at all. All Proche does is produce, and we have seen steady improvement from him every year we've had the privilege of watching this man play. The guy's stat lines, and uptick in production alone would be enough to make him a great sleeper candidate, but now let's get into his game. He had nine drops at SMU, nine drops on four hundred and fifty seven targets. The man has literal magnets for hands. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network even went as far as to say that Proche has the best hands of any receiver in this draft. Not Jerry Jeudy, not CeeDee Lamb, not Justin Jefferson, but James Proche has the best hands in this stacked receiver draft class.
Proche has been drawing comparisons to Antonio Brown throughout the entire draft process. Not freakishly athletic, not the strongest, nor the biggest, but finds a way to get open, and can catch anything remotely close to him. Proche is also slated to be a later round pick, as was Brown back in 2010. Proche being a standout return specialist just make all the Antonio Brown comparisons that much more accurate. None of Jame's combine numbers, or measureables are going to grab your attention. In fact, the majority of them are not desirable in today's league, but Proche finds a way to produce in spite of this. Proche is SMU's all time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns, ahead of the likes of Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Cole Beasley, and more. Writing this makes me feel like I'm drafting a Player Profile for a top end prospect in this year's draft. It's kind of funny that I'm finding the most absurd stats in the sleeper article, and that this man is supposed to be drafted on day 3, but hey, that's what made the man my pick for sleeper of the draft.
Do the math. 9 drops on 457 targets at SMU is a .01% drop rate. Repeat, James Proche had a .01% drop rate at SMU. Any GM who is presented with this stat, and this stat alone would be willing to spend a fifth round pick on James Proche, regardless of the fact that none of his his measureables, or combine outcomes grab your attention. Proche will do the majority of his damage from the slot in the league, as someone who is able to generate separation in the intermediate game, and has tremendous lateral burst. If Proche is drafted by a team with an established receiver ahead of him, and a proven QB, he could be doing damage in the league as early as his rookie season. My favorite teams to see Proche on would be the Bills, Broncos, and Packers, but I truly believe the man is going to produce regardless of his situation in the league, as he always has. Let this article wake you up, stop sleeping on James Proche before it's too late. Throw on the man's highlight tape, and hop on the hype train before it becomes a bandwagon.