Courtland Sutton Draft Path: Introducing Sutton

The 2017 college football season is just days away as teams grind through preseason camps and prepare for the upcoming season. At the same time, college football evaluators are breaking down film in an attempt to find the prospects that will hear their names called next April in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Many of the top prospects have their name attached to a Power 5 conference and school, but that is not the case for the top wide receiver in the 2018 NFL Draft class – Courtland Sutton from Southern Methodist University.

Sutton might not have the big school attached to his name, but the Brenham, TX, product has the size (6-4, 215 pounds), speed, body control and big play ability to vault him to the top of the receiver rankings.

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The redshirt junior tallied 76 receptions for 1,246 yards and 10 touchdowns in his breakout redshirt sophomore season – but Sutton is not content living on his past stats.

“The way college football is now, it’s so much of a popularity contest,” Sutton said when asked about separating himself from the rest of the receiver pack. “I know that where I came from – redshirt, I wasn’t highly recruited, I wasn’t one of those guys that was at the ‘Nike Open’ or being highly scouted by all these people. So, working up from there, making sure I understand how I got here, remaining humble and knowing I didn’t get here by myself – god blessed me with these abilities. My family, my parents being a strong backbone for myself. Then I have amazing teammates and amazing coaches around me that have helped me develop to become the best player I can be.”

That support has helped Sutton raise from a three-star recruit to a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate, a member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list (top receiver in college football) and many more accolades. Even with all of this success, Sutton is still committed to his team and the up-tempo style of coach Chad Morris.

“I love being able to be on the field,” Sutton said when asked about his mentality surrounding one of the fastest offensive attacks in the country. “Not only for myself. I know when I’m on the field that the defense has to pay attention [to me]. When the defense has to do that, that means other people are open. The running game is going be open because the secondary is going to have to shift and they’re not going to be able to throw an extra blitzed in there. Whenever they’re paying attention to me, they are going to want to run some sort of shell to my side – which means one of my receivers is going to be open. That means he’s going to be able to produce, and he’s going to be able to shine.”

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“That first year, that first spring that [Chad Morris] came in, when we would have our tempo parts of practice when we were just running plays up and down the field, just getting used to the tempo [of the offense] – it was hard. Now, we have gotten used to it and we love going up-tempo because we go so fast now that defenses, they don’t get to dial up all these crazy blitzes. They just have to run a base and they just have to stay in it.”

Sutton’s understanding of the opposing defenses has helped him grow his game from just a deep, outside threat into a complete receiver. He utilizes great footwork with good strength and solid speed. While his traits are not “elite” to some, the combination of a great skill set and superior conditioning allows him to consistently win. Unlike many top receivers, however, Sutton is not all about accumulating numbers for himself.

“I ultimately love to have my other teammates to make plays,” Sutton said when asked about his ability to draw coverage. “I said it before in an interview, if I had to go a game where I have two catches, or no catches, but [we] have two or three receivers with 100 yards, or over 100 yards. Or a running back, or two running backs with 100-plus yards because I’m drawing so much attention over to my side of the field, and we win the game – I’ll take that the whole rest of the season and go off and win [the American Athletic Conference] just like that, than me being able to say I had 200 yards [receiving] each game but we lost all these games and we weren’t successful. I’ll take that any day. So, I try to make sure I am in shape and stay on the field as much as possible.”

The selfless superstars much more than just his numbers. His persistent attitude towards self improvement and his relentless drive on the field have helped transform him into a respected member of his community, his university and his team. As he approaches what is likely to be his final season in college, he looks to follow in the footsteps of former SMU receivers Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders by making a name in the NFL. However he hopes to hear his name at the top of the draft like former Mustang greats Eric Dickerson or Doak Walker, making him by far the highest SMU receiver ever drafted.

Make sure to stay connected to Sutton’s journey throughout the season. Check back on the articles each week with exclusive quotes and commentary, listen to the Panda Podcast for the audio from the weekly interview and follow @Matt_LaPan for updates throughout the season and beyond.