The Steelers have continually been able to find gems in the draft at wide receiver outside of the first round. With the selection of Chase Claypool last year, the team has another emerging star on the outside to go with Diontae Johnson and James Washington. JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to hit free agency but has publicly said he would like to return to Pittsburgh. If JuJu does not come back, the Steelers will have a need for a slot receiver as Claypool, Johnson, and Washington are all at their best on the outside.
The 2021 NFL Draft will start on April 29. In the lead up to the draft, keep an eye on our Prospect Profiles and other Draft Previews.
Today, we look at Indiana WR Whop Philyor, one of the most productive receivers in Hoosiers history.
Weight: 180 lbs
Age: 22 years old
“Whop” Philyor earned his nickname from his parents as a young man due to his love for Burger King’s Whoppers. That right there might be the best introductory sentence we’ve ever had for a draft profile. Whop came to Indiana from Florida where he played all over the field on offense and was named first-team All-State. He also competed in track in high school and his speed and explosiveness in short areas definitely translate onto the football field.
Receiving: 54 rec, 495 yards, 3 TDs
Rushing: 1 att, 8 yards
Receiving: 180 rec, 2067 yards, 12 TDs
Rushing: 21 att, 134 yards
Kick Returns: 3 returns, 66 yards
Punt Returns: 15 returns, 49 yards
Whop was a consistent and reliable target for Indiana for all four years of his career. He finished 3rd on the team in receptions as a true freshman before injuries limited his availability in his sophomore season. Whop’s junior year was a breakout campaign with 70 catches for over 1000 yards and 5 TDs. He earned Second-Team All-Conference honors and was Indiana’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player. Due to the Big Ten starting the 2020 season late, Philyor didn’t have as many games as other players around the country but his 54 receptions were good enough to be the Big Ten’s leading receiver. In his career he recorded 7 games with double-digit receptions, proving to be a sure-handed option for Indiana’s sometimes-wayward QB play.
Whop Philyor is a solid route-runner and is especially adept at finding ways to get open. Whether it is sitting down against a zone or running crossing routes at varying levels of the defense, he displays an ability to find openings for the quarterback to get him the ball. It didn’t hurt that he was Indiana’s best playmaker and the Hoosiers would put the ball in his hands as often as they could. Playing primarily out of the slot, Philyor displayed a number of routes in the tree, including go and fade routes. He has great lateral agility and explodes out of his cuts to create separation when running routes or to turn short passes into longer gains. He took a number of short outs and was able to turn them into bigger gains with a combination of quick cuts and an explosive first step. Philyor does a good job at snatching the ball away from his body and extending his arms to go get the ball rather than letting it get into his chest. He also displays solid balance, keeping his feet through contact.
At 5’11” and 180 pounds, Philyor is on the lighter side and can get blown up by big hitters. He was primarily used as a slot receiver by Indiana and that (along with his punt returning abilities) is certainly where his NFL future lies. NFL teams may not be willing to invest a high pick in a player that can only contribute from the slot. At times, he can overly rely on his agility and quick cuts and can get swarmed by defenders while dancing around. He doesn’t have the long speed to run away from defenders down the field and got caught from behind quite a few times. He is a willing blocker, but given his size he can get thrown to the ground by bigger defenders.
Indiana put together their best run in nearly two decades with back-to-back New Year’s Day bowl appearances. They lost by 1 to Tennessee in the 2019 Gator Bowl and by 6 to Ole Miss in the 2020 Outback Bowl. Whop Philyor was a big part of the offense that helped get them there. He is tough and reliable and has a very good sense for how to get open all over the field. Philyor ran a number of different routes out of the slot including crossing routes at different levels, slot fades, and short quick-breaking routes. While he doesn’t have the long speed to run away from defenders, he has the short-area quickness and sharp cut ability to be an effective slot receiver and punt returner in the NFL. In all likelihood he will be a Day 3 selection and should be able to immediately start on special teams and contribute in certain pass packages as a slot receiver.
Final Grade: Mid-Day 3 – 5th or 6th Round
References: ESPN.com, IUHoosiers.com