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Size. Speed. Strength. That’s how I filter the attributes when I draft in Madden. Or at least when I used to play Madden. What an abomination of a video game franchise. Anyways, the Holy Trinity of S is how many NFL general managers draft as well. But physical attributes are not the end all be all. Look at the nine wide receivers who have run a 4.3 40-yard dash or faster at the NFL Combine:

(courtesy of FootballGuys.com)

That’s a lot of speed, but not too much production. 533 receptions in 390 games total amongst the group. 

Physical attributes will get you a look in the NFL, while fundamentals and intangibles will earn you a second date, but it all comes down to opportunity. Russell Gage went from backstage to center stage last season. Now let’s gauge his prospects for the upcoming season. 

Gage was a three-star recruit in high school out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He committed to LSU in 2014 but only played one game without accruing a stat in two years. During his junior year, he played seven games and caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. Over the course of his senior season, Gage played 13 games, rushed 28 times for 232 yards and a touchdown, and caught 21 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. yippee. woohoo. NOT. 

As a result, Gage was not a highly sought after prospect and was drafted by the Falcons with the 194th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft (Round 6). Bleacher Report’s scouting report listed his positives as: versatile athlete, impactful special teams player, raw player held back by anemic LSU passing game, and possesses loose hips and quick feet to go along with straight-line speed to stretch the field. The negatives were: limited college production, lean frame, and one-year starter. 

His PlayerProfiler page shows that his speed and agility scores are below average but the burst and catch radius are very good. 

During his rookie season with the Falcons, Gage was buried on the depth chart. While he did contribute on special teams, he only garnered 10 targets. Last season was shaping up to be the same, but then Mohamed Sanu was traded after Week 7 to the Patriots

From backstage to center stage for Gage.

From Week 8 to the end of the season (9 games), Gage received 66 targets and turned them into 45 receptions for 402 yards and a touchdown. The snap count rocketed up over 50% on a consistent basis and surpassed 70% on three occasions. 

The most eye-opening stat, though, was the 14 red zone looks he garnered. That was good for fourth on the team. Devonta Freeman led with 33, Austin Hooper had 18, and Julio Jones received 16. Remember, Gage didn’t start playing until Week 8.

According to Sharp Football Stats, the Falcons utilized 11 personnel on 61% of plays last season. The league average was 60%. Gage is entrenched as the third receiver now and Matt Ryan has attempted over 600 passes in each of the past two seasons. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley will be occupying the attention from opposing defenses, so Gage should be able to do his thing. 

He’s currently being selected as the 227th overall player and 79th wide receiver in NFFC drafts from 6/1 to 8/2. That’s crazy good value.