Saints 2021 Draft Prospects: Josh Imatorbhebhe

New Orleans has an extremely successful history at turning unwanted wideouts into successful contributors.  Could this Big Ten athletic wonder be another of those success stories?
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The New Orleans Saints have had terrific success finding receiving talent in the late rounds of the draft or as undrafted free agents. One of the best players in New Orleans franchise history, Marques Colston, was a 7th round choice in the 2006 draft out of Hofstra. Lance Moore, Willie Snead, and Brandon Coleman were players that went undrafted who managed to have success with the team.

Last season, Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Tre'Quan Smith were the only receivers on the roster that were drafted. Wideouts Deonte Harris, Marquez Callaway, Juwan Johnson, and Lil'Jordan Humphrey were former undrafted players that received significant playing time.

The Saints expect even bigger contributions from Callaway and Harris in 2021. With the offseason retirement of future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, New Orleans may look to add more weapons for their new signal-caller through the draft. With the success that the team has had adding receivers that other teams overlook, this is one prospect to watch into Day 3 of this year's draft.

JOSH IMATORBHEBHE, WIDE RECEIVER (ILLINOIS)

  • 6’1” 223-Lbs.
  • Pro Day 40m = 4.48 sec
  • Pro Day Vertical Jump = 47"
  • Pro Day Broad Jump = 134”

Imatorbhebhe committed to USC as a four-star recruit out of North Gwinnett High School in Georgia. He took a redshirt his freshman year and caught just two passes for 11 yards in 2017. After that, he elected to enter the transfer portal but would have to sit out the 2018 season after enrolling at Illinois.

Imatorbhebhe led the Illini with 33 receptions for 634 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2019. His average of 19.2 yards per reception ranked third in the Big Ten. An abbreviated 2020 campaign because of COVID-19 concerns limited Illinois to just eight games. Imatorbhebhe again led his team in receiving, catching 22 passes for 297 yards and 3 scores. In 17 games over two years with the Illini, he had 55 receptions for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) against the Wisconsin Badgers. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY

Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) against the Wisconsin Badgers. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY

Blessed with remarkable athletic ability, Imatorbhebhe is raw and inexperienced as a receiver. He wasn't asked to run a wide variety of routes in college. To be successful at the NFL level, he’ll have to not only show that he can handle the route tree, but must also sharpen his breaks.

Despite his athleticism, he doesn't show much flexibility in his change of direction. Imatorbhebhe has adequate straight-line speed, but not much in the way of sudden acceleration to gain separation. He runs with power in the open field but isn't very elusive to avoid tacklers.

Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) catches a pass against Iowa defensive back Riley Moss (33). Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY 

Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) catches a pass against Iowa defensive back Riley Moss (33). Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY 

Imatorbhebhe's best attribute is as a deep receiver. His long stride makes it difficult for defenders to stay with him on drag routes and go patterns. Once the ball is in the air, there aren't many people on earth that can match his ability to go up and get it. He possesses the world-class jumping ability, along with long arms and strong hands to bring the ball in.

Imatorbhebhe is strong and physical at the line of scrimmage, giving him the advantage against press coverage. He’s shown the ability to absorb a hit while making a reception and has no hesitation when operating over the middle. Also a willing blocker, he shows the potential to be used in goal-line packages to take advantage of his jump ball skills as a receiver.

Marquez Callaway joined the Saints as an undrafted rookie from Tennessee last season. He wasn't drafted, in part, because he was viewed as just a deep threat not capable of running refined routes. Callaway proved doubters wrong, catching 21 of 27 targets and working his way into the team's regular rotation.

Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) catches a pass for a touchdown against Rutgers. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe (9) catches a pass for a touchdown against Rutgers. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Callaway, Josh Imatorbhebhe must prove critics wrong. He has terrific ball-tracking skills to go along with good hands and jumping ability impossible to match. If he can show that he can master an NFL route tree, his physical attributes could make him a late-round draft steal.