With their 9th pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens selected SMU wide receiver James Proche. I reached out to David Gru, Proche’s WR coach at SMU, and he shared his thoughts on what the Ravens can expect from Proche in the coming season.
Proche, who had a dominant senior season at SMU with 111 receptions, 1225 yards, and 15 touchdowns, will look to add depth to a Ravens wide receiver core that recently lost Seth Roberts. He’ll join the ranks of Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, and fellow draftee Devin Duvernay. So what breed of player will Proche be and what can the Ravens forecast from him? Let’s see…
What kind of player is James Proche?
It is an understatement to say James Proche is determined and a hard worker. Coach Gru said Proche’s work ethic is “the best I’ve been around… No matter what’s going on, he will start practice with the same kinda juice and he’ll bring it every day.” Proche’s personality appears to fit hand in hand with the coaching style of John Harbaugh who expects the best out of his players and requires them to have a sense of self-determination. Accompanying his work ethic, Coach Gru described Proche as having a strong competitive drive to be the best he can be while taking nothing for granted.
Coach Gru also labeled Proche as a great guy. He “just has that kind of personality that makes him fun to be around… he makes it really easy to be part of any team.” With Harbaugh’s football is family culture in the locker room, Proche should fit into his new Ravens brotherhood like a glove. Proche will be a positive influence on the Ravens for years to come—sounds like good news for John Harbaugh!
What strengths does Proche bring to the Ravens?
At SMU, James Proche demonstrated great production with senior season stats most college wide receivers could only dream of achieving. To accompany his stats, Proche comes to Baltimore with a strong set of hands and great quickness in the slot. Proche’s solid 7.27 second 3 cone drill at the combine reflects his agility and quickness utilized in-game. Having great swiftness and hands gives Proche the ability to make phenomenal catches and still move the ball down field post-catch.
In addition, Proche is not afraid of any defenders, and will compete for any ball thrown his way. This attribute, along with amazing concentration, gave way for some great catches in traffic and highlight- reel -one-handed plays in college. James Proche’s skill set makes him comparable to Cleveland Browns receiver Jarvis Landry, who has a similar build and is very quick despite not having elite speed. Proche will make most of the catches thrown to him, and will use his agility to get every extra possible yard, even hitting defenders in the process.
Coach Gru explained how Proche could mesh with the Ravens receivers. “He just needs to complement their skill set. His skill set is to be very reliable and trustworthy… Those guys will help stretch the defense and get James open.”
While exhibiting great slot ability in college, Proche can run a diverse route tree as well. Not only does he run routes with precision, but he can also run anything from a fade in the red zone to a slant route down the middle of the field, which can become very dangerous for defenses considering his hands and competitiveness. Proche will be a valuable weapon for Greg Roman, who can use him in a variety of situations, especially in the red zone. Proche’s physical ability complements his precise, versatile route running, allowing him to get open quite often.
James Proche may turn out to be one of the most versatile players on the Ravens. Having been a crucial special teams player at SMU, Proche showed the ability to return as well as block. “With his skill set he could be a big time special teams player… He blocks better than most guys I have been around, and then he would have been stellar on kickoff and kickoff return,” Gru said. This comes as great news for the Ravens who are lacking a reliable returner, and are always looking for top-notch special teams players.
What can Proche improve on?
Even though Proche is a definite steal for the Ravens coming in the 6th round, he still needs some development. One of the most glaring is his lack of a second gear in speed. While he is quick and agile, Proche does not have the kind of elite speed seen in receivers such as Henry Ruggs III and fellow rookie Devin Duvernay. This means in order for Proche to be effective, he will have to use his precise route running ability and quickness to get open.
In addition, Proche is at risk of being neutralized in press coverage. Since press coverage is aggressively used to disrupt route running and timing for receivers, this automatically plays against Proche’s game. Without elite speed, Proche will not be able to get open easily in this type of coverage and it may pose a threat to his effectiveness.
Proche will also have to deal with opposing teams knowing what to expect from him. Defenses know he wins catches through route running and strong hands, making him much easier to nullify.
What James Proche lacks in size and speed he makes up for in quickness, versatility, and competitiveness. He is a positive team player that will harmonize perfectly with the Ravens and Harbaugh’s coaching style. His ability at slot receiver and on special teams is something the coaching staff can employ to win games.
Based on his performance in college and the observations by Coach Gru, we can expect a very reliable receiver out of Proche in 2020 despite being a late-round pick. Ravens fans will be awaiting Proche’s debut at M&T Bank Stadium this fall.