Lottery Tickets is a breakdown series of the lesser known players who have a chance to make the Chiefs Week 1 roster. Leading up to training camp, we’ll be profiling the intriguing undrafted free agents and reserve/future contract players that show the ability to potentially stick in the NFL.
Why is this series called Lottery Tickets? The players we discuss are high-upside players that haven’t significantly affected the Chiefs bottom line, but the returns could be substantial.
The Chiefs have creatively attacked positions of need and depth through the undrafted free agent market. We’ve discussed a few of those players already (Mark Field and James Williams), but neither of those intriguing prospects can lay claim to a $100,000-plus signing bonus like Syracuse wide receiver Jamal Custis.
Chiefs were so determined to add more WR talent that they gave undrafted Syracuse WR Jamal Custis over $100K in guaranteed money, believed to be the highest guarantee for any undrafted WR over the past two drafts, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) May 3, 2019
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver earned a relatively large six-figure guarantee from the Chiefs. With a lot of uncertainty about the receiver position for 2019 and beyond, general manager Brett Veach aggressively ensured Custis would be in the mix. What do they like about him?
I have some ideas. It starts with his ability to track the ball.
Custis has displayed an impressive ability to track the ball. Excellent catch here. pic.twitter.com/JScT73IVQz— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 6, 2019
There’s several clips similar to this one of Custis locating the ball over his shoulder. He’s consistently giving himself a chance on plays similar to this. What’s more is he was able to get his feet in bounds to complete the catch. For a man his size, his body control is exceptional.
Much like this play as well:
Jamal Custis earned the biggest UDFA money guarantee the Chiefs handed out this year. He's a big body receiver with good body control for a man his size. pic.twitter.com/Is5KpbCiBM— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 6, 2019
Custis gets a good outside release off the snap. He does a great job using his length as he turns to locate the ball to keep distance between himself and the cornerback with a subtle extension of his arm into the back of the defender. Custis makes a good adjustment to the ball and keeps one foot in for a touchdown. He’ll need two feet moving forward, but it’s a positive takeaway.
A lot the plays you’re going to get excited about Custis are big gains down the field. It’s where he shines. It’s also the most consistent them from his game.
Jamal Custis eats up cushion fast with his long strides. Good job getting across the field here, then adjusting to make a catch behind his body. pic.twitter.com/1DjePD920J— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 6, 2019
If you’re not pressing Custis, he’ll get on you quick with his strides. He closes the gap in off-coverage fast. On this play, he works across the field with his long strides and makes another great adjustment to the ball. It’s a trend with him.
Custis is unique in combining those traits in a 6-foot-4 frame and these are the kinds of things he’ll have to show to make this team. What’s more—this play is made out of structure. Custis seems to be capable of good things out of structure, as it showed up more than once on his tape. It could benefit Custis to display that ability during the preseason, as Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes thrives in that environment.
This play from Matt Lane shows a good summation of what you get with Custis at his best:
Custis' ball tracking— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) May 6, 2019
- Slow plays release
- Uses inside arm swipe to get free
- Long strides eat up ground so fast when unimpeded
- Ability to locate the ball early and adjust at any speed is insane
- Drifts out but still boxes out CB completely
- Late hands give DB no tip pic.twitter.com/fgfl30PbTj
Good release off the ball, the long strides, the ability to track the ball over his shoulder and forcing the defensive back to play through his large frame. If the downfield ability translates to the next level, Mahomes would be a perfect quarterback to get Custis the ball in places to succeed.
Why he went undrafted
Custis is a big receiver during a time in which big receivers are being devalued. The last few years have seen a trend of teams desiring speed and quickness to separate rather than an ability to win with length and physicality and at the catch point.
On the AP Draft Show this season, my co-host Jake Stack comped Custis to Iowa State wideout Hakeem Butler. The closest athletic profile to Custis is actually Hakeem Butler:
There are some similarities. Butler’s draft stock saw a dip all the way to day three regardless of an excellent athletic profile and some of the better catches in the class. Teams just worry about players that big and their ability to separate from smaller defenders.
On tape, Custis needs to improve on his releases.
At 6'5" 215lbs, Custis simply can't let this happen and there are just too many instances he gets held up at the LoS— Matt Lane (@ChiefinCarolina) May 6, 2019
- Tries to sell the slow release, gets caught by a shorter CB's punch
- Can't clear quickly and can't get position on the slant
- DB is holding but fight through pic.twitter.com/4KGcLfJOov
Custis does a great job varying his releases off the ball. He has many releases he’s utilized, but he’s a master of none. This is a poor showing, especially in the red zone. He lets the cornerback get right into his chest, and the rep is over from there. He’s going to need to build a robust plan to get off the ball and improve consistency.
Custis also leaves a lot to be desired as a blocker.
"Blocking as a receiver is attitude."— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) June 6, 2019
Andy Reid likes receivers who can block, and Custis leaves a little bit to be desired in that area. He's not bad, but I think there's more there. pic.twitter.com/9JQZjr7Wn4
Blocking should be a dominant trait for Custis, but he is a little underwhelming in that regard. His size is a major advantage as a blocker that he doesn’t use to its ability. He’s a little too passive, waiting for the defender to come to him.
If he played with a more aggressive mentality, he could be an excellent blocker. There’s a line between being controlled as a blocker and being passive. Custis hasn’t found that line. If he’s going to make this team, he’ll need to take steps in training camp as a blocker.
The bottom line
Custis has some quality traits that could shine in training camp, but there’s a lot of competition for those final receiver spots. He’d benefit from adding some value with good performance on special teams, but I’m not entirely sure that’s a place he’ll thrive.
His skill set as a receiver is obvious (size, body control, ball tracking), but he’ll need to improve his release, his tendency to body catch, his route tree and blocking if he wants to be one of the final 53 standing.
There are other receivers (like Cody Thompson) who may be better positioned to make the roster, but if Custis’ big-play ability shows up in July, he could make the decision making process difficult.