The three-sport high school athlete signed with South Alabama over Michigan State and Vanderbilt. He redshirted his 2017 true freshman season after a knee injury during training camp. By his redshirt junior year, he was named All-Sun Belt Conference and opted to return for his redshirt senior year in 2021 where he became the conference Offensive Player of the Year and set school single-season records with 82 catches for 1,474 yards and eight scores.
Tolbert enters the NFL draft at a mature 23 years old, already two years older than any of the current top tier of rookie wideouts. He’s a year older than Ja’Marr Chase. He only started his final two seasons at South Alabama but excelled in each. No other receiver gained more than 630 yards in either season, while Tolbert’s final year was among the best in the NCAA.
Weight: 194 pounds
40 time: 4.49 seconds
While Tolbert enters the draft as an “old” rookie, there’s no arguing how he dominated the competition last year when he logged seven games with more than 100 yards and averaged 18 yards-per-carry. He didn’t get the attention of receivers from more prominent schools, but he’s progressed each year and has the look of a starter in the NFL.
Table: Jalen Tolbert NCAA stats (2018-21)
- Played multiple positions
- Outstanding big-play ability
- Three-level ability
- Stellar body control at the catch point
- Knack for getting open
- Tremendous work ethic, student of the game
- Improved every season
- Wins contested catches
- High average catch yardage thanks to run after catch
- Gains separation with quickness off the line
- Sometimes rounds off routes
- Run blocking can improve
- Occasional focus drops
- Lacks elite second-gear acceleration
Tolbert is likely to be a second-day pick. He offers a more complete package than many other rookie wideouts with four college seasons behind him and an ability to play the outside or slot. Tolbert can fit in where the team needs him to be. Though he is already 23, he still has plenty to learn entering the NFL but his attitude and impressive work ethic should see his progress as a receiver continue.
Tolbert is a sleeper type that could easily develop into an NFL starter. He’ll be available to any NFL team given that he’s going to fall between the second and third rounds. Tolbert’s a hard worker and quick study, and if he lands on a team that needs a starting wideout in any of the three positions, Tolbert will compete for that job. He’s likely a better bet in a dynasty league since he does have to adapt to the pro ranks after playing the likes of Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, and Georgia Southern, but he’s an athletic, mature, high-motor player that comes off a college season averaging 123 yards per game.
At the least, he’s a training camp watch to see how well he fits into wherever he lands. At the most, he could be a deep sleeper on a receiver-needy team.