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Illini Draft Profiles: Josh Imatorbhebhe

Inconsistent quarterback play last year kept Bhebhe from building on 2019’s numbers.

COLLEGE FOOTBALLL: NOV 02 Rutgers at Illinois Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Illinois wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe tested the NFL Draft process last year before returning to Champaign for the 2020 season. Unfortunately, the Illini offense sputtered and Bhebhe didn’t get the chance to improve upon his stellar 2019 numbers. This was obviously due more to Illinois’ inconsistent quarterback play than any deficiencies on his end, because anyone who watched Imatorbhebhe could clearly see his game-changing ability on display.

2020 was a weird season in which virtually every college program was derailed due to coronavirus concerns. Imatorbhebhe, playing with four different QBs — Brandon Peters, Matt Robinson, Coran Taylor & Isaiah Williams — led the Fighting Illini in receptions (22), yards (297), and TDs (3).

Michigan v Illinois Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Tyler Dunne wrote a fantastic piece last month about Imatorbhebhe’s journey. Originally a high school basketball phenom in Georgia, Bhebhe realized his future would be brighter by devoting all of his time to football. He ultimately committed to Southern Cal. But after three seasons of barely sniffing the field with the Trojans, Imatorbhebhe graduated early, entered the transfer portal and made his way to Illinois.

Even though his time with the Illini was short, it was incredibly impactful. Imatorbhebhe hauled in 12 touchdowns — tied for seventh in program history — despite suiting up in only 18 games. Those 12 scores came on 55 catches, a 21.8% touchdown rate. His numbers in 2019 were even more efficient: nine TDs on 33 receptions, a 27.2% touchdown rate. Bottom line, Bhebhe can go get it. You hear scouts and draft experts use terms like “body control” and “catch radius” when describing receiving prospects, and Imatorbhebhe certainly exhibits both of those traits.

The Measurables

At Illinois’ Pro Day in March, he wowed with a 46.5-inch vertical jump, which would have set the NFL Combine record:

He also clocked a 4.48 40-yard dash and recorded 24 reps on bench press.

An NFL Prospect

The obvious physical comparison would be Seattle Seahawks’ wideout DK Metcalf, a freak athlete at Ole Miss who was also hampered by iffy QB play. Pro scouts were also skeptical as to whether Metcalf’s physical gifts would translate into NFL success. Those skeptics look pretty damn silly now, as Metcalf is arguably a top-10 receiver in the game.

Imatorbhebhe — like Metcalf — seems bound to have a better pro career than a collegiate one. His combination of supreme confidence, tireless work ethic, and inhuman athletic ability should make an NFL team very happy on Day 3 of the draft.