Name: M.J. McFarland
40 Time: NA
High School: El Dorado
Rivals Rating: 4*, 5.8
ESPN Recruiting Evaluation ($)
McFarland at the high school level is a plus-size wide receiver. At the college level he could stay listed as a receiver and be a possession type, but he will most likely fit more into the tight end mold. He has good height and bulk and the room to add more size as he continues to physically develop. He has very good and soft hands and is consistently able to extend his arms and attack the ball. He displays good concentration and body control to adjust to the ball and will go up and compete for it. The biggest obstacle for him as a wide receiver is speed as he does not display ideal straight-line speed for that position and even as a tight end he does not come across as a weapon that can stretch the field. For a player with his size he does have long strides and does not come across as overly fluid. He does present some deceptive playing speed and runs solid routes. He is also good at getting off defenders and into his route and after the catch is much harder to tackle then you might think. He stays under control and is very good at using his off hand to stiff arm and swat potential tacklers by. His ability as a blocker is a bit of a question at this point. He is kid that will likely flex out often in college and be used like a big receiver, but to ideally develop into his best fit he will need to also be able to contribute as a blocker. McFarland comes across as a big and reliable target in the passing game.
When you think of the prototypical tight end, McFarland is the kind of guy who comes to mind. He has soft hands and can make any kind of catch, especially the spectacular ones. Like 2012 stud WR Cayleb Jones, McFarland is capable of making stellar one-handed catches, particularly over the middle.
M.J. played more of a true receiver role in high school, so he's a well-developed route runner who understands the intricacies of precise route patterns and getting open against various coverages. We haven't seen anybody with this kind of refinement since Blaine Irby was healthy.
McFarland also has surprisingly good post-catch ability for such a big guy and shows good initial burst upfield with a strong stiff arm that can really terrorize the opposition. He's a versatile TE threat that you can throw a sideline screen to (please don't cry, remember GD is gone and the screens should be executed with much more efficiency and better blocking) and expect him to make a move and get good yardage as well as not get caught behind the line of scrimmage. He's also a big time vertical threat and a game changer as a deep ball receiver.
Lastly, he shows very good jumping ability to make catches over smaller defenders. Could be a plus red zone threat for fade routes or back-of-the-endzone throws.
M.J. doesn't have much experience as a blocker right now since he played receiver primarily in high school, so he'll have to work on that. He does show ability as a blocker because he's just flat-out bigger than whomever he's playing against right now, but he'll have to work on his technique once he gets to Texas.
Biggest weakness is his straight-line speed in space and his ability to outrun pursuing defenders. M.J. also needs to improve his hip fluidity in breaking in and out of his routes.
Target Body Type
McFarland will have to add strength to his frame if he wants to block Big 12 DEs. I love his frame, which is basically the ideal for an NFL TE. He's at least 235 right now and should be able to add 20 pounds in the improved strength program without losing anything in the athleticism department. This guy at 255 or 260 would be practically unguardable in the passing game because he's so versatile and athletic.
It sounds like an exaggeration, but his ball and post-catch skills really evoke images of San Diego Chargers future HOF Antonio Gates. Like Gates, McFarland isn't an absolute blazer and uses excellent athleticism, smart route running ability, and ridiculous hands to torch receivers. Neither are refined blockers.
Personally, I think McFarland has more of a chance to be a star TE than anybody we've recruited since Jermichael Finley. Hes got everything you want in a young player as well as having plenty of room to grow. Definitely a sleeper in the class that I don't think enough people talk about.
That said, with the sheer quantity of TEs ahead of him on the roster I'm not sure I can see M.J. contributing as a true freshman, despite the fact that he's probably the most talented of them. What really works in his favor is Bryan Harsin's penchant and love for using multiple tight end sets in various productive ways. Rumors are flying that TE coach Bruce Chambers will take a job with DISD and that former TE coach Tim Brewster will replace him. Nothing substantive right now on that point but Brewster would be a huge boon to McFarland's development if he turned out to be the guy. Regardless, whomever is coaching TEs next year for Texas will get a huge talent boost with M.J. coming in.