NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
Jeremy Gallon is the smallest wide receiver the New England Patriots have drafted in the Bill Belichick era. But even at 5’7” and 185 pounds, the seventh-round draft pick by way of Michigan has been known to make a contribution far greater than his stature.
That’s been evident since his days at Apopka High School in central Florida, where he played quarterback, running back and safety.
Gallon was a three-year letterman who amassed 1,624 passing yards and 15 touchdowns, along 4,281 rushing yards and 53 touchdowns over his career with the Blue Darters. From there, he journeyed to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and then Ann Arbor, where he redshirted as a freshman in 2009.
That acclimation period saw Gallon transition to receiver and play in 12 games in the fall of 2010. As a slot target, he snared four passes for 49 yards and a score. As a return man, he tacked on 10 punt returns for 43 yards and 27 kick returns for 589 yards.
And by the time he was a redshirt sophomore in 2011, Gallon was an integral part of the Wolverines offense. His 31 receptions for 453 yards and three touchdowns ranked second on the team. But he also provided a versatile presence with three carries for 26 yards, three kick returns for 46 yards and 19 punt returns for 192 yards.
Gallon’s role grew as 2012 rolled around, even when his frame didn’t. He led the team in receiving with 49 passes for 829 yards and four TDs. He was a factor on reverses, taking 11 handoffs downfield for 67 yards. And on special teams, he netted 14 combined returns for 89 yards.
Gallon was a dynamic threat on a team transitioning from a spread-option to a pro-style offensive attack. His production illustrated that. Nonetheless, few foresaw the compact playmaker having the redshirt senior campaign that he did.
While he handled seven punts for 32 yards and three carries for four yards in 2013, it was his 89 receptions for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns that stood above the rest. He notched a Big Ten single-game record for receiving yards with 14 catches for 369 yards and two touchdowns versus Indiana on Oct. 19. And by the time his final college game was over, Gallon found himself second in the conference in receiving.
He also found himself the 10th Michigan receiver to cross the century mark in a season.
Soon after, Gallon was invited to the East-West Shrine Game this January and led the East side in receiving. He was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this February and clocked a 4.49-second 40-yard dash. He participated in Michigan’s pro day this March and stood out with a broad jump of 10 feet, 10 inches, along with a vertical leap of 39 1/2 inches.
Even so, Gallon still loomed under the NFL draft radar for reasons out of his control. As a 24-year-old receiver in the mold of a third-down back, the possibility that he would go undrafted remained a distinct one.
That changed at pick 244 overall.
It was then, in the afternoon hours of May 10, that Belichick and Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio decided to take a flier on Gallon. His selection added an 11th name to a receiving corps already headlined by Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins.
That reality leaves the odds stacked against Gallon.
In many ways, however, that’s nothing new to him. Over his 50 contests with the Wolverines, Gallon found ways to overcome his natural deficiencies.
He did so by revealing the burst off the line, the precise routes to dip his hips and accelerate through breaks, the adlib adjustments to track the football, the toughness and strong hands to make catches through contact, and the low center of gravity to stay on his feet into the open field.
He may not be a track star. He may not be the most powerful runner, either. But his elusiveness and stability spinning out of would-be tackles can be equally effective.
That is, at least in part, why Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke had a hard time subbing him out of the huddle.
Gallon was trusted as a sole split end in loaded personnel for quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner. In the every-down set, he carved a spot as a flanker. He created separation on double-move fades, post routes and dig routes under that capacity. But he was a go-to option on quick-outs and fire screens as well.
Regardless, it remains to be seen how those skills will translate at the next level, where heavy press-man coverage and long, agile cornerbacks await.
There are instances where Gallon gets disheveled by strong arm-jams into his chest, though he often makes up for it by finding the soft spot in shell coverage and eating up ground against off-man. There are instances where Gallon drops completions when he looks upfield before looking the ball in, yet he also reveals the instincts to work back to dive underneath throws. And there are instances where his 29 1/2-inch arms limit his catch radius, but there’s something to be said for the body control he flashes to reel in passes outside his area code.
As a result, he isn’t easily defined.
It’s fair to say Gallon isn’t an outside “X” receiver, but he carries some technical traits of one. His short-area quickness helps him play bigger than his size, and he will draw penalty flags because of it. He sells his inside moves and can box out corners as he leans back towards the boundary. He employs his athleticism to elevate above the rim for the ball.
Those features may very well make him a fit for New England.
He believes so.
“They’re known for having smaller guys,” Gallon said on his post-draft conference call. “They seem to just keep producing smaller guys that work in smaller spaces against big people. I just felt like it would be a good fit here as far myself and how I play and what I can bring and what they have for me to bring to the table.”
Gallon brings a lot to the table. He can make overhead or sideline receptions just as sufficiently as he can make over-the-middle ones. He can take handoffs. He can compete on special teams.
He can can do a lot of things that warrant a 53-man roster spot. And he has proven that the way in which he excels doesn’t hinge on height.