The 2017 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team included Chase Claypool, Miles Boykin, and Equanimeous St. Brown, but it was actually KJ Stepherson who led the team in receiving yards per game and receiving touchdowns. Stepherson played 17 total games at Notre Dame in 2016 and 2017; he had a total of 44 receptions, 821 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns. He also had five carries for 76 rushing yards.
At Notre Dame, he played against top-level competition. He played in seven games as a sophomore, and four of those games were against top 25 opponents. He had 112 receiving yards against #21 Stanford, which included an 83-yard touchdown reception. He also scored a touchdown against 2017 first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson, when Notre Dame played #11 USC.
Here’s one more of him cooking Adoree’ Jackson— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) February 22, 2021
Stepherson had career derailed with off-field issues but is absurdly talented and by all accounts back on track pic.twitter.com/O9E8zxYR6o
However, Stepherson had a lot of problems off the field during his tenure at Notre Dame. In the summer of 2016, he was arrested in Fulton County, Indiana for marijuana possession and possession of a handgun without a license. Five of his teammates were also arrested in the incident. In December of 2017, he was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession, driving without a valid license, and speeding. Then, he was arrested for shoplifting at a Macy’s the following day. Subsequently, he was dismissed from the team.
Ultimately, Stepherson transferred to Jacksonville State in 2019. He appeared in nine games for the team and recorded 36 receptions for 479 yards and six touchdowns.
It is difficult to evaluate Stepherson. His Notre Dame film is now nearly four years old. At Jacksonville State, he did not play against nearly the same level of competition playing in the Ohio Valley Conference. More importantly, he was not astoundingly dominant there, either. I recently wrote a profile on Jonathan Adams Jr., who is a wide receiver who plays in the Sun Belt Conference, and he put up 1,111 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in 10 games last season.
Stepherson’s measurables are a mixed bag, as well. His high school numbers are very good. According to Rivals.com, he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, and he had a vertical jump of 40 inches. However, he participated in Auburn’s pro day, and those numbers dropped significantly. In Auburn, he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and recorded a vertical jump of 38.5 inches. His 4.22 shuttle was more encouraging; only four wide receivers posted a better time at the 2020 NFL combine (Isaiah Hodgins, Michael Pittman, Devin Duvernay, John Hightower).
There is a strong case that Stepherson has not reached his ceiling, yet, and there is upside here. He has not had an off-the-field incident in a few years. PFF’s Mike Renner ranked him 153rd overall on his February big board, and Stepherson is noticeably absent from other outlet’s big boards. I would not rank Stepherson as high as Renner. There are many talented wide receivers in this class, and I consider players like Adams, Marquez Stevenson, and D’Wayne Eskridge to be better options in that range. On the other hand, I definitely believe he is talented enough to get drafted.
The Ravens need a wide receiver, who can contribute immediately, and they are better off drafting a receiver on Day 2. Nevertheless, Stepherson would be a solid value pick in the sixth or seventh round.