The 2016 NFL draft has a lot of great wide receivers, and former TCU Horned Frog Josh Doctson is one of the best. While he impressed with his showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, however, he isn’t believed to be the first receiver who should be taken in the draft. That needs to change.
Doctson is the best all-around wideout in this year’s class. Though he isn’t the fastest or the most athletic, he is underrated in both those regards. Not only that, but there isn’t a receiver with better hands or who is more comfortable making plays against coverage.
The No. 1 receiver in many mock drafts, like this one by Eric Edholm, is Laquon Treadwell because of his size and upside. However, when looking at the full package, Doctson has as much, or more, to offer.
First, Doctson is the best jump-ball receiver in the draft. The corner fade is one of the most overused and inefficient plays in college football, but Doctson has turned it into a near-sure thing.
Watch here as he attacks the ball in the air and maintains his body control to come down with both feet inbounds for a touchdown against Texas:
Josh Doctson's vertical game is ridiculous. Seems to have one or two of these type plays per game. https://t.co/goq54XdhZO— Terry Lambert (@TLambertFB) January 15, 2016
TCU went to this play a lot over the last two seasons, and Doctson almost always delivered thanks to his athleticism.
One would think Treadwell would have an advantage on these one-on-one fade plays because of his size. However, while Treadwell has more mass at 221 pounds compared to Doctson at 202, they’re the exact same height: 6’2”.
Doctson’s skills go beyond just going over defenders to make catches, though.
The former Horned Frog runs great routes, getting separation from defenders on a consistent basis. He catches the ball with his hands rather than letting it get into his body. He’s also comfortable making catches in traffic and against good coverage.
He ran a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash, better than most people expected. It would be tempting to assume that as a bigger receiver, he doesn’t have the ability to run away from a defense. Such an assumption would be wrong.
Here against West Virginia, not only does he run a great route on the slant to get separation, but after making the grab, he is able to accelerate away from the defender:
Contrary to what some say, Josh Doctson does have the ability to run away from CBs. https://t.co/8TUUsGqgvu— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) February 10, 2016
Treadwell didn’t run at the combine, so it isn’t clear how he and Doctson compare in that respect. But one of the biggest weaknesses to Treadwell’s game, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, is his lack of top-end speed.
How does Doctson compare with other top receivers in the draft? He lost the Biletnikoff Award to Baylor’s Corey Coleman, who has also been projected as a first-rounder.
Coleman is one of the fastest and most explosive players in the entire draft. He is better than Doctson in terms of getting yards after the catch and making defenders miss in the open field.
The concerns with Coleman revolve around the offense in which he played at Baylor. Bears head coach Art Briles told the Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Clegg that Coleman and other Baylor receivers are coached to take plays off when plays weren’t designed for them.
“Why make a dog chase an imaginary bone?” Briles asked. “If we’re going to run somebody [downfield], we’re going to throw them the ball.”
Baylor uses that approach to save its receivers’ energy, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. But Coleman won’t be able to do that at the NFL level. It also means he does not have as much practice as a run-blocker.
Doctson, on the other hand, was asked to give full effort on every play at TCU. He also has far more experience as a blocker. He ran a more diverse set of routes too. Coleman mostly ran go routes, curls and screens, while Doctson worked the middle of the field often. According to Pro Football Focus, 39 percent of his targets came on slants, in routes and post patterns that took him into the middle of the field:
TCU WR Josh Doctson by route pic.twitter.com/u3FsIDXH8J— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 28, 2016
Combine all of that with Doctson’s size advantage over the 5’11” Coleman, and Doctson should be the one with the higher projection.
Then there’s Ohio State’s Michael Thomas. The former Buckeye is the most appealing receiver of this group from a physical standpoint at 6’3” and 212 pounds. His problem is that he is the least polished of any of these receivers.
Like Coleman, Thomas wasn’t asked to run many different routes. Zierlein writes that he is still “figuring out this whole ‘route-running’ thing.” The scout also said Thomas’ effort coming back to the ball and working as a run-blocker needs work as well, both things Doctson has shown he can do.
“While he has the size and potential to excite offensive coordinators,” Zierlein said, “Thomas is still a work in progress who must develop a greater feel for the position if he is to match his traits with real NFL production.”
Doctson was no longer in the public eye after a wrist injury in early November. Yet even after he missed most of TCU’s final four games of the year, he still ended the year at No. 11 in receiving yards (1,327) and No. 5 in receiving touchdowns (14).
Few receivers in college football were as dominant as Doctson was when he was healthy. Fewer had skill sets as complete as his. That’s why if a team wants to take a receiver in the first round, Doctson should be at the top of the list.