Why Josh Doctson is Safest Wide Receiver in 2016 NFL Draft

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Why Josh Doctson is Safest Wide Receiver in 2016 NFL Draft
Brandon Wade/Associated Press

TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson is not the most physically gifted prospect as his position in the 2016 NFL draft.

He lacks the speed of Notre Dame's Will Fuller or the strength of Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell. But Doctson may have the most complete package of skills, which should allow for a smooth transition to life in the NFL.

We routinely see NFL teams fall in love with the elite athletes at the wide receiver position despite the fact that others with a more well-rounded skill set often end up outplaying their more highly regarded peers at the next level.

The 2014 draft provided a great example of this trend, as the Buffalo Bills not only selected Sammy Watkins fourth overall but traded their 2015 first-round selection in order to make it happen.

Watkins' career has gotten off to a nice start, but it would difficult to imagine the Bills making that selection again with Odell Beckham Jr. still on the board. Beckham went 12th overall to the New York Giants. Even Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans (seventh overall) has arguably outplayed Watkins to this point in their careers.

In 2013, the St. Louis Rams fell victim to the same trend, taking the electric Tavon Austin eighth overall, while the Houston Texans were able to land DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th selection.

Elite athleticism does not always translate to NFL success, but the other receivers mentioned—Hopkins, Beckham and Evans—all possess the same trait which has a strong correlation between success in college and the pros.

Each of these receivers lacks the explosive traits of Watkins or Austin but makes up for it with elite ball skills.

Though the term "ball skills" is often mistaken for a simple lack of drops, it goes much deeper than that.

Having reliable hands is part of the equation, but Doctson puts himself in the category with the likes of Hopkins, Beckham and Evans because of his ability to adjust to the ball and put himself in position to make the difficult contested catches.

According to CFB Film Room, Doctson hauled in over 50 percent of his targets in contested situations in 2015:

For this reason, Doctson doesn't necessarily need to create separation in order to make plays, which makes his modest speed and agility mostly irrelevant.

TCU recognized this fact, and it showed in its usage of Doctson.

While TCU utilized Doctson all over the field, according to Pro Football Focus, 24 percent of his targets came on go routes, which wouldn't be possible without his ability to win the battle for jump balls.

Many of Doctson's receptions on go routes looked like the one below. Despite strong coverage from the Kansas State cornerback, Doctson tracks the ball and times his leap perfectly, allowing him to complete the contested catch.

Credit: YouTube

It's also important to note that Doctson was able to support his on-field performance with strong combine numbers in the relevant workouts.

As NFL.com's Chase Goodbread noted, Doctson's leaping ability was on full display in Indianapolis:

It's reasonable to rank other receivers in this class higher than Doctson based on their ceiling, but it's difficult to find anyone with a skill set better suited for a smooth transition to the NFL.

Doctson's ability to make plays in coverage is a skill that we've seen translate from the college game to the pros consistently. Perhaps Doctson's upside is limited by his lack of elite size (6'2", 202 lbs) or speed, but his ball skills make him one of the few instant-impact receivers in this class and give him a very high floor as a prospect.

For these reasons, Doctson should be considered one of the safest prospects in the entire 2016 NFL draft class.

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