Laquon Treadwell Doesn't Need Elite Speed to Succeed in the NFL

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystMarch 28, 2016

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Laquon Treadwell #1 of the Mississippi Rebels celebrates his touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the second quarter of the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Very few young athletes step into the NFL with complete skill sets. Those who do are considered elite prospects. There isn't an elite wide receiver prospect available in this year's draft class.

Despite this perception, successful wide receivers will come into the NFL after being selected in late April and produce at a high level.

For most of this year's draft cycle, Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell carried the designation as the top wide receiver prospect. One question loomed throughout the process, though: How fast could he actually run?

The correct answer: It doesn't matter.


Anyone watching Rebels film could clearly see Treadwell isn't a burner. His game isn't predicated on taking the top off a defense.

So it came as no surprise when he couldn't break the 4.6-second barrier on Monday at Ole Miss' pro day. He unofficially ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash, according to the Houston Chronicle's John McClain:

John McClain @McClain_on_NFL

Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell ran 4.65 and 4.63 at pro day. Both unofficial. Pro days r usually faster than combine. He didn't run at combine

Is Treadwell's time ideal? No. And he may not even be the first wide receiver selected in April. Baylor's Corey Coleman, Ohio State's Michael Thomas and TCU's Josh Doctson are also vying for that distinction.

But NFL.com's Chase Goodbread best encapsulated the overall sentiment regarding Monday's performance in the 40-yard dash:

Chase Goodbread @ChaseGoodbread

Treadwell didn't hurt himself with a 4.63. Ran about what was expected.

Comparisons to other successful wide receivers immediately popped up on social media after the 4.65-second effort.

After all, the Miami Dolphins' Jarvis Landry ran a 4.77-second 40-yard dash at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He set a franchise record with 110 receptions this past season.

Let's not forget Anquan Boldin, either. Boldin is the poster boy for a poor 40 time—4.72 seconds at the 2003 NFL combine—before going on to a Hall of Fame-caliber career.

Granted, some will argue Jerry Rice is the best example of a wide receiver supposedly running poorly before he became the greatest of all time, but the league's all-time leading receiver continues to deny he ran as slowly as the myth perpetuates.

If these examples can succeed in the NFL and produce at a very high level, why can't Treadwell?

It's simple. He will almost certainly be an early draft pick with the opportunity to experience success from the start of his career. His 40-yard-dash time will then become another anecdote for the next top receiver prospect who doesn't run as well as expected.

"He's going to get beat up because he's slow but I like everything else he does," an AFC scout told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "You would think scouts would learn about overestimating speed and underestimating tape. He'll go in the first but not sure how high."

The Illinois native knew he needed to address the potential issue long before he actually ran in front of NFL scouts. Treadwell didn't run at the NFL combine, but he made sure to discuss his feelings about the importance of the 40-yard dash and questions about his speed, per ChicagoFootball.com's Kevin Fishbain:

Kevin Fishbain @kfishbain

Re-post of what Laquon Treadwell said to me in January about the knocks on his speed. Strong response: https://t.co/F7EBeZwaiV

The wide receiver is absolutely correct. Too much emphasis is placed on one athletic event instead of the entire picture.

In two seasons, Treadwell proved to be one of college football's premier wide receivers. After three years in Oxford, Mississippi, 247Sports' former No. 1 overall wide receiver recruit left the Rebels program ranked second all-time with 196 receptions and fourth with 2,322 receiving yards and 18 touchdown catches.

His presence within Ole Miss' record books is even more impressive considering the fact that he missed the last four games of the 2014 campaign following a gruesome injury where he broke his fibula and dislocated an ankle.

Treadwell came back in 2015 in better overall shape and posted new career highs with 82 receptions, 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns.

After his junior season, a decision to leave for the professional ranks only seemed logical.

For most incoming prospects, a particular scheme or usage in line with a player's unique skills best indicates the player's overall success.

Treadwell is a physical target at 6'2" and 217 pounds—he weighed 221 pounds at the combine—with the type of length to overwhelm smaller cornerbacks.

For example, the Ole Miss wide receiver caught five passes for 80 yards and a touchdown in September against the eventual national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

David Helman of the Dallas Cowboys' official website provided video of the touchdown reception:

David Helman @HelmanDC

Oh no! Laquon Treadwell's 40 times are not very impressive! (Proceeds to yawn very loudly). https://t.co/qAXEDLtPlI

This particular reception is important on many levels.

First, the wide receiver beat Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones cleanly off the line. Second, Treadwell got on top of Jones—who ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the combine. Finally, Ole Miss' top target used his body to go up and come down with the ball against the 5'10" defensive back.

Even without elite top-end speed, Treadwell can consistently win as long as he remains physical, relies on his technique and uses his body to gain separation.

Obviously, there are other receivers in this class like Coleman and Notre Dame's Will Fuller who can use their speed as vertical threats, but they can't do the same things as the Ole Miss product due to the big receiver's body control, strength and length.

Treadwell is absolutely fearless over the middle and serves as a reliable target. He'll also make a few highlight-reel catches.

But he'll never be the same type of receiver as A.J. Green or Julio Jones. Those two were elite prospects with complete games. Treadwell shouldn't be viewed in this manner, yet he absolutely displays the necessary skills to consistently win at the NFL level and become a valuable part of a team's passing game.

"I’ve seen guys run real fast and then play real slow," San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said nearly two years ago, per Andrew Pentis of the 49ers' team site. "I’ve seen guys run slow and play fast. That’s why, to me, the film doesn’t lie."

Speed kills in the NFL, but it takes more than speed to be a successful NFL wide receiver.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.


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