The Chargers have put off grooming Malcolm Floyd's replacement/getting a competent threat opposite of Keenan Allen 2 years in a row now. Based on his last season, Stevie Johnson appears to be best in the 3rd option role. Laquon Treadwell is the best receiver in the class and is a very good player. I'm not sure he's "invest in him 3rd in the draft" good. What I am sure is that there isn't this huge gap between Treadwell and the other receivers in the draft that most media has led us to believe. So this week i'll write about the 3 receivers that are on his heels.
Josh Doctson is a big receiver at 6'3, but is a slender 195 pounds. He's an interesting watch. Before the pass, he plays like a receiver you'd label as "small", both in a positive and negative way. The same can be said after the catch. So let's start there with Docton's game.
The good news with Doctson is that he wins at the line of scrimmage with his feet like a typical slot receiver would. On every level they teach you the same releases as far as footwork is concerned. 3 step releases: 1) Where you're going 2) Where you're not going 3) Where you're going. In Doctson's case, it's as if he lulls you to sleep and then on his second step he explodes out of his cut to create separation.
Understanding how to alter your speed and tempo as a route runner is far more important than being able to run a 4.3 40 yard dash. The eyeball test tells you that Doctson is impressive at the line of scrimmage especially considering his size. Doctson wins at the beginning and top of his routes with quick, efficient footwork and head fakes. Combining this with tempo allows him to create separation. I'd encourage you to follow Matt Harmon on twitter. He does in-depth work on receivers, and does an incredible job of putting numbers into perspective. The table below is from his NFL Draft receiver primer.
What we'll concentrate on here is the final column that compares Doctson's success rate against press coverage. 83% is an outstanding number and helps paint the consistent picture of Doctson at the line of scrimmage on just how successful he is.
Ironically where both receivers have trouble at the line of scrimmage is not being physical enough or using their hands to disengage from contact against the defender. I've seen Doctson get hung up just enough to where it could translate as a concern. This is the best example and it comes on a touchdown because of course.
Doctson can't go that many steps with a defender engaged on him and expect to win at the next level. In the vine as soon as the DB gets his hands on him he needs to use his left hand and swipe, slap or do something to get himself clean. An experienced corner at the next level will more than likely cut him off from getting to this ball because he'll still be engaged.
Maximizing yards after the catch
Inconsistent. That's the best way to describe Doctson. For whatever reason he's labeled as a possession receiver by some but he is much faster than given credit for and I believe he'll run sub 4.5 to prove that. There are plays where he'll stiff arm a defender, run through a tackle and break away for a long gain.
Doctson has pulled that stunt off more than a handful of times the past 2 years. The frustrating part is where Doctson will give himself up after the catch. Whether it's running out of bounds or having a 1-on-1 opportunity with a smaller DB and getting tackled. Won't shake him, won't try to run through him, nothing comes of it. I'm not looking for him to make 3 guys miss every time he has a chance to do so. I am looking for him to maximize every opportunity he gets and not leave yards on the field.
Adjusting and playing above the rim
-Josh Doctson runs routes ala Marvin Jones. Adjusts to poorly thrown passes ala Nuk. Attacks the in the air ala Allen Robinson. Him good— KP (@The_KP_Show) February 5, 2016
As far-fetched as that seems, Doctson has tremendous ability to track the ball in the air, high point the pass, control himself mid-air, and come down with some spectacular catches. Is Doctson plays like a 5'9 receiver before and after the catch then he plays like a 7'1 receiver when the ball is in the air.
no dummy, not saying he's as good as them but he wins early/late in routes.Adjusts crazy well. & plays above the rim pic.twitter.com/kIhstRBnj2— KP (@The_KP_Show) February 5, 2016
That's a handful of acrobatic catches that look simple.Those catches away from his body are not easy by any stretch of the imagination and he makes them look routine. That's a split second reaction you need to be able to react to a pass off target, locate it, then hang on through contact. Which is another area Doctson excels in.
Context in drops and contested catches
He had 5 drops in the 5 games I charted. Without any context that sounds like a lot. He dropped 2 passes against Texas Tech. He was also targeted 25 times that game. In those games he was targeted 73 times and a lot of those games he had extra attention. I'm in the camp where drops can be overstated and in Doctson's situation I'm not too worried about it at all.
Another trait we tend to over/under state is contested catches. It really depends on the type of receiver you are. In Doctson's case, considering he's going to be running the full route tree, it's very important. Doctson being targeted so many times gave us a good sample size on his all around game, including contested catches. In the 5 game sample size he caught 19/24 contested catches opportunities. I had to recheck that because there's no way a receiver is going to haul in just under 80% of their passes when a defender is draped over them or a safety is coming to knock their head off. Docston did exactly that.
His ability to make plays through contact and hold on after big hits is tops in the class.
Worth the wait
Doctson will be a 24 year old rookie which likely means he is what he is at this point. Many of the weaknesses you read are "upright route runner", "won't break many tackles", "didn't run the full route tree", and "lean frame and lacks strength." The 1st 1 doesn't really mean much considering he wins with his feet. As previously stated, where Doctson gets in trouble is not using his hands. He could have great pad level and it wouldn't matter. No argument on the fact that Doctson doesn't break tackles and lacks strength. I've seen the route tree thing a few times and that couldn't be further from the truth. In each of the 5 games Doctson ran at least 5 or more routes. That's far from an issue and he ti say he's not a proficient route runner would be assuming this was the case because he played in a spread offense. Doctson "won" 53 of his 67 routes when you take away the screens. That's good for 79% of his routes. You couldn't convince me he's a bad route runner.
The reason Doctson is worth the wait is because he's 90% of Treadwell. He's doesn't have the same "juice" Treadwell does after the catch but they both leave a lot to be desired in this category to be honest. As a pure receiver, there's not much, if anything, Treadwell does better than Doctson. He's considerably stronger, but doesn't separate as well, not as agile, nor is he better with the ball in the air. They're even in a lot of areas and most of this comes down to Doctson's age, which is fair.
If I'm drafting this year I'd wait on a receiver like Doctson who will be there at the end of the 1st or in the early 2nd. Doctson isn't what you would call a blue chip prospect but he is a player without many flaws in his game. I have a hard time believing he won't be successful at the next level due to his ability to excel in contested catching situations, adjust to poorly thrown passes, and play above the rim. Doctson can be 1 of the 10 best players in the draft when it's all said and done. What Docston is really good at is what you need to be really good at in the NFL. He's a nuanced enough route runner that he'll continue to get open and if he figures out how to use his hands, look out.