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A Pre-Draft Look at Laquon Treadwell

Is Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell built for NFL excellence, megabust status, or something in between?

Laquon Treadwell dominated draft buzz among wide receivers as the 2015 NCAA season drew to a close. On the heels of a 82-1,153-11 junior campaign, Treadwell drew widespread comparisons to Dez Bryant, Alshon Jeffery, Allen Robinson, and DeAndre Hopkins as a big-bodied route runner capable of dominating less capable cover men.

But it’s March, and much of that momentum has been lost. Analysts have poked holes in Treadwell’s downfield and playmaking ability, and he declined to participate in speed or agility drills at the NFL Combine. And a handful of other talents have asserted themselves squarely toward the top of the WR board.

So, is Treadwell worth high consideration in the NFL Draft? More importantly, how should Joe Fantasy Owner approach him? Let’s see how Treadwell stacks up in three key components of a WR prospect: measured athleticism, on-field observation, and a college productivity review.


Ideal offensive fit: As a No. 2 option in an offense that values great edge blocking; one that asks its bigger receivers to beat the zone at the intermediate levels of the field, primarily on drags, sideline routes, and jump balls

Who he reminds me of: Jordan Matthews, Allen Hurns, Jaelen Strong, Hakeem Nicks

Projected draft range: Early second

Ideal draft range: Late first to mid-second


As an Athlete

2016 NFL Combine Measurements

Ht

Wt

Arm

Hand

40yd

Vert

Broad

3-Cone

20 Shuttle

6'2"

221

33.4

9.5

n/a

33.0

117

n/a

n/a

t14/42

5/42

t5/42

t19/42

n/a

t29/40

t28/40

n/a

n/a

Simply put, Treadwell doesn’t electrify the turf, and that was borne out at the Combine. The Combine is a useful tool, if only for highlighting what an underachieving player may be capable of and vice versa. Sometimes a receiver looks slower/faster than expected in game action because he’s schemed to play tighter/looser, or for a multitude of other reasons, but normalized workouts in an NFL training atmosphere can shed a lot of light. And Treadwell’s testing jibed with his tape, coming in subpar in explosion tests (vertical and broad jumps) after opting not to do any running drills. Jump numbers may be a bit overrated in judging a guy’s in-game leaping ability, but they can tell a lot about his lower-body explosivity, which drives his releases and launches. A subpar 40-yard dash doesn’t cripple a guy’s stock – DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57, after all. But draftniks have projected Treadwell to a 40-yard time in the 4.6s or worse, which would further ding his credibility as a top-tiered athlete among NFL wideouts.


On the Field

Downfield game: Treadwell didn’t run in Indianapolis, but that’s fine – we already have a pretty solid picture of his downfield ability. And it’s not overwhelming. Treadwell doesn’t dominate corners to assert himself there, and Ole Miss just didn’t throw to him much on deep go routes.  Rather, the team tended to scheme him down the field, cutting his routes around the 10- to 15-yard level and squaring him in toward the middle. That’s not damning, of course – any NFL team would love to utilize a receiver who can provide that.

But ultimately, a general lack of downfield juice can hamper one’s entire game in the pros. It allows less explosive cover men to hang around longer, and quicker, faster cornerbacks to stay in tight and pester in the intermediate game. We saw it in Hakeem Nicks, even before he was snakebitten by injuries. Aggressive zones were able to contain Nicks, whom no one feared as a scorcher, and limit his overall game while in his prime. And Treadwell fits that bill, looking generally long- and stiff-limbed when climbing through a cushion. He’s an NFL athlete, so teams can scheme him through zones here and there, but he’ll never be the type to consistently pull safety attention downfield.

It’s worth noting that WR authority Matt Harmon disagrees here. He cites Treadwell’s strong success rates vs. man coverage as an indication he’ll be able to win NFL battles. I won’t argue with Matt’s tape analysis, which is always top-notch. But I do wonder just how often he’ll win those 15+ yard matchups on the next level. And if he struggles to, I also wonder how valuable he’ll ultimately be to a team that invests a top-20 pick.

It’s also worth noting that Treadwell was used almost exclusively on the left side of the Ole Miss formation and didn’t always face top cornerbacks. When I pulled his Florida tape, for example, I was excited to watch him square off with Vernon Hargreaves, only to see a meager two snaps between the two. This wasn’t his fault, of course, but it didn’t give me the NFL preview I’d hoped for. (Treadwell was ultimately held to a 5-42-0 line by hit-or-miss sophomore CBs Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson. Still, it was encouraging that Tabor, who led the SEC in pass breakups, didn’t get his mitts on any of Treadwell’s throws. He’s an impressive receiver when the ball is in the air.)

Intermediate game: Here’s Treadwell’s strength – beating less physical defensive backs over the middle. You wouldn’t call him especially agile or quick-footed for a top WR prospect, but he’s capable of winning battles fresh out of his breaks with ball skills alone. Treadwell brings a tall, thick frame and plays to his measurables, boxing out coverage and staying on his QB’s side of defenders. And he’s a generally stellar catcher, snatching the ball instinctively with the fifth-longest arms of all combine wideouts.

That said, of course, so much of this polish comes into question as he translates to matchups with upgraded athletes. I’m a believer in Treadwell’s size, presence, and instincts, and I think he’s got a decent NFL floor. Nicks worked out great, after all, before an onslaught of injuries devastated his career. But with less of an athletic advantage than he’s used to, Treadwell could find himself struggling to make a big impact beyond the most ho-hum level of low-impact screens and curls.

Short game: Treadwell was used very frequently underneath, fed a solid diet of screens and quick slants. He isn’t a particularly dynamic athlete, so he didn’t look especially dazzling doing it. And as we’ve seen with Jordan Matthews, collegiate screen-and-slant dynamos are often exposed against better athletes and more disciplined front sevens. But Treadwell is at least fluid and disciplined, following blocks and moving downfield in one seamless process. He’s a sizeable target and not especially easy to bring down. He may never dominate the screen and slant games, but he should always hold his own on or above Matthews’ level.

Blocking: This really sets Treadwell apart, and it could keep him squarely in the first round – Treadwell is a hungry, violent blocker. He seeks out contact, and never really to a fault, as he seems to have a grasp on blocking principles like body framing and using the boundaries for help. There are coaches and front offices everywhere that value this deeply – how else do we explain nine NFL seasons of Michael Jenkins? – and in many cases, it’s a skill that can keep a struggling or overwhelmed receiver on the field.


College Productivity

Treadwell continues to show some warts here. For all of his pedigree, you would expect some stranglehold, if not domination, of his collegiate passing game. But despite his flashes, Treadwell never took nor even approached a 30% market share (MS) of Ole Miss’ receiving yardage. No, not even in his breakout 2015 was he the dominant option, posting a good-not-great 26.4% share. That’s solidly less of an impact than was made by Ole Miss predecessor Donte Moncrief (30% of team yardage in his sophomore year), and a far cry from all recently top-drafted wideouts. Here’s a look at the yardage market shares for all WRs drafted top-16 since 2010 – shares for their careers, their best seasons, and their final seasons:

Player

DraftYr

Pick

CarYdMS

BestYdMS

FinalYdMS

Amari Cooper

2015

4

0.358

0.444

0.444

Kevin White

2015

7

0.290

0.351

0.351

DeVante Parker

2015

14

0.272

0.565

0.565

Sammy Watkins

2014

4

0.302

0.338

0.338

Mike Evans

2014

7

0.287

0.304

0.304

Odell Beckham Jr.

2014

12

0.292

0.353

0.353

Tavon Austin

2013

8

0.282

0.300

0.300

Justin Blackmon

2012

5

0.360

0.429

0.302

Michael Floyd

2012

13

0.327

0.351

0.349

A.J. Green

2011

4

0.336

0.389

0.389

Julio Jones

2011

6

0.322

0.386

0.334

           

Laquon Treadwell

2016

 

0.230

0.265

0.265

By these usage and productivity measures, Treadwell looks more suited to the lower third of Round One, where solid all-around teams invest in speculative upside plays at WR. But as we know, Treadwell doesn’t have the athletic profile of a dynamic luxury gambled upon in the first round. Good teams (those picking later) aren’t in great overall need of stable new starters and tend to roll the dice on size/speed outliers (think Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Kelvin Benjamin, Cordarrelle Patterson, A.J. Jenkins, and Jon Baldwin). I’d say Treadwell has the look of a second-rounder, where collegiate “name” guys who fall get scooped by struggling offenses that couldn’t afford to take a wideout in the first. (Here, think Marqise Lee, Arrelious Benn, Torrey Smith, and Stephen Hill.)


Fantasy Application

At the moment, Treadwell looks likely to go higher than that, but perhaps he shouldn’t. Not only does he lack the athletic profile that tends to excel, he doesn’t project as a target-gobbling possession dynamo either. He looks closer to a Michael Crabtree type, minus the assertive domination of his college offense and the dazzling touchdown production.

So, to me, we’re looking a moderate first-round guy in rookie drafts. Treadwell has game, but he’s unlikely to fall beyond the top 3-5 picks of your rookie draft, and he’s going off the board a bit high (Round 8) in early MFL10 drafts, too. And he just doesn’t seem to offer the upside to support that, with mediocre touchdown potential and a lack of a dominant college resume. Even if he enters an offense with solid passing volume and the ability to see 80-100 targets off the bat, I’m not sure I see a ceiling beyond the likes of Leonte Carroo or Sterling Shepard, both of whom should lurk well down the road in any draft.