CFF Player Profile: Nelson Agholor, WR
Gordon McGuinness profiles Nelson Agholor, showing how he might fit on draft day and as a rookie in the NFL.
CFF Player Profile: Nelson Agholor, WR
If you’ve been keeping up to date with our draft coverage so far, you’ll know how much we like this wide receiver class. The 2014 draft brought us some fantastic rookie performances, but we think this group has the talent to at least match them long-term. We’ve already covered player profiles for Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Jaelen Strong and DeVante Parker, so now let’s take a look at another potential first-round draft pick in USC’s Nelson Agholor.
A player who right now is in the group below the “big three” of Cooper, White and Parker, Agholor is someone who isn’t the most polished receiver coming into the draft, but does enough things really well that many think he can develop into something special.
Overview and Stats
Despite two poor games, against Fresno State and UCLA, Agholor had a very strong season for the Trojans, finishing the year with 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns as a receiver. For most of the year he displayed solid hands, with five drops against Fresno State and Cal combined, compared with just two the rest of the season. Throughout the season he proved he can be a big-play threat as a receiver and not just on special teams, with a reception of 20 yards or more in eight games in 2014.
Where Agholor may find his niche in the NFL, particularly early in his career, is from the slot. USC moved him around plenty in college, taking advantage of matchups, as he saw his 843 snaps last season split between the slot and outside receiver, and a smaller selection of plays lined up at tight end and running back. He was very effective from the slot, though, as the table below suggests.
The stats show Agholor to be a solid receiver who can do a lot of damage from the slot, but what do we see on film? Well, the first thing that you notice about him is that he’s a nice smooth route runner, who can trick opposing defensive backs with some clever double moves. He isn’t as fast off the line as some of the others — something he’ll need to work on in the NFL — but when he gets going, he has enough speed to cause problems deep for opposing defenses.
He was really impressive after the catch, showing good instincts and making quick cuts to beat those who tried to tackle him, helping him finish tied for sixth in the class with 17 missed tackles forced over the course of the season. The quick nature of the cuts are evident when you watch him on returns too, which saw him average 13.0 yards per return and score two touchdowns from just 14 punt returns. For an example of this check out his return with 9:59 remaining in the first quarter of the game against Arizona State, where his first step gives him the room to burst free.
He’s not the finished article, though, if he was we’d be talking about him in the same category as Cooper, White and Parker, and there are some things he needs to work on. At times he allowed defensive backs to knock the ball loose with contact, and given that’s something he’ll likely see more often in the NFL, he needs to learn to secure the ball better once it gets there. There are also times where he tries to dance and weave his way through traffic after the catch. It worked in college, but it’s the sort of thing that won’t come as easy in the NFL, with bigger and better tacklers waiting for him.
While he’s not up there with the Top 3 in this class, Nelson Agholor makes a lot of sense in the second half of Round 1. In a draft that is deeper at wide receiver than any other position, he’s the type of player who could be picked up late in the first and contribute right away as a slot receiver and a punt returner. He won’t be restricted to purely being a slot receiver in the NFL, however, with the size and speed to do damage on the outside too… and with a bit of coaching to smooth the edges, he could wind up being a steal.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.