Monson: Why Laquon Treadwell is not a top WR prospect

Sam Monson opens up his Analysis Notebook to take an in-depth look at Laquon Treadwell ahead of the 2016 NFL draft.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Monson: Why Laquon Treadwell is not a top WR prospect


With the 2016 draft season underway, Sam Monson will open up his Analysis Notebook once again to share an in-depth evaluation of one top prospect each week. This week, we’ll explore the strengths, weaknesses and bottom-line scouting report for Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. 

Laquon Treadwell is one of the marquee names in the upcoming draft, and many consider him to be the best receiver available. He certainly looks the part at 6-2 and 210-pounds, and this past season he caught 82 passes for over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, Treadwell is not considered PFF’s top-rated receiver, and there are concerns to his game that many seem to gloss over.

He ended the season 19th in the nation among receivers in PFF’s college grades, jumping only as high as 13th if we narrow it to this year’s draft class.

That isn’t necessarily a bad place to be – it’s only marginally behind Corey Coleman of Baylor in grading terms, and just above Michael Thomas of Southern Miss and Leonte Carroo of Rutgers. However, the point remains that his grades do not reflect his overall reputation for a potential top-five selection in the draft.

What he does well

Treadwell does two things very well, and a couple more things pretty well. Both of his best traits are on evidence in this play against Alabama. Working against Cyrus Jones – no slouch as a cornerback – Treadwell defeats contact near the line, wins the hand fighting and gains position down the sideline before going up over the defensive back to win the jump ball.

Treadwell

Those are the two separate traits that stood out in Treadwell’s game: the ability to defeat press/contact on release and the ability to win jump balls.

A receiver of Treadwell’s size but relative lack of blazing speed and quickness often saw press coverage at the line. Players tried to disrupt his route on release, screw up the timing of the pattern and generally attempt to make him an easier proposition to cover before he really got going. Treadwell consistently defeated this contact with minimal problems and showed an excellent ability to use his hands and shake any attempt at jamming him.

He also does consistently well after the catch. He isn’t a particularly elusive player with the ball in hand, but he is strong and breaks tackles with regularity. Of all his receiving yardage, 446 yards of it came after the catch, and he broke 17 tackles over the season averaging 5.4 yards per reception after the catch.

Take this play as an example in the first week of the season. Treadwell turns this into a first down, breaking three tackles along the way to do it before stepping out of bounds inside the five.

Treadwell 1

Treadwell also gets a lot of plaudits for his blocking, which I think is a little warped by some highlight reel hits he delivers. Treadwell is a good, not great blocker. He is definitely willing and capable, which beats most receivers on the perimeter, but he has an unusual quirk to his game that I haven’t really seen before which leads to some de-cleating hits. Treadwell sticks to his man well, but his eyes are always elsewhere looking for a potential second block he can pick up that won’t see him coming.

Treadwell 2

I haven’t seen another receiver look for this type of block as regularly as Treadwell does – it is all over his tape. Here he is blocking on the edge against Auburn, and while he has his man in good position, he has his eyes inside on a chasing defender, about to leave his guy and crack back inside on a guy who just isn’t expecting it. It’s a smart play: the running back is undoubtedly better off one-on-one versus a corner heads up than trying to shake a linebacker or safety coming from the correct angle to make the tackle, but they do make easy blocks look like crushing highlights simply because of the nature of the hit.

He is a good blocking receiver, but those hits flatter him.

Where he struggles

There is a lot to like about Treadwell, but he does struggle to separate, even in college. He has the movement skills of a big receiver, but at his size he’s not large enough that it should be preventing him getting open regularly. Often getting separation looks like a struggle and there are too many plays where he doesn’t just struggle to separate, but actively fails in his route to the defensive back.

Treadwell 3

Here he again defeats the jam at the line of scrimmage, but can’t run away from the defensive back at any point during the route. Treadwell can’t shake his man running down the sideline or when he cuts the route off and tries to convert to a comeback.

Treadwell consistently separates far less than most of the receivers in this class. Watching his tape shows a player that relies more on his physicality than getting open in the first place, which is fine for a receiver in college that is already a team’s go-to guy, but in the NFL may result in the ball simply not being thrown his way nearly as often.

There are receivers in the NFL that can succeed despite not being able to consistently separate, but they are rare, and the majority of those that can’t simply don’t become high quality players at the position.

The last issue I have with Treadwell is that for all his ability to win jump balls and take the football away from defensive backs, he doesn’t actually go for them all that often. He allows passes to come to him at times where he should attack the ball and make sure of the catch, rather than wait on it and allow the defender back into the play.

Treadwell 4

Sometimes it works out and he gets away with it – like this play against Oklahoma State in the bowl game. Treadwell shouldn’t be allowing this ball to drop to him, but rather elevating above the defender to go and get it at its highest point. This is what separates a guy like Odell Beckham Jr, who attacks the football better than most receivers in the NFL. Treadwell all too often elects to try and create a bucket into which the pass can drop, rather than actively going to get the ball higher than the defensive back can.

The bottom line

There is a lot to like about Treadwell, but there are also enough flaws in his game to keep him away from the very highest picks of this draft in my eyes. He is a talented receiver with the ability to win jump balls, make things happen after the catch and win subtle hand-fighting battles in routes and to gain small separation down field. He also blocks well, if not quite as well as some would have you believe.

His issue though is that he won’t separate regularly, and doesn’t actually take advantage of his ability to win contested catches as much as he should do. Treadwell reminds some of Dez Bryant or Michael Irvin, but to me he looks far more like Kenny Britt. Britt has had success at times in the NFL and was a first-round pick himself, so that’s not necessarily a disaster. He was taken with the 30th selection of the draft, in part because of exactly the same concerns over being able to separate. In my opinion, Treadwell is far closer to that area of the draft than a top-five pick.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Tim Edell

    I haven’t watched enough film on Treadwell to make a definite opinion on how his skills will translate to the NFL. From what I have seen of him he reminds me of Alshon Jeffrey coming out of South Carolina. I would expect Treadwell to run somewhere around 4.55 at the combine and for him eventually to be a 12-18 overall selection in the draft.

    • shaunhan murray

      I read that scouts expect him to be slow in the 40 like higher than a 4.6 but these off season programs do trim time off. If he does run a slow 40 than yeah ur range makes sense and maybe even a bit later, but I can imagine some team taking him in the top 10 if his 40 time is good and they think he is the next Jeffery or Evans or whatever

      • DRH

        Even a 4.6 40 isn’t a disaster. Allen Robinson got deep threat accolades from PFF, and he had a 4.6 40.

        Though the concerns about separation are very Alshon/Sanu, and the body bucket catch is very much Michael Irvin. I think the real question is can a receiver who might have several of those players negatives offer enough positives to be a lock in those ranges of the first round?

        (Also, it is kinda sad the author can’t even get Cyrus Jones name right when it is written on his back in the gif he is using).

        • PFFSamMonson

          I’ve literally screwed that guy’s name up 3 different ways in the last 2 days. Can’t get it in my head

          • DRH

            That’s a shame.

        • Samuel Myers

          Robinson ran so much faster at his Pro Day and demonstrates explosive speed in the NFL consistently enough that I think the 4.6 had more to do with his technique than his speed. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald had relatively poor showings as well. Obviously, downfield separation is about more than speed, and the 40 yard dash is good for telling you who is very fast but not so good at telling you who is slow — it’s limited in it’s utility because technique is such a factor; if a guy runs 4.3 he’s very fast, if he runs 4.6 he might have just adequate speed or he might be significantly faster than the time indicates. I think Robinson ran low 4.4s at his Pro Day.

          • DRH

            Pro day numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt because 1. there are different surfaces involved which have an effect on times and 2. the times have even greater sources of error because they are hand timed.

            Robinson ran a 4.47 40 at his proday, but with human error on the start AND the stop (as opposed to the laser stop at the combine) he could have ran the same exact 40 and had entirely differently looking times.

            The reason Allen Robinson wins can even be seen in his “bad” combine numbers. 1.53 second 10 yd split and 7 sec 3 cone with 39 inches of vert on a 6’3″ frame. Dude eats up yards in the short to intermediate section of the field (where most passes are thrown) and has the agility, size, length and vert to break back towards the ball and make the catch on the longer throws.

            40 yd dash is very over rated, and while more applicable to WR’s than most other positions is still a poor representation for a majority of a Wrs routes.

          • Samuel Myers

            Point isn’t really about the Pro Day being reliable — you’ll often see guys improve vertical leap and bench press numbers which are not a function of human error — point on that front is that guys can improve combine testing with tweaks to technique and that a guy who runs a slow 40 is not necessarily a slow football player. I think this is quite clear in what I wrote; and further, it is very rare for a guy to be consistently timed .2 seconds faster on a stopwatch than on the electronic timer. Discrepancies happen, but not usually that dramatic. But again, either way, the point is a 40-yard dash is not only an imperfect measurement of speed because it’s testing a linear distance that lacks direct application to the field, but because it relies heavily on correct “get-off” technique from a stance guys are never in.

      • Cris de Campos

        Also, Dez ran a 4.52. I think anything under a 4.6 will be acceptable for him considering what teams will like about him, which is not to be a burner… It’s to be a Dez.

        • shaunhan murray

          Yeah but still Dez did fall and Treadwell struggles in separating

        • Hey Now!

          None of this matters until we get measurements and splits. Dez was 6’2 even…this guy could be 6’1.5 or 6’2.3…big difference!

          Dez has 34 inch arms. Do you know how long that is? I dont but I think at 6’2 he has a good 6’6 – 6’8 wingspan.

          Dez weighed 231 at the combine. That’s big!

          Now lets look at his 3cone – your lateral agility. 7.10 seconds. That’s awful. Most WR’s need to run below 7 even.

          His 10y split was a 1.53!!! Holy cow. Antonio Brown ran a 1.5 at 185lbs. Thats fast for 6’2 231!!!!!!

          Now lets look at his 20y split…2.51!!! Holy cow that’s fast. Skinny ol’ Odell runs a 2.58!!!

          Lastly, look at Dez’s 40…4.52…that’s very average but he does weigh 231 lbs. Mike Evans at 6’5 245lbs runs a 4.53.

          So long story short – Dez’s long arms, big body weight, amazing 10y and 20y splits makes up for a crappy 3-cone and 40y. That’s why he is so good…he’s def not the best but he’s one of the top WRs.

          So lets wait and see what this kid does at the combine AND his pro day.

          If you are interested in more analysis like this…check out the Twitter.com/thekhomish

    • Samuel Myers

      Big difference being Alshon has 2 inches and 25 pounds on Treadwell

      • RC5000

        Wtf are you talking about? Jeffery was 6-3 216 coming in. Treadwell is 6-2, 221. Where would you dream that up even looking at them. I have no idea where you got that from.

        • Izach

          That was exactly my thought too, the article says treadwell is 210, but he’s 220+. Basically the article says treadwell plays a big mans game while being a average sized WR, but at 6’2″ 221 he is a big WR

        • Kason Edell

          RC5000 – 1 inch and 5 pounds off. You’re acting like that’s a huge difference.

    • Craig W

      You’re a tool

      • Tim Edell

        Go back to watchin South Park Junior!!!

    • staup640

      He ran a 4.68 or something like that on his pro day.

  • Chordotomy

    I think these same arguments were made of Alshon Jeffery. Separation isn’t everything. Treadwell has a similar ceiling to Jeffery.

    • PFFSamMonson

      I think that’s true, but that is his ceiling. I’d say the absolute best case is he’s Jeffrey. Problem is that leaves an awful lot of room below that to be anything worse.

      • AJ

        Anquon Boldin seems like an accurate comparison

    • Jeffrey Diamond Vancho

      Came here to make the same comparison. As I was reading through I just kept thinking of Alshon.

  • Leondre

    Here’s me hoping he runs a 4.6 so my Lions can draft him to replace Calvin

    • Daniel Cornell Sr.

      If you watch his tape ,he makes some unbelievable catches ,great hands and battles for the ball ,He could be a great Red zone receiver GO LIONS

  • Josh Boyette

    I’d like to see this guy’s opinion of Treadwell in 3 years. Anquan Bouldin had a pretty damn good career, That’s who i think of when i see Laquon play.

  • John

    No doubt that Treadwell performs well at the next level. Comparing this report with another one I’ve seen is worth while for anyone who thinks Treadwell might be their team’s pick. Check out the other breakdown at https://realfootballnetwork.com/2016/01/07/laquon-treadwell/

  • TJ Smith

    Alshon is insanely good at attacking the ball in the air. It doesn’t mean that he can’t overcome. Still the WR spot is one of the biggest bust positions historically in the draft. If he does bust we know why.

    Personally I don’t think LT would have been a first round pick in the last 2 WR drafts. He is the most notable of the big receivers right now. If anyone is running to take a WR in this draft I think they making a big mistake. This draft is much stronger at other positions. Especially on defense.

  • Judge Harbolt

    I agree with you this time. The top NFL ready/best size/speed/hands/route running/ YAC talented, only 1st round caliber WR is Tyler Boyd. Micheal Thomas has potential but should go 2nd in the 2nd round. Lots of too slow or below average hands or too Tavon Austinish guy this year. Guys can always develop, but this Treadwell report is dead on and similar to many of the hyped WRs of this class.

  • Rick Cooley

    If we draft a receiver, let us go after Baylor’s Coleman, or Fuller from Notre Dame. I cannot stand slow receivers! We need a speedster like one of these two.

  • George Vreeland Hill

    The Giants are taking a good look at Treadwell, but the 10th pick is too high.
    If he lasts into the second, I think they take him.

  • Shawn Cicero

    They said the same if not worse about Alshon with Chicago, these experts are bs and are always wrong

  • Tony Walton

    The idea that Treadwell relies on the “bucket catch” too often is absolutely absurd. You show one example, which resulted in a touchdown. I remember the catch. It stood out because of the 3 years I’ve been watching Treadwell, it was one of, if not the only time, I’ve seen him make such a catch. His hands and catch radius are but two of the attributes on which he’s built a stellar career. Top 10 pick? Perhaps not. Out of first round? No way. Not one analyst has ever suggested he wasn’t clearly a 1st rounder. Except this writer. From PFF. That explains it..

    • optionbets

      His complete catch radius surprisingly isn’t that good by looking at measurables, but a deeper look shows he does have a few advantages as well.

      His arm length of 33.4inches plus vertical of 33 inches pale in comparison to Doctson’s 31.9 arms and 41 inch vertical (they’re both 6’2). So his vertical radius isn’t that big. He doesn’t have a very good broad jump, suggesting he probably can’t leap diagnolly or horizontally diving for the ball as far as others to leap out and catch an off target pass….

      However, his “standing catch radius” is pretty good because his arms are long and body is big, so he may have slight advantage with sideline catches, and a good “standing reach” to actually catch an off target bullet pass where the WR wouldn’t have time to use his feet to leap.

      He also has the arm length to separate from CBs by extending his arms or using bigger body to shield defender from the point of the catch… In other words, he can deny the CBs a catch/defend radius and the seperation from the point of the catch to the defender can make him more difficult to defend. That could lead to more penalty flags, but also to more uncontested catches.

  • Mnstorm99

    Good analysis, but I would be happy if he drops to #23, and would be pissed if the Vikings didn’t take him. I do wonder if the Vikings are not as interested as the fans though…I wonder if the Vikings might be higher on Doctson anyway.
    We’ll see in a little over a week.

  • AJ

    Everybody comparing him to Jeffrey I just don’t see it. Now Boldin I see that left and right in him. And would anyone not have spent a 1st an Anquon at this point knowing what you’d have gotten?

  • optionbets

    Cris Carter (who Treadwell has trained with) and Larry Fitzgerald (who also trained with Carter) both have talked about how bigger WR actually want to keep the CB as close as possible vs man so they can use their body and the fact that the CB isn’t looking for the ball to shield the defender from the point of the catch, and stretch out at the last second. The closer the defender is, the easier it is for a big body guy to control. I don’t think it necessarily applies on vertical fly routes, but when you break on the ball, you don’t want the defender having time to react, or space to recover from a move.

    I don’t think you want to send Treadwell vertical with the purpose of outrunning the guy. Maybe to win a 50/50 ball, or occasionally using him vertical with the back shoulder fade or under throw so he can box out or jump ball (he doesn’t have the best vertical reach compared to say Doctson).

    Nevertheless, I think it’s worth mentioning that seperation isn’t necessary on every route, particularly when the WR has a size advantage and 33.4inch arms to use to leverage last second horizontal seperation or shielding with his body prior to the motion of catching the ball or breaking off a pattern on a timing route. The more horizontal seperation from the point of the catch that the defender has the from WR, the greater reach the defender needs to contest the pass.

    A defender that starts with seperation and closes in on the ball, will be a lot closer than a defender who starts close and gets a little push…. (Provided offensive pass interference doesn’t get called)

    • jsneezle

      that’s exactly how i would analyze his game down right down to the mention of offensive PI…i actually think how PI is called against him could ultimately dictate how good he is…he has amazing catching skills, catch radius and is awesome with hand fighting both at the line and on the catch…he knows how to use his size big time…totally agree that he often lets balls come to him instead of going to get it…but to be fair it seems less necessary at the college level to go get balls and maybe this is something he will learn to do as his competition changes…there is some tape actually of him doing a good job attacking balls when the situation dictates it..my guess is he won’t get called for PI because he can do it subtly with his hands but who knows…he actually reminds me alot of randy moss with of course the exception of speed…randy ran a 4.25 lol fucking ridiculous…but the way he makes some of these corners look like little kids is randyesque…the game at the college level seemed easy to him…there is one play in particular on his highlight tape i love…it’s the first one where he just jukes the corner out of his shoes…but if u look closely he violently pushes the guy to the ground…just totally owns his ass…personally, i think football is a physical game and this should not be PI, and based on history i don’t think they will be calling a ton of PI against him…but it seems to me he uses his body, hands and sneaky strength to beat guys on a very high percentage of his catches…whether he can pull that off at the pro level remains to be seen…i mean is he pulling that on darrelle revis, richard sherman? it will be interesting to see but i say he will be a beast and like most guys it comes down to how bad they want it…i mean say he is kenny britt just not a complete freaking moron…couldn’t that make him a pro bowler?

  • Navy Seal…..

    Who gives a expletive what PFF thinks, why you think they are not real scouts, they are wanna be scouts trying to get attention.. They are garbage..!!!!!!!