PFF Debate: Doctson or Treadwell to Lions at No. 16?
While it’s clear in the minds of PFF analysts that Corey Coleman is the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in this draft, the rest of the positional group garners much more debate.
In our third PFF Debate of draft season, analyst Gordon McGuinness argues for why Josh Doctson is the next-best pick, while analyst John Breitenbach makes his case for Laquon Treadwell. Specifically, they argue over which prospect is a better fit for the Detroit Lions at No. 16 overall as a replacement for Calvin Johnson.
Read on for the back and forth, and let us know your WR pick by tweeting us @PFF.
Gordon McGuinness: This WR class gets really interesting after Baylor’s Corey Coleman. Despite his flaws, Coleman is, in my opinion, the best receiver in this class. The more I see of TCU’s Josh Doctson, the more I think he’s the clear No. 2 in the class. He had the highest PFF receiving grade last year at +28.9, and even if you look at 2014 too, that grade is behind only Amari Cooper, Tyler Lockett and Rashard Higgins. He uses his size well to go up and win the ball.
John Breitenbach: While Doctson undoubtedly uses his size effectively downfield, I don’t see him using his physicality to generate separation on shorter routes or when running after the catch. He broke just nine tackles and averaged just 3.9 yards after the catch per reception in 2015. In contrast, Treadwell thrives after the catch. He broke 17 tackles and averaged 5.4 YAC/reception last season.
McGuinness: Separation is an interesting point to bring up. I don’t disagree with you that Treadwell did a good job getting separation on shorter routes. In particular I thought he used his frame well to get a little extra on slant routes. That being said, if I want a guy who can excel on shorter routes, I’m not spending a top-20 draft pick on him, and Treadwell simply doesn’t do a great job of getting separation downfield. That plays a big role in Doctson being far more productive than Treadwell, averaging 4.07 yards per route run to his 2.42.
Breitenbach: Treadwell certainly won’t be running past many defensive backs, but he has adequate speed to get deep. I think NFL rules will help him, particularly if his QB can throw to the back-shoulder. Even if initially covered, Treadwell can be a threat down the field. I think he tracks the ball well in the air and boxes out defensive backs at the catch point. Doctson can make spectacular catches, but he also dropped some regulation catches down the field.
Projection at the next level
McGuinness: I think it’s a lot of projection to say that Treadwell can be a deep threat in the NFL. When you look at our top receivers from last year, both Amari Cooper and Tyler Lockett had over 500 yards on passes 20 yards or more downfield in their final years in college. That translated to the NFL, where both had at least 230 yards and four touchdowns on those deep passes as rookies. Treadwell had just 326 deep receiving yards in 2015, Doctson had 553.
He’s clearly the better deep receiver, and while he had his share of drops, his drop rate was 7.14 — with six drops from 84 catchable passes thrown his way, Treadwell was at 9.89 with nine drops from 91 catchable.
Breitenbach: I don’t think Treadwell will be outstanding down the field, but he’s good enough to make that a legitimate concern for defensive backs. Ole Miss didn’t really feature the back-shoulder pass in their offense. Treadwell does have some subtleness to his game, particularly on double moves, that helped him get open. Treadwell caught all 10 of his 20-plus-yard targets. He might not elevate and come down with poorly located passes, like Doctson, but Treadwell catches all the passes he should.
In contrast, Doctson will make those splash plays but also leave yards on the field. I’d rather rely on my QB being accurate than on Doctson to bail him out. As for overall drop rates, Treadwell was frustratingly inconsistent in that short and intermediate range. He needs to work on catching with his back to defenders, but oftentimes he dropped passes because he was trying to generate yards after the catch. Ultimately, he’s more of a threat because of that strategy.
McGuinness: I don’t understand what you mean by Docston leaving plays on the field. He had a lower drop rate than Treadwell, and a higher yards per route run average — so he left fewer plays on the field than Treadwell no matter what way you look at it. At the end of the day, if you drop a pass because you’re trying to get extra yards, you’re still dropping a pass. On top of that, how many quarterbacks in the NFL are accurate enough that Treadwell won’t have to make much adjustments on deep passes downfield? It’s a big part of what No. 1 receivers need to do and, like several other things highlighted above, Treadwell doesn’t do it well enough. He’s a solid receiver, and deserves to go late in the first round, but his best role will be to a team that already has a No. 1 receiver, like Cincinnati. That way a team can get the most out of his skillset.
No. 16 to the Detroit Lions?
Breitenbach: I see Treadwell’s value as much closer to the middle of the first round. Detroit at No. 16 makes a lot of sense, as he could partner with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. The combination of the threat Treadwell poses underneath, on screens/slants/hitches and on well-placed deep balls makes him attractive in the middle of the first.
McGuinness: I disagree — he graded better, was more productive on a per-snap basis, and has the ability to go up and adjust to the ball better than Treadwell. No. 16 to Detroit is a good spot to bring up, because I actually think that’s a perfect spot for Doctson. They have Tate, who excels at all the short stuff — 516 of Tate’s 813 yards last year came on WR screens, slants or crossing routes. They just lost Calvin Johnson, so the type of receiver they need is the guy who can produce big plays down the field. That’s Doctson in this draft.
Breitenbach: I wouldn’t say that Doctson is at Megatron’s level when it comes to making circus catches. He certainly does it more consistently than Treadwell, but he’s not on Johnson’s level. In fact, pairing Doctson with Stafford, who is not averse to a risk or two, might turn out to be a disaster. He might force too many throws into coverage leading to turnovers. The Bears have had a lot of success in the NFC North throwing back-shoulder to Alshon Jeffery, and Stafford would likely throw fewer interceptions if he adopted the same strategy with Treadwell at No. 16.
McGuinness: Doctson is not at Megatron’s level, but outside of Odell Beckham Jr., who is? The fact is that Doctson is better at it than Treadwell, and it’s a part of what the Lions have done of offense for a long time. Treadwell can be like Jeffery on back-shoulder passes, but he still needs to work at that, and I think he’s a far better fit somewhere like Cincinnati or Green Bay.
Ultimately, Treadwell strikes me as a good No. 2 receiver, while Doctson has a chance to be a No. 1. That’s what the Lions need.