The 2015 college football bowl season is underway. On Wednesday, December 23, we will see the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which features Boise State (8-4) and Northern Illinois (8-5). While Boise State is the favorite, runs an exciting offense, and has a couple intriguing draft-eligible prospects, the guy I’m most interested to see is on the other team — NIU redshirt junior wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
Golladay is unlikely to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft, but there’s a lot to like about him as both a producer and a physical specimen. And if he does declare, he could be a sleeper who gets little hype throughout the process.
Golladay is an non-traditional prospect in that he played for two seasons at North Dakota in the Football Championship Subdivision, did well there, and then decided to move up a level and transfer to NIU in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. Per NCAA rules, Golladay had to redshirt for a season, so 2015 is the first year in which Golladay has been eligible to play at NIU.
Here are the numbers for Golladay’s three collegiate seasons:
Not only has Golladay improved in each of his seasons, but he has been a total market share beast as a scorer for his last two seasons. In 2013, Golladay led UND with 69 receptions, which he turned into 53.3 percent of the team’s total touchdowns receiving. This year, he has been almost as studly, turning 71 receptions into 45.5 percent of NIU’s touchdowns receiving.
At UND Golladay set single-game records with 16 receptions and four touchdowns against Northern Arizona in 2013, and Golladay is the most productive receiver NIU has had since 2012. More impressively, Golladay has proven himself to be something of a versatile player, with a punt return touchdown as a sophomore and a rushing touchdown this season.
Golladay isn’t an elite producer, but his production over the last two seasons has been substantial enough to suggest that he can be an NFL contributor.
The Physical Profile
In several ways, Golladay is similar to Texas Christian redshirt senior Josh Doctson, one of the top wide receiver prospects of the 2016 draft. Like Doctson, Golladay transferred to a school at a higher level and became his team’s top receiver. Also like Doctson (6 feet, 3 inches and 195 pounds), Golladay is tall and skinny, listed at 6 feet, 4 inches, and 200 pounds.
Golladay definitely has NFL height — but his combination of height and weight is worrisome. Not many receivers have done well in the NFL as tall, skinny dudes. Justin Hunter and Marquess Wilson are the two most notable recent examples of comparably-sized wide receivers to enter the NFL. Both were productive collegiate receivers, and both have disappointed.
Of course, Golladay is slightly bigger than Hunter and Wilson were when they entered the NFL. Hopefully Golladay can put on five pounds or so of muscle by the time he declares for the draft.
But even if he does that, Golladay — as a guy who started out in the FCS and then transferred to a mid-major conference — is probably no better than an average athlete. If he is to have eventual NFL success, it will likely be as a possession receiver who lacks speed but uses his body well, which is why I am obsessing about his size.
If Golladay isn’t an average athlete, it will be all the more important that he has above-average size in his pre-draft workouts.
Golladay is an intriguing prospect who probably won’t enter the draft this year. He has great height and if next season he can replicate his stats and put on a little more weight he could be in the 2017 NFL Draft a mid-round selection who gives a few seasons of stable WR2/3 production.
That’s not anything to write home about, but it’s also not something to ignore in the third round of a rookie draft.
Matthew Freedman is a football writer for RotoViz, Pro Football Focus Fantasy, Fantasy Insiders, and DraftKings Playbook. He is (not) the inspiration for the character in The League who shares his name. He hosts the various RotoViz podcasts and PFF Radio’s College Daily Slant. He is the creator of the Workhorse Metric. You can follow him on Twitter @MattFtheOracle — but I don’t know why you would.