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Is Laquon Treadwell the Number 1 Overall Rookie Pick?

By nearly all accounts, including the RotoViz Scouting Index, Laquon Treadwell is the clear-cut choice to be the first wide receiver taken in the upcoming NFL draft, likely within the top-10 overall selections.

Despite that assessment, there are still questions about Treadwell’s dominance at the collegiate level, on paper. It might leave some wondering if his status as the top prospect is due to merit, or a function of a relatively weak wide receiver class?

We can use the freshly updated Box Score Scout to put those questions to the test by comparing Treadwell’s final collegiate season to former top-10 wide receiver selections over the past ten years.

Treadwell

Overall, the NFL has largely gotten recent premium capital receiver picks correct. Darrius Heyward-Bey and Ted Ginn bombed for their initial clubs, but they are also two players that feel miscast among the group in raw statistical production. Those two were elevated throughout the draft process by crushing the combine, highlighted by running two of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the event (they both ran sub-4.4’s).

Everyone else on this list has had statistical and fantasy relevancy outside of Kevin White, who has yet to play a snap. Justin Blackmon is questionable, but I’d call him a successful pick in terms of talent as he averaged 13.1 PPR points per game in his 20 games played.

Treadwell finds himself in the lower area in terms of production, but higher than DHB and Ginn. He’s comparable to the field in a number of areas. He may not be a flawless prospect, but he closed his college career in a very similar fashion to Julio Jones, who flirted with multiple single-season receiving records in 2015. There’s still a ways to go to start comparing him in that kind of ilk, as Jones was a player who relieved performance-based concerns with a combine that was near Calvin Johnson-esque. I’d say that is in the lower end of probability for Treadwell, but the door is at least open if he tests well in Indianapolis.

Layering Down 2015

Jon Moore took a look at the good and bad news about Treadwell’s NFL outlook two weeks into the 2015 season and set seasonal thresholds for Treadwell at 35 percent market share of receiving yards, 1,100 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns.

Treadwell closed the season leading the SEC in receiving yards and touchdowns with 1,153 and 11, respectively, but fell short of Moore’s goal in yardage share. But, his market share numbers get a slight boost when you consider he threw for 134 yards and touchdown himself. Since you can’t complete passes and touchdowns to yourself, his final market shares really fall in at 27.3 percent for yardage and 32.3 percent for touchdowns.

Of course, we all remember that Treadwell suffered a horrific injury last November in which he suffered a broken fibula and a dislocated ankle. At one point, he said during the injury that he lost nearly 20 pounds and was still fighting to get back to 100 percent heading into the summer. By all accounts, he was at 100 percent when Ole Miss kicked off their season, but looking at Treadwell’s game log, you can see it took a while for him to get going in terms of production.

DateOppRecReYdAvgReTDMSYdsMSTDDR
9/5/2015TN-Mar44411.0013.6%0.0%6.8%
9/12/2015Fres57314.6018.6%0.0%9.3%
9/19/2015@ Ala58016.0123.5%33.3%28.4%
9/26/2015Vandy813516.9042.1%0.0%21.0%
10/3/2015@ Fla5428.4016.2%0.0%8.1%
10/10/2015NMSt813617.0234.0%66.7%50.3%
10/17/2015@ Mem1414410.3132.7%33.3%33.0%
10/24/2015TexA&M510220.4142.3%50.0%46.2%
10/31/2015@Auburn711416.3128.4%50.0%39.2%
11/7/2015Ark713218.9135.9%33.3%34.6%
11/21/2015LSU45814.5120.7%50.0%35.4%
11/28/2015@MissSt4225.509.3%0.0%4.7%
1/1/2016OkSt67111.8320.5%75.0%47.7%

I’m not looking to make that recovery an excuse for Treadwell and it could ultimately just be noise, but we’ve seen receivers struggle to regain high-end output from lower leg injuries before (or maybe I’m still in mourning from Dez Bryant’s 2015). Regardless, through the first five weeks, he had just one relevant game in terms of yardage dominance with just a lone touchdown reception.

After that slow start, he went close to nuclear as he averaged 6.9 receptions for 97.4 yards with 10 touchdowns over his final eight games. In terms of games dominated, Treadwell was past the 35 percent threshold in five, while knocking on the door in two others.  Over those final eight games, Treadwell accounted for 30.2 percent of the team receiving yardage and caught 50 percent of the possible 20 touchdowns for the team.1

There’s a level of cherry picking here, so apply as much salt as you need to the dish, but while he may not have displayed a blanket level of statistical dominance to close his career, Treadwell did prove that he has the ability to be consistently dominant.

Layering Down Production For Age

Part of the allure for Treadwell — in conjunction with his expected draft capital — is that he still can’t officially purchase alcohol until this June, after he’s selected. Going back to the Box Score Scout App, here is how Treadwell’s age 20 season compares to the age 20 seasons of all of the receivers taken in the front half of the first round over the past ten years.

treadwell20

You can see that overall Treadwell makes a jump to the middle of the field, compared to being in the bottom third of the initial grouping.  His age 20 season wasn’t far off from Mike Evans in terms of measured production, and he clears multiple current studs in the league. As for age 20 seasons, he’s really pushing that trend line in Moore’s study done in early September. Going back to that post and the above table, I wonder how close Treadwell is to a player like A.J. Green, a receiver that has been wildly consistent overall, but whose weekly consistency and efficiency has always left us wanting to pluck him off that elite tier.

While a player like Julio Jones wrecked the workout portion of his evaluation, there are still a few questions for Treadwell to answer at the combine to aid in erasing some doubts about him as a truly elite prospect. But Treadwell’s level of production isn’t a blaring red flag for me unless he bricks that part of the process.

We’d all love a perfect prospect to make this easier, but we have to work with what this draft is giving us and what the league is telling us about Treadwell himself in the eyes of those evaluating. It may be an aberration that lasts for eternity, but I don’t want to strictly knock Treadwell down for the reasons I did Odell Beckham in 2014, barring he tests adequately. Treadwell’s shown he can dominate for stretches and has had comparable output to prospects that held similar required capital at a similar age, and even in his final season. If he tests even remotely well while being selected in the top-10, he’ll definitely warrant the consideration of using your 1.01 rookie pick on him in drafts over a running back.

  1. Removing the yards and touchdown he passed for.  (back)

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