With the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine upon us, Bucky Brooks is ranking the top prospects at key positions. Today's focus: wide receivers.
Strengths: Electric playmaker with exceptional speed, quickness and burst. Coleman is a touchdown waiting to happen when he gets the ball on the perimeter. He is capable of turning short passes into big gains with his explosive combination of speed and elusiveness, yet he also torches opponents as a deep-ball specialist. As the designated playmaker on the Bears' offense, he averaged 17.4 yards per catch throughout his career and finished with 35 total touchdowns (33 receiving, one rushing and one kick return). While some of that production is a byproduct of coach Art Briles' wide-open system, there is no disputing Coleman's big-play potential on the perimeter. He is too fast for most defenders to run with on deep balls, and he is nearly impossible to bring down on quick routes due to his extraordinary strength and running skills. With Coleman also displaying phenomenal grit, toughness and ball skills, he should be an instant-impact player for a team in need of a potent WR2 on the perimeter.
Weaknesses: Baylor's system has produced a lot of prolific pass catchers on the collegiate level, but few of their stars have enjoyed similar success as pros. Part of their struggles can be attributed to limited exposure to the full route tree in Waco. Scouts could lump Coleman into that category after watching him primarily execute three or four routes (hitch, slant, go and post) throughout his career. Although he has been successful on speed routes, Coleman will need to expand his repertoire to be a long-term star at the next level. In addition, he'll need to convince evaluators that he has a keen understanding of complex passing concepts after spending three years in a simple system.
Strengths: Prototypical WR1 with spectacular hands and ball skills. Treadwell is a "move the chains" specialist with all of the requisite tools to anchor a passing game on the perimeter. As a big-bodied playmaker with superior length and strength, the Ole Miss product is an outstanding pass catcher in traffic. He routinely snatches the ball away from defenders, exhibiting rare hand strength and concentration. Treadwell is a polished route runner with a nice feel for finding the soft spots in coverage. He slides into open voids on in-breaking routes to provide the quarterback with a huge target between the hashes. Considering the value of chain movers in the passing game, Treadwell's skills as a natural WR1 should make him a hot commodity on draft day.
Weaknesses: For all of Treadwell's strengths as a WR1, he offers limited upside as a vertical threat due to his lack of explosive speed. Treadwell is skipping the 40-yard dash at the combine, and he's not expected to wow anyone when he runs at his pro day (scouts' estimates are in the 4.6-second range), as he rarely blows past defenders on deep routes. Thus, Treadwell could be forced to make his living as a possession receiver/red-zone threat for an offense willing to build around his talents as a pass catcher.
Strengths: Long, rangy playmaker with extraordinary hands and ball skills. Doctson is a touchdown machine with a dominant set of skills that allows him to overwhelm defenders in the red zone. From his exceptional hand-eye coordination to his remarkable leaping ability, Doctson is nearly impossible to defend in isolated situations along the boundary. He not only expands the strike zone for the quarterback with his length and leaping ability, but he is one of the best bad-ball adjustors (tracking and adjusting to errant passes) that I've seen enter the NFL in years. As a pass catcher, Doctson shows fabulous concentration and courage snagging balls in traffic on slants and digs thrown between the hashes. He doesn't flinch with defenders in close proximity, which suggests he is very comfortable venturing over the middle. Given his acrobatic ball skills, length and competitive toughness, Doctson should develop into a premier "move the chains" playmaker at the next level.
Weaknesses: Despite an impressive career résumé that includes 215 receptions and 34 touchdowns, Doctson remains a work in progress as a receiver due to his limited exposure to route running as a collegian. He primarily aligned on the right side of the field as the Horned Frogs' RWO (right wideout) and only ran a small menu of routes (slant, quick out, skinny post, dig and comeback). Thus, he will need time to acclimate to a pro-style system that features a full route tree. In addition, Doctson must adjust to the intricacies of a complex passing game, including sight adjustments and hot reads for the perimeter players. With scouts also expressing concern about his speed, Doctson will need to shine in workouts to convince evaluators that he can be more than a jump-ball specialist in the NFL.
Strengths: Classic possession receiver with strong hands and excellent ball skills. Thomas is a dynamic chain mover with a knack for coming up with big plays at key moments. Part of his success can be attributed to his rugged style and crafty route-running skills. Thomas showcases magnificent patience and savvy setting up defenders early in routes, yet he possesses the short-area quickness to create separation out of the break. Given his impeccable timing, toughness and ball skills, Thomas is a classic WR2 with the potential to notch 1,000-yard seasons as a complementary playmaker in the passing game.
Weaknesses: Thomas is a talented playmaker, but he lacks elite speed and acceleration. He just doesn't appear to have the straight-line explosiveness to run past NFL defenders on vertical routes, which minimizes his potential as a deep-ball threat. Thus, Thomas would need to clock a fast 40 time to alter the perception about his limited home-run promise. If Thomas can show better-than-anticipated speed and quickness in drills, he could convince scouts that he has the tools to be a dependable playmaker in the passing game.
Strengths: Explosive playmaker with world-class speed, quickness and burst. Fuller is the most dynamic deep threat in the draft, exhibiting extraordinary acceleration while running past defenders on vertical routes. He averaged 17.4 yards per catch and scored 30 touchdowns (29 past two seasons) as the designated playmaker for the Fighting Irish. Fuller's combination of speed and running skills makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field. As a route runner, Fuller remains a work in progress, but he shows outstanding balance and body control at the top of his routes. Most importantly, he flashes the burst to separate from defenders when he comes out of the break. With opponents scared to death of his speed and quickness, Fuller's sneaky route-running ability could make him a dangerous big-play weapon as a pro.
Weaknesses: Despite Fuller's dominance as a big-play weapon, he must become a more consistent pass catcher to emerge as an elite player at the next level. Fuller is a "body catcher" prone to cradling receptions against his chest instead of snatching the ball with his hands. While he put up big numbers utilizing that method as a collegian, he also dropped some easy targets that hit him squarely in the hands. Given the importance of consistency and dependability in the pro passing game, Fuller's suspect hands could impact his draft stock.