Not many receivers were as statistically dominant in the early part of the college football season as TCU's Josh Doctson. A wrist injury shortened the remainder of his final year in school, but Doctson still piled up 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 10 games. He made several outrageous highlight reel catches along the way, earning him easy notoriety. The tape and his athletic test back up the numbers to paint a case that Doctson might be the best receiver in this class.
» Excels at tracking and winning the ball in the air
» Showed ability to run multiple routes
» Has good instincts against zone coverage
» Separation ability with precise hand timing and technique.
You don't even have to be any sort of scout to recognize Doctson's dominance at the catch point. It's one of the more plain realities of any player in this draft. Doctson shows a natural ability to track the ball in the air, regardless of his body positioning, and great instincts in timing both his jumps and hands. Even when a cornerback forces him into tight quarters, Doctson knows how to use whatever space is available to win in contested situations. His ball skills afford him a livable floor as a longtime No. 2 NFL receiver in any style of offense.
The more analysts dig into Josh Doctson as the process wears on, the more comfortable they will be with his potential to reach his ceiling. Some have concerns about his ability to win against press coverage, but those feel unfounded. On a route-to-route basis, Doctson showed the foot speed, strength and savvy to dislodge from jams off the line. He certainly does not lack for the mentality it takes to fight through tight coverage. As a route runner, he gets underrated because most of his big plays came off slant, post and go routes, but a closer look reveals a mature receiver able to execute on any pattern on the route tree.
As he did a number of times on the field as a collegian, Doctson came through with a clutch showing at the NFL Scouting Combine. After finishing best among the wide receivers in the vertical and broad jumps, Doctson tested out in the 93rd percentile among NFL wide receivers' SPARQ (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness) scores. The athletic attributes he displayed in Indianapolis backed up how he played on film, and put a clear exclamation point on what was already a clean pro-level projection.
» Doesn't have top-end speed
» Not overly dynamic with the ball in his hands
» Occasionally rounds off routes
» Older for a rookie receiver (23)
Long speed is generally the most overrated trait when evaluating wide receivers, but that is certainly an area where Josh Doctson is lacking. However, he still creates big plays in the vertical game with his ball skills in contested situations and subtle deception in his route running.
As with many receivers from the Big 12, and there are a few in this class, there will be a level of competition question to answer with Doctson. He made several plays after the catch in college, but didn't show any dynamic ability in the open field. He's a smooth runner, but isn't nearly as agile or powerful with the ball in his hands as fellow top receiver, Laquon Treadwell. He also got a little too used to rounding off some of his routes in college, which won't go as well against NFL corners. While his execution is generally a positive, he'll need to iron out those poor flashes from his game.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Fantasy owners will want to hope that Josh Doctson's explosive combine performance doesn't vault him into the top-15 picks in the NFL Draft. There just aren't many teams in that range that both need a wide receiver and have a stable quarterback situation. Even if the Lions look to add an asset in free agency, they still need to look for a high-end potential No. 1 receiver to replace Calvin Johnson. Doctson can offer some of the same ability that the declining Megatron provided in 2015. The Falcons desperately needed complements to Julio Jones last season, and Doctson could provide that relief.
The Vikings aren't an ideal landing spot, as the size of their passing offense's pie is just so miniscule. Yet, Doctson would step onto that roster and be the best receiver they have from the jump. If he absorbed 110 targets as their leading wideout, he'd provide instant fantasy returns. The Seahawks might seem like a curious proposition with Doug Baldwin's breakout and hopeful projections around Tyler Lockett. Nevertheless, Seattle still can't seem to find a reliable big target for Russell Wilson, and Doctson would help add that dimension to an emerging pass offense. If the Bengals lose both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency, they will be in the market for a replacement in the first round. Being the third fiddle behind A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert would be fine, but not ideal for targets and therefore, weekly consistent fantasy points.
Early fantasy draft projection
After his dominant combine performance, many analysts will eagerly push Doctson up to as high as the 1.01 pick in dynasty rookie drafts. If you prefer to build around wide receivers, and don't feel inclined to go with Ezekiel Elliot there, it's hard to argue. At worst, he cemented himself as a top-four pick in those formats at this point in the process.
Doctson's experience, refinement and ball skills will make him a player ready to contribute from day one at the NFL level. Don't rule out that he garners over 100 targets as a rookie receiver if he lands in the right spot. Should he find himself paired with the right quarterback and passing game, Josh Doctson should continue the trend of rookie receivers proving consequential for fantasy owners.
Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.