SI 50, Nos. 26–25: Josh Doctson and Taylor Decker
With free agency winding down, and the 2016 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to finish the process of getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. To that end, Doug Farrar has assembled his own Big Board, with his top 50 players.
The SI 50 uses tape study to define the best prospects in this class, and why they’re slotted as such. As we continue with the first round of players, it’s time to review a receiver with just about everything on the ball, and an offensive lineman prepped to excel regardless of position.
26. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 202
Bio: Doctson moved from Wyoming to TCU after the 2011 season, and after the prerequisite transfer sit, he caught 36 passes for 440 yards and four touchdowns for the Horned Frogs in 2013. However, when TCU coach Gary Patterson hired Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to run his offense in ’14, Doctson really blew up on a national scale. He caught 65 passes for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns that season, including an eye-popping 225 yards on just seven catches against Oklahoma State.
To prove that was no fluke, Doctson was even better in 2015, amassing 78 catches for 1,326 yards and 14 touchdowns. He became the second NCAA player in the last 20 years (Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree was the other) to gain at least 100 yards and have multiple touchdown catches in at least six straight games, and he absolutely demolished Texas Tech last September with an 18-catch, 267-yard, three-touchdown performance. And he put up those numbers before a broken wrist ended his senior season in November. Not bad for a lightly-recruited walk-on who had to earn everything he’s been given.
“I’m not supposed to be standing here on this stage,” he told the media at the scouting combine. “I’m blessed with the opportunity. I have got to take full advantage of the opportunity. Not being recruited out of high school... I don’t have any grudges, but anybody would love to be in my shoes right now. I am just fortunate I am standing right here, so I am taking all of it as blessings.”
As one of the most exciting deep threat in this draft class, Doctson has a lot more blessings ahead of him.
Strengths: Doctson has an enthralling combination of smooth vertical speed, toughness in tight coverage and subtle route movements. Accelerates well through deep routes and can shake defenders loose with shifts on the move. Skilled in making decisive cuts on slants and in-cuts. Times his jumps to catch very well, accentuating his height, and has no issue hand-fighting with aggressive cornerbacks. High-volume receiver with an impressive catch radius, especially on high and overthrown passes, and not afraid to bring his arms up even when he knows he’s about to get a chest shot. Can roll his body past defenders in off-coverage. Natural boundary receiver who has a great sense of his place at the sideline. Tough, willing and persistent blocker. Great yards-after-catch receiver who runs with toughness and will stiff-arm defenders on the hoof. Height/weight combination would imply a thin frame, but Doctson has good musculature and knows how to use it. Will go all out even when he’s getting beaten up in the end zone. Passionate player with a great work ethic.
Weaknesses: While Doctson makes wider cuts well, he’s a bit slower on routes that require quick cuts—takes him an extra second to get set, and he may miss catches at the next level against defenders who know how to work that. This may also limit him as a slot receiver, as well. Worked in a college offense that presented him with easy coverage openings, and will need time to adapt to more aggressive press coverage in the NFL. Runs too upright, which limits his body efficiency at times, especially when he’s trying to accelerate to another gear downfield. Will need reps over the middle to develop specific tracking skills.
Conclusion: NFL teams will covet Doctson because he brings a combination of deep and boundary receiving skills, absolute fearlessness in the red zone and game-to-game consistency that’s hard to match. He’ll be a complementary receiver right away, with the potential to grow in to a legitimate number-one target.
Pro Comparison: DeVante Parker, Dolphins (first round, 2015, Louisville)
25. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Height: 6' 7" Weight: 310
Bio: Decker has all the high-level experience any NFL team could want, starting 42 straight games for the Buckeyes after working on special teams in his freshman season. The 2015 Big Ten Lineman of the Year was the perennial force on an Ohio State offense with a regular penchant for breaking school records in offensive production. Decker played at right tackle in 2013 before transitioning to the left side for the ’14 and ’15 seasons. Decker was also a good enough high-school basketball player to draw attention from smaller colleges, but he’s proven that he’s a football guy, through and through. A driven player, Decker remarked at the combine that he wants to start right away in the NFL—no prep time for him.
“I don’t think anybody would want to come in and be like, ‘Oh, I’ll ride the bench for a couple years.’ I want to come in immediately. I want to be a starter. I don’t want to just be a player that ‘we can survive with him’ I want to provide value for a team and be an asset and not a guy who’s kind of dead weight. That’s a huge goal to have. It’s going to be very difficult to do. It’s something I’m going to pursue and chase and hopefully accomplish.”
The tape shows that Decker could attain his goal with most NFL teams; the only question is where he’s best-suited to play at the next level.
Strengths: Big, well-framed blocker with a muscular upper body and power in his legs. Has an innate understanding of how to flare out and protect the arc against edge-rushers. Great feet for the position—has a working kick-step, and keeps his upper body balanced and arms in check when he’s pulling back. Latches on as a run-blocker and can mirror well to the edge as well as he pushes defenders back. Hits targets efficiently at the second level and has the power and technique to dominate linebackers. Will absolutely put opponents on their backs at times. Plays with a peppery attitude—has a defensive mentality, especially in the run game, and loves to mix it up from snap to whistle. Pinches inside and seals the edge very well, and has the strength to move defensive tackles at times. Keeps his head on a swivel and understands zone and second-level assignments very well. Has the processing speed to deal with twists and stunts. Basketball background shows up on tape with his ‘dancing bear’ potential. Consistent, high-rep starter and a leader on and off the field. Plug-and-play from Day 1.
Weaknesses: Average-sized arms prevent him from keeping rushers at bay all the time—his tendency is to let defenders into his area too often. Vulnerable against inside counters and arm-over moves, and doesn’t always sustain through the whole play when pass-blocking—Decker lets guys slip off and rush past him more than he should. Can be a step slow off the snap, and isn’t always direct enough when dealing with rushers who are able to beat him with that first move. Good eyes to the second level, but isn’t that agile in space—tends to mince when he runs at times. Slow to recover from hand-punches. Height is sometimes an issue, as Decker doesn’t consistently get under his opponents’ pads and can be shaken off his assignment as a result. Needs to be more consistent with his hands when latching on and punching.
Conclusion: Decker, who’s been working with performance coach LeCharles Bentley in the offseason, has said that he would prefer to stay at left tackle at the NFL level. And some teams—run-heavy teams without a specific every-down need for pass-blocking masters—may go that route. However, Decker projects very well as a right tackle (or even a guard, if he can overcome the height/leverage issue), and it’s this potential positional versatility, matched with his high level of play and undeniable intangibles, that will point to his NFL success.
Pro Comparison: Bryan Bulaga, Packers (first round, 2010, Iowa)