After covering tight end Kyle Pitts in our first Gators 2021 NFL Draft scouting report, next we'll cover electric wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
When Toney teased the idea of declaring for the 2020 NFL Draft after his injury-riddled junior season, I honestly believed he would have needed to transition to running back in order to best utilize his skill-set at the pro level. Toney is freakishly elusive with absurd body control and contact balance which allows him to break tackles with ease.
Given previous experience in the backfield as a high school quarterback and lack of progression as a receiver at that point, it was hard to see him becoming a true pass-catcher at the next level at that time. Whereas, the idea of Toney earning tuches as a rusher and receiver out of the backfield made sense.
Instead, Toney returned to UF for a senior season to take on a feature role at wide receiver, and polished his game up immensely over the year.
Primarily aligning in the slot, Toney drastically improved as an underneath route-runner and made use of his uncanny elusiveness to best separate from coverage defenders. His routes at times became predictable - Toney often won on slant, whip, and jerk patterns - yet defenders still struggled to keep up after Toney put his foot in the dirt and broke into his route.
From there, Toney often displayed his well-known ability to make tacklers miss and break away from contact for extra yards. According to Pro Football Focus, Toney's average depth of target in 2020 was 7.7 yards downfield while his yards-after-the-catch average came in at 6.8 yards. Toney forced 20 missed tackles throughout the season.
Toney showed off sure hands during his time as well, dropping only three passes including two in 2020 while he more than doubled his targets from his first three seasons combined. He possesses below-average size and length among wide receivers but made several catches outside of his frame and in contested situations. Those plays won't ever be his speciality, but he's at least capable.
Throughout his UF career, Toney frequently received manufactured touches as both a receiver and a rusher. He memorably broke free for a 66-yard touchdown on a screen pass on Florida's first offensive play of the 2019 season against Miami, for one.
Toney took snaps as a Wildcat quarterback (with several passing attempts and a touchdown along the way) and a true running back, while also flexing into the backfield from the slot on reverses, jet sweeps, and to diagnose man coverage pre-snap. He scored two touchdowns while averaging 8.8 yards per attempt at Florida, across 66 rushes.
In addition, Toney occasionally returned kicks throughout his UF career and exploded as a punt returner in 2020, averaging 12.6 yards per return and scoring a lead-changing touchdown against Kentucky as halftime approached.
Basically, whichever NFL team selects Toney will be receiving the ultimate versatile threat for its offense with special teams experience and skills as a plus. He'll mainly work the slot position but can occasionally flex outside, but it's best to keep him closer to the backfield in order for his offense to use him creatively.
Whether he's breaking ankles across the middle of the field or into the flats, winning on the occasional deep route, taking handoffs or jet sweeps, or even throwing a pass, Toney fits the bill of an explosive weapon that most spread offenses would love to feature.