"BREAK OUT THE SYRUP!"
When I played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back in the day, we had an assistant coach on offense who loved to yell "break out the syrup!" whenever one of the offensive players, especially when it was one of his guys, pancaked an opposing player. It was hilarious and jarring because it would come out of nowhere, usually when the meeting room was quiet.
I kept hearing that coach's voice yelling "break out the syrup" in my ear while I watched Laquon Treadwell play.
This kid is an absolute animal when it comes to blocking. It's easily the part of his game that stood out the most. Hell, we know most wide receivers were, are and always will be soft, so when a guy like Treadwell comes along and he is flat-backing cats left and right, that's always going to catch my attention. I would rather have a guy who won't just catch the football, but will also get after it blocking as well if it's at all possible. That kind of physical mentality usually translates into all parts of their game and helps elevate their worth a lot higher than the guys who only contribute as pass catchers.
Of course blocking is great, but we do judge receivers on how productive they can be in the passing game.
Well, we will get to that in a minute.
After you watch Treadwell put a few more guys on their asses.
Had enough yet? Well check out this last one where he makes his guy disappear off the screen and when you see them again the guy is on his back with Treadwell standing over him.
OK, so here's the thing, things, about Treadwell that, unlike his blocking, I'm not all that wild about. First, in five games I just didn't see him run much of the NFL route tree. Some quick slants, some quick outs, some 5-yard stops, some hooks/curls, a corner route or two and, of course, some deep balls, but that was about it. Why this matters a lot to me is because I wanted to see how quickly he could get in and out of his breaks on, say, a 10-yard comeback, or a 15-yard dig route. The reason I needed to see him run those kinds of routes is because I didn't see a lot of suddenness out of Treadwell otherwise.
I hate holding comparisons against these kids because, hell, it's not their fault if they can't live up to them and they usually aren't the ones who made them in the first place. I'd heard so many people associate Treadwell with Dez Bryant that it was really hard for me not to judge him against that comparison. I think I did, but it wasn't easy.
Treadwell is definitely high strung on the field like Bryant and isn't afraid to get his uniform dirty at all, but when you throw Dez a smoke screen, as soon as he gets that ball in his hands he starts looking more like a running back than a wide receiver. Dez is looking to run around or through somebody and generally starts heading upfield right away, like a running back hitting the hole. If someone is in his face right away he tries, and is usually successful, at pushing them off. If there isn't anybody there, then you see Bryant hit that ppppeeeeewwwwwnnnn button and eat up five yards in the time it takes you to blink. When he sticks his foot in the ground to turn upfield his explosiveness is usually on full display.
Treadwell just isn't hitting it like that in the same situations. At least not in those five games.
I give credit to Treadwell for his physicality after some of those catches. He certainly is strong enough to drag some guys with him at times. My issue is that while he did flash that at times, I also saw a few too many times where the first guy brought him down on those short passes. If he is supposed to be a "big" wide receiver who is also explosive enough to be a game changer on the next level, I just expected to see him break more tackles. I just don't see a lot of Dez Bryant there at the end of the day.
I also know that Treadwell's long speed is a concern for some folks. Bryant ran a 4.52, and if Treadwell runs that I think most draft observers would say that's a good time for him (he didn't run at the combine). It's not the 40 time I think most expect from Treadwell when he does run at his pro day on March 28. Besides that, I'm more concerned with how quick Treadwell is laterally than his long speed, another area where I feel like he and Bryant differ.
Don't get me wrong, for what Ole Miss asked of Treadwell he did an outstanding job. He was a bona fide red-zone threat and a deep threat as well, 40 time be damned. Unfortunately, the top of the draft is generally more about what you are projected to do on the next level than what you have already done in college. If Treadwell does run a slow 40 time, any problems he might have adjusting to running pro-style routes will be magnified further, especially going up against NFL level competition at cornerback.
More and more NFL defensive coordinators are running either a heavy dose of man-to-man or some kind of zone that is basically a hybrid of man-to-man. For Treadwell to be able to make the kind of impact you expect/hope to get from a first-round pick, it's going to take a lot more than just being physical. He has be able to get separation on all kinds of routes because he won't be able to simply out-muscle everybody.
I didn't get to see Treadwell's combine workout, so I don't know how he looked running routes there. Even if I had, it wouldn't factor into this particular breakdown because that would be above and beyond his game tape, and I try to confine my breakdown to just the games and, if available, any testing numbers. Reason being is that it's a lot easier to look good in shirts and shorts than it is when you are out there with pads, cleats and a helmet, so actually playing takes precedent. It's cool if guys get better at their technique working out in preparation for the draft, but I'm generally only comfortable evaluating players with what I've seen them do in games along with their measurables because that's pretty uniform.
I just didn't see the kind of explosiveness from Treadwell that I feel like I needed to see to feel comfortable taking him high in the first round, if the decision was up to me.
Of course I *was* the guy last year who questioned how explosive Amari Cooper would be as a pro. I still maintain that his 32-inch vertical leap kinda showed what I was trying to get at, but there is no denying the big year he had as a rookie for the Raiders this past season. He averaged almost 15 yards per catch, which is pretty damn explosive. So maybe I'm just missing something here with Treadwell. Cooper was a super polished receiver coming out, so they are kind of polar opposites aside from my explosiveness question. I've broken down other "big, physical" receivers in years past and the guys who impressed me the most always had that quickness, where it didn't take them long to accelerate.
I just did not see that much with Treadwell in those five games.
Then there were the drops.
It's hard sometimes to tell from the TV copy if what looks like a drop is really a drop or not, especially if they don't show a slow-motion replay that zooms in on the ball. What I will say is that for a guy who is supposed to be a big-time receiver, I saw more plays that were at least close to drops than I would have liked. If you aren't going to be a speed demon, the least you can do is have really good hands. It's kinda weird because on some plays Treadwell looks like such a natural pass catcher and on others, he looks like some rando butterfingers guy.
I have some deal breakers that are position specific. Having trouble actually catching the ball is top three for me when it comes to wide receivers. I love that Treadwell tries to take guys' blocks off, but wide receivers get paid (and drafted) to catch the damn football. If they can't do that, then not much else matters. They won't last very long in the NFL that way.
On the plus side, Treadwell did line up all over the place, including the slot, which isn't necessarily the norm these days in college football. The problem, again, was I didn't see many different kinds of routes no matter where he lined up. It's hard to know or extrapolate how effective he would be in the slot as a pro when you didn't get to see him run many routes from there in college. That's especially true of a guy who may not be all that quick in and out of his breaks.
Maybe I'm being a little too critical here because Treadwell did score seven touchdowns in the five games I watched. Actually, he scored seven in four of the five games I watched because he didn't have any against Florida, but he was impactful against everyone else.
Several of those touchdowns were definitely highlight-reel caliber and he was a tough cover for just about any college cornerback who tried to check him one on one. Treadwell did show some good hand technique when working to get off the line against press coverage, too. While his route running may need to be refined, I was impressed with some of the subtle movements he used when running longer routes to get defensive backs turned around.
I don't want it to come across like I'm dogging the kid because the truth is his tape was very fun to watch. Treadwell competes almost every play and his production speaks for itself. I'm just saying that some of the things that came so easy to him in college probably won't in the pros. Trying to learn how to run routes is likely going to have him playing slow at first and for a guy who isn't all that fast to begin with, that could lead to some not-so-great outcomes early on if not further into his career.
There was still a lot to like about Treadwell's tape, but I have quite a few concerns when it comes to how he projects as a pro. That's before I even get to any worries about the leg injury he sustained in 2014. I do love his mentality and the way he plays the game. Ultimately, he will be a decent wide receiver ... I just can't be sure enough of that based on these five games to pick him in the top half of the first round. Sorry, not sorry.
Since he is the first wide receiver I've broken down this year, it may well be that there aren't any wide receivers coming out in 2016 who are better than Treadwell. The combine testing from that group didn't exactly blow people away. So maybe a team that really needs a playmaker at wide receiver will go ahead and turn Treadwell's name in to Roger Goodell early, but I have a feeling that unless he turns in a decent 40 time, he may well slip to the bottom half of the first. That's just where I see his value until something changes.
Since I don't have access to all-22 for college football games I use the next best thing for my draft profiles: Draft Breakdown. They have the TV copy of a bunch of top prospects already cut up and ready to go. Also, their site is compatible with the new NoHuddle app, which turns your cell phone into a "cowboy clicker" which is pretty damn neat. For the purposes of this breakdown I watched Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell play against Florida, New Mexico State, Texas A&M, Auburn and Oklahoma State. Those represented the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth and 13th games on Ole Miss' schedule last season, respectively.