Josh Doctson to Washington: He Could Be the Draft's Best Receiver

Doctson had to wait until the 22nd overall pick to hear his name, but he might be the best receiver in the class.

This is supposed to be a weak class of wide receivers.

Don’t tell Josh Doctson. Doctson was the third receiver off the board and had to wait until 22nd overall, but he might be the most well-rounded receiver in the class.

He might not be considered the fastest or the biggest, but it’s hard to find something Doctson doesn’t do well in the passing game. And despite not being the biggest or fastest, he’s still third among this year’s receiving class in SPARQ (a composite measure of athleticism) thanks to things like his vertical and broad jumps -- both of which are in the 95th percentile. Doctson grades out in the 95th percentile overall among NFL wide receiver in SPARQ.

He has arguably the best separation skills in the draft, regardless of whether the route and field position put him in a tight space or with room to spare. First, watch his separation near the end zone this past season against West Virginia. Off the line, the cornerback believes he has the advantage in press and is able to get Doctson over to the sideline. But once the ball is in the air, Doctson slips past the defender for an easy touchdown.

He also has the ability working down the field. The below play is one against Texas Tech from 2015, where the corner tries to be physical against Doctson and succeeds staying with the receiver for most of the route. But when it comes to getting to the ball, Doctson hits another gear in his last few steps that allows him to pull away from the defender to lay out and make the catch. This also helps show off Doctson’s fairly large catch radius.

TCU was a high-volume passing offense, but Doctson did not excel just because of the volume. He was able to transcend it.

Target Yards Added is a metric I created in an attempt to help separate a college receiver from his offense. The method is fairly simple -- subtract the quarterback's yards per attempt from the receiver’s yards per target to get somewhat of a representation of what the receiver adds to the overall offense.

Doctson was fourth overall in Target Yards Added for this year’s draft class, and he was first among receivers with at least 100 targets.

Below is a table of the 14 receivers with above-average Target Yards Added for this class. This year’s average was 1.66, below the average of the past two classes, which was 1.8.

35 receivers were measured overall in this year's class. Other top receivers in the class such as Corey Coleman (1.08) and Laquon Treadwell (0.92) did not make the above-class-average cut.

Name School Yards Targets Yards per Target QB YPA Target Yards Added
Leonte Carroo Rutgers 809 56 14.5 7.47 7.03
Will Fuller Notre Dame 1258 95 13.2 8.77 4.43
Chris Moore Cincinnati 905 70 12.9 8.6 4.33
Josh Doctson TCU 1327 107 12.4 8.7 3.7
Trevor Davis California 672 55 12.2 8.92 3.30
Roger Lewis Bowling Green 1544 130 11.9 8.69 3.21
Cody Core Ole Miss 644 57 11.3 8.68 2.62
Kolby Listenbee TCU 597 53 11.3 8.7 2.6
Rashard Higgins Colorado State 1062 106 10 7.49 2.51
Malcom Mitchell Georgia 856 92 9.4 7.29 2.11
Pharoh Cooper South Carolina 977 107 9.1 7.23 1.87
Sterling Shepard Oklahoma 1288 117 11 9.15 1.85
Nelson Spruce Colorado 1043 123 8.5 6.77 1.73
Michael Thomas Ohio State 781 84 9.3 7.58 1.72

Building on Strength

Washington might not yet be sold on the long-term play of Kirk Cousins -- he is likely to play out the season on the franchise tag -- but they’re setting him up with a lot of weapons for success. Doctson will add to a receiving corps that includes DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, as well as Jamison Crowder and Andre Roberts, though Roberts may be on the chopping block after this selection. Jordan Reed has also blossomed into one of the best receiving tight ends in the league.

Washington was already one of the most efficient offenses in the league last season by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. Washington ranked 10th in Adjusted NEP per play on offense overall and 4th in Adjusted NEP per play through the air. Cousins’ effectiveness was a big piece of that, as he ranked seventh among quarterbacks in Passing NEP per drop back.

Doctson, Jackson, Garcon and Crowder might be the ideal group of receivers one would put together in order to get the most out of a quarterback. If Cousins takes a step back with these weapons, it’s on him.

Washington allowed the Houston Texans to switch picks with them so that the Texans could take a receiver (Will Fuller), and Washington might have gotten the better one. In fact, they might have gotten the best receiver in the draft -- period.