Laquon Treadwell aligned in a wide split, an isolation look. Ball on the far hash, receiver on the bottom of the numbers. One-on-one stuff. And no help for the Oklahoma State cornerback aligned across from him. It's the kind of matchup wide receivers like Treadwell dream of.
The release? Treadwell slow-played this thing on the fade route. He hopped off the line, reduced the pace and forced the cornerback to settle his feet before accelerating up the field. The rest looked easy, really, as Treadwell separated to the end zone, adjusted to the ball with his 6-foot-2, 221-pound frame and finished the catch. Soft hands. His third touchdown of the night. (See the whole sequence here.)
Watching that tape reminded me of Brandon Marshall, Terrell Owens or even Keyshawn Johnson from back in the day. Those guys were all similar wide receivers with the big frame, body control and footwork to create some separation before winning with the ball in the air. Show off that catch radius, and go get it.
The long speed? The stopwatch time for Treadwell? It's in the low 4.6 range, but the tape tells us he can challenge defensive backs over the top when he has the matchup.
"I know how to get off the ball and I know how to get going," Treadwell told me recently. "That's what counts."
I can point to the deep post Treadwell ran versus Texas A&M for a touchdown. Stem to the corner and break back to the middle of the field. Leave the defensive back trailing. Or the 34-yard TD he pulled in versus Oklahoma State. Stack on top. Take control of the route. That's game speed. And similar to Marshall, I put the projected first-rounder as a 4.5 guy based on the film.
We have to understand that Treadwell isn't going to turn out 40 times in the 4.3s like Notre Dame's Will Fuller, and he might not be the consistent home-run threat in an NFL system. Don't try to compare him to the burners. Instead, this guy is going to own the middle of the field, produce after the catch and rip up defenses in the red zone. He's that big-bodied wide receiver who plays with toughness. And that's rough for defensive backs when they can't get to the ball. No different than a hoops player on the low post. Box-out those corners.
And he blocks. Man, Treadwell goes after defensive backs outside of the numbers. He competes in those situations with strong hands and a relentless effort.
"You can go back to my freshman year," Treadwell said of his ability to block at the position. "That's my job, and that's what I have to do. Separates me in a sense."
"I basically played in the SEC on one leg. And to see the things I did on just natural ability and competing at a high level ... that's unbelievable to me"Laquon Treadwell
Maybe Treadwell wasn't as explosive as he wanted to be on tape this season after suffering a horrific lower leg injury as a sophomore in 2014, yet he still produced 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns on 82 receptions this year for Ole Miss. Those are legit numbers versus SEC competition after working his way back through an extremely tough rehab.
"I wasn't 100 percent the whole year," Treadwell said. "I basically played in the SEC on one leg. And to see the things I did on just natural ability and competing at a high level ... that's unbelievable to me."
The spread offense Treadwell played in at Ole Miss is always up for debate with pro scouts because of how the system projects to the systems on Sundays. Heck, some guys I talked to even call it "simplified." But that offense did feature plenty of the same routes we see in the NFL game. Just look at the curl, fade, slant, dig and shallow crosser along with the RPOs (run-pass options) that continue to pop up in the league. It's not all bubble screens. Will there be a transition? Sure. Treadwell will have to improve his technique and route-running, just like any receiver going to the league.
But Treadwell believes he will have more freedom in an NFL system compared to a route tree at Ole Miss that lacked double-moves while focusing primarily on getting to the sticks. And he's also quick to point out where he's at in terms of his development at the position.
"I really don't know much about the position as far as route running," Treadwell said. "I really haven't had someone who was teaching the little nuances of the receiver position."
Think about that when watching the tape or looking at the numbers he put up last season. Treadwell got that done by knowing how to use his size and leaning on his natural talent to beat defensive backs. Pretty clean footwork too, with the ability to finish. It's there on the tape. The 7 route versus Arkansas for six. The slant route against Oklahoma State where he used the stutter move to beat press-man and win inside. Those are pro-level routes in my opinion for a player that is going to bring a bunch of upside to the league when he starts working with pro coaches. And he values self-scouting, film study.
That's important for Treadwell when has to match up versus some of the top defensive backs in the league during his rookie season. So how does he plan on countering Patrick Petersons and Richard Shermans of the world?
"Try to get going -- immediately. There's no sense with me being 6-2, 221, playing at the line with them and dancing around," Treadwell said. "Give them a move and go. And if it's a fade, that's what you want. That's the type of stuff you live for as a receiver. So, you just gotta make the play. Make the tough one."
The projections? Mid-to-late first. Maybe a top-15 guy. Or maybe a little later on Day 1 to the Vikings or Bengals. The board, or a draft-day trade, will dictate that kind of stuff for Treadwell. He has first-round talent and a first-round ceiling -- one he hasn't even come close to touching from his perspective.
"I let guys talk and let everyone say what they want to say about me," Treadwell said. "I know what my goals are, I know what I want to accomplish. It's about the long run. It's about two years down the road when I'm one of the top receivers and guys gotta get ready to match up against me."