NCAA Football News
There are impressive recruiting runs, and then there are those stretches of earning offers that only a handful of athletes get to experience.
Oklahoma City cornerback Justin Broiles committed to Oklahoma on Monday afternoon, but before he announced his verbal commitment, the 4-star athlete juggled 33 offers. And of those 33, 31 came in a month's span.
It's hard to believe that the first week of February, Broiles was balancing offers from Tulsa and Arkansas State. On Feb. 8, Kansas State offered. Then Nebraska. Then the same-day trio of SMU, Houston and Colorado State. Then a next-day trio of Arkansas, Iowa State and Ole Miss.
Consider the massive influx commenced.
"The recruiting process has been crazy," said Broiles, who plays for John Marshall High School. "You know, going from two offers to having 33 in a month is crazy. I didn't expect for me to blow up like I did this early, but it's all been a blessing, and I'm thankful for it."
Broiles, the No. 2 player in Oklahoma in the 2017 class (the No. 1 player, linebacker Levi Draper, also has committed to Oklahoma), picked up the Sooners' offer last month while at an Oklahoma junior day. He said he chose the Sooners over offers from Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, Oregon, Arizona State and Red River rival Texas.
For Broiles, the decision was relatively simple.
"OU is just home," he said. "I've grown up an OU fan, and this is where I want to play my college ball."
The Sooners are getting an athletic, hungry cornerback in Broiles, a 6'0", 175-pound athlete who is a physical defender and a solid open-field tackler. Of his 47 tackles as a junior, 37 were unassisted. Broiles also saw time in John Marshall's offense as a receiver, catching 14 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, per MaxPreps.
Broiles' second week of February was one he said he'll never forget. After entering the preceding week with two offers, he watched his recruitment skyrocket with nine offers in a six-day span. Oklahoma happened to be the ensuing offer after that.
Broiles was a big get for Oklahoma, which is currently a top-five team in 247Sports' team recruiting rankings for the 2017 class. The Sooners has seven commits, and all seven are 4-star athletes. Broiles is an added piece to a talented secondary class that also features Southlake, Texas, safety Robert Barnes and Miami cornerback Trajan Bandy.
Now an Oklahoma commit, Broiles said he can sit back and focus on getting better for his senior year at John Marshall. But Broiles said he'll never forget the roller-coaster ride he had with recruiting, primarily in the month of February.
He also is happy to be a part of the recruiting class of the team he's followed since he was a young boy.
"When they offered, I kind of had a feeling to where I wanted to go," he said. "But after talking it over with my family and coaches, I came to the conclusion that this is where I want to play my college ball."
Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles.
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Nothing makes the interminably long college football offseason drag along even slower than a prolonged position battle. Spring practice takes care of some of the questions surrounding your favorite team, but not all of them, and in most cases the queries left standing are big ones.
Who will start at quarterback? Who's going to rush the passer? Is there someone who can run the ball effectively? Will the line be able to open holes? Why is there so much uncertainty!?
With spring practice underway at many schools—and set to begin at several others—battles will be waged for open starting positions. Several will get filled as a result of spring competitions, and many of these position battles will not only continue on into preseason camp but might not end up getting decided until just before kickoff of that first game in the 2016 season.
Here's our look at the position battle for each power-conference school (along with top independents BYU and Notre Dame) that has a chance to last that long.
The million-dollar club in college football isn't just for head coaches anymore.
As salaries for college football's head men continue to skyrocket, there's been a trickle-down effect to their top assistants. That's especially true if the assistant is a top-notch defensive coordinator, as those dominate the salary databases in today's offense-friendly age of football.
With the 2016 coaching carousel almost coming to a complete stop—Illinois decided to take it for one more spin this past weekend—let's take a look at the assistant coaches who will be paid the most for their services this upcoming season.
The bulk of the information for this top-10 list came from the excellent assistant coach salary database at USA Today, which totaled up the pay for the 2015 contract year. Each coach is listed with his 2015 salary and his projected 2016 salary, with numbers for several assistants in new roles based on reported figures.
(For those who don't have a confirmed 2016 salary yet, their place on this list is based on their 2015 salary.)
Keep in mind that private schools such as Notre Dame, USC and Stanford aren't required to release their coaches' contract information like their public school counterparts. That's why that type of institution, with one notable exception, isn't found on salary lists like this one.
Which college football assistant do you think deserves the biggest payday? Find a name and salary amount that I missed in my research? Let me know in the comments below.
Immediate-impact prospects are tremendous additions to any college football program, but a collection of redshirt freshmen will provide that kind of boost in 2016.
Perhaps they served as a backup to an incumbent starter last season, entered a loaded roster or simply needed a year to develop.
But next season, the following second-year players have favorable opportunities to become key contributors on their respective teams.
You might even see a couple of these guys occupying major roles during the College Football Playoff.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Fourteen minutes and 32 seconds.
That's how long it took for Urban Meyer to be asked about his quarterback and arguably the most important player on his roster, J.T. Barrett, following Ohio State's first practice of the spring on Tuesday.
The inquiry didn't come from a member of the national media, nor was the answer broadcast to millions of homes or even tweeted to tens of thousands of followers from the relatively small gathering of reporters inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center team meeting room.
In fact, the fifth-year Buckeyes head coach's opening spring practice press conference was pretty—for a lack of a better term—boring, in comparison to the three-ring circus that emanated from Columbus just a year ago.
"I was expecting high energy, and that's what we got. Our whole focus is on four-to-six [seconds], [point] A to B," Meyer said, repeating one of his signature mantras. "We've got a lot of work to do."
Such is life at Ohio State in 2016, where the TMZ-like atmosphere that surrounded the program 12 months ago and throughout the 2015 season has been replaced by a back-to-basics mentality necessary for a team with 16 open starting spots on its depth chart.
The Buckeyes might be the current national championship favorites according to oddsmakers, but don't tell that to Meyer, who's more concerned with a roster already bitten by injuries after just one day of spring practice.
"We have 11 right now—guys that we're counting on that can't go full-speed," Meyer said. "This is uncharted waters for me."
Ohio State's injury issue, however, underscores the larger theme in Columbus this spring, where intrigue and uncertainty has replaced a senior class responsible for 50 wins in four years and nine early departures-turned-NFL hopefuls from last year's team.
Even with a fully healthy roster, Meyer wouldn't yet know what he'll be able to count on, with 83.1 percent of his team's receiving yards, 73.1 percent of its rushing yards and seven of its top 10 tacklers from 2015 having walked out the door.
Indeed, it is "the year of development," as Meyer has called it on multiple occasions already—a clear departure from the known commodities last year's squad possessed after 2014's similarly young roster made its unexpected to the inaugural College Football Playoff championship.
The national media that flocked to Columbus to cover the eventual undisputed preseason No. 1 team was noticeably absent on Tuesday, instead delaying their travel plans to attend the Buckeyes' pro day on Friday.
Only this year, it will be the players actually participating in drills and not the ones standing on the sideline that scouts will be most interested in, as opposed to 12 months ago, when Ohio State's highly touted underclassmen overshadowed its outgoing seniors.
On this year's Buckeyes roster, surefire NFL prospects are few and far between, which isn't all that surprising given the lack of playing time available on last year's team.
"I do," Meyer answered when asked if he found himself missing the pro-ready talent that littered last year's team during Tuesday's practice session. "But it's part of growing up, I guess. When your daughter gets married and leaves home and when you see 14, 15, 16, 17 players who you really care about leave."
The difference, however, is you can replace those players—as difficult as it may be, given the gaping holes they left and the injuries that currently plague the Buckeyes roster.
That rings especially true with the wide receiver unit, where Ohio State was without Noah Brown, Curtis Samuel, Corey Smith and K.J. Hill on Tuesday. Brown, Samuel and Smith had previously been penciled in to be the Buckeyes' new starters, replacing the outgoing Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Braxton Miller.
Defensively, depth has suddenly become an issue as well, with Ohio State practicing with just two healthy scholarship safeties on Tuesday. Malik Hooker and cornerback-turned-safety Eric Glover-Williams worked with the Buckeyes' first team, while Erick Smith and Cam Burrows each found themselves sidelined with injury issues.
"With 11 guys out, that's the thing that kicks you in the teeth. If everybody's ready to go, I think you could do that," Meyer answered when asked if he thought he could make out a new depth chart from this spring. "But we're not."
That's not to say Ohio State doesn't have some certainty to fall back on, particularly in the form of Barrett, who at this time last year was dealing with an unprecedented quarterback competition involving himself, Miller and Cardale Jones. That makes for one less distraction this season for the Buckeyes, who will no longer have to answer questions pertaining to who their starting signal-caller will be.
And perhaps that's what will be most important for Ohio State this spring as Meyer attempts to eliminate what he terms "noise," in favor of a more football-focused approach to practice.
The uncertainty is there, but so is plenty the Buckeyes can count on. Just like the question about Barrett, it might just take a little longer to get to the destination than it did a year ago.
Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All statistics courtesy of CFBStats.com. Recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.
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AUBURN, Ala. — The unofficial start to the 2016 football season couldn't have come any sooner for the Auburn Tigers.
Last week, Gus Malzahn's team hit the field for the first time since capping a disappointing 7-6 campaign at the Birmingham Bowl. Back on the Plains, Auburn's players and coaches alike are eager to begin the work to make sure 2016 will be much different.
"Our guys are extremely excited to get out there," Malzahn said last Tuesday. "They’ve done a super job up to this point with our mat drills, in the weight room. You can tell this is a very close group. You can also tell that they’ve got a chip on their shoulder from last year, which I think is very healthy."
It's also a new-look group for Auburn, as the Tigers break in several new position coaches and start to fill in some gaps on the depth chart from last year's departures. That could also include a new No. 1 at quarterback.
Auburn will start its second full week of practice Tuesday afternoon. Before the Tigers return to the field, let's take a look back at all the action from Week 1.
Eyes on the skies
It's another spring, another quarterback situation to watch at Auburn.
After Jeremy Johnson and Sean White struggled while splitting time as the No. 1 quarterback last season, the Tigers are opening things back up again with what is currently a multi-player battle.
Johnson and White are focused on bouncing back from the disappointment of 2015, while JUCO transfer John Franklin III is looking to take over the job as the electric dual-threat that Auburn lacked last season.
"He looks very athletic," left guard Alex Kozan said. "I saw he juked the daylights out of a defensive end—something I really haven't seen in a while."
Redshirt freshman Tyler Queen is somewhat limited but still throwing, and new walk-on Devin Adams is on hand to create more competition.
While Auburn was focused on protecting Johnson last season, the staff is looking to create separation among its quarterbacks by making them take hits at times this spring. In 2013, that method produced starter Nick Marshall ahead of an SEC title season.
"We’re able to go live this spring," Malzahn said. "Usually when you do that, things separate a little quicker. If we do that it will be after spring break. That's something we've talked about, especially if no one really separates themselves."
Of course, there's two sides to an effective passing game, and Auburn is also looking for answers this spring at wide receiver. New wide receiver coach Kodi Burns is stepping into a situation in which Auburn must replace its top two receivers this offseason, with his returners combining for only 575 yards last season.
"We have some experience, but overall I think we're inexperienced," Malzahn said. "That's what it is, but I think that can be a good thing. ... We've got a couple of guys coming in that we feel like will have a chance to help, too, but I really think the big thing is that we will have some talent to work with there."
In addition to Marcus Davis, Jason Smith and Tony Stevens—along with high-potential underclassmen such as Darius Slayton—Auburn has one of the top wide receiver classes of 2016 coming to campus.
One of the biggest stars of the class, Georgia native Kyle Davis, enrolled early and wasted no time wowing his new team with his skill set.
"He's got the ability," Malzahn said. "He's got that ability that could definitely help us next year. ... The 'earn it' attitude, he understands that."
Steele's stamp on defense
First-year Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele got right to the point when asked what he wants to see from his new unit.
In fact, he repeated the same phrase multiple times in the first answer of his Saturday press conference.
"What we are trying to create right now...is to be a physical, dominating group that plays with relentless effort," Steele said. "The thing that is the most encouraging at this point over the first three days is we’ve got a really, really good attitude, and we have really tried to play with great effort on every play."
It's a similar style to what former coordinator Will Muschamp sought to install during his one brief season on the Plains.
"That's what he's been preaching the whole practice: effort, and you build off of that," defensive tackle Dontavius Russell said. "Making sure we all got good effort to the ball and stuff like that. ... We're trying to build an identity as a team, and that's with effort."
And in order to make things easier on a defense that is going through its fifth defensive coordinator in six seasons, Steele is keeping the transition simple.
"We've tried to facilitate the learning curve a little bit," Steele said. "The dictionary is pretty similar. We've tried to keep as much of it the same as possible, which makes it friendly for the players."
For example, the pass-rushing defensive end/outside linebacker hybrid that Carl Lawson played last year is still called the "Buck." The Tigers will line up in similar fronts in Steele's scheme, too.
When it comes to the on-field coaching, Steele and Muschamp have different demeanors—most of the time.
Defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence has already seen firsthand that the Tigers' new defensive coordinator has some fire inside him.
"He's more calm [than Muschamp], but at the same thing you've got to realize he's still going to bite, too," Lawrence said. "He's got an edge to him, you know what I'm saying?"
In the trenches
The strength of Auburn's 2016 team should be found on the defensive line, where the Tigers return Montravius Adams, Lawson, Russell, Lawrence, Byron Cowart and other highly touted players.
Adams and Lawson both decided to stay in school for 2016 instead of enter the NFL draft early—decisions Adams said were made with some help from each other.
"We decided to come back so we could play a whole season together," Adams said. "We came in as freshmen and played together in the Under Armour game and Rising Seniors game when we were in the 11th grade. Now just coming here, we haven’t played a complete season yet."
Auburn could start up to four former 5-star recruits on the defensive line this season, with plenty of blue-chip names filling in the depth chart behind them, including 2016 signee Marlon Davidson. Right now, the newcomers are having to make the tough adjustment to life under veteran line coach Rodney Garner.
"I use the example as they meet Rodney Garner when they are a recruit," Adams said. "But when they get there—that's Coach G."
On the other side of the ball, Auburn should stay strong on the offensive line with the return of its entire interior and a couple of new leaders emerging on the outside.
Auburn returns left guard Kozan, center Austin Golson and right guard Braden Smith for 2016. The line also picks up the newly eligible Darius James, a transfer from Texas who has the ability to play anywhere on the offensive line.
"Darius James has impressed me so far," Kozan said. "He's been able to set the edges as an offensive tackle and keep up with those speed guys, which I wasn't really sure if he could do. But he's proven himself so far. ... He's got a great energy."
Longtime backup Robert Leff took most of the first-team snaps at left tackle during the first week of spring camp, but new offensive line coach Herb Hand is moving players around quite a bit in order to get a handle on his best five. Kozan said he was even taking snaps at center.
"I probably expect to stay at left guard, but at the same time, you never know," Kozan said. "[In] spring of 2014, everybody thought we'd be in our spots, and I got hurt. It's important to learn other spots for right now and long term for your career."
- Safety Tray Matthews (shoulder), running back Kerryon Johnson (shoulder) and cornerback Jeremiah Dinson (knee) will miss the entire spring. Safety Rudy Ford and JUCO defensive end Paul James III missed all of Week 1 with injuries, but Malzahn said Monday he hopes both will return this week.
- Malzahn announced four new graduate assistants—including former Auburn quarterback Jonathan Wallace and defensive end Craig Sanders—and four new analysts to the 2016 staff.
- Defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence has massive goals for himself in 2016. Lawrence told reporters Saturday he wants to win the Lombardi and the Outland this year, a feat which Tom Green of the Opelika-Auburn News noted has only been done 13 times since 1970.
- Malzahn's new BMW i8 sports car has made headlines recently, and the head coach revealed Thursday he bought it for himself as a 50th birthday present.
- Auburn will practice Tuesday and Thursday before taking next week off for the university's spring break.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Justin Ferguson is a National College Football Analyst at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.
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The 2016 schedule should be relatively kind to the Notre Dame football team, but the Fighting Irish certainly won't be waltzing toward the College Football Playoff.
Still, though head coach Brian Kelly's squad begins and ends the year away from South Bend, most of his team's toughest games will be played in the comfort of Notre Dame Stadium.
That home-heavy slate bodes well for the Irish's aspirations to compete for a national championship, especially because the toughest opponent—both collectively and individually—must travel 2,200 miles.
Five teams—and one wild card—present the greatest obstacles in the path of Notre Dame ripping off an undefeated regular season.
Every now and then, one recruit will receive a flood of interest that results in numerous offers in a short time period.
That was the case last week with 3-star linebacker Tyler Taylor from Lanier High School in Buford, Georgia.
Nine Power Five schools, including programs from the Big Ten, Big 12 and the SEC, pulled the trigger on the 6’1”, 213-pounder—who rates as the nation’s No. 21 inside linebacker and the No. 593 player overall in the 2017 cycle.
One of the new schools on his list that grabbed his attention is the homestanding Bulldogs, as detailed by Rusty Mansell of Dawgs247.
"They are a great program!" Taylor told Mansell. "I think the defense that they run fits well with how I play as a linebacker being able to play inside and outside. I don't have any leaders as of right now because I'm still fairly new to the recruiting process but they are certainly high on the list. Plus being from Georgia always helps."
Another school that could figure heavily in the mix with Taylor is Auburn, who recently signed prep teammate and 5-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown in the 2016 cycle.
Regardless, it seems that Taylor is a prospect who will continue to draw interest from top programs around the nation in the coming months.
Clemson Offers 2017’s Top WR
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has recruited the receiver position as well as any coach in the country in recent years.
However, the Tigers aren’t done in their quest to land game-breakers in the 2017 cycle.
The 6’2”, 192-pound Detroit native is the nation’s top receiver and the No. 6 player overall in the 2017 cycle.
With the Tigers' success in grooming receivers under Swinney, their program is one likely to attract interest from a national prospect such as Peoples-Jones.
Ohio State After Utah DL
One of Ohio State’s primary needs in the 2017 cycle is at the defensive tackle position.
Head coach Urban Meyer and his staff have already landed verbal commitments from a pair of 4-stars at the position in Haskell Garrett and Jerron Cage, but the Buckeyes would love to add more talent and depth at that spot.
Last week, the Buckeyes offered 4-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele—who is the top overall prospect from the state of Utah, the nation’s No. 3 defensive tackle and the No. 65 prospect overall in the 2017 cycle.
According to Bill Kurelic of Bucknuts, the interest from the Buckeyes caught Tufele’s attention immediately.
"I'm real interested in Ohio State," Tufele told Kurelic. "They are one of the top teams in the nation. For sure I'll get out to Ohio State, probably in the summer."
With a visit on tap, the Buckeyes could become a major factor in his recruitment moving forward.
Oregon Offers Top West Coast CB
One of the top defensive backs on the West Coast is 4-star corner and Los Angeles native Deommodore Lenoir.
Last week, Lenoir secured a summer trip to Oregon for The Opening after a dominating performance in the LA Nike Opening Regional that netted him an invite to the nation’s premier summer camp.
However, he may take another trip to Oregon sooner after he was able to land an offer last week from Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich, as reported by Justin Hopkins of 247Sports.
Lenoir told Hopkins that he plans to visit Oregon for its spring game in April and that the Ducks joined Louisville, Michigan, Nebraska and UCLA in his top five.
With the Ducks now in the hunt for Lenoir’s services, they are primed to make a run at landing the nation’s No. 8 corner and the No. 72 player overall in the 2017 cycle.
Best of the Rest
- Notre Dame offered 4-star safety CJ Avery. The Fighting Irish also offered 4-star linebacker and current Oklahoma pledge Levi Draper.
- Florida State offered 5-star quarterback and current Texas A&M commit Tate Martell. The Seminoles also offered 4-star quarterback and current Texas pledge Sam Ehlinger.
- The Seminoles joined LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri in offering 3-star tight end Alexander Marshall.
- North Carolina offered 4-star running back JK Dobbins. The Tar Heels also offered 3-star safety and current UCLA commit Jaquan Henderson.
- Nebraska offered 4-star corner Jaylon Redd. The Cornhuskers also offered 3-star athlete Roshauud Paul.
- Baylor offered 3-star defensive tackle Damion Daniels. The Bears also offered defensive tackle Jayden Peevy.
- The Bears joined Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oregon State, South Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin in offering 3-star linebacker Sampson Niu.
Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson is not the most physically gifted prospect as his position in the 2016 NFL draft.
He lacks the speed of Notre Dame's Will Fuller or the strength of Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell. But Doctson may have the most complete package of skills, which should allow for a smooth transition to life in the NFL.
We routinely see NFL teams fall in love with the elite athletes at the wide receiver position despite the fact that others with a more well-rounded skill set often end up outplaying their more highly regarded peers at the next level.
The 2014 draft provided a great example of this trend, as the Buffalo Bills not only selected Sammy Watkins fourth overall but traded their 2015 first-round selection in order to make it happen.
Watkins' career has gotten off to a nice start, but it would difficult to imagine the Bills making that selection again with Odell Beckham Jr. still on the board. Beckham went 12th overall to the New York Giants. Even Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans (seventh overall) has arguably outplayed Watkins to this point in their careers.
In 2013, the St. Louis Rams fell victim to the same trend, taking the electric Tavon Austin eighth overall, while the Houston Texans were able to land DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th selection.
Elite athleticism does not always translate to NFL success, but the other receivers mentioned—Hopkins, Beckham and Evans—all possess the same trait which has a strong correlation between success in college and the pros.
Each of these receivers lacks the explosive traits of Watkins or Austin but makes up for it with elite ball skills.
Though the term "ball skills" is often mistaken for a simple lack of drops, it goes much deeper than that.
Having reliable hands is part of the equation, but Doctson puts himself in the category with the likes of Hopkins, Beckham and Evans because of his ability to adjust to the ball and put himself in position to make the difficult contested catches.
According to CFB Film Room, Doctson hauled in over 50 percent of his targets in contested situations in 2015:
Contest Catch %
Josh Doctson, 20 rec on 37 cont. tgt (54%)
Michael Thomas, 13-25 (52%)
Corey Coleman, 13-28 (46%)
Will Fuller, 11-28 (39%)
For this reason, Doctson doesn't necessarily need to create separation in order to make plays, which makes his modest speed and agility mostly irrelevant.
TCU recognized this fact, and it showed in its usage of Doctson.
While TCU utilized Doctson all over the field, according to Pro Football Focus, 24 percent of his targets came on go routes, which wouldn't be possible without his ability to win the battle for jump balls.
Many of Doctson's receptions on go routes looked like the one below. Despite strong coverage from the Kansas State cornerback, Doctson tracks the ball and times his leap perfectly, allowing him to complete the contested catch.
It's also important to note that Doctson was able to support his on-field performance with strong combine numbers in the relevant workouts.
As NFL.com's Chase Goodbread noted, Doctson's leaping ability was on full display in Indianapolis:
TCU WR Josh Doctson's killed it with the jump drills. 10'11" broad, 41" vertical. #MedalsCount— Chase Goodbread (@ChaseGoodbread) February 27, 2016
It's reasonable to rank other receivers in this class higher than Doctson based on their ceiling, but it's difficult to find anyone with a skill set better suited for a smooth transition to the NFL.
Doctson's ability to make plays in coverage is a skill that we've seen translate from the college game to the pros consistently. Perhaps Doctson's upside is limited by his lack of elite size (6'2", 202 lbs) or speed, but his ball skills make him one of the few instant-impact receivers in this class and give him a very high floor as a prospect.
For these reasons, Doctson should be considered one of the safest prospects in the entire 2016 NFL draft class.
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