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Written By Sam Ekstrom (ZoneCoverage.com)
As originally reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter Monday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings added a fifth receiver to their roster, signing former Washington pass catcher Josh Doctson.
It’s a reunion almost four years in the making.
The 26 year old was taken one pick before the recently-waived Laquon Treadwell in the 2016 draft — 22nd overall — and may have been a Viking had the Redskins not snatched him up before Minnesota got on the clock. The two receivers have forever been linked, while both have been disappointments to their respective fan bases with neither lasting into their fourth regular season with the original club.
As Treadwell looks for work on the free-agent market after being let go on cut day, the Vikings gave Doctson his second chance, reuniting him with the quarterback that threw him passes in 2016 and 2017 and the head coach that worked him out before the draft.
Here’s what you should know about the Doctson signing: the good, the bad and what the future could hold.
Doctson was as disappointing as Treadwell in 2018
Vikings fans will need to bear in mind that Doctson was waived for a reason. Like Treadwell, Doctson had his fifth-year option declined and didn’t play out his Washington contract. That’s largely because of his difficult 2018.
A look Doctson’s basic stats last year — 44 receptions for 532 yards — tell the tale of a productive third receiver. A deeper dive shows that Doctson wasn’t a very efficient player. His reception percentage of 58.7 was 85th out of 100 qualified receivers, and he was on the field for over 88 percent of Washington’s offensive snaps (303 more than Treadwell), meaning his inefficiency stretched out over a more significant sample size. Doctson was woeful on deep balls (targets of 20 yards or more) with just one catch on 17 thrown his way. On the other hand, Treadwell received just one deep attempt all season, saying something about his inability to separate.
Doctson was fourth-worst in the league in yards after catch per reception (2.9), worse than Treadwell (3.4) who doesn’t possess good speed. He also had a lower passer rating when targeted. Treadwell had a much lower drop rate, however, and the league’s fifth-lowest yards per reception. Both Doctson and Treadwell were bottom 15 in yards per route run.
In essence, the two were similar players in 2018; Doctson just played much more. If you thought the Vikings were patient with Treadwell, the Redskins were even more patient with Doctson. Why? Partly because they lacked a strong receiving core beyond Jamison Crowder. But also because Doctson had given them hope after an enticing 2017 season.
There were parts of Doctson’s 2017 that are worth trying to unlock
Virtually all of the flaws in Treadwell’s game that were present in 2018 were continuations of his equally-iffy 2017 campaign. While many of Doctson’s inefficient analytics existed in 2017 too, like a bottom-10 reception percentage, he earned 20 deep ball targets from Kirk Cousins that year, hauling in seven. He scored six touchdowns, four of them on what would be considered contested catches using his 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame. He also made an incredible diving catch on Washington’s game-winning drive to upset the Seahawks in Seattle.
Doctson’s 41-inch vertical was half an inch from being the highest at the 2016 combine, and that manifested itself in contested-catch situations in 2017. His deep-pass dropoff in 2018 could be attributed to poor quarterback play, since Josh Johnson, Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez wound up playing games for Washington after Alex Smith got hurt.
Because the TCU product was placed on IR in 2016 (Achilles) after just two games played, 2017 was essentially a redo of his rookie season. After showing flashes with Cousins in 2017, it’s understandable why Washington gave him every chance to show improvement in 2018, but that didn’t occur in what ended up being a frustrating season for the entire franchise.
What could be his role in Minnesota?
Doctson presents a stark contrast against Chad Beebe, who is in the mix for the team’s third wide receiver role as well. Beebe is a slot player, and in no way a deep option. Doctson has only played in the slot on rare occasions and will certainly be a boundary target on the Vikings, considering Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs’ ability to thrive inside.
The Vikings have usually preferred giving bigger bodies more work in the offense, then relying on their smaller possessions receivers to convert on third down. Jarius Wright was, and still is, a talented wide receiver, but he surrendered snaps in Minnesota to not only Treadwell but Cordarrelle Patterson in 2016 and Michael Floyd in 2017. The Vikings also preferred using Treadwell last year to Aldrick Robinson, despite Robinson showing a knack for getting open downfield at just 5-foot-10.
Minnesota may use Doctson along with Bisi Johnson as bigger bodies to stretch the field a majority of the time and turn Beebe into their new Wright — a slippery receiver to defend on, say, 3rd and 4.
Doctson is already the third-longest-tenured receiver on the roster — the two behind him have four combined catches in their careers. If he and Cousins show a similar connection to what they established in 2017, Doctson may be given a WR3-type workload.
Can we compare that situation to a sitcom?
It took Jim and Pam until Season 4 to get together in The Office. It took until his fourth season for Doctson to unite with this man.
— RosterWatch (@RosterWatch) March 31, 2016