Remember back in the 2016 NFL Draft when Mike Zimmer was interested in selecting TCU receiver Josh Doctson with the Vikings’ first round pick at #23? Well at #22, the Redskins erased that possibility by taking Doctson then, and the pairing never happened in Minnesota.
Or so it would seem. With the release of Laquon Treadwell, the Vikings had a clear need to upgrade the WR3 position and get a receiver that could take some of the pressure off of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. And wouldn’t you know it, Doctson is now with the Vikings after all, being signed on Monday to a one-year contract, reuniting him with former Washington teammate Kirk Cousins.
There’s been discussions about how the Vikings have swapped one first round bust for another, but to me Doctson presents a better fit in the Vikings offense than Treadwell ever had. To some degree, Doctson has flashed without ever coming close to his potential, but he has flashed nonetheless, something that could not be said about Treadwell.
During his time in D.C., Doctson caught 81 passes for 1,100 yards, eight touchdowns, and 13.6 yards per reception. He could never be the WR1 the Redskins expected him to be, but as the WR3 Doctson should be in a much more comfortable, albeit reduced role.
Let’s take a look at what he has to offer for the Vikings offense in this film breakdown.
It goes without saying that Doctson’s greatest skill in D.C. was his ability to take jump balls and outright overpower defensive backs at the catch point, turning in some spectacular plays for the highlight reel. But more importantly, it showed that Cousins had a level of trust with the new Viking contributor, on where he was willing to loft up risky passes to give his receiver a chance to make a play.
In 2017 Doctson had a far more significant role in the Redskins offense than he did in 2016 (which isn’t saying much since he only had two catches for 66 yards in two appearances) as the team lost DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon in the offseason. That role allowed him to step up in moments like this in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks.
As you can (just barely) see, Doctson makes an impressive diving catch in the two-minute drill with his team trailing. Cousins nearly overthrew him on this play (well technically since Doctson had to dive to get this you could say he was overthrown), but the concentration and athleticism at the catch point results in this being a massive completion.
Doctson’s speed got him by then rookie Shaquille Griffin. For another frame of reference here’s how this looks from the broadcast angle.
The Redskins offense would score on the very next play and won by a score of 17-14.
Against the Saints two weeks later, Doctson had one of the biggest games of his career, catching four passes for 81 yards (okay so it’s not a monster game but work with me here!). His best play came on a deep shot on the final play of the first quarter.
Going up against corner P.J. Williams…
…Doctson pushes off his right foot…
…and accelerates outside against Williams.
Doctson can only create just a little separation from the Saints defensive back, but Cousins trusts him enough to loft this pass his way.
The pass is slightly underthrown and could have easily been picked off, but Doctson’s strength and frame at the catch point give him the upper hand on this jump ball for a sensational catch.
Lastly, Doctson could help bring improved red zone ability to Minnesota’s receiving corps. Between 2017 and 2018 he had six touchdowns inside the red zone, unimpressive for a first round pick, but at times he did flash impressive catching ability.
Doctson offers fantastic concentration on this fade. The coverage (from Isaiah Oliver) is great, which is why it must have been frustrating for him for this touchdown to have occurred anyway. Doctson uses strong hands to snag this pass in while getting two feet in, allowing Washington to get a late first half touchdown.
Now, Josh Doctson is a pretty limited receiver compared to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. He has a more realized skill set than Laquon Treadwell, but his inability to create separation doomed his chances of being the WR1 in D.C., and that explains why he’s here.
But behind two of the best route runners in the league, and combined with Chad Beebe, Doctson helps improve the receiving depth for this Vikings offense. His ability to go up and get jump balls on shot plays down the field will be valuable with the two receivers ahead of him getting significant attention from defenses. His role as WR3 is perfect for him because he brings another vertical threat to the equation.
So if you ask if Doctson will be a great receiver for the Vikings, I’d say far from it. But he’s a big upgrade over Treadwell in my opinion and a receiver Kirk Cousins is familiar with, and that’s not so bad considering he’ll likely be a one-year rental in Minneapolis.