Thirty-eight years have elapsed since an SEC wide receiver went either first, second or third overall in the NFL draft (Florida’s Wes Chandler in 1978).
That distinction will likely carry over to 39 years, now that Ole Miss wideout Laquon Treadwell has chosen not to run the 40-yard dash at the upcoming NFL Scouting Combine.
At first blush, the above comment has a blasphemous tone, since Treadwell — who’s seemingly 100-percent healthy — would still have plenty of time to run a straight-line 40 for NFL scouts, coaches and front office workers, particularly at the Ole Miss Pro Day or any private workout on campus.
But in today’s NFL, combine results are also necessary for building a prospect’s buzz, both with league personnel and the millions watching on TV, or at least monitoring the happenings through social media (read: stuck at work).
As such, not posting a 40 time, especially when healthy, delays or muddles that process for franchise decision-makers … all of whom shall crave clarity with prospects, starting next week.
For receiving studs, like Treadwell (82 catches, 1,153 yards, 11 TDs in 2015), there are only three ways to theoretically “break the Internet” at the NFL combine:
a) Suffer a major leg injury (always knock on wood against that) …
b) Leap out of TV-camera range in the broad jump (a la Julio Jones in 2011 — below) …
c) Run a blazing-fast 40 time.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Treadwell has/had comparable builds to Amari Cooper (No. 4 overall pick in 2015 draft), A.J. Green (No. 4 pick in 2011 draft) and the aforementioned Julio Jones (No. 6 pick in 2011) upon entering the pros.
By extension, Treadwell might be expected to mirror the trio’s combine results — particularly the 40 times for Cooper (4.42), Green (4.50) and Jones (4.39); and for what it’s worth, Treadwell believes he’ll eventually run “in the 4.4s or 4.5” … essentially nestled between Cooper (now with the Oakland Raiders) and Green (five-time Pro Bowler with the Cincinnati Bengals).
Therein lies the beauty of the Ole Miss star’s anti-40 stance for this week: It’s far more important for Treadwell (competing with Baylor’s Corey Coleman to be this draft’s first wideout) to land with a viable quarterback within the first 20 picks … than to be pigeonholed into a less-than-flattering situation in the top 15.
For instance, Chip Kelly’s new offense with the San Francisco 49ers — regardless of who’s quarterback — doesn’t inspire much confidence within the vertical passing game. The same holds true for the (now Los Angeles) Rams, who haven’t had a 1,000-yard receiver since Torry Holt in 2007.
The best draft path for Treadwell: Let Ole Miss teammates Laremy Tunsil (left tackle; the likely the No. 1 overall pick) and Robert Nkemdiche (high-upside defensive lineman) get all the Day 1 love … while calmly waiting to get paired with a superb quarterback in the 11-20 range (Drew Brees, Derek Carr, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck).
It’s a short-term hit, money-wise, for a long-term gain.
Also, work your tail off for four years in a pass-friendly offense … and then, using history as our guide, Treadwell would become the next SEC-bred wideout to average $14 million per year on his second pro contract.
And when that happens, no one will remember — or even care — about the missing 40 time at the 2016 combine.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.