Donte Moncrief

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Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief put his athletic ability on display at the combine and based on the results he may be shooting up NFL and dynasty draft boards alike.

At the combine Donte Moncrief measured in at 6-foot-2 3/8 and 221 pounds.  Moncrief ran an official 4.40 in the 40-yard dash tying him for third best among wide receivers.  He posted a 39.5-inch vertical jump (tied for third best) and a position-best 11-foot broad jump.  That kind of athleticism combined with his size should have General Managers – amateur and professional – excited.  Moncrief is one of just six wide receiver prospects in the 2014 class to measure at least 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, and run a sub-4.55 40-yard dash (Enunwa, Janis, Matthews, Bryant, Evans).  For comparison, Sammy Watkins, projected top wide receiver, stands 6-foot 6/8, 211-pounds, with an official 4.43 40, 34-inch vertical, and 10-foot-6 broad jump.

During Moncrief’s three seasons at the University Of Mississippi he caught 156 balls for 2,371 yards and 20 touchdowns.  As an 18 year old he caught 31 passes for 454 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He improved upon his freshman year as a sophomore and had his best season as Rebel in 2012 catching 66 passes for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Unfortunately for Moncrief, he regressed as a junior in 2013 catching 59 passes for 938 yards and 6 touchdowns.  This could have been because of an undisclosed injury but for whatever reason, it may hurt Moncrief’s draft stock a bit.

Donte Moncrief’s sophomore tape, courtesy Draft Breakdown, was really impressive.  He was extremely explosive, making big play after big play.  He ran hard and fluid routes without slowing through his breaks.  If he did not gain separation from the defender he was capable of made catches in traffic with defensive backs draped on him.  He showed the ability to high point the ball and attack it rather then letting it come to him.  He tracks and adjusts to the ball in the air very well and has excellent hands.  This is not to say he was perfect because he made mistakes, but he also made a lot of good plays and most importantly improved upon his freshman season.

On this play in 2012 against conference opponent Mississippi State, Moncrief lines up split out wide.  At the snap, he runs straight at the defender and heads downfield.

moncrief 01He runs the route toward the middle of the field, looks for the ball, and adjusts to it in the air.  He displays his speed by getting downfield and inside leverage on his defender, which allows him to be in position to make the catch.  With the defender on his back he goes up for the ball securing it.

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Moncrief lines up opposite Johnthan Banks.  He does a great job here running the corner route.  At the snap he takes off full speed toward Banks as to not give any hint to the defender as to where he plans to run.

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At about seven yards downfield he makes a beautiful cut.  He plants his foot to the outside and the defender opens his hip to sidelines.  In an instant, Moncrief breaks inside and now the defender is completely back on his heels and cannot flip his hips quickly enough.  A moment later Moncrief grabs the pass for the score.

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These types of plays were common for Moncrief in 2012.  He had explosion on the field in all aspects of his game.  He was dominating in the SEC.

In another conference game, the second in two weeks, at the end of the 2012 season the Rebels traveled to Baton Rouge to play the Louisiana State University Tigers.

Moncrief does everything perfect on this hitch-and-go route but his quarterback does not place the ball for him once he has gained separation.  Moncrief starts his route running straight ahead at the defender.

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Running ahead he then goes into his break as if he is running the hitch but then shoots up field again. He fools the defender and gains outside leverage quickly.  He goes from full speed to a stop and then accelerates to the outside all within an instant.

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I thought it was tremendous that he was running full speed through his entire route.  By doing so he is not allowing the cornerback any room for error.  Unfortunately, he was unable to finish the play because the ball is overthrown.  However, this is not to say that if a ball is not placed perfectly Moncrief cannot make the catch.  He does have a large catch radius due to his size, wingspan, and jumping ability.  He displayed his radius in the same game versus LSU stretching way out for a back shoulder pass.

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In the final two games of the Ole Miss’ 2012 season, at LSU and versus Mississippi State – both conference matchups – Moncrief had 13 catches for 334 yards and five touchdowns.  That is an average of 25 yards per catch and showcased his explosiveness.

Moncrief’s 2013 tape still displayed what I had seen in the previous year but it was a lot more in flashes rather then consistent dominance.  He continued to show his strong ability to track and adjust to the ball, make catches in traffic, his versatility, and is a willing blocker.  However, he did seem to lack the same explosiveness as in his previous seasons.  He appeared to suffer from concentration issues dropping passes he should have caught or catching the ball with his body rather then attacking it in the air.

In the 2013 game against Auburn, Moncrief was used in a screen a few times.  He has the speed, acceleration, and vision to succeed being used in this manner.  The following play is set up very nicely for Moncrief by his teammates.  Once he receives the ball, he already has three blockers out in front and only has to make one man miss before slipping into the end zone.

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Moncrief secures the ball after the catch and begins to look downfield.  His blockers are in position to clear a path and hold their blocks just long enough.

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Moncrief is able to slip through this mess of blockers and defenders and skips into the end zone unscathed.

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On another occasion, Moncrief was asked to line up in the backfield.  I do not know if he would ever be asked to do this in the NFL but football is predicated around creating mismatches; If a defense is forced to put a linebacker on a wide wide receiver that is a mismatch the offense will take any day.

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Moncrief briefly acts like he is going to come inside and block but then starts up the seam.  No one in an Arkansas uniform follows him or jams him as he comes across the line of scrimmage.  The result is a big gain for a first down and 7-8 yards after the catch.  Again, I am not sure that he would be asked to do this in the NFL but it is nice to know he already has some experience lining up all over the offense including the backfield.

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Moncrief’s physical makeup as a long, fluid runner combined with the college production suggests that he has significant potential to be a pro team’s WR1 for seasons to come.  He is still very young; he will turn 21 just a month before the 2014 NFL seasons kicks off.  He has a lot of time to polish his game and expand his route tree.

During his freshman and sophomore seasons he hauled in 44% and 42%, respectively, of Ole Miss’ passing touchdowns; He caught 30% of the teams passing yards as a 19 year old sophomore.  Those are all impressive numbers but his dip in production as a junior is a bit concerning.  In 2013, he caught just 25% of his teams passing yards and 25% of the passing touchdowns that season and both were (or tied) career lows.  Typically, I’d like to see prospect grow or stay consistent from season to season so there are some red flags there.

However, I am not putting too much weight in this dip in production. I think it speaks more to who Moncrief is as a football player that he had success (and in the SEC nonetheless) at young ages of 18 and 19.  Moncrief had to play with poor quarterbacks while at Ole Miss and he was not always the first read in the schemes.  The Rebels offense ran a lot of “smoke” routes with their wide receivers (while Moncrief often ran actual routes though rarely away from the outside) which you can see on the tape.  This means, essentially, that when the quarterback sees the cornerback playing with a soft cushion he will take the snap and deliver the ball outside to that receiver.  Regardless of the play call in the huddle, this is on the QB and WR to be on the same page based on the look the defense shows.  I believe in Moncrief’s ability to successfully transfer into the pros and become a WR1.

I expect Moncrief to be taken in the 2nd to 4th round of the NFL Draft this May.  I would expect his name to be called earlier then later.  His dynasty ADP is mostly still from pre-combine mocks, however in dynasty start-ups (Thank you Ryan McDowell of DynastyLeagueFootball.com for all his hard work to compile the ADP data, @RyanMc23) he is currently being taken as WR61 and 138.5 overall.  In the handful of rookie mock drafts I have seen (FFOasis, DLF) he is being taken on average 24.25 overall or at the end of the 2nd, early 3rd.  I would be very pleased to take Moncrief at the position in rookie drafts though his combine numbers may have him moving up draft boards.

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