Entering his fourth season in the NFL, wide receiver Nelson Agholor has had one of the most interesting career arcs in recent history. From “bust” to “boom”, he’s shown the mental toughness required to overcome adversity required to thrive in the league.
The folks over at NFL.com, namely Matt Harmon, have taken notice while recognizing his ability to take the top off the defense. In ranking the top deep threats entering the 2018 season, Harmon praised Agholor’s play-making ability on passes that travel over 20-yards in the air.
“Agholor looked at home running routes from the inside and began to demonstrate the big-play ability that made him a first-round selection back in 2015. While just 16.8 percent of Agholor’s catches in 2017 came on deep passes, he made them count, totaling 275 yards and three touchdowns.”
It’s a good reminder that Agholor come out of USC totaling over 100 yards in five of his last 7 games. In 36 games he totaled 2,572 yards for a 14.4 average and 20 touchdowns while also being utilized as a return man, adding 4 punt return touchdowns. We shouldn’t be surprised that he had this time of game-breaking ability in him this whole time, it was just a matter of him being able to tap into that ability.
Casual midday Nelson Agholor viewing being thankful for my ankles - pic.twitter.com/mUJXP2BjEp— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) August 1, 2018
Agholor ended up 10th on the list of Harmon’s list of top deep threats, just behind Houston Texans’ speed demon Will Fuller and ahead of the Minnesota Vikings’ Stefon Diggs. Part of what makes Agholor successful on these vertical routes is his average top-end speed, which rivals the fleet-footed Mike Wallace for up to 60-yards of distance traveled.
It’s not just speed that churns out dingers for Agholor, although that definitely helps. It’s his big leap in technique throughout his route stem that allows him to uncover from defenders and his improved hands that paid dividends. Focusing on his craft at new levels before the 2017 season, teammate Ronald Darby noticed the time Agholor was putting in to refine his game and get on the same page with his quarterback.
“I was here early every day at like 5 a.m. for rehab. I was like, one of the first ones here. Every time I came scooting in here on my scooter, [Carson] Wentz would be there sitting at his locker, him and Nelson [Agholor]. Nelson would be here sweating and doing the JUGS [catching passes from the machine], things like that.”
His routes are sharper, his burst out the breakpoint has finally matched his athletic profile, and perhaps the biggest factor, his once shattered confidence is no longer turning his hands into stone. All of these factors have coalesced into one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.