ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 15: Ladd McConkey #84 of the Georgia Bulldogs before a game between Vanderbilt Commodores and Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA - OCTOBER 15: Ladd McConkey #84 of the Georgia Bulldogs before a game between Vanderbilt Commodores and Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Steve Limentani/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Ladd McConkey Moves the Meter

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INGLEWOOD, CA – JANUARY 09: Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Ladd McConkey (84) catches a touchdown during the Georgia Bulldogs game versus the TCU Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff National Championship game on January 9, 2023, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The late great John Madden (God rest his soul) would have gone wild for Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey.

He’s a pure football player who could have played in any era. Heck, McConkey could have played back when they wore leather helmets. I grew up watching and listening to Madden and Pat Summerall who taught me the game as a young kid who loved football while growing up in Minnesota. Madden got into these types of players who sold out and were all about team.

That’s McConkey.

While my head tells me early second round, my heart tells me late first luxury pick, with the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs sitting there. A guy like McConkey would be a 100-plus target-a-year receiver on either team paired up with either quarterback, Josh Allen (Bills) or Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs).

If those teams pass up on McConkey, I can’t imagine him getting past the Carolina Panthers who are scheduled to pick No. 33 (first pick in the second round) and have their top need listed as wide receiver per CBS Sports.

“He’s [McConkey] a third-down machine,” in the words of the television announcer against Vanderbilt.

Not to mention, he put up a stellar Reese’s Senior Bowl week.

McConkey’s dominant traits

There has to be something rare, different, and dominant to end up on the first-round board at First Round Mock.

With McConkey…it’s several things.

– Very instinctual running routes

– Nose for getting open

How about his route running?

McConkey is one of the best in this draft class.

He knows how to set up corners with these little signature countersteps that allow him to create larger throwing windows for his quarterback to throw into.

He also finds the soft spots in zone coverage.

McConkey’s hands are dominant.

In an injury-shortened season (back and ankle) he caught 30 passes on 37 targets (81%). In 2022, he caught 54 passes on 76 targets (71%), and in 2021, he grabbed 31 passes on 39 targets (79%).

That’s one of the highest catch rates I’ve seen.

Effort ⎯is another thing that stands out. McConkey charges hard into his route. You don’t have to worry about him taking plays off (doesn’t happen).

He’s got the ability to get deep too, which leads to the next point.

Game planning mismatch

I was a big fan of wide receiver Christian Kirk (2017 second-round pick) when he hit free agency back when he was with the Cardinals.

I love offensive players who are mismatch nightmares.

Kirk went on to sign a 4-year $72 million dollar deal with the Jaguars and has caught 141 passes and been targeted 218 times in his first two seasons in Jacksonville for 1,895 yards and 11 touchdowns.

McConkey reminds me of Kirk.

Who else does McConkey bring to mind?

He’s got some Steve Largent (Seahawks), Julian Edelman (Patriots) and Cooper Kupp (Rams) in him too. All great former NFL receivers.

In other words, he’s going to be a headache for NFL defenses.

The thing that makes him is how he plays the game. He plays football like he loves it. He is competitive as hell and that trait shows up in everything he does from running after catches to selflessly blocking for teammates on running and pass plays.

McConkey wants it.

#84 Ladd McConkey 6-foot-0, 185 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: First-Round (I would select him)

Projected by 10.1% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of February 4, 2024 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

Ladd McConkey is Just a Pure Football Player (6 games evaluated)

2023 game film reviewed: Missouri, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Scrappy and productive receiver at all three route levels (short, intermediate, and deep). Strong frame. Determined. Dependable target. Achieves route leverage quickly. ACCELERATES. Gets himself into position to make catches. Knows how to work it. Understands the art of route running. Quick at breakpoints, but struggles against physicality at breakpoints. Has wiggly after the catch. Runs to daylight. Good ball tracking deep. Average catch radius and high-pointing passes. SELFLESS. Gets into blocks.

Final words

He’s earned my respect.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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