Last season’s wide receiver class was certainly not anywhere close to being as productive as we saw from the 2014 class that had Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr, Mike Evans, Allen Robinson and many more. Last season’s crop was hampered by injury (Kevin White, DeVante Parker, and Breshad Perriman). The only standout was Amari Cooper who struggled with drops most of the season. This year’s crop of new talent will look to have a bigger impact with their respective club.
Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss, 6-2, 221 LBS
Laquon Treadwell enters the 2016 draft as one of the top receivers available. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in his ability to high point a ball and snatch it out of the air. He’s not a particularly fast receiver so defenders will likely sit on his routes. He possesses elite ball tracking skills and has a solid pair of hands. He plays with a certain nastiness that allows him to be an excellent blocker. He shows tremendous body control when going up to get the ball. He will need to work on his route running at the next level, he tends to break off or rounds off his routes instead of making crisp cuts. Plenty of people will ding him because of his speed or lack thereof, however, speed doesn’t define how good a WR can be. For example, DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57 forty and Allen Robinson ran a 4.6. So, I would be a bit hesitant to write him off or downgrade him just because of his perceived lack of speed. He opted out of running the forty at the combine, so we won’t know what he will run until his Pro Day. Early on I was a bit spooked of Treadwell but the more tape I watch the more I start to get on board with his talent. He will likely be a first round pick but until we see what he runs at his pro day I will hold off on my final judgment.
Plenty of people will ding him because of his speed or lack thereof, however, speed doesn’t define how good a WR can be. For example, DeAndre Hopkins ran a 4.57 forty and Allen Robinson ran a 4.6. So, I would be a bit hesitant to write him off or downgrade him just because of his perceived lack of speed. He opted out of running the forty at the combine, so we won’t know what he will run until his Pro Day. Early on I was a bit spooked of Treadwell but the more tape I watch the more I start to get on board with his talent.
Draft Grade: Mid-to-late first round pick.
Possible Fit: – Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons desperately need help at the WR position. It was all Julio Jones last season ad that was it. Roddy White is just a shell of himself and the Falcons would be better served to give him his walking papers. Selecting a player as good as Treadwell is would be a wise move for both Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. This would also allow second-year WR Justin Hardy to move into the slot where he profiles best at.
Michael Thomas, Ohio St., 6-3, 212 lbs
After a solid career with the Buckeyes, Michael Thomas will now move on to the NFL. You could easily make a case for him as the best receiver in this class. He offers a nice blend of size and speed that will allow him to be solid No.1 WR in this league. He doesn’t have elite level speed with a 4.56 forty but enough to get the job done. He does a good job catching the ball with his hands, rather than his body. Another positive is his ability to go up the ladder and make impressive catches.
He will need to work on his footwork at the next level if he wants to develop into an elite wide receiver and would like to see more of a nasty streak from him. He tends to avoid looking to pick up blocks to set up teammates and tends to be a bit more passive against aggressive corners. He is likely a late first or a second round pick at this points but a team that could use him is the Los Angeles Rams.
Draft Grade: Early-Mid Second Rd Pick
Possible Fits – Los Angeles Rams: The Rams have been searching for an elite wide receiver since Torry Holt retired. They thought Brian Quick was going to be a major contributor but after injuries and ineffective play he will be looking for a new home in free agency. The Rams will still have Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt but adding a player like Thomas could be the answer they’re looking for.
Josh Doctson, TCU, 6-2, 202 lbs
Josh Doctson is probably my favorite wide receiver in the class. He is a physical wide receiver who plays with a mean streak. He attacks the ball with authority and has a “that’s my ball” mentality which is a trait that not every receiver plays with. He has the speed to go deep but isn’t a burner. Has the size and ball skills to be a serious red zone threat.
Will need to work on his get off against press coverage which was a problem for him in college. He also needs to put on some more weight because of his 202-pound frame. Will need to work on his route running ability because he tended to be a bit lazy at times. If he can work on beating press coverage and stay consistent with his route running he has the potential to be an Allen Robinson type wide receiver in this league.
Draft Grade – 2nd round pick
Possible Fit: San Diego Chargers – The Chargers desperately need to upgrade their wide receiving core. Once they lost Keenan Allen last season the wheels came off the high-powered offense. With Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green both entering free agency they will need to restock the cupboard and adding a wide receiver like Doctson could instantly transform their receiving core.
Corey Coleman, Baylor, 5-11, 194 lbs
Corey Coleman is one of the most dynamic playmakers in this year’s draft. He has the speed to be a deep threat and has tremendous explosion off the line. He has the ability to go up the ladder and get the ball which was on display at the combine with his 40.5 inch vertical. He is a touchdown waiting to happen which was illustrated by the 33 of them he hauled in college.
As explosive and dynamic that he is, he has his own bag of issues. He will need to correct the issue he had with drops. He dropped 11.9 percent of passes last season which is obviously a red flag and even more concerning, is the fact that plenty of them came on basic routes. If he can’t correct the issue he has with concentration he could easily become more of a Tedd Ginn Jr (not the 2015 version) than that of a John Brown.
I could see him going anywhere from the first round down to the bottom of the second. We will likely have a better idea where he will go once we get closer to the draft.
Draft Grade: Late 1st-2nd round
Possible Fit: San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers were underwhelming last season on the offensive side of the ball. Plenty of that can be contributed to the poor play they got from the quarterback position. It’s looking like Colin Kaepernick won’t be back so it could Blaine Gabbert who leads the Chip Kelly offense. With Anquan Boldin gone and Torrey Smith having his worst season as a pro the 49ers could use a playmaker like Coleman and he could be a steal if they can get him with their second round pick.
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 5-10, 194 lbs
Sterling Shepard has really caught people’s eye as of late, and for good reason. Shepard was recently anointed the best wide receiver in this class by Matt Harmon of NFL.com who certainly has the credibility when it comes to wide receivers. When you turn on the tape the first thing that stands out is his smooth route running and quickness. He has an outstanding work ethic which is a coveted trait for any NFL team. Another positive are his terrific hands, which is evident by only dropping 8 of the 253 receptions while at Oklahoma. He has enough speed (4.48 forty) to gain separation that will lead to plenty of big plays.
When you talk about his weaknesses there aren’t a ton of things he can’t do. He doesn’t have a huge catch radius but that is to be expected for any receiver his size. He will need to clean up his footwork on the next level because corners with better footwork will give him trouble in press coverage.
He is a wide receiver that will likely continue to move up draft boards. He has the skillset to be the next Antonio Brown which is pretty high praise. He will likely be a second or third-round pick which would be an absolute steal.
Possible Fit – Buffalo Bills – The Bills are heading in the right direction with Tyrod Taylor, Sammy Watkins, and LeSean McCoy. However, the could use another wide receiver to take the attention away from Watkins and give Taylor a safety valve underneath. Drafting a player like Shepard would do just that for the Bills.
Players to Watch:
Tyler Boyd – Polished route runner but doesn’t have the speed to be a deep threat. Decent size at 6-1 but didn’t do himself any favors at the combine with a 34 inch vertical. Profiles as more of a possession receiver in the mold of Jarvis Landry.
Will Fuller – He’s an absolute burner but not sure if he’s more John Brown or Tedd Ginn. Will need to improve on catching the ball with his hands rather than his body. Will need to improve his route tree to be counted on anything as more than a one-trick pony.
Braxton Miller – Extremely raw. Only played the possession one season. Showed great burst and made corners look silly at the senior bowl. He is more of a project at WR and isn’t a player that will likely contribute a great deal in his rookie season as he will need to continue to develop his game.