As with the running backs, I’ve been torn over many of the receiver rankings. Landing spots will significantly factor into potential Fantasy value. Again like the running backs, though, my top ranked player hasn’t change and won’t. Since the college football season ended, I ranked Josh Doctson No. 1, and even if he ends up on the Rams, that won’t change. After him, things get a bit tricky.
The good news is that we could see more rookie receivers make Fantasy Football noise in 2016 than 2015. Thanks to injuries (Kevin White, DeVante Parker, Devin Smith, Breshad Perriman, Phillip Dorsett, Rashad Greene, Kenny Bell, Ty Montgomery… yea, exactly) we missed the chance to see several players make an impact, or even play at all. Amari Cooper was the only rookie to crack the Top 25 for receivers (WR23) and Tyler Lockett was second at WR42, which means we had just two receivers with or close to “starter” numbers. Looking at this class, I’d put the over/under on Top 36 receivers at four. A change in injury luck will make that a near lock on its own.
1. Josh Doctson – Doctson is athletically gifted and will immediately make his quarterback better. He makes up for inaccurate throws by coming down with nearly everything thanks to his leaping ability, body control, ball-tracking skills and hands. Doctson has the speed to pull in the deep ball and the catching ability to snatch everything out of the air. Watch him play, and you’ll rarely see Doctson covered. You’ll also likely come away saying, “Man, this kid makes some Odell Beckham- like catches.” Yes, he’s that good. Although, Doctson draws more comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins and Jordan Matthews. Oh, darn, right? Don’t get hung up on Doctson being 23 years old. He’s a beast of a receiver, and I’d put my money on him to lead all rookie receivers in touchdowns. In fact, Doctson will contend for the league lead sooner than later. As with Elliott at running back, finding flaws with Doctson is nitpicking, and I’d still take him first in dynasty despite his age. He is that darn good.
2. Leonte Carroo – While Doctson uses his athleticism to get open, Carroo does it with pristine route running. On top of that, Carroo shook defenders and put up his numbers while not being 100 percent for much of his college career. Like Doctson, he also has terrific ball skills and adjusts well to throws. Carroo can line up anywhere on the field, which will get him plenty of early playing time. With 39 catches, 809 yards and 10 touchdowns… at Rutgers… you can easily see the potential he brings. Health is a concern, but at 100 percent, Carroo has a leg up on the draft class in being one of the most NFL ready route runners.
3. Laquon Treadwell – Don’t get me wrong, I like Treadwell, I just don’t love him. When you’re supposed to be an elite talent, you had better test at the top of the charts. As expected, though, Treadwell couldn’t crack the 4.6 mark during his pro day 40-yard dash. He also had just 12 bench reps, a 33-inch vertical and a 9’9″ broad jump. Again, far from elite results. Treadwell does use his strength and body extremely well (6’2″ 221 pounds), and he’s still young enough to improve (21 in June). He’s strong both in making the reception and after the catch, making defenders work to bring him down. His lack of overall speed and burst after the catch is the main drawback, but I won’t call anyone ape nuts crazy for having him second overall (first, yea). Touchdowns are a big factor in Fantasy production, and big-bodied receivers can rack up a nice total, even if they aren’t the fastest of the bunch.
4. Corey Coleman – Speaking of speed, well, Coleman is the complete opposite of Treadwell. He’s also much smaller at 5’11” and 194 pounds. I struggled ranking Coleman this high, and I can easily see dropping him a few spots after the draft. Coleman’s size will keep him from being a high touchdown threat despite his catching 20 last year. Coleman drops too many passes and is not a great route runner. Coleman didn’t run much of the route tree at Baylor, seeing mostly stop-and-go, screens, in routes, etc. Baylor receivers historically have tough transitions to the NFL, as their offense doesn’t ask too much of receivers with lots of spread formation work. Nevertheless, the right team can maximize Coleman’s ability and speed similar to what we saw in college.
5. Roger Lewis – As with Coleman and the scheme inflating his numbers, Lewis’ opponent strength (or lack thereof) boosted his stats. On paper, you marvel at his 1,544 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. He didn’t test too well and needs route work, but Lewis has great acceleration and is exceptionally quick in his routes. Lewis throws off defenders thanks to amazing foot control (can stop on a pin), is great after the catch and at tracking the ball. Lewis has some off-field concerns from high school, which coupled with his poor testing will cause him to slide. If given the opportunity, Lewis can be an immediate downfield option and has the NFL skills to grow into a No. 2 option.
6. Demarcus Robinson – As with Lewis, Robinson has significant off-field concerns and didn’t test as well as he plays. As you can see with the ranking, though, I still believe strongly in both. A draft day slide will hurt his opportunity, but his great blocking will counteract that some and help him get on the field. Robinson is quick in and out of his routes, has great acceleration and huge arms. Robinson struggles catching the ball consistently, but once it’s in his hands, he’s tough to bring down and has the moves to avoid would-be tacklers, plus he has great hand-eye coordination. If Robinson can find his share of playing time, he’ll make noise as a rookie.
7. Rashawn Scott – Might as well round out a trio of receiver concerns with Scott. If we were talking pure talent, many more analysts would be on board with Scott as a Top 10 rookie receiver. About those concerns, Scott has struggled to stay healthy and has maturity issues. Scott has great speed to go with his 6’1″, 200-pound frame. I’m a big fan of how well Scott adjusts to the ball. He also has excellent body control, breaks off routes well and shows the ability to “win” catches/high points the ball. Scott is also quite good after the catch and has the athleticism to keep defenders off balance. Given his production in college and concerns, I expect Scott to unfortunately fall quite far, but a team can find an early Christmas present with Scott.
8. Malcolm Mitchell – Mitchell’s stop-and-go ability is on par with some running backs. It’s that skill added to his quick step and overall speed that helps him shake defenders. He often makes catches look easy thanks to his physicality and ball-tracking skills. His long arms and big hands will help him succeed in the NFL, as will coming from a pro-style offense. The biggest concern with Mitchell is health, as he’s had right knee surgery twice, including a torn ACL.
9. Sterling Shepard – There is plenty to like with Shepard, but my biggest concern is being out-matched in the NFL due to the strength differences from college. I can see Shepard struggling to separate with tough, physical defensive backs giving him trouble, jamming him up or throwing him off his route.
Shepard can excel over the middle and out of the slot, he has the potential to do some damage in that area. Shepard is great off the line with quick cuts. In addition, he has the speed to beat defenders deep, which helps offset those looking to jam him; but again, his size will limit his ability to overcome those jams. If a team uses Shepard similar to Julian Edelman in New England, he can have a promising career.
10. Rashard Higgins – Higgins is another receiver that dominated lesser competition, but fell off a bit last season. Coming off 96 receptions, 1,750 yards and 17 TDs in 2014, Higgins had a 75/1,062/8 line last year. To be fair, his team lost Garrett Grayson, who threw for 4,006 yards and 32 TDs in 2014 and had sophomore Nick Stevens total just 2,679/21. Higgins still did his job. He’s a great route runner, smooth, knows how to set up defenders and smart in his ability to separate. People have doubts with Higgins after only running a 4.64 40-yard dash since he’s just 6’1″, 196 pounds. Higgins actually didn’t test very well at all, but this is where you believe the production and film a bit more than the testing. I use testing to confirm what I see, and while the testing actually yells in the face of the tape in Higgins’ case, it’s not enough for me to ignore the skills shown. Being able to line up just about anywhere will also help Higgins get on the field earlier than most.
11. Kenny Lawler – Lawler gets up to speed very quickly and flashed downfield speed to beat defenders deep despite his combine 4.64 40. Lawler stands at 6’2″ and 203 pounds, and while that’s a bit on the thin side, he uses his body well with great control and routinely makes jaw-dropping catches. He’s a Top 10 play waiting to happen. Lawler has the skills to make defenders miss, but he’ll need to do plenty of that in the NFL, as he’ll often go down on first contact. Watching Lawler play alleviates those 40-yard dash concerns, but it would help Lawler quite a bit if a team helps him add bulk.
12. Tyler Boyd – I’m letting you know ahead of time that Boyd could be one of the biggest risers post draft. It all depends on how teams view his behavior, and in today’s NFL, I’m not sold that a team drafts him to start immediately. Boyd is dangerous after the catch, is a good route runner, can line up everywhere and has great hands. Boyd even lined up in the backfield and did some damage as a pure runner. Boyd has the speed to beat defenders and doesn’t struggle with stronger corners, as Shepard and Fuller can. He also attacks the ball, brings down contested passes and shows good body control, which is an added plus at 6’1″, 197 pounds. Again, it all comes down to Boyd himself though. He doesn’t give 100 percent all of the time, will shy from contact and tested poorly – possibly a sign of his not giving his max. Boyd has Top 5 rookie receiver upside, but potential and maximizing on said potential are two wildly different things.
13. Michael Thomas – This is the Ohio State Michael Thomas, not to be confused with the one from Southern Miss. On the right team, Thomas could be a NFL No. 2 receiver, but it’s also going to take the right team to maximize his Fantasy value. Unlike many rookie receivers, Thomas relies more on his precision than ability. Thomas has NFL level route running ability, but while he has good size (6’3″ and 212 pounds), he’s not very quick and gained separation from precise routes. He will use his size and strength to win balls, but is a bit stiff in his movements and is more of a red zone option than deep weapon. The red zone may be his saving grace, but a low-scoring and/or run-first team will dampen his outlook.
14. Will Fuller – The kid can fly and has speed for days (4.32 40)… but oh, those hands! Fuller dropped way too many catchable passes and often body-caught the ball (or tried to) when his hands should have done the job. As with Shepard, his size (6’0″, 186 pounds) is a concern for being able to overcome physical defenders. On the other hand, Fuller has the speed and ball tracking skills to help offset that concern somewhat and be a big-play threat from day one. I’ve seen comparisons to Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson, Kenny Still, Nate Washington and John Brown. That should give you a good idea of what we’re working with here, along with the potential downside.
15. Braxton Miller – Don’t be fooled, Miller is going to take some work, and there is legitimate concern about being a project given his age (23 years old and still working on his conversion to receiver).
There is a reason a team will take the gamble though, and it’s because of Miller’s athleticism. He’s 6’1″, 201 pounds, ran a 4.5 40 and 4.46 at his pro day, benched 225 pounds 17 times, had a 35-inch vertical and 4.07 shuttle. His potential is huge, as Miller is a big-play threat any time he touches the ball and already showed great ability in tracking passes and making some tough catches. Miller does struggle with drops though and understandably needs work as a receiver, especially in route running. Miller is more valuable as a dynasty pick given his ceiling, but his late-age switch to receiver offsets that some.
16. Tajae Sharpe – Proving that hand size isn’t everything (8.4″) Sharpe rarely drops a pass thanks in part to elite concentration. Sharpe has a keen sense to know where the defenders and holes in coverage are. This helps offset his mediocre separation speed, as does his ability to beat defenders to the “spot” whether that’s where the ball is going or outplaying the defender to the ball.
17. Geronimo Allison – Allison has the height at 6’3″ but is rather lean at 196 pounds. He managed just a 4.67 40-yard dash at the combine and only improved that mark to 4.62 at his pro day. Allison looks quicker on the field than he tested and shows good concentration. Allison needs route work and sometimes lets defenders beat him to the ball. He’s a Justin Hunter type – intriguing ability in some areas with plenty of concerns and room for improvement.
18. Pharoh Cooper – Since the college season, and especially during the offseason, I’ve continually asked myself, “What am I missing?” I just don’t get the appeal with Cooper, and I don’t see any evidence for his being more than a day three/long term project. Cooper needs significant work with his route running, has ball control concerns and doesn’t have a single elite measurable. Some team may try to draft him and use him as a gimmick play guy, and maybe he eventually turns into Tavon Austin, but how good is that truly? Austin isn’t even the perfect comparison, as I see Cooper as a lesser version of Jamison Crowder.
19. Charone Peake – Peake is raw, and a team will hope to develop him thanks to his speed and size. Peake is 6’2″, 209 pounds and ran a 4.45 40, which means he’ll be drafted higher than this. He does run quality routes, makes tough catches and can work different levels of the defense. However, he’s also inconsistent and struggled with his production at the college level. I’ve seen several Jaron Brown comparisons, and that’s hard to argue.
20. Jaydon Mickens – This draft feels heavy with quick, slashing receivers, and Mickens is yet another one. He’s lightening quick with his cuts, which is a double-edged sword given his quality route running. Given his size – 5’10”, 174 pounds – it obvious that Mickens’ value is in the slot, which is a positive and negative for him. The good news is that a team could need a quick-play, dynamic weapon the passing game, and the bad news is that it limits his potential given his usage.
Keep an eye on: Keyarris Garrett – Great size/body, mismatch for most corners, attacks the ball and due to size wins most contests.
Nothing to see here.
As I remind Fantasy Football owners every year, rookie tight ends simply don’t have Fantasy value. Maybe you’ll get a week or two of worth out of someone, maybe one will make for a sneaky DFS play, but tight ends just don’t have true Fantasy value until their sophomore season. Don’t forget these names for 2017, but for the 2016 Fantasy Football season, they’re just informative than valuable.
1. Stephen Anderson – I’m going to tell you upfront, every year it seems Jayson Braddock puts me on to one guy. Let’s face it, I’m not Todd McShay or Matt Miller, and I cover Fantasy Baseball as well. I have no chance at seeing everyone of worth. Thankfully, Braddock has more time than I do, and this year’s guy is Anderson. Look around, you won’t find Anderson on many draft lists or in mock drafts at all. There is some real potential here, though. Anderson is 6’2″, 230 pounds, ran a 4.63 40, 4.13 shuttle, 6.95 3-cone and led all tight ends in broad jump (9’11”) and vertical (38″). As Jayson mentioned, Jordan Reed was considered a “tweener” when coming into the NFL, and that’s the biggest knock on Anderson… oh, boo hoo. Just watch how well he gets free from defenders, the quickness in his routes and his terrific focus (keeps eyes on the ball all the way through the catch).
Anderson is also great at giving the quarterback a big target to hit. While he’ll never be a great blocker, that’s not a concern for Fantasy. Again, I wouldn’t expect much as a rookie, especially since he’ll go late in the draft, but you’ll be disappointed if you dismiss him completely or don’t know his name.
2. Hunter Henry – Henry is the name you hear everywhere for tight ends this year, and he’s a high-quality prospect. Henry is 6’5″, 250 pounds and very quick for that size. Henry didn’t test in anything at the combine except the bench and only had 13 reps, so there is some concern there. Even so, Henry put up top-end numbers in a run-first offense. Henry is often a mismatch for defenders, allowing him to get open and also tack on yards with his after-the-catch ability. He’s also a decent blocker, which will help him get and stay on the field if he bulks up and becomes more reliable. Again, we’re not overly concerned with the blocking in that it only helps with playing time, as Henry’s true upside is as a team’s third or fourth option in the passing game… likely in his second season.
Keep an eye on: Tyler Higbee – Terrific size, dangerous in seam routes, good hands.
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