The spread offense has taken over the league, as teams are passing the ball at an all time high. That puts a premium on pass catchers that can make plays. This year's draft may not have a true elite prospect, but there are a number of players that provide big play ability.
Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell has been labeled the top receiver available for the 2016 draft since his standout freshman season. His combination of size, strength, and athleticism make him a tough matchup for corners. He's too strong to jam at the line, but his length and ability to go up and get the ball make him difficult to defend with the ball in the air. Treadwell has the body control to adjust in the air and the strong hands to snatch the ball and make the difficult grab look easy. He's willing to cross the middle and make catches in traffic and he's a threat with the ball in his hands. He is not a burner and isn't simply going to run by defenders, but he's got enough speed to make plays and stretch the field. A nasty leg injury ended his sophomore season and medical check ups could be the only thing that prevents him from being the first receiver selected. Treadwell appears to be completely healed as he has continued to get better as the season goes on, and hes a guy who should make a big impact early on in the NFL.
- Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
- Corey Coleman, Baylor
- Josh Doctson, TCU
- Tyler Boyd, Pitt
- Will Fuller, Notre Dame
- Michael Thomas, Ohio St.
- Braxton Miller, Ohio St.
- Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
- Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
- Rashard Higgins, Colorado St.
Baylor's Corey Coleman is one of the more explosive players in this year's draft at any position. He's a big play waiting to happen. Not only does he possess tremendous quickness and agility to make defenders miss but he also has the breakaway speed to pull away and go the distance. Coleman is the type of guy who can take a screen to the house or take the top off the defense with his vertical speed. His upside is limited because he only has average size at 5'11 190. There may also be some concerns from him playing in the Baylor offense. It has created some big offensive numbers and names but nobody has really stood out in the NFL. Coleman may need some time developing his route running ability, but his speed and big play ability is real. With the right team, Coleman has the chance to be a game changer at the next level.
While Coleman is the playmaker, Ohio State's Michael Thomas is the possession. Keyshawn Johnson's nephew has some of the same skills as his uncle. He's got the size, athleticism, and strength to be a consistent threat on the outside, over the middle, and in the red zone. Thomas lacks great speed and he's not going to blow by defenders on the field, but he has the quickness to create enough separation for him to use his size to make the catch. The Ohio St. offense may limit his overall numbers and he may need to polish off his route running skills, but he has the ability to be a very good #2 receiver at the next level, and looks like a solid late first round pick.
Notre Dame's Will Fuller has given the team a tremendous weapon with his skills in the vertical passing game. He quickly accelerates to top gear and can get behind the defense with regularity or outrun defenders when he has the ball in his hands. Fuller shows impressive athleticism and body control in going up to get the ball down the field. He is a true field stretcher. That's where his impact is felt the most. His average size and thin build will limit him as a weapon over the middle and he won't break many tackles. The biggest issue may be his propensity to drop some passes. He's consistently let balls hit the turf and that's an area he must improve on if he wants to maximize his potential. Fuller is a true vertical threat and will be coveted by teams looking for someone to stretch the field. He's a potential second round pick for the right team.
TCU's Josh Doctson is a great athlete that is very smooth on the field. He's got decent size, is a very good athlete, and may be the best in the draft at going up and getting the football. His body control is special and is what makes him standout on the field. His combination of leaping ability, athleticism, and focus allow him to go up and get the ball even with defenders draped on him. The ability to make contested catches is a great trait to have, and one that should carry over well to the next level. Doctson doesn't possess great speed and isn't going to pull away from many defenders but he does have the quickness to make plays and isn't afraid to fight for the ball in traffic. A broken wrist ended his regular season early, but it's not an injury that will hinder his draft stock, and he has the potential to land on day two in April.
Pitt's Tyler Boyd may be one of the draft's more polished receivers despite being a true junior this year. While he is not lacking in any one physical area except maybe strength, he also lacks a true standout physical that definitely carries over to the NFL. He knows how to use what he does have very well, though. Boyd has good length and body control, and can go up and get the ball in the air. He has good quickness and athleticism, which aids him in running sharp routes to get open and create separation. He has excellent hands, whether that is catching the ball in traffic over the middle or out jumping defenders down the field. Boyd does need to bulk up and get stronger in the NFL get help get off the line against press corners and to match up down the field with physical cover men. Boyd isn't going to wow you physically, but once on the field, he impresses you with his ability to make plays time and time again. His polish, consistency, and ability to make plays all over the field will make him a day two selection that could have a surprising impact as a rookie.
Two years ago, everyone would've expected to see Ohio State's Braxton Miller on this site as a quarterback. A shoulder injury couple with the emergence of younger QB's has shifted Miller's future to one at the wide receiver position. The negatives are obvious: he's raw. He's going to need to put in a lot of work to learn all the nuances of the position, from running the entire route tree to catching the ball in traffic and reading the defense running full speed downfield. The upside is just as obvious: his ability with the ball in his hands is special. Miller has proven as a QB that he has excellent quickness, agility, and speed. He can make defenders miss and has the ability to run away from them. In less than a year on the job as a receiver, he has shown impressive improvement. He actually catches the ball with his hands, which is something you don't see career receivers do all the time. At 6'1 204, he has an excellent build at receiver, and his explosiveness is top notch. He may be one of the most gifted receivers in this class from a physical standpoint. The transition from QB to WR is not an easy one to make at the pro level. Miller has gotten ahead of the curve a bit with his experience this season. He was given the opportunity to showcase his skills at the Senior Bowl, and his explosiveness was again on display. He was one of the better players at the event, and shows just how much potential he has as a wide out. The second round is a safe bet, but its not out of the question that he pushes his way into the first round. Teams crave playmakers and he could be as explosive as any receiver in this draft.
Other receivers to watch: Rashard Higgins(Colorado St), Pharoh Cooper(South Carolina). Leonte Caroo(Rutgers), Demarcus Robinson(Florida) and Sterling Shepard(Oklahoma)
Arkansas' Hunter Henry is the consensus top tight end available this year. His ability as a receiver is obvious, as he's moved around in a variety of spots, including out wide. He has experience lining up off the line and is put in space to make plays, as well as a traditional in line tight end. He has true TE size at 6'5 255 but is a very good athlete with the quickness to get open and make plays in space. He's the type of move tight end teams want because of his ability to create mismatches. The area Henry will have to prove he is capable of is the other half of the TE spot: blocking. He gives the effort to block and shows the ability to block on the move, but he needs work as a traditional in line blocker. He lacks the strength to hold up at the point of attack against linemen, and will need more overall experience developing in this area. Henry's receiving ability and willingness to block give him real potential as a complete tight end, and he's all but locked up the top tight end spot for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Stanford's Austin Hooper has the potential to be a complete tight end and rival Henry, but he's not as far along down the developmental path. He's got the length, athleticism, and toughness to be a two way standout at the position. Hooper has the speed to get down the field, and shows good ability after the catch for a tight end. Playing in a physical, pro style offense means he is no stranger to in line blocking. Despite being a bit lean and young, he's shown surprising ability as an in line blocker, and will only get better with more experience and added bulk to his thin frame. Hooper was a bit of a surprise entry as a redshirt sophomore, and his all around game needs work as a result of his relative inexperience. Tight ends usually have a tough adjustment to the league as rookies, and Hooper will be no different. The potential is there to be a very good all around tight end, but his ability as a receiver should allow him to see the field while he polishes his skills.
Other tight ends to watch: Thomas Duarte(UCLA), Nick Vannett(Ohio St), Nick Higbee(Western Kentucky), and Jerrell Adams(South Carolina).
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