Round-by-round ranking of 2016’s best WR prospects
Gordon McGuinness breaks down the top receiving talent in this year's draft.
Round-by-round ranking of 2016’s best WR prospects
This year’s class of wide receiver draft prospects isn’t as deep in top-end talent as last year’s class, but this group is deeper in players who could be very good secondary receivers on rosters throughout the NFL.
Here are our rankings for the top wide receivers in the 2016 NFL draft:
1. Corey Coleman, Baylor
Coleman stands out as the top receiver in a class short on top-end talent. Questions about his height were answered when he checked in at 5-11 and produced a 40-and-a-half-inch vertical jump at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. A talented player with the ball in his hands, Coleman forced 13 missed tackles on 74 receptions in 2015, and was the nation’s leader in yards per route run prior to Baylor’s top two quarterbacks going down with injuries. If there is a knock on him, it’s the reliability of his hands — he dropped 10 passes last season.
2. Josh Doctson, TCU
Doctson ran a 4.50 40-yard dash at the combine, and does lack true deep speed, but there’s a lot to like when you look at his film. A big target at 6-2, he had a vertical leap of 41 inches in Indianapolis, showcasing the leaping ability that saw him go up and win the ball time and time again. He dropped just six of the 84 catchable passes thrown his way in 2015, and has shown himself capable of making circus catches in his time at TCU.
3. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Treadwell has seen his star fall slightly after finishing the 2015 season, when many were calling him a top-10 draft pick. On tape he looks to lack the speed-to-gain separation, and he opted not to run the 40 at the scouting combine. While he may struggle getting separation downfield, he’s as good as anyone in this draft class at using his body to shield defenders away from the ball on slants, and he forced 31 missed tackles over the past two seasons — proving he can make things happen after the catch.
4. Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
When breaking down Carroo’s tape, it at times felt like you were watching two completely different players. When fully healthy he was up there with the best receivers in this class, but the drop-off when he was coming back from injury was severe. Despite that, he still managed to force seven missed tackles on 39 receptions in 2015, and had an impressive one-handed grab in his final game of the year against Maryland to add some wow factor.
5. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
The tough thing to project with Shepard is whether or not he’ll only be a slot receiver in the NFL. At 5-10 you would think so, and that’s where he saw 69 percent of his snaps in 2015, but we also saw a player who had the ability to track the deep ball very well and go up and win one-on-one battles versus corners when he had to. He was second among all receivers with a 3.17 yards per-route-run average from the slot, and looks to be a good slot receiver at worst, but perhaps with the potential to be much more. Like Tyler Lockett the year before him, Sterling ranked No. 1 in PFF wide receiver grades.
6. Michael Thomas, Ohio State
A 4.57 40-yard dash at the combine confirmed what we thought about Thomas on film — that he lacks the speed to be a downfield burner in the NFL. However, he uses his hands and feet very well to get separation. He might not fly past defensive backs in the NFL, and that might limit him to being a good No. 2 receiver rather than a No. 1. However, he does the little things well and has shown that he can go up and win the ball in the air — something he had to do at times given Ohio State’s quarterback situation.
7. Michael Thomas, Southern Miss
He played against lesser competition in the MAC, and wasn’t even invited to the scouting combine, but the “other Michael Thomas” had a very impressive 2015 season, highlighted by a big-time showing in the bowl game against Washington when he racked up 190 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 19.3 yards per reception and forced nine missed tackles on 72 receptions over the course of the year. It’s understandable to question the level of competition, but Thomas was tied with Treadwell in terms of receiving grade, and warrants consideration on Day 2.
8. Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
Another player who didn’t face top competition, Braverman would have probably been considered a late-round draft pick five years ago. But in a league that utilizes the slot as much as the NFL does now, his ability has some serious value. Nobody in this draft class averaged more yards per route run from the slot than the 3.27 Braverman managed.
9. Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Higgins was the highest-graded receiver in this draft class back in 2014, racking up close to 1,800 yards and forcing 23 missed tackles on 96 receptions. He dropped to seventh this year, with just 1,062 yards and eight missed tackles forced on 75 receptions. His timed speed of 4.64 seconds in the 40-yard dash didn’t help his case, but Higgins showed good hands in college, with just 11 drops from the 182 catchable passes thrown his way in the past two seasons.
10. Will Fuller, Notre Dame
There are two problems with Fuller, the first being the fact that he dropped 21 of the 159 catchable passes thrown his way between 2014 and 2015. The second is that many see him as a one-trick pony who can only really have success as a speedster on go routes. The thing is, he’s pretty good at that one trick, and his 4.32 40-yard dash time backs up the fact that he is one of the few receivers in this draft class who can burn defensive backs downfield. He led the nation in deep-ball catch rate, pulling in 17-of-29 targets thrown 20 or more yards downfield, including 10 touchdowns.
11. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
Boyd is another player who tested fairly average in Indianapolis, with a hardly eye-popping 40 time of 4.58. However, Boyd showed a safe pair of hands for Pittsburgh in 2015, dropping just five of the 99 catchable passes thrown his way. If there’s an issue, it’s that he forced just six missed tackles on 94 receptions in 2015, but he should find a role in the NFL if he can maintain such a low drop rate.
12. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
Mitchell had a solid combine, running a 4.45 40-yard dash and adding a 36-inch vertical leap. He had the 16th-highest grade of all the receivers in this draft class, and he forced 13 missed tackles on just 58 receptions in 2015. It was an impressive year for Mitchell after playing less than 300 snaps in 2014 — he dropped just three of the 61 catchable passes thrown his way.
13. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
With Miller there is a lot of projection, especially considering he played just one year at wide receiver in college after moving over from quarterback. He is raw as a prospect, and his route running needs a lot of work, something you notice when you watch him take far too long to make a cut on a route. For as raw as he is, though, he is a joy to watch in space, forcing eight missed tackles from just 26 receptions last year.
14. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
Cooper is another one where there is some work to do around his rawness, but like Miller, he’s a player who is really fun to watch in space. He forced a whopping 16 missed tackles on 66 receptions, and while he’s not going to step into the NFL doing all the things you want a wide receiver to do, there is a lot of potential there for him to create big plays.
Gordon McGuinness | Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst
Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.