Top-tier rookie WR fantasy player comps

Kevin Cole breaks down the best fantasy comps for the top tier of the 2016 wide receiver draft class.

| 9 months ago
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Top-tier rookie WR fantasy player comps


Earlier this week, we looked at the physical and production profiles for the second tier of 2016’s wide receiver prospects, using a clustering algorithm to identify the current and former NFL players who the prospects most closely matched.

We found that Leonte Carroo, despite his relatively low standing among draft scouts, has an impressive group of comparable players, including Dez Bryant and Hakeem Nicks, both of whom were first-round selections. On the other hand, prospects that have intrigued tape-watchers, like Rashard Higgins, Sterling Shepard and Pharoh Cooper, didn’t have the physical profile and production numbers to warrant enthusiasm.

In this post, we’re going to move into the top tier of the 2016 wide receiver draft class, where we find that the objective, numbers-based comps tell a very different story than consensus draft boards.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Michael Thomas Ohio State 2016 NA 23.3 75 212 4.57 0.20 0.32 0.69 13.9
Austin Pettis Boise State 2011 78 23 75 209 4.56 0.19 0.23 0.77 13.4
Brandon Lafell Louisiana State 2010 78 24 75 211 4.58 0.21 0.26 0.85 13.9
Maurice Stovall Notre Dame 2006 90 21 77 217 4.57 0.21 0.29 0.92 16.7

* MS = market share; FY = final year

Michael Thomas is a somewhat polarizing prospect. He’s ranked outside of the top five by some scouts, but is supposedly the top receiver on at least one team’s board. His numbers-based comps say that he would likely be a poor early selection.

Austin Pettis and Brandon LaFell have had useful NFL careers, but nothing close to fantasy stardom. LaFell has averaged over 600 receiving yards in his six NFL seasons, never topping 1,000. Pettis has yet to break 400 receiving yards in any season. Both players currently find themselves looking for employment, with former Patriot LaFell likely to see meaningful snaps for a new franchise.

Thomas’ disappointing comps don’t appear to be related to his physical profile, as his 6-3, 212-pound frame fits right into the mold of a typical WR1. But, his advanced age and underwhelming receiving numbers place him outside of the range of typical NFL stars.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Tyler Boyd Pittsburgh 2016 NA 21.7 74 197 4.58 0.43 0.40 0.50 10.2
Marqise Lee Southern California 2014 39 23 72 192 4.52 0.38 0.32 0.36 13.9
Nate Burleson Nevada 2003 71 22 73 197 4.51 0.37 0.46 1.00 11.8

The discussion between Tyler Boyd’s detractors and supporters goes straight to the heart of one of the fundamental conflicts of prospect evaluation: What to do with a highly productive, but unathletic receiver?

Our earlier research on forecasting wide receiver prospects focused solely on age and collegiate production, as NFL combine measurables likely aren’t statistically significant.

Boyd has an absolutely dominant career market share of receiving yards – the most statistically significant statistic – but his smaller frame and Jarvis Landry-esque 10.2 yards per reception don’t scream NFL superstar.

Nate Burleson looks like Boyd’s closest comp, and Burleson’s career is nothing to be ashamed of: 11 years, 5,500-plus receiving yards and 39 touchdowns, including over 1,000 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in his second NFL season.

Marqise Lee is also a close comp for Boyd, and his short career so far could only be generously described as yet-to-be-determined. After being selected in the early second round by the Jaguars, ahead of breakout superstar Allen Robinson, Lee has missed multiple games in both of his first two seasons with various leg injuries, only accumulating a total of 613 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Josh Doctson Texas Christian 2016 NA 23.6 74 202 4.50 0.28 0.38 1.40 17.0
Koren Robinson North Carolina State 2001 9 21 74 211 4.61 0.36 0.36 1.18 17.1
Deandre Hopkins Clemson 2013 27 21 73 214 4.57 0.29 0.34 1.38 17.1
Austin Collie Brigham Young 2009 127 24 73 200 4.56 0.30 0.38 1.15 14.5
Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech 2013 128 23 72 204 4.53 0.33 0.30 1.08 13.4

Josh Doctson has been a trendy name and post-combine riser following an impressive athletic display in Indianapolis. Not only did Doctson run a solid 4.5 forty, but was also one of the combine’s top performers for the receiver group in the vertical (41 inches), broad (131 inches), and agility drills.

Both DeAndre Hopkins and Koren Robinson were first-round selections, and both match up well with Doctson’s production numbers. However, they were substantially younger prospects than Doctson, and were bigger, but slower.

That said, you have to be intrigued by the inclusion of one of the league’s top stars in his comps, not to mention a former top-10 pick is also in the list.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Will Fuller Notre Dame 2016 NA 22.2 72 186 4.32 0.29 0.37 1.08 20.3
Santonio Holmes Ohio State 2006 25 22 71 188 4.35 0.31 0.36 0.92 18.4
Aldrick Robinson Southern Methodist 2011 178 23 70 184 4.35 0.26 0.34 1.00 20.0

Will Fuller’s comp list is fairly short (only prospects from 2000-2015 are part of this analysis), which means that his combination of blazing speed and strong production is fairly unique.

Santonio Holmes is a name with which most football fans are familiar. Holmes only cracked into the top-15 fantasy receivers for one season, but he was consistently solid his first four years in the league, averaging over 900 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

Aldrick Robinson had impressive receiving stats and speed, but his sixth-round draft position and small school pedigree have led to meager NFL production.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Corey Coleman Baylor 2016 NA 22.0 71 194 4.37 0.26 0.39 1.67 18.4
Brandin Cooks Oregon State 2014 20 21 70 189 4.33 0.27 0.36 1.23 13.5
Greg Jennings Western Michigan 2006 52 23 71 197 4.42 0.31 0.46 1.27 12.8
Golden Tate Notre Dame 2010 60 22 70 199 4.42 0.30 0.38 1.25 16.1

Corey Coleman is a consensus top-three prospect in the 2016 class, and our football scouts place the electric Baylor wideout at the top of the class.

Based on Coleman’s impressive 4.37 pro day forty time and strong collegiate production, especially in the touchdown department, he comps with NFL successes Brandin Cooks, Greg Jennings and Golden Tate. Only Cooks was a first round pick, and both he and Jennings had the benefit of elite quarterback play at the next level.

Coleman’s comps probably justify having him at the top of this year’s wide receiver prospect board, but that might be more an indictment of the rest of the class than endorsement of Coleman.

Name School Draft Year Draft Pos Draft Age Height Weight Forty Career Rec MS FY Rec MS FY TD/Gm FY Yds/Rec
Laquon Treadwell Mississippi 2016 NA 21.0 74 221 4.60* 0.23 0.26 0.85 14.1
Anquan Boldin Florida State 2003 54 23 73 216 4.72 0.18 0.34 0.93 15.6
Vince Mayle Washington State 2015 123 24 74 224 4.67 0.21 0.26 0.75 14.0
Juron Criner Arizona 2012 168 23 74 224 4.68 0.19 0.21 1.00 12.7

*Estimated

On the whole, Laquon Treadwell’s comps are fairly disappointing for the potential No. 1 prospect of the class. There is the possibility that I’m knocking Treadwell too harshly, estimating his 40-yard dash time at 4.6 seconds. But even using a time of 4.5 seconds — seemingly optimistic based on reports and the fact that he skipped the drill of the combine — doesn’t meaningfully improve his comps.

Anquan Boldin had one of the greatest rookie wide receiver seasons ever, with 101 receptions for 1,377 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. So, there is hope that Treadwell will live up the hype.

But Vince Mayle and Juron Criner were later draft picks and have accomplished almost nothing in their short NFL careers.

Treadwell does have the advantage of being significantly younger than all of his comps, and we’ve found that age is a statistically significant variable for forecasting NFL success.

Kevin Cole is a Lead Writer for PFF Fantasy. You can follow him on Twitter at @Cole_Kev

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