Buyer-beware when drafting these 3 wide receiver prospects
In preparation for the 2016 NFL draft, PFF’s team of analysts has spent the past few months putting together our overall draft board and positional prospect rankings.
In doing so, PFF has identified players at each position who qualify as “buyer-beware” prospects, based on where these players are showing up on most evaluators’ draft boards. Here are three such prospects among this year’s wide receiver class.
1. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Before you judge the placement of Treadwell at the top of this list, take into consideration that we actually think Treadwell will produce in the NFL and warrants a late first-round selection. However, he continues to top industry analysts’ draft boards as a consensus selection around pick No. 13. While the 4.63 40-yard dash time recorded at the Ole Miss pro day was disappointing, Treadwell has the ability to separate and locate the ball to overcome that weakness. Should a team make the decision to select Treadwell within the top-15, though, they will eventually discover the error in that commitment.
Treadwell produced the 25th-highest yards per route run value in the class (2.28) over the last two seasons, and did so while recording the 36th-lowest drop rate (6.12 percent). His average depth of target ranked as the class’ 40th-highest (7.27) and, yet he still only managed the 19th-highest yards after the catch per reception (6.36). Treadwell is one of the better receivers at eluding tackles (once every 4.23 receptions) and graded-out 12th-overall within the class over the last two seasons. Therefore, selecting the Ole Miss standout at the end of the first-round makes plenty of sense, but doing so prior with a list of superior athletes still remaining on the board would be an imprudent use of resources.
[More from PFF: Why Laquon Treadwell is not a top WR prospect]
2. Will Fuller, Notre Dame
Another name that might come as a surprise as a “buyer-beware” prospect is Will Fuller. Fuller is, like Treadwell, a player whom we feel can benefit an NFL team, but also another receiver who has been offered with erroneous projections. Should a team decide to pull-the-trigger on Fuller prior to our projection as the 71st-best player available, his maximum value could decrease, but he should still appraise reasonable worth toward the end of the second-round. However, reports have surfaced that Fuller could find his way into the first-round and, if true, would represent an entirely inaccurate analysis of his abilities.
There is no denying that Fuller’s high-end speed can take the lid off of a defense, but he will still require time to add the necessary bulk to render previous issues of being jammed at the line of scrimmage conquered. The Notre Dame schedule is (annually) a difficult challenge, and Fuller provided more than enough evidence of his abilities when facing Power-5 opponents (4.8 receptions, 108 yards, 1.1 touchdowns). That said, Fuller was inconsistent during the 2014 season, and still displays vulnerabilities to being outmuscled by physical corners on 50/50 throws. He posted the second-highest drop rate (9.95 percent) in the entire class and is deficient at missing tackles; simply put, he should not be selected in the first-round.
[More from PFF: Why Will Fuller reminds PFF analysts of Mike Wallace]
3. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
We have 177 snaps in route and 38 total targets—nine of which were jet sweeps—on which to evaluate Miller as a wide receiver. In 2015 alone, 440 receivers ran greater than 177 routes, and 372 were targeted on more throws. Miller, however, has seen an industry consensus projection around the mid-second round. The former Buckeye possesses plenty of potential and athleticism, but a receiver that has never been provided with more than five targets in a game at the position leaves far too much to chance for that early of a selection.
Miller stormed into the spotlight as Ohio State’s quarterback, averaging an amazing 1,764 rushing yards over his first three seasons, resulting in the most individual awards in Big Ten history, and a pair of Big Ten Player of the Year awards. Despite that success, a shoulder injury all but ended his career as a QB, and he is entirely unpolished as a receiver. He displayed impressive quickness at Senior Bowl practices, but the time he will require to develop should remove him from consideration as a first- or second-round pick.
[More from PFF: Breakdown of Ohio State’s loaded draft class]