2016 WR Prospects Part II

By John Laub

 

 

6. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma

Overshadowed in the Big 12—and the nation—by J. Doctson and C. Coleman last season. In 2014, captured the Disney Sports Spirit Award and semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award in back-to-back campaigns. Finished career with 3,482 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. A polished player with excellent route running and playmaking capacity. Wins at the line of scrimmage with shifty moves, quick eyes and electric feet. Uses great hand technique to ward off press defenders. Fabulous hands: Catches ball away from body and dives for passes. Routinely makes difficult catches look easy. Crafty route runner who reads coverage well, looking for a soft spot. Stupendous short-area burst with nifty quickness. Good vision and worthy coordination. Toughness to toil in the slot and fearless in the middle of the gridiron, working the seams of the defense. Quick-twitch athlete with open-field elusiveness after the catch. Focused in traffic and snatches the pass while blanketed. At 5’10” and 194 lbs., an undersized wideout who projects as a slot receiver as a professional. Participated at the Senior Bowl and netted player of the week award among receivers. Lack of playing strength. Must improve hand movement and technique to gain separation against press coverage. Does not run away from many defenders. Corners can redirect routes and force the former Sooner against the sideline. Outmatched against physical defensive backs. Will be highly coveted by a team that employs “11” personnel (three receivers) regularly. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 233

Yards per Reception: 14.9

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.48

3-cone drill: 7.00

20-yard shuttle: 4.35

Draft Potential: Second round

 

WR William Fuller

 

7. William Fuller, Notre Dame 

Left school early to pursue professional career after three years in the Gold and Blue. Two-year starter in coach Brian Kelly’s power-spread attack. Produced back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns, and in 29 starts, scored 30 touchdowns. In 2015, dynamic deep threat who averaged a whopping 20.3 ypc and named Irish Team MVP. Eye-popping explosiveness and athleticism on display at Combine. Abundant desire and high-effort competitor. Highly athletic and mammoth home run hitter after the catch. Fearless route runner: Playmaker in high-traffic areas and breaks ankles to escape tackles. Speed to stretch the field and above-average tracker of the deep pass. Natural over-the-shoulder catcher. Remarkable plant-and-go quickness and very good change of direction skills. Fantastic footwork at the top of the stem and remains in bounds on sideline routes. Shakes opponents with crisp cuts and body moves. Works hard to body-position corners. Short and controlled strides and can change speeds to eat up cushion. At 6’0” and 186 lbs., undersized and lean frame. Very small hands. A paradox: On film, a body catcher, trapping ball against frame intermittently; however, on the turf in Indianapolis, illustrated improved hand technique. Needs to strengthen mitts. Must move north-south earlier with football. Rounds off short and intermediate patterns. Essential to camouflage routes: Defensive backs make easy reads. Does not project as a high-volume, possession receiver. Fails to high-point pigskin in the air. Ceiling projects as a solid number two wide out as a professional.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 144

Yards per Reception: 17.4 

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.32

3-cone drill: 6.93

20-yard shuttle: 4.27

Draft Potential: Second round

 

8. Michael Thomas, Ohio State

Nephew of former 1996 top overall pick Keyshawn Johnson. Totaled 110 catches for 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns during last two seasons in Columbus. NFL size at 6’3” and 212 lbs. A creative runner with solid fundamentals: Technique, style and athleticism. Drives off the line of scrimmage. Uses hips, shoulders and eyes to disguise routes. Employs multiple speeds and is precise and crisp when cutting. Attacks opponents with hyperbolic steps and tight angles: Preemptive hand chops to break free of jam. Above-average tracking ability and good hands. Climbs the ladder to ensnare the football and makes acrobatic catches. With ball in hands, reaches a second gear in the open field and gains YAC with worthy vision, instincts and agility. Challenging to cover one-on-one. Exemplifies fortitude with nasty stiff-arm and burst through contact. Willing blocker who displays effort, physicality and leverage. Does not have elite speed or athleticism. Lacks explosiveness. Played in a spread offense with limited route tree. Redshirted as sophomore and conflicting narratives as to why. Reports proclaim that the Buckeye star couldn’t comprehend the playbook or difficult route concepts. Not a proven deep threat. Intermittently, spends too much time with fakes and double moves to create separation. Unlikely to contribute on special teams. For organizations that prefer large wide outs, a team will target the former Buckeye in hopes of tapping into the long-term upside. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 113

Yards per Reception: 14.2

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.57

3-cone drill: 6.80

20-yard shuttle: 4.13

Draft Potential: Third round

 

9. Braxton Miller, Ohio State 

As a quarterback, named back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year in 2012 & 2013. Missed the entire 2014 campaign with a shoulder injury. Switched to wide receiver last year and caught only 25 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Actually, touched the football more often on the ground with 43 carriers for 261 yards and a touchdown. Freddie Solomon, Antwaan Randle-El and Julian Edelman all made the position transition from college quarterback to NFL receiver. Can the former Buckeye also? Tools to succeed as a professional wideout: Balance, flexibility and footwork. During Senior Bowl week, observers waxed poetically in regard to athletic ability and was named top practice player at the conclusion of the festivities. Illustrated punt return skills during the week. NFL profile at 6’1” and 201 lbs. Owns the base-line physical skills to play wide receiver: Astonishing athleticism, vision, hand-eye coordination and speed. Nifty moves and electric in the open field. Can fulfill many roles on the roster: Emergency quarterback, slot and “X” receiver, return specialist and QB in the Wild Cat formation. Explosive lateral quickness on display at Combine. Creates separation from tacklers with burst and agility. Good work effort and football instincts. Played mostly in the slot as a receiver. Technical challenges of the nuances of the position and limited experience catching the football. Not mastered hand fighting. Lacks clean footwork and employs far too many double moves. Wastes time getting off the line of scrimmage. Limited arm length and small catch radius. A club must assess and project the long-term growth potential of the Buckeye speedster. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 25

Yards per Reception: 13.6

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.57

3-cone drill: 6.65

20-yard shuttle: 4.07

Draft Potential: Third round

 

10. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

A promising future after earning Freshman All-SEC in 2011. However, a torn ACL in 2013 season opener versus Clemson derailed assent. Before injuries, considered by some scouts as one of the preeminent athletes in college football. In a run-oriented offense as a senior, grabbed 58 passes for 865 yards and 5 touchdowns. At 6’0” and 198 lbs., excellent quickness and elite long speed. Promising route runner: Sinks hips, stops on a dime, easily changes direction and sharp cuts out of breaks. Good catch-and-run hitter. In the open field, attacks defenders like a running back. Fights for YAC. Excellent hands: In Indianapolis made a spectacular one-handed grab. Absorbs big hits and bounces up. Nice blend of patience and boldness. With elusiveness and vision, tough to tackle. Willingness to venture into the middle of the field. Above-average sideline awareness. Quality hand-eye coordination. Plucks football away from body. Finds holes in zone and savvy release from press coverage. Raised in a pro-style offense. Without losing speed and balance, tracks ball proficiently. Uses change of pace to shake defenders. Friendly target for quarterback. Athens, GA is not historically a hot bed of wide receiver talent. After damaging knee twice and two surgeries, durability concerns in regard to long-term future as a 24-years old rookie. Sometimes physical corners disrupt routes. Needs to improve separation skills and technique in contested situations. At Senior Bowl, flashed athletic ability and at the Combine, turned heads. If the medical reports are positive, likely catapulted to an early third-day selection for an astute team.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 174

Yards per Reception: 13.5

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash: 4.45

3-cone drill: 6.94

20-yard shuttle: 4.34

Draft Potential: Third-day talent

 

 

WR Keyarris Garrett 

 

11. Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa

Breakout senior season at Tulsa and named First Team All-AAC: Led the FBS with 1,588 yards receiving on 96 receptions. Scored eight touchdowns—22 throughout career—and averaged over 120 yards receiving per game last year. As a sophomore in 2012, All-CUSA. The following campaign, suffered season-ending compound leg fracture, missing 10 games. Big-bodied playmaker with impressive initial quickness, good body control, broad shoulders and long limbs. Underrated hands catcher: Long arms and sticky hands to snatch the pigskin. Seizes ball like a power forward rebounding. Boxes out opponents and large catch radius to attack football. Terrific jumping ability and high points the catch. At 6’3” and 220 lbs., a long strider who stretches the field despite lack of elite stopwatch speed. Uses body on quick slants to shield defenders. Flexible athlete. Adjusts to poorly thrown balls and plucks low passes. Quick hand technique to separate from corners. Innate ball tracking radar. In red zone, specializes in fade routes over smaller corners. Raw straight-line runner. Physical defensive backs disrupt patterns. Does not produce a lot of YAC totals. On short and intermediate routes, difficulty separating from corners. Ran limited route tree in a spread offense and needs to improve route management. Plays frequently designed to gain free release for the Tulsa star. For a big receiver, small hands and easily tackled in one-on-one encounters. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 219

Yards per Reception: 14.7

Breakaway Ability

            40-yard dash: 4.53

            3-cone drill: 7.30

            20-yard shuttle: 4.33

Draft Potential: Third-day prospect

 

12. Mike Thomas, Southern Mississippi

JUCO competitor who transferred for junior year. A small-school comet who posted tremendous statistics last year: 71 receptions for 1,391 yards and 14 touchdowns. In the Golden Eagles’ bowl game against Washington, concluded the afternoon with nine catches for 190 yards and two scores. Led FBS playmakers who recorded 65 or more catches with a 19.6 ypc average last year. Scored 19 times in two seasons. Surprisingly, did not earn an invite to the Combine after playing well in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Good upper-body size and control. Quick opening step and very good acceleration. Exceptional hands and does a great job high pointing the football. Turns short passes into big gains. Very competitive in one-on-one matchups. Route tree includes posts, corners and ‘9’ patterns. Sturdy frame at 6’1” and 200 lbs., and plays bigger than size. Tracks the football and times jumps well. Impressive combination of technique and skills. Nice hands fighter. Good kick returner: Averaged 23 yards per return, scored a 100-yard touchdown and accumulated 855 return yards. Played gunner on punt-return squad. High-ceiling prospect who can contribute on special teams immediately.  

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 112

Yards per Reception: 17.7

Breakaway Ability 

40-yard dash: 4.53 (Pro Day Results)

3-cone drill: 7.06 (Pro Day Results)

20-yard shuttle: 4.29 (Pro Day Results) 

Draft Potential: Third-day talent

 

2014 Pre-Draft Rankings

1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson

2. Mike Evans, Texas, A&M

3. Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU

4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

5. Marquise Lee, USC

6. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss

7. Brandon Cooks, Oregon State

8. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

9. Davante Adams, Fresno State

10. Martavis Bryant, Clemson

11. Allen Robinson, Penn State

12. Jarvis Landry, LSU

 

2015 Pre-Draft Rankings

1. Amari Cooper, Alabama

2. Kevin White, West Virginia

3. Breshad Perriman, UCF

4. DeVante Parker, Louisville

5. Jaelen Strong, Arizona

6. Phillip Dorsett, Miami

7. Nelson Agholor, USC

8. Devin Smith, Ohio State

9. Dorial-Green-Beckham, Oklahoma

10. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

11. Rashad Greene, Florida State

12. Sammie Coates, Auburn

Bob Harris

Jen Ryan

Armando Marsal

Brad Kruse

Travis Spieth

Gary Davenport

John Laub

Justin Lonero

Evan Tarracciano

Dave Hunter

Matthew Cherrin

Chad Stapley

Lisa Ann

Bryan Steimetz

Jeremy Munter

Carl Tempesta

Mike Beacom

Emil R. Kadlec

Matt Falkow

Jaime Inchaurrandieta