College Fantasy Football - CFF

2017 NFL WR Prospects Part I fantasy football
By John Laub

 

 

 

       2017 Wide Receiver Prospects

 

 

 

 

 

The 2014 WR Class may not be replicated for another decade: A generational group of playmakers, several now dominate the NFL. The Class of 2017 does not have the panache of its predecessors; nonetheless, it is deeper than the casual football diehard may appreciate at the position. 


With the advent of improved coaching and sophisticated passing games in college, the rookies entering the NFL are capable of making an immediate impression. At the top of the rankings, two franchise studs (Corey Davis and Mike Williams) are poised to make an impact in the league, and a few of the remaining prospects (Carlos Henderson, John Ross and Zay Jones) could blossom into pro bowlers under the tutelage of an astute coaching staff in the right offensive scheme.


Without question, speed and size often separates the college all-star from a professional superstar and cannot be ignored when evaluating players. Three indicators—Career Receptions, Breakaway Ability and Yards per Reception—among future receivers provide additional insight into long-term NFL potential. 


While teams yearn for archetypical size, astute scouting departments do not over look the quick-twitch game breakers, e.g., Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton and Brandin Cooks. Listed below are the finest wide receivers available in the Draft.

  

Benchmark Statistics and Measurements for Draft Consideration

Receptions: 150

Yards per Reception: 15.0

Breakaway Ability

4.50 seconds (or less) in the 40-yard dash

6.95 seconds (or less) in 3-cone drill

4.10 seconds (or less) in 20-YD Shuttle

 

Official Combine and Pro-Day measurements will be updated as available.

 

 

1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Finished campus tenure as one of the greatest wide receivers in college football history: Established FBS career record with 5,278 receiving yards on 331 catches. Produced four consecutive crusades with over 65 catches and at least 925 yards. Also, scored double-digit touchdowns three years in a row—15, 12 and 19—and reached the end zone 52 times at Western Michigan. MAC Freshman of the Year (2013), three-time First Team All-MAC (2014-2016), MAC Offensive Player of the Year (2016) and AP All-America Team (2016). Dominated opponents very early: 67 catches for 941 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman. Premier physical tools: height, weight, speed, hands, arms and frame. Fluid athlete with muscular build and wastes little movement. Stupendously quick feet, very good leaper and great ankle flexibility. Awesome acceleration and vision. Good upper body strength. Effortless long-strider who easily creates separation and sustains it throughout route. Wins after the catch: Incredible “YAC” competitor. Rare combination of leverage and elusiveness. Attacks the football. Catches with hands away from body: Makes acrobatic grabs. Victorious at all levels of the defense: short, intermediate and deep. Maneuvers well through traffic on screen passes. Stops on a dime and changes directions. Reaches a second gear in open field. Easily decodes zone defenses in the middle of the field. Earned a master’s degree at wide receiver: Ran a diverse route tree in a myriad of formations and precision route runner. Good head and shoulder fakes. Runs crisp vertical routes and tracks ball well. Physical athlete who sinks hips and effortlessly spins and cuts. Fearless competitor with non-stop energy and plays hard until the whistle. Very high football IQ. Nagging ankle injury, which required surgery: Will not run at Combine. Loses focus at times. Very few negatives on film. Limitless pro potential. An elite prospect, who undoubtedly warrants a top-ten selection in the Draft. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 331

Yards per Reception: 15.9

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash:

3-cone drill:

20-yard shuttle:

Draft Potential: First round

 

2. Mike Williams, Clemson

Another elite prospect from the Clemson factory: DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Since arriving at Death Valley, impact playmaker. Named to the First Team All-ACC last year after snatching 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. Prototypical frame of a No. 1 receiver: Tall and muscular at 6’3” and 225 lbs. Exceptional combination of body control, leaping ability and ball skills. Separates against all types of defensive coverage. Flexible body control. Shields off opponents with large frame and move the chains. Large catch radius: Plucks ball out of air and ranges for low throws. Excellent runner of curl, nine and post routes. Stupendous shallow and deep route runner, and very good at inside breaking routes. Easily adjusts and contorts body despite blanketing by opponent. Breathtaking on back shoulder throws. Mastered acrobatic catches on the boundary. Effective in the middle of the field. Corners often bite on double moves. Uses deceptive swiftness to detach from corners on quick passes. Sneaky fast on deep patterns. Out jumps corners and snatches ball with large paws. Awesome runner of slant patterns. Powerful runner in the open field and difficult to bring down one-on-one. Employed from different spots in the formation but did not run a complex route tree. Succeeded vs. press coverage. Better than expected run blocker. Missed the entire 2015 campaign after suffering a neck injury in first game: Returned to the gridiron last year and returned to pre-injury form. Far too many focus drops: Easy passes fall through hands at times. Does not explode off the snap or out of breaks. A franchise difference maker at the receiver position: Potential Pro Bowler in the right organization.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 177

Yards per Reception: 15.4

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash:

3-cone drill:

        20-yard shuttle:

Draft Potential: First round


3. Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech

Hype train rolling down the tracks…One of the most prolific wideouts in the nation after a breathtaking junior season, racking up 82 catches for 1,535 yards and 19 touchdowns. Averaged an amazing 18.7 yards per catch and scored 23 times. Dominated UMass with 12 receptions for 326 yards and five touchdowns and toasted WKU in two games with 17 catches for 434 yards and five touchdowns. All Conference USA Freshman Team (2014), Named Conference USA Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year (2016) and Biletnikoff semifinalist (2016). Explosive quick-twitch athlete. Ran a diverse route tree at Louisiana Tech. Creative runner who makes tacklers miss. Determined and dogged competitor: Competes with anger, swagger and purpose. Mind-blowing burst and wiggle. Speed and quickness offset lack of elite size at 5’11”and 191 lbs. Big play wideout who also excels in the short and intermediate areas. Employs lethal double moves and drops hips to stop-and-start rapidly. Full-field vision: Seeks daylight and leaves defenders in wake. Electric tackle breaker with first-rate after-the-catch ability. Astounding acceleration and carries speed through tight breaks. Fights for football and steals it from opponents. Attacks corners and safeties and climbs over the top of the defense. Deadly on screen plays and superb on slant cuts with uber suddenness. Rarely gets caught from behind. Fights for additional yardage: Seldom brought down by one tackler. Can he separate from press coverage? Will bigger and stronger professional corners bully the former Bulldog? Smaller than ideal frame. Never competed against top-rated corners in C-USA. Needs to improve fundamentals. Projects as a slot receiver with potential to play on the outside. Arizona and Dallas would be perfect landing spots in the second round to maximize potential. 

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 147

Yards per Reception: 19.6

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash:

3-cone drill:

20-yard shuttle:

Draft Potential: First/Second round

 

4. John Ross, Washington

Redshirt junior who declared for the Draft. Leaves campus with school record for kick returns for touchdowns (four) as well as catches over 50 yards: season (six) and career (11). Scored a touchdown on a whopping 17.9% of touches during three-year tenure. In 2016, First Team All-PAC 12 and semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award after recording 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns. Elite athlete who played nickel corner as a freshman and started four games at defensive back as a sophomore. Blazing speedster: Threatens the top off the defense every play. Slippery feet and quick hips. Excellent at tracking balls. Instant acceleration with sudden footwork. Savvy route technician with outstanding body control, nifty feet and deadly stutter steps. Never wastes a step and manipulates coverage. Speed and acceleration to climb and attack corners. Executes extraordinary crossing routes and hits homeruns with ball in hands. Stupendous hand-eye coordination. Amazing mitts: one-handed, over the shoulder and away from body catches. Exceptional vertical route runner. Consistently beats corners deep and gains separation at the stem. Dangerous open field runner, weaving through traffic, and breaks a ton of tackles after the catch. Employed all over the formation: Plays outside and in the slot. At the goal line, routinely wins on slants and fades. Not a polished route runner. At times, struggles off press coverage. Lean body and can be bumped off routes by physical corners: PAC 12 secondaries did not play a lot of bump and run coverage. Below average strength. Struggled vs. Alabama’s physical corners in CFP semi-final, recording only 5 catches for 28 yards. Major injuries to both knees: Missed the 2015 season after two meniscus tears. Combine medical reports will provide more insight into long-term health. Could be a special player in the NFL along the lines of Brandin Cooks and T.Y. Hilton

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 114

Yards per Reception: 15.2

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash:

3-cone drill:

20-yard shuttle:

Draft Potential: Second round

 

5. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

Stepped onto USC campus and dominated opposition as a freshman—54 catches for 724 yards and 5 touchdowns—and named Second Team All-PAC 12 as all-purpose selection. In 2015, earned First Team All-PAC 12 and Second Team All American after recording 89 receptions for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns. Injured back last year and did nor replicate outstanding sophomore campaign. Outstanding size, length and frame at 6’2” and 220 lbs.  Uber competitive and team leader. Long strider who separates from tacklers in the open field. Finds holes in zone defenses. Strong and confident hands catcher. Radar-like awareness of secondary members. Stupendous body control and able to contort in mid-air. Employs stiff-arms and maximizes “YAC” with aggressive nature. Physical competitor who blocks for teammates and enjoys contact. Out muscles opponents and big-bodied playmaker. Boxes out defenders. Breaks arm tackles, and outruns defenders when daylight opens. Agile and powerful athlete who defeats press coverage. Works well back to assist the quarterback. Very good running crossing routes. Willing blocker in the Hines Ward-Anquan Boldin mold. Twists and rotates to snatch pass. Stupendous on shallow crossing routes and quick screens. Tough performer: Broke hand in 2015 and never missed a game. Does not win often enough on contested passes and needs to develop tenacious temperament. Predominately lined up on the right side of the formation. Under developed route runner. Must attack corners and adjust off their movements. Scouts opinions vary on NFL potential. Can he overcome recent Trojan WR disappointments—Robert Woods, Marquise Lee and Nelson Agholor—as a professional? Among aforementioned USC products, clearly preeminent prospect.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 213

Yards per Reception: 14.5

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash:

3-cone drill:

20-yard shuttle:

Draft Potential: Second round

 


6. Zay Jones, East Carolina

Despite a record-setting season, many scouts overlooked the senior until very late in the crusade. However, Senior Bowl practices and game (six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown) shinned a bright light on the East Carolina star. All-time FBS career receptions leader with 399, and in 2016, established a single-season mark with 158. First Team All-American (2016). Increased catches and yards every season on campus. Last year, recorded double-digit catches in 10 games, including a school-best 22 vs. South Carolina. Incredible athleticism and on-the-field production. A versatile performer who lined up in many positions and owns a full portfolio of routes. Nice size at 6’2” and 202 lbs. Terrific technician. Outstanding body control: Routinely makes circus catches with strong hands. Crisp, shifty and savvy route runner who gains separation in short and intermediate zones. Possibly owns the best hands among position prospects. Great hand-eye coordination and plucks football away from body. Great leaping ability and easily high-points passes. Fearless in the middle of the secondary and makes tough grabs. Good sideline footwork. Derives from a football family: LB Robert Jones (Dad) played for the Super Bowl Champion Cowboys in the 1990s, and QB Jeff Blake (Uncle) steered the Bengals offense in the early ‘90s. Enjoys spending time watching film, high character competitor and motivated to be great. Not a blazer and does not challenge defenses vertically. Can be pushed off course by press coverage. Caught a ton of short passes and quick screens. Might ascend into the first round of the Draft if a playoff team highly rates abilities.  

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 399

Yards per Reception: 10.7

Breakaway Ability

40-yard dash:

3-cone drill:

20-yard shuttle:

Draft Potential: Second round