In what many considered a down—or at least slow, based on 40 times—year for wide receivers, four still went off the board in the first round and a total of 31 pass-catchers found NFL homes over the course of the draft. The 2016 class looks to be short on immediate fantasy impact, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. Here’s an overview of the fantasy prospects for the leading edge of this year’s crop of rookie wideouts.
COREY COLEMAN, BROWNS 1.15 (BAYLOR)
The first receiver off the board went to a team with a desperate need for playmakers, so to that end Coleman is a good fit for the Browns. He’s a little smaller than you’d like from your featured receiver, but his speed and after-catch ability more than make up for that shortcoming. There’s also thought that Coleman could develop into more than just a home run threat, something along the lines of Antonio Brown. The immediate concerns for Coleman’s fantasy value involve his supporting cast, specifically what Robert Griffin III can provide throwing him the football. Once you’re comfortable his QB questions are answered, you can view Coleman as an early impact receiver with a very high dynasty ceiling.
WILL FULLER, TEXANS 1.21 (NOTRE DAME)
Speed, speed, and speed—that was the theme of the Texans’ 2016 draft. Houston used their first-round pick to add the lightning-fast Fuller opposite DeAndre Hopkins, which is an ideal situation for the rookie. Fuller doesn’t need to carry the offense, he won’t attract the double teams Hopkins requires, and he’ll get to develop right along with the guy the Texans just paid big money to be their quarterback of the future, Brock Osweiler. With so many new parts to the Houston offense it’s tough to discern just how much of an opportunity there will be for Fuller initially, but it’s not as if the Texans’ depth chart is stacked in front of him.
JOSH DOCTSON, REDSKINS 1.22 (TCU)
* 2011 at Wyoming
Washington jumping into the first-round wide receiver run was initially a little surprising, but when you consider both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon could be gone next year it makes more sense. If you’re banking on Kirk Cousins to be your quarterback of the future, why not give him a reliable long-term target? Even if Jackson and Garcon remain on the roster heading into the season, Doctson brings a different skill set to the table—a combo platter of outstanding athleticism and the ability to make the contested catch. Jay Gruden’s pass-happy offense has leaned heavily on tight ends and running backs in the past, but with Docston on the roster he could emerge as an impact fantasy receiver sooner rather than later.
LAQUON TREADWELL, VIKINGS 2.23 (OLE MISS)
Just about every mock draft had the Vikings taking a receiver in the first round, and with Treadwell still on the board at 23 Rick Spielman didn’t disappoint. Treadwell provides the anemic Vikings passing game with a big target who can make the contested catch. Treadwell’s short-term value may be limited by the presence of Adrian Peterson in the Minnesota offense, but as the team transitions to something more in line with today’s NFL he should prove to be a favorite of Teddy Bridgewater.
STERLING SHEPARD, GIANTS 2.9 (OKLAHOMA)
Shepard’s scouting reports praise everything about his game except his size and note that he’d be a perfect—and productive—wingman if paired with an existing feature wideout. So landing opposite Odell Beckham Jr. in New York is about as good as it can get for Shepard. Expect Ben McAdoo to use Shepard much as he used Randall Cobb in Green Bay, and with the Giants’ running game still stuck in neutral there’s fantasy value to be had—even in a WR2 role.
MICHAEL THOMAS, SAINTS 2.24 (OHIO STATE)
After being mentioned as a possible first-round option, Thomas lasted until Day 2 and ended up in New Orleans. He has all the physical attributes—size, speed, route-running, even NFL lineage as the nephew of Keyshawn Johnson—to step right into the role vacated by Marques Colston. The Saints don’t generate the passing game volume they used to, but there is still more than enough opportunity for Thomas to make an immediate splash in New Orleans—and to hold long-term value at least through the remainder of the Drew Brees era.
TYLER BOYD, BENGALS 2.24 (PITT)
Boyd didn’t stand out as a dazzler amongst this class of receivers, but his elite hands and technical proficiency make him a perfect fit as AJ Green’s running mate in Cincinnati. With Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu both leaving via free agency, there’s a need for a complementary piece in the Bengals’ passing game. Boyd won’t threaten Green and Tyler Eifert for targets, but he’s at the top of the list once Andy Dalton has moved on from those two options.
BRAXTON MILLER, TEXANS 3.22 (OHIO STATE)
Did we mention the Texans went speed-heavy this year? Miller is incredibly raw as a receiver, but with all the other primary pieces in place in the Houston offense Bill O’Brien can find ways to take advantage of his jaw-dropping athleticism. The concern is that touches will need to be manufactured for him at least initially, a la Percy Harvin or Cordarrelle Patterson, limiting his fantasy value. Dynasty owners have to hope Miller can develop his talents into a legit NFL receiver, though even then he’ll be battling DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller for targets.
LEONTE CARROO, DOLPHINS 3.23 (RUTGERS)
Many scouts liked Carroo as much as any receiver in the draft, as he has good hands, excellent ball skills, sharp route-running ability and enough size to succeed at the NFL level. However, he landed in Miami where he’ll have to compete for targets with DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills. Fantasy owners will have to put a ton of faith in what Adam Gase can do with Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins’ passing game to think Carroo can make a fantasy impact, both initially and down the road behind productive young receivers who were both drafted in earlier rounds than he.
CHRIS MOORE, RAVENS 4.9 (CINCINNATI)
The Ravens missed the downfield threat of Torrey Smith last season; they hope they filled that void early on Day 3 of the draft with the selection of Moore. The former Bearcat doesn’t bring much more to the table than size and speed, but that combo should get him on the field sooner rather than later chasing down Joe Flacco deep balls. He has plenty of developmental work to do, but it’s not as if Baltimore is flush with receivers so on-the-job training may be in order.
MALCOLM MITCHELL, PATRIOTS 4.14 (GEORGIA)
Mitchell generated predraft buzz amongst the draft community, but his limited college resume pushed him to Day 3. That’s where the Patriots grabbed him in hopes that his strong hands, 4.4 speed and the flashes he displayed when he wasn’t injured could be developed into the vertical receiver New England’s offense has lacked in recent years. If healthy he should push for playing time right away, and even if he’s buried on the radar behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman there’s always upside to catching passes from Tom Brady.
RICARDO LOUIS, BROWNS 4.16 (AUBURN)
Cleveland’s receiver depth chart is nothing to write home about, so another pick devoted to the position is hardly surprising. Louis has NFL size and plenty of potential, but he’s more of a developmental guy than someone who should be on your redraft fantasy radar. That said, if RG3 is reborn in Cleveland he’ll need more than Gary Barnidge and Corey Coleman to throw to.
PHAROH COOPER, RAMS 4.19 (SOUTH CAROLINA)
Another team with a need to fill out the depth chart, the Rams added multiple first-year receivers during and after the draft. The problem for Cooper is that he projects to be the same type of receiver as Tavon Austin, whom the Rams have first-round money invested in. Maybe there’s room for another undersized pass catcher, but with a rookie quarterback and a run-heavy coach—plus the presence of Todd Gurley—it’s tough to see Cooper making any sort of fantasy splash in the near future.
DEMARCUS ROBINSON, CHIEFS 4.28 (FLORIDA)
Seems like every class has a talented head case, and the 2016 version is Robinson. He sports elite athleticism and flashed game-breaking ability at Florida—at least when he wasn’t being suspended. The nephew of former NFL receiver Marcus Robinson was suspended twice as a freshman and then twice more during his college career, thrice for marijuana and once for a curfew violation. However, Andy Reid looked past the off-the-field issues in hopes of capitalizing on Robinson’s acceleration and athleticism. Is he the next Josh Gordon, or the next… Josh Gordon?