Despite the fact that the 2017 NFL Draft is just barely in our rear view mirror, now is a tremendous opportunity to assess the performance of the 2016 class and adjust our projections accordingly. The 2016 NFL Draft produced a number of enticing receiver prospects for the upcoming fantasy football season, and projections, despite the lack of production towards the top of the class, could still serve tremendous benefit to those fantasy managers searching for second year “jump” candidates.
Finally, a QB for Browns fans to be legitimately hopeful of. Corey Coleman, an electric playmaker out of Baylor, has to be saying the same thing. With the arrival of Deshone Kizer, an intriguing plus-sized prospect from Notre Dame, Coleman has an opportunity to partner up with quite easily the most talented passer of his young career. The time that it will take for Kizer to reach the field, however, the question. What is not up for debate is Coleman’s physical traits, which enabled him to be the number one receiver on my board in this last year’s draft. Coleman has easy “stop-start” athleticism that enabled the occasional Antonio Brown comparison to be made throughout his career at Baylore. With the loss of Terrelle Pryor, Coleman should have the opportunity to figure prominently into the Browns offensive plans. Coleman could be an excellent player to target in the middle rounds of your fantasy drafts as someone who could explode onto the scene similarly to Pryor due to no more than a lack of passable talent around him.
If there was anyone happier than Deandre Hopkins with the drafting of my highest graded QB in this past class (Deshaun Watson), it was Will Fuller. The explosive receiver out of Notre Dame burst onto the scene early, only to fizzle out later on in the season due to both injuries to himself as well as at the quarterback position; not to mention the lack of passing talent. No matter a receiver’s talent level, it’s difficult to produce when Tom Savage is throwing you the ball. Savage may well start the season, as the Texans have long indicated, but it won’t be long until the keys belong to one of the most decorated quarterbacks in NCAA history. Watson has the most valuable ability a franchise quarterback can have; the ability to raise the talent level around him. Questions about Watson, however, centre around his deep ball. With Fuller’s game largely predicated on his ability to take the top off of a defense, his true fantasy value could prove more problematic than his on field value. Expect Fuller to be an attractive option towards both the end of your fantasy drafts and the end of the fantasy season, where his relationship with Watson should blossom well beyond the long ball as the two get more acquainted.
The Redskins expect huge things from the former TCU product. With Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon moving on to different teams in the offseason, a large share of the receiving responsibility will fall on Doctson…in the real world. In the fantasy world, Doctson will need to share the ball with talented young receivers like Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, and Jordan Reed, meaning his fantasy prospects look bleak at best. Docton’s ability on back shoulder passes was elite coming out of college, and still is. However, he can be safely avoided in your drafts until he can prove that the outstanding talent that made him such a hot commodity in last year’s draft can carry him to the top of the depth chart over (currently) more attractive options.
Finally, the first true star. Reminiscent of Marques Colston in the way he can box out defenders using his size, Thomas immediately became a primary target for Drew Brees. Look back at the prime years of Colston’s career with Brees to realize the damage that Thomas, who is far more talented given top-notch route running ability for his size, can do with a passer like Brees at the helm. To make matters even more attractive, former number one receiver Brandin Cooks has moved on to the Patriots, leaving a ton of target up for grabs, with Thomas the likely recipient. A true WR1 in every sense of the term, Thomas’ combination of previous production, talent and opportunity reveal his true place in the fantasy community; near the top of your receiver draft boards. Expect him to be gone before the beginning of the third round. Barring injury, Thomas will be a household name come season’s end.
Hill’s ability as a returner may have been what brought him to the national stage, but it’s his electrifying potential as a DeSean Jackson clone that makes him intriguing for fantasy purposes. Partnered with Andy Reid, Jackson’s former coach, Hill is likely to play the DeSean role in Reid’s offense while Jeremy Maclin fills the…Jeremy Maclin role. This seems familiar. Reid’s Chiefs are eerily reminiscent of the Eagles of days past, which could actually be cause for concern for Hill’s fantasy prospects this season. Don’t get me wrong, once the rocket-armed Patrick Mahomes reaches the field, Hill’s value will skyrocket with Mahomes ability to fire the ball down the field at will. However, with stable quarterback play coming at the moment in the form of Alex Smith, don’t expect for Mahomes to see the field so quickly. With the dink and dunk nature of a Smith led offense, expect massive games to be few and far between for Hill (similar to Jackson early on in his fantasy career), but not with a frequency that would make an early draft pick worth it. On the other hand, a gamble in the 7th round? That sounds more like it.
Laquon Treadwell and Sterling Shepard
Both of these players were intriguing receiver options heading into last season, but have dropped on my board for very separate reasons. For Treadwell, despite solid production in the SEC as a member of Ole Miss, his inability to see the field despite the lack of receiving talent in front of him on the Vikings is extremely concerning. If he were to see the field, he would be an intriguing late round option alongside fantasy sleeper Sam Bradford. However, it is unclear how the Vikings plan to use Treadwell, and with the signing of Latavius Murray and drafting of Dalvin Cook, it appears that Mike Zimmer’s Vikings are committing themselves to a ground and pound approach; this leaves Treadwell as a likely post-draft waiver target. Shepard, on the other hand, performed well in his rookie season, and should see the field quite often for the Giants. His route running was top notch coming off a prolific career as a Sooner, and his lack of size did not appear to hinder him in the way that many projected. However, his fantasy prospects are dampened by the arrival of both Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram, not to mention the presence of Odell Beckham. Shepard may very well be everything the Giants hoped for when they drafted him last year, but his projection from a fantasy perspective lends a much cloudier outlook for fantasy players looking for a young prospect for their own receiver corps.