Welcome to the ninth instalment of the BGA: 2016 NFL Draft series. As we head to the draft, I'll be sharing thoughts and observations about draft prospects for each position group. In our previous instalment, we looked at this year's interior defensive line prospects and we now move on to look at wide receivers.
I'll be discussing whether the Jets are likely to have a need at these positions and reviewing some of the top prospects along with some players that might be options later on.
These articles are not necessarily meant to be exhaustive, so if you wish to bring some other prospects into the discussion, please do so in the comments section below. There are a few receiver prospects that I'm saving for when I discuss special teams prospects in a few weeks.
Jets Needs: Wide Receivers
The Jets will hope that Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall will be able to play at the level they did in 2015 for a few more seasons. Those two accounted for a significant proportion of the Jets' passing game last season. Beyond Decker and Marshall, the production was inconsistent and, in some games, non-existent. However, Quincy Enunwa and Kenbrell Thompkins progressed towards the end of the year and made some key contributions. Thompkins was brought back on a one-year restricted free agent tender, while Enunwa remains under contract.
Jeremy Kerley has gone to Detroit and Devin Smith might not be ready for opening day as he rehabs an ACL injury that prematurely ended his rookie year. That might mean there's room for one or two more receivers on the roster, so I would expect the team to bring in a rookie or two to compete with the other three receivers on the roster, each of whom signed a futures deal. The team is also rumored to be about to bring in free agent receiver and return specialist Jeremy Ross. Based on comments made by Kerley after he signed for the Lions, the Jets probably won't have interest in any of the smaller receivers in this draft because they won't be seen as good fits from Chan Gailey's offense.
The Jets had drafted eight wide receivers from 2011 to 2015 and, from that group, only Enunwa remains on the roster. However, it's not unprecedented for them not to draft a receiver, as they didn't select one in 2013, 2010 or 2009.
2016 Draft: Wide Receivers
The four main names connected with potentially being a first round pick are LaQuon Treadwell from Ole Miss, Baylor's Corey Coleman, Will Fuller from Notre Dame and TCU's Josh Doctson. This is an interesting group that each bring different things to the table.
Let's start with Coleman, whose main attribute is speed as you can see below. Coleman had 20 touchdowns last year and has the ability to get deep, although his hands are a bit of a question mark.
Treadwell is a physical receiver, capable of making plays down the field even though he lacks the elite speed to get separation. He has been the top ranked receiver in this class for much of the offseason. Doctson's stock has been rising for a while though and he had a good combine after having missed the end of the season with a wrist injury. Doctson has an ability to go up over defenders to make a catch.
Fuller's deep speed is as impressive as anyone in this class and he backed that up with a 4.32 40-yard dash at the combine. The combine wasn't all good for Fuller, though, as his hands measured smaller than expected, reinforcing concerns surrounding dropped passes. That might be enough to drop him into day two. Even on catches he did make, Fuller didn't always catch the ball cleanly, although he shows good concentration here.
Two versatile potential day two picks are Pharoh Cooper from South Carolina and Tyler Boyd from Pitt. Each of the two saw time in the slot and also ran the ball regularly on reverses, jet sweeps and wildcat-type plays. Here's a good play showing Cooper's ability to get open for a catch in traffic and then make some extra yardage.
Boyd impresses with his route running, including on this play where the Panthers converted on fourth and short.
The Ohio State duo of Michael Thomas and Braxton Miller should also draw day two consideration. Thomas - not to be confused with another solid receiver prospect from Southern Miss with the same name - is the tallest player currently projected to go in the top three rounds at 6'3". He has solid all round abilities without being a game-breaker.
Miller has tantalizing abilities but not much experience having converted from quarterback last season. He immediately showed a surprising aptitude for route-running and making tough catches for a beginner. Miller dropped just one pass while also bringing some of the running skills he displayed as a quarterback to the position. It's going to be extremely difficult for teams to project whether his development has just begun or if he just reached his potential really early.
Some more good propsects that should go by the end of day two are Sterling Shepard from Oklahoma, Rashard Higgins from Colorado State and Rutgers product Leonte Carroo. Shepard might be the best slot receiver in this draft and also brings return game abilities to the table. Higgins is sure-handed and an excellent route runner. Carroo has reliable hands and tremendous production. He had 10 touchdowns in each of the past two seasons and 808 yards last year in less than 400 snaps. If he can convince teams he can stay on the field at the NFL level, Carroo might be able to sneak into the first round.
Interesting potential day three propsects include Daniel Braverman from Western Michigan, Jordan Payton from UCLA and Roger Lewis from Bowling Green. Braverman is small but elusive after the catch and with the ability to get deep. Payton is a solid possession receiver who adds value with his blocking. Lewis put up huge numbers, including 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns and had a solid pro day after pulling his hamstring at the combine. However, there's some legal issues in his past and he did put those numbers up in a spread offense so he's another player that is difficult to project.
Diminutive Texas Tech slot receiver Jakeem Grant made some headlines when he unofficially clocked a 4.10 40-yard dash, but the official figures (4.37) were much less eye-popping. Standing just 5'6", you'd think Grant was an NFL long-shot but he stands out on film with his ability to get open and elusiveness after the catch. Here, he takes advantage of a lucky bounce and turns it into a long touchdown with his speed.
Dom Williams from Washington State is a good all-round receiver with nice size on the outside. He's capable of making plays downfield and on short passes, although his hands can be somewhat inconsistent. Here, he gets downfield and goes up to make a nice catch over the defender.
Moritz Boehringer is apparently now considered a day three prospect after a stunning performance at Florida Atlantic's pro day. Boehringer played football in Germany last year, but stunned scouts with a 4.41 40-yard dash and an impressive 6.64 three-cone drill.
Even more impressive was Devon Cajuste who ran a 6.49 on his three-cone drill at the combine. He's considered a receiver/tight end hybrid and is excellent at going up over defenders to catch the ball at 6'4" and 234 pounds. Cajuste only had 27 catches at Stanford last year, but his measurable make him an intriguing late-round option.
Let's close by considering some sleepers that may be good value if they go undrafted. Four under-the-radar guys are Jon Schnaars, Chad Ward, Thomas Carter III and Marcus Johnson. The first three, from East Stroudsburg, Bryant and Portland State respectively, are three of the most interesting small school prospects this year. Johnson, on the other hand, went to Texas but wasn't a starter and caught just 12 passes last year.
Schnaars impressed scouts as Christian Hackenberg's personal receiver at his pro day last month. Ward has good size at 6'3" and caught over 40 passes in each of the past three seasons. Carter had some good moments against division one opposition over the past few years and put up good pro day numbers with a 4.5 40-yard dash, a 4.00 short shuttle and a 6.79 three cone drills. Finally, Johnson turned heads with a 4.4 40-yard dash, 37" vertical, 135" broad jump and 22 bench press reps at his pro day.
Finally, let's close with two bigger targets that could be good sleeper options. BYU's Terenn Houk is 6'4" and seemed to come on at the end of the season. They used him to good effect in their bowl game against Utah, as he caught six passes for 68 yards, using his size well to go up over defensive players.
Nnamdi Agude from Sacramento State is 6'3" and stood out in a blowout loss to division one opposition in Washington. He shows good ability to get open and make yards after the catch. Also, like Houk, he can go up to get it, as you can see.
I'll be back to look at cornerbacks next.