The NFL draft season is officially upon us, but we’ve been in serious information-gathering mode for months now. Our Joe Dolan and Tom Brolley watch tons of college football each fall, and they've studied plenty of tape – we’ve included plenty of links for you to watch these prospects too. But we also lean heavily on our friends and sources around the league who not only watch more college football than we do, but they also closely scrutinize these pending rookies’ college tape.
While we’re a fantasy site and these players’ worth in our world won’t be clear until after the draft, we still like to stack these guys against each other based almost entirely on talent and their potential as they transition to the pros. We also break the players up into tiers in an effort to offer more insight into how they project to the NFL and the fantasy world.
Once the draft takes place on April 27-29, then it will be a lot easier to rank the rookies for the 2017 season – and we will in early May. We’ll also reset our long-term outlooks and re-rank the players for keeper and dynasty leagues.
Potential Franchise Players
1. Corey Davis
Davis is the top small-school prospect in the draft and for good reason. He’s the all-time leader in Division I receiving yards, dominating lesser competition in the MAC with a ridiculous 332/5285/52 in four seasons. He went to Western Michigan as just a two-star recruit but stepped into the lineup immediately, earning MAC Freshman of the Year honors in 2013. He capped his career by winning the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award and capturing All-American honors in 2016. Davis underwent minor ankle surgery after injuring himself while training in January, and he wasn’t able to run at the Combine and at his pro day. Davis described the injury as a high ankle sprain with two torn ligaments. He has great size at 6’3”, 209 pounds and he’s a little more explosive than fellow top WR Mike Williams. But Davis is slightly smaller and doesn’t play as big – he loses out on some contested catches. Davis is a polished route runner coming into the league, and he knows how to create separation with his quickness and his hands. He’s excellent at high-pointing passes and shows complete concentration around the sidelines, which helped him to dominate in the red zone. Davis lined up all over the field, including out of the slot, and he ran a full route tree. He can create some extra yardage after the catch with a just a little bit of space, but he’s not explosive enough to create game-breaking plays. He’s not going to be known as a vertical threat, but he can work CBs to get them on his hip and he’s excellent at tracking deep passes. Davis was heavily used in the Broncos offense, and he had more focus drops as his career went along. We think he compares the most to Keenan Allen because of their route running and size, and he might be a slightly more dynamic athlete. The jump in competition could be a small issue at the start of his career, but he’s a polished enough product to start right away on the outside and be a potential fantasy WR3 as a rookie. He’s the best overall WR prospect in this year’s class, and he eventually could develop into fringe WR1 fantasy option if he lands in a good situation.
2. Mike Williams
Williams is the next in line of recent great Clemson WRs, following in the steps of DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Martavis Bryant. Williams suffered a serious neck injury in the 2015 season opener, fracturing his neck when his helmet hit the goal post on a TD catch. He missed the rest of that campaign, but he came back with a vengeance in 2016, posting 98/1361/11 receiving and scoring 11 TDs in his final 12 games. His 1361 receiving yards last season ranked him behind just Hopkins (1405) and Watkins (1464) for a season. He initially burst onto the scene as a sophomore in 2014, averaging 18.1 yard per catch while posting 57/1030/6. Williams is a huge target at 6’3”, 218 pounds, and he can create enough separation and dominate with his size at all three levels of the passing game. He isn’t afraid to go over the middle and uses his huge frame to shield away defenders on slants. Williams plays like he’s 240 pounds because he can’t be knocked off the ball and it’s tough for one defensive back to bring him down. He also goes up and get passes and has great body control, so he’ll be great with a QB who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger with him. Williams decided to skip the 40-yard dash at the Combine, but he ran in the 4.5 range at his Pro Day, which is exactly what most wanted to see at his size. He’s in good company with other big WRs who ran slower times who went on to succeed – Michael Thomas (4.57), Alshon Jeffery (4.48), Dez Bryant (4.52), Jordy Nelson (4.51). Williams had a slightly disappointing 32½” vertical and a solid broad jump (10’1”). He tracks the ball well downfield, which makes him a downfield threat despite his average speed. Williams isn’t the most dynamic athlete at his size, and he could use a little more polish as a route runner. His neck injury from two years ago is also a little scary for the future. He has good hands and makes plenty of difficult catches with his huge catch radius, but he does have some focus drops and fumbles. We see a little bit of Plaxico Burress in Williams because of his pure length – he had the longest arms of the WR class at 33-3/8’ – and his ability to work at all levels of the field. No matter where he lands, Williams is likely to start right away on the outside as an X receiver, and he could easily be a fantasy WR3 next season. He should be a high volume receiver pretty quickly, so it won’t take long for him to become a #1 WR in an offense with the ability to be a low-end fantasy WR1.
3. John Ross
Ross is an absolute burner who comes into the league with some durability questions. He set the Combine ablaze by smashing Chris Johnson’s 40-time record. He became the new 40-yard dash champion with his historic 4.22 run to best Johnson’s old 4.24 time. He also put up great numbers in the vertical (37”) and broad jumps (11’1”). Ross has been compared to DeSean Jackson because of his size (5’10”, 188 pounds) and speed, and the two even struck up a relationship last summer when they worked out together in Los Angeles. Ross missed the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, but he came back with a vengeance to lead all Power-5 conference receivers with 17 TDs in 2016. Over his three seasons of action at Washington, Ross scored on an absolutely remarkable 17.9% of his touches – 24 TDs on 134 touches. He only started at WR as a junior last season, but he dominated with 81/1150/17 receiving. He’s also an impact kick returner, and the Washington coaches actually converted Ross to CB in the middle of the 2014 season after the team dismissed Marcus Peters, which says a lot about his athleticism. Ross not only kills defenders with his speed but by setting them up with double moves. He tracks deep passes well, and he runs so fast that he often times has to slow down for passes thrown behind him. He’s a film rat, who shows a lot of savvy as a route runner and can beat press coverage off the line of scrimmage. Ross is surprisingly effective down in the red zone despite his size, showing great eye-hand coordination on difficult catches. He’s not the best in contested-catch situations because of his size, but he runs by so many defenders that it hasn’t been a huge issue. He’ll need to continue to improve his underneath and intermediate routes at the next level, but he’s dangerous in those spots with the ball in his hands. Ross needed shoulder surgery after the Combine to repair a damaged labrum, and he’s already had surgery to both of his knees. He also has a very slight frame at have some major durability questions. Ross will make an instant impact for any offense next season as a vertical threat, which will likely put him in the WR4 conversation. He’s likely always to be better for non-PPR formats because he’s more of a big-play receiver than a volume receiver, and his upside will be similar to D-Jax’s upside in his best seasons.
Future Fantasy Starters
4. JuJu Smith-Schuster
Smith-Schuster is a big, physical receiver at 6’1”, 215 pounds, who has been compared quite a bit to Anquan Boldin leading up to the draft. As a five-star recruit, JuJu started as soon as he stepped foot on campus in 2014. He then earned second-team All-American honors as a sophomore with 89/1454/10 receiving despite playing through a broken hand. He struggled through a back injury last season, averaging an unremarkable 13.1 yards per catch (70/914/10). At the Combine, he showed he has a more juice than he’s been given credit for, running a better 40-time than most expected at 4.54. He also posted a solid number in the broad jump (10”) and a slightly disappointing vertical (32½”). He looked much healthier in the drills at the Combine, looking smooth as a receiver. Smith-Schuster has absolutely massive hands at 10½”, and he uses them to make some tough catches away from his body. He’s not going to run away from defenders after the catch, but he picks up extra yardage by running like an RB with the ball in his hands. He can make the occasional play downfield because he’s excellent at tracking deep passes to make some difficult catches. Smith-Schuster has trouble separating and reaching top speed, so he’s unlikely to ever be a big-play threat, but he also has a floor of being at least a big slot receiver. He’s going to have to be good at shielding defenders away and making contested catches because of his lack of separation. He also needs to become a more consistent route runner to better free himself from defenders, but at least he isn’t afraid to make plays in traffic. JuJu was once thought of as a first-round player before the 2016 season, but he’ll likely have to settle for being a Day 2 guy. There are some concerns that he could be a follower and not a leader off the field, so a good initial landing spot would be ideal. He still flashed plenty of times throughout his three seasons at USC to show he can be a volume receiver at the next level. Smith-Schuster helped himself with his performance at the Combine, looking healthier and more athletic than he showed during the 2016 season. We like the Boldin comparisons, but we think he might be slightly more athletic and more of a Michael Crabtree type. Smith-Schuster is a physical receiver who should be able to play on the outside right away as a possession receiver. He’ll likely be a fantasy bench option as a rookie, and he should have a long career as a #2 WR on the outside.
5. Taywan Taylor
Taylor didn’t have much of a national profile coming into 2016 playing at Western Kentucky, but he broke onto the scene when he posted 9/121 receiving against Alabama in 2016. His performance against the Crimson Tide was the start to a great season, as he finished with a remarkable 98/1730/17 receiving in 2016, which pushed his career numbers to 253/4234/41. Taylor had an up-and-down Combine performance. Checking in at 5’11” and 203 pounds, he ran a solid 4.50 in the 40-yard dash, which was slightly slower than he looked on tape, albeit against lesser competition in Conference USA. Taylor had the best time in the 3-cone drill at 6.53, and he had an excellent broad jump (11”) and a solid vertical (33½”). His broad jump and 3-cone drill actually ranked him among the top 4% at the position, according to mockdraftable.com. It’s not surprising then that he was explosive as both a route runner and with the ball in his hands. He approaches route running like an art form, manipulating defenders with a number of different moves. He was allowed to freelance quite a bit in Western Kentucky’s offense, which he obviously won’t be able to do at the next level. Taylor is competitive with the ball in the air, and he has great feet and concentration along the sideline. He is a touch small, and he needs to get better against press coverage. He also is a bit tentative at times going over the middle. He’s best built to operate out of the slot, but he worked all over the field with success in college. We see a little bit of Antonio Brown in Taylor because of their size and explosiveness as route-runners and after the catch. Taywan has a future in the league but it’s yet to be determined if he can play all over the field or if he’ll be stuck in the slot. At the very least, he should become a good slot receiver with the potential for more. He might not make an immediate fantasy impact in 2017, but he could become a solid PPR option relatively early in his career.
6. Carlos Henderson
Henderson had just 65 catches and was mostly just a returner in his first two college seasons before he exploded as a redshirt junior in 2016. He did it all for Louisiana Tech, winning both Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year honors for Conference USA. He finished with 82/1535 receiving last season, and he totaled 23 TDs (19 receiving, 2 rushing, 2 kick returns) despite missing two games with an ankle injury. Henderson looked fast on tape last season, but he played against lesser competition coming out of Louisiana Tech. His speed translated to the turf in Indy, clocking a 4.46 40-time at the Combine. He also had great results in the vertical (36”) and broad jump (10’11”), which shows he has some explosive traits. However, he struggled in the 3-cone drill (7.18), 20-yard (4.35), and 60-yard shuttle runs (11.79). His numbers from the Combine suggest that he’s more of a straight-line athlete on the outside than a quick, slot type. However, he measured in at just 5’11”, 199 pounds and played a lot out of the slot in college, so it will be interesting to see how he transitions to the league. He’ll likely be able to play inside and outside, and he’s a talented returner, so his versatility will make him appealing. His agility numbers were surprising because he was elusive after the catch in college. He might be the best in the class with the ball in his hands, finding tiny cracks and exploding through them, which isn’t a shock because he’s a dynamic returner. Henderson wins in some contested-catch situations, and he plays bigger than his size as a receiver and as a runner, but he bigger defenders can still knock him off the ball. The biggest knock on Henderson is his route running. He can be a little stiff out of breaks, and he needs a ton of refinement after running a limited route tree at Louisiana Tech. Henderson is a bit of a boom-or-bust type because he only had one season of production playing at a smaller school. He reminds us a bit of Cordarrelle Patterson coming out of Tennessee because of his dynamic ability as a runner and his one season of big-time college production. He should be able to make an immediate impact as a returner, and most teams will try to get this explosive playmaker on the field early. He’ll likely start his career as a fantasy bench piece, but he could develop into a dynamic option in short time.
7. Chris Godwin
Godwin is arguably the best at winning in contested-catch situations among the WRs in this year’s class. He was extremely productive in 2016, posting 59/982/11 receiving, including an impressive 9/187/2 in his final game against USC in the Rose Bowl. He came to Penn State as the Delaware Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2013, and he broke out as a sophomore in 2015, posting 69/1101/5. Godwin saved his best performances for the biggest games, combining for 22/460/3 in Penn State’s three bowl games. And he may have been the biggest winner from the Combine with an unexpected but impressive performance. Most draft observers expected him to run in the 4.5s in the 40-yard dash, so most were stunned when he ran a 4.42 and had the best 20-yard shuttle at 4.00. He also had an impressive 36-inch vertical, and he tied for the most reps (19) in the bench press at the position. Godwin tore it up in drills too, running an impressive gauntlet drill. One of the biggest concerns with Godwin was some tightness in his hips transitioning out of breaks, but the quickness he showed in the 20-yard shuttle shows he can improve. Godwin, who checks in at 6’1”, 209 pounds, is an absolute force in jump-ball situations in the red zone and downfield. He not only wins will the ball in the air, but he’s a physical runner after after the catch – although he’s not the most elusive YAC guy. He averaged an explosive 16.3 yards per catch the last two seasons, but he does need to refine his route running as an underneath receiver to become a complete wideout. He also struggled to consistently win against man coverage. He has elite ball skills and the ability to track the deep ball, and running faster than expected at the Combine has raised his status as one of the better intermediate/deep threats in this draft. He also is one of the best blockers in this class, which is an added bonus. We see a little Pierre Garcon in him, and they have strikingly similar measurable coming out of college. Early in the draft process, Godwin was overlooked in a fairly deep class of WRs, but he could now be a Day 2 pick. He’s one of the top playmakers at WR in this year’s draft, and he could have an immediate role stretching the field wherever he lands. Godwin might not be consistent for fantasy right away as he develops into a more complete WR, but he could have some fantasy moments as a rookie.
8. Zay Jones
Most would be shocked to know that Jones owns the FBS records for catches in a single season (158 in 2016) and for a career (399). He posted 158/1746/8 receiving and earned All-American honors in 2016, and he finished his career with 399/4279/23. He comes from a football family, as his dad won three Super Bowl as a LB with the Cowboys in 90’s, and his uncle Jeff Blake played QB for 14 years. Out of the WRs and possibly the entire 2017 draft, no player has helped themselves more in the pre-draft process than Jones. Prior to the pre-draft process, he was thought of as just a product of the pass-heavy East Carolina scheme, which also helped Justin Hardy put up gaudy numbers. Jones has proven to be much more athletic than his former teammate. Zay eased concerns about his speed and quickness at the Combine, posting a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and elite times in the 20-yard (4.01) and 60-yard (11.17) shuttle runs. He also had one of the top broad jumps at 11’1” and a solid 36½” vertical. He consistently beat defenders with his speed over the top during the Senior Bowl week. He’s dangerous in the short to intermediate areas out of the slot, but he can also work on the outside. His athleticism doesn’t always show up on tape, but he was forced to run a high number of screens and short passes in the East Carolina offense. He’s a savvy route runner and was asked to create quite a bit after the catch in college. He averaged just 11.1 yards per catch last season because he caught so many passes at the line of scrimmage. Jones wasn’t used a ton downfield in ECU’s offense, but he won in contested-catch situations and was good at high-pointing passes over defenders. He does have a pretty thin at 6’2”, 201 pounds, and he struggles to get off press coverage at times. Jones has the ability to work on the outside, but he’s probably better off working as the big slot in an offense, a lot like Jordan Matthews in Philadelphia. Jones wasn’t expected to be one of the elite athletes at WR in Indy, but he certainly was. He’ll likely fined himself as a Day 2 draft pick, with the chance to make an immediate impact as a #3 WR while being a fringe fantasy option.
Potential Immediate Role Players
9. ArDarius Stewart
Stewart had a few things working against him in 2016, playing in a run-heavy offense with a dual-threat freshman QB (Jalen Hurts) across from the potential first WR selected in the 2018 draft (Calvin Ridley). He still managed to put together an impressive campaign, finishing with 54/864/8 receiving despite missing two games with a sprained knee and another for a team suspension. He tested pretty middle of the road at the Combine, which wasn’t a big surprise since he isn’t a truly dynamic athlete. He ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash and had a leap of 10’4” broad jump, slightly above average marks Stewart looks like he could play running back at 5’11”, 204 pounds and he plays like one too, doing his best work with the ball in his hands by racking yards after the catch. He averaged a healthy 16.0 yards per catch last season, and he’s one of best in this year’s class once he gets the ball in his hands. He is more of straight-line runner than elusive, and he has room to grow with his breaks in and out of routes, but he showed a knack for finding holes in zone coverage. The Crimson Tide counted on him for big plays, serving as an occasional deep threat with just enough speed acceleration to separate from defenders. He uses his thick frame and strength to get open, and his body control helps him in contested-catch situations although he’s not going to win many jump balls. Stewart played all over the field at Alabama, but we think he projects best out of the slot for the future. We see a little bit of Jarvis Landry in Stewart because of his size and aggressive mentality after the catch. He comes to the league as a pretty complete player, which isn’t surprising for an Alabama prospect playing in Nick Saban’s NFL factory. He is 23 years old, so he might not have the ceiling that some of the other WR prospects have. Stewart is unlikely to ever be a true fantasy stud, but he could easily step in as a #3 WR early in his career and have some fantasy moments as a rookie.
10. Dede WestbrooK
Westbrook might be the WR class’ second-best vertical threat behind John Ross. Dede is a play-making WR who snuck in as a Heisman finalist last year because of his nation-leading 26 catches of 20+ yards. He started his career at community college before coming to Oklahoma in 2015. He made an immediate impact for the Sooners, posting 46/743/4 receiving while playing next to Sterling Shepard. Westbrook capped his career by winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top WR with 80/1524/17 in 2016. He’s got a tiny frame at 6’0”, 178 pounds, but he’s got legit deep speed, running at 4.34 at his pro day – he declined to work out at the Combine. His speed definitely translated to the field, easily taking slant routes and turning them into TDs. He played mostly on the outside at Oklahoma, and he’s good route runner on top of being fast. Westbrook slipped a lot of defenders in college on double moves, and he easily ran away defenders once he got behind them. He also doesn’t drop passes and demonstrates good body control along the sidelines. Westbrook is a polarizing prospect because of some off-the-field questions and some shaky interviews at the Combine. He was arrested twice for domestic violence situations but never convicted before he arrived at Oklahoma. He also missed his senior year in high school because of a ruptured small intestine. Westbrook has a very slight build, so there are plenty of durability questions with him. He isn’t going to beat out many defenders for contested catches, and he struggled against press coverage when he saw it because of his size. He failed to show quickness at his pro day with a terrible 7.24 seconds in the three-cone drill, which is a concern since he might have to play out of the slot at times. Westbrook has similar size and speed to Will Fuller, and he has the tools to make an immediate impact as a vertical threat. His play strength will need to improve if he wants to remain on the outside, but he has game-breaking potential to be on the fantasy fringes next season in non-PPR formats.
11. Curtis Samuel
Samuel would’ve been the talk of the WR group at the Combine most years, but he got completely overshadowed by John Ross’ record-breaking 40-time (4.22). Samuel’s performance was nothing to sniff at, running a blistering 4.31. He also performed well in the bench press (18 reps) and in the vertical jump (37”), but he surprisingly disappointed in the agility drills in the 20-yard shuttle (4.33) and 3-cone drill (7.09). At 5’11”, 196 pounds, Samuel was used as a chess piece to create mismatches by Ohio State HC Urban Meyer, a lot like how Meyer used Percy Harvin at Florida. Samuel was the only player in the country with 700+ rushing yards and 800+ receiving yards last season, which helped him earn All-American honors as an all-purpose player. He finished with 97/771/8 rushing and 74/865/7 receiving, while posting 17 plays of 20+ yards. Samuel is the only Buckeye to have both 1000+ receiving and rushing yards for his career. He’s obviously dangerous with the ball in his hands, and he can flat out fly when he gets into the open field. He’s still learning how to play WR and needs work as a route runner, but he flashed explosiveness in and out of his breaks. He does have durability concerns because of his size, and he had foot surgery in January 2016. He also struggles against press coverage because of his size. He’s not a natural receiver and his hands can be shaky at times for a WR, and he doesn’t have the vision of a RB. Samuel projects best as a WR, but he could also see plenty of snaps in the backfield in the NFL. He’ll need to land in the right offense that has a plan to take advantage of his versatility and his ability to work as a RB. He’s certainly a dynamic offensive weapon, but we worry that he could be a Dexter McCluster type, who is completely frustrating for fantasy because of inconsistent and uninspired usage. The best-case scenario is that he’s used like Tyreek Hill in the future, getting creative carries and targets every game – he also worked as a returner at Ohio State. Samuel has plenty of big-play ability, and he could sneak into the fantasy radar if he gets enough productive touches per game as a rookie.
12. Cooper Kupp
Kupp was never on the radar for Division I schools, getting just two looks out of high school from Eastern Washington and Idaho State. He posted an astounding 428/6464/73 receiving against lesser competition in the FCS, setting records for that level in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. He won every major FCS award, including the Walter Payton Award as the best player in 2015. Kupp also ripped Chiefs top CB Marcus Peters for 2 TDs on his way to 8/145/3 against Washington back 2014. Kupp performed extremely well at the Senior Bowl, but he couldn’t keep the momentum going at the Combine. He had an absolutely dreadful performance in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.62. And his 31” vertical was better than only 7% of the position, according to mockdraftable.com. His broad jump wasn’t much better at 9’8”, and he showed very little explosiveness during the drills. Kupp impressed down in Mobile with his reliable hands, and he ran past some defenders with his jump in competition. He also caught just about everything on tape and gives great effort in every aspect. Kupp made plenty plays after the catch and showed better play speed than his 40-time suggests. He does need some work as a route runner, struggling to create separation with his quickness out of breaks. He also ran a limited route tree at Eastern Washington. He will be 24 years old during his rookie season, and he has an average build at 6’2”, 204 pounds. He operated primary as a big slot in college and has some similarities to Tyler Boyd, but Kupp has the size to potentially work outside some at the next level. He’s physical after the catch like an outside WR. He once looked like a small-school guy who would go on Day 2, but he’s likely locked himself in as a Day 3 option now. It could take Kupp a little time to adjust from FCS corners to NFL corners, but he could could develop into a #3 WR once he makes the transition to the next level.
13. Josh Reynolds
Reynolds didn’t receive any football offers out of high school, but the Aggies offered him a partial scholarship as a hurdler for the track team. He decided to go to junior college for football, and the Texas A&M football eventually came calling a year later. Reynolds immediately stepped into Mike Evans’ spot on the outside, posting 153/2611/30 receiving in three seasons as a starter. He averaged 17.1 yards per catch for his career and he’s coming off 61/1039/12 in his final season. It’s not surprising that Reynolds tore it up at the Combine with his track background, posting impressive broad (10’4”) and vertical jumps (37”). He had an average 40-time at 4.52, which wasn’t too surprising considering his length, but he pleasantly surprised with his 20-yard (4.13) and 60-yard (11.32) shuttle runs. Reynolds didn’t show that quickness too much on tape in his route running, and he might never develop into much of an underneath receiver because of his long stride. However, he is a dangerous vertical threat because of his length, easily gliding past smaller defenders and tracking deep passes well. He’s also a threat along the sideline and at the goal line because of his huge catch radius. He knows how to high point the ball and pulls off some acrobatic catches, but he does have some careless drops on tape. Reynolds will need to beef up his thin frame a bit or he could get outmuscled by NFL defenders, which could be a struggle for him. He’s still competitive with the ball in the air and will go over the middle, despite wiry build. We see some similarities to Chris Henry because of his gliding vertical speed and his long frame in the red zone. He should be able to help in those areas early in his career, which could eventually make him an interesting non-PPR option. He has the potential to evolve into a #2 WR down the road if he develops his route running and all-around game.
14. Malachi Dupre
Dupre is just dripping with athletic ability, but he rarely got to showcase his abilities at LSU. The Tigers offense revolved around RB Leonard Fournette, and they were a complete mess at quarterback while Dupre was on campus. Despite the limitations of this passing game, he led the Tigers in receiving the last two seasons with a combined 84/1291/9. Before he got to LSU, Dupre was the Louisiana high school state champion in the long, triple, and high jumps. He’s long and lanky at 6’2”, 196 pounds, and he’s obviously a good leaper, but he didn’t always show a second gear as a downfield threat at LSU. To no one’s surprise, Dupre tore it up at the Combine with his broad jump of 11’3” and his 39.5” vertical. He tracks deep passes well, and he obviously has the ability to win in contested-catch situations because of his leaping ability. Dupre is also aggressive on jump balls and once he gets the ball in his hands. He’s a smooth athlete and can lull defenders with his long gait and double moves, but he does struggle to separate at times because he’s not a burner. He also needs to refine his route running, getting in and out of his breaks quicker. He does have strong hands and good body control, and he has a wide catch because of his length and leaping ability. He worked from the slot some at LSU, but he’ll stick mostly to the outside in the future. He does need to add more strength to beat man coverage on the outside. We see a lot of Justin Hunter in Dupre because of his long, wiry frame and raw athleticism. He’s a boom-or-bust prospect coming into the league, and whatever team that drafts him will need to be patient while he develops. If everything goes right, he could develop into a dangerous outside WR, or he could just be a depth guy his entire career.
15. Chad Hansen
Hansen came out of pretty much nowhere in 2016 to become a quick riser in this year’s WR class. There wasn’t much tape on him before last season, but he posted 92/1249/11 receiving in 2016 despite missing two games with an ankle injury. He finished third in the NCAA with 9.2 catches per game and fourth with with 124.9 yards per game. His only scholarship offer came from Idaho State, where he played only one season before transferring to Cal. He did little in his first season with the Golden Bears in 2015 (19/249/1) before exploding last season. Hansen has a nice combination of size (6’2”, 202 pounds) and speed to run away from defenders, which teams are looking for in perimeter receivers. He ran a respectable 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, and he actually performed better in the agility drills with a 6.74 in the 3-cone drill and a 4.13 in the 20-yard shuttle. Hansen creates after the catch with his speed and physicality, which makes him effective on WR screens. He also wins more often than not in contested-catch situations, and he tracks the ball well to make tough catches look easy. Hansen isn’t a polished route runner, with deliberate breaks in and out of cuts. He also ran a limited route tree from one side of the formation, and he needs to get better as an intermediate receiver. He can be outmuscled at the line of scrimmage in press coverage, which is surprising because of his size. He does have strong hands, but he lets some passes get into his body. He definitely has some similarities to Jordy Nelson coming out of college because of their athleticism and big-play ability. We’re not sure Hansen can be a true #1 outside WR, but he should bring some deep speed and depth to whatever team drafts. He’s still a bit raw at this point as just a one-year contributor in college. We can’t expect him to be fantasy relevant as a rookie, but he could develop into a #2 WR in the near future.
16. Amara Darboh
Darboh has a pretty remarkable story, coming from Sierra Leone with his sister after his parents were killed during the country’s civil war. He came to America at 7 years old, and he earned U.S. citizenship in 2015. He finished 2016 at Michigan with 58/862/7 receiving and had 151/2062/14 in three seasons in which he compiled stats. Darboh redshirted in 2013 after he broke his foot during preseason camp. Darboh tested well above average in every test he participated in at the Combine, running a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash, leaping 36” in the vertical, and posting 10’4” in the broad jump. However, Darboh’s athleticism at the Combine didn’t always show up on his college tape. It took him time to build up speed, and he doesn’t have the quickest feet as a route runner. He is a long-armed, big-bodied receiver, who made a lot of catches in contested situations because of his lack of separation. He’s reliable at the catch point, using strength and body control to shield away smaller defenders. Those traits also came in handy down as a weapon down by the red zone. Darboh is very competitive, which shows up when he goes into traffic and when he mixes it up as a run blocker. He showed shaky hands at times the last two seasons, and he’s not the type of receiver who is going to bail out his QB out by making acrobatic catches. He’s also not going to create much after the catch with his feet, although he will muscle out of weak tackles. He is in the mold of long, possession WRs like Brandon LaFell, Mohamed Sanu, and Rueben Randle. Darboh is above average in just about every area, but it’s tough to find an area in which he’s exceptional other than being big and competitive. We don’t see Darboh every being the top option in a passing game and his ceiling for fantasy might be as a WR3, but he could easily develop into a long-time #2 outside WR.
17. Isaiah Ford
Ford comes to the league as the most prolific receiver in Virginia Tech’s storied history. He became the first Hokies WR to eclipse 1000+ receiving yards in a season, and he owns the best single-seasons in catches (79), receiving yards (1164), and receiving TDs (11). He started all three seasons at Virginia Tech, setting program best career marks for catches (210), receiving yards (2911), and receiving TDs (24). Ford actually averaged 37 points per game as a senior basketball player in high school, so he’s no stiff. He looked like a WR who would run in the 4.5s in the 40-yard dash based on his size (6’1”, 194 pounds) and his tape, but he came out of the Combine with a disappointing 4.62. He also had a shaky 4.34 in the 20-yard shuttle, and he struggled in the receiving drills. They only area where he tested well-above average came in the broad jump, with a leap of 10’7”. He’s a pretty polished WR, with quick enough feet to create some separation as a route runner at all three levels. He’s not overly athletic, but he will go up and get the ball in traffic and has good body control in contest-catch situations. He had a few concentration drops, but he has strong hands and good ball skills overall to come down with some tough catches. The problem is that he couldn’t create after the catch, whether it was eluding or shedding tacklers in the open field. He has good length, but he doesn’t have the deep speed to run away from defenders and he can be outsmuscled in man coverage. Ford didn’t help himself with his performance at the Combine. Based on his tape, he comes off as above-average in a lot of areas on tape but not outstanding in any one area. He reminds us a bit of Antonio Bryant coming out of college because they both were ultra productive in college but fell in the draft process because they didn’t jump out in any aspect. It’s unlikely that Ford is ever the featured receiver in the NFL, and his destiny may be as a complementary receiver, working as a #2 WR on the outside and as a #3 option in a passing game.
18. Noah Brown
Brown comes into the league with a lot of promise but with little production. He looked primed for a breakout sophomore season after he posted 4/72/1 receiving against Oklahoma early in 2016. However, the Buckeyes didn’t take advantage of Brown the rest of the year, and he had an underwhelming campaign with just 32/402 receiving, but he secured 7 TD catches because of his size. He missed the entire 2015 season after breaking his leg in preseason camp. The biggest knock on him coming into the league is obviously his lack of experience with just 33 career college catches. Brown projects to be a big, physical outside WR at 6’2”, 222 pounds, and he moves fairly well on vertical routes for his huge frame. He’s wins at the catch point because of his strength and body control, and he’s not afraid to make catches in traffic. Brown will likely need to win in a lot of contested situations because he lacks explosiveness as a route runner to create separation. He’s also not going to create much after the catch because he’s not a quick-twitch athlete, but he will break some tackles with his physical style. He’s really good at using his huge frame to box out defenders, especially in the end zone. Brown might be the most impressive blockers in this year’s class, and he will help out any running game. Brown has a little bit of James Jones in him because of his size and strength at the catch point. He has a lot of physical upside, but he’s very unpolished and has a small sample size of work coming into the league. Browns clearly needs to refine his game and is unlikely to make a big impact as a rookie, but he could develop into an imposing outside WR if he’s given time to learn.
19. Stacy Coley
Coley nearly didn’t play in 2016 because of an investigation into improper benefits for a car rental, but the NCAA never suspended him. He made the most of his chance to raise his draft profile as a senior, playing a huge role in the passing game by posting 63/754/9 receiving. He was just a part-time starter in his first three seasons, factoring in more as a returner early in his career. He showed well at the Combine, recording a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash and 10’2” leap in the broad jump. Coley can flat out fly, and he replaced the speed of Phillip Dorsett in the Hurricanes offense. He tracks the ball well in the air as a deep threat, and eats up yardage after the catch with his speed and elusiveness. He isn’t just a speedster, hiding his intentions and separating with technique and speed as a route runner. He’s probably best suited to stay in the slot as a vertical option, who is also a good enough route runner to be dangerous on underneath routes. Coley struggled in contested-catch situations with his slight build (6’0”, 195 pounds), and he didn’t really work as an intermediate route runner, which is why he probably won’t play a ton on the outside. He fights his hands too much, dropping some easy passes at times. He does have some durability concerns because of his size. He dealt with a shoulder injury in 2014 and a hamstring issue in 2015, missing three games in that two-year span. Coley has some similarities to Ted Ginn because of his speed and his potential to be an impact returner. He also worked as a gunner in punt coverage, so he’s a pretty versatile prospect who could help in many aspects. He likely won’t be a volume guy out of the slot or potentially as a Z receiver, making him better for non-PPR formats in the future. Coley has the potential to be a #3 WR and an impact returner, and he could turn out to be a better real-life player than a fantasy option.
20. Ishmael Zamora
Zamora is an absolute physical specimen who is flying under the radar because of a major red flag and a ton a of inexperience. He was suspended the first three games for beating his dog, which was recorded and posted to Snapchat by a teammate last summer. A former Baylor student saw the video and reported it to authorities, and he was charged with misdemeanor animal abuse. He had a tremendous campaign once he got on the field, posting 63/809/8 receiving in 10 games playing across from another WR draft prospect KD Cannon. Zamora surprised many by forgoing his final two seasons in college. He really saw the field for only one season and he could have helped his draft stock in 2018 as the clear-cut #1 WR in the Baylor offense. Zamora wasn’t invited to the Combine because of his off-the-field incident, but he posted some eye-popping numbers at his pro day with 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, a 40" vertical, and a 11'1" broad jump. He’s clearly a physical freak, and he has long strides to get behind CBs and to get by safeties who misjudge his speed. He uses his size to his advantage and high points passes over smaller defenders, and he can be a physical runner after the catch. Zamora drops way too many easy passes and needs a lot of work as a route runner. As with all recent Baylor WRs to enter the league (Kendall Wright, Terrance Williams, Josh Gordon, Tevin Reese), he ran an extremely limited route tree (screens, hitches, go routes) and worked almost exclusively on one side of the field. He wasn’t asked to go over the middle often, and he was shaky at times when he was asked to go into traffic. We can’t help but see a lot Martavis Bryant in Zamora because they are both physically dynamic and have small sample sizes of work coming into the league. He’s battling an uphill battle entering the league because of his off-the-field concerns, but some team will gamble on his height, weight, and speed traits. It also doesn’t hurt that he has some untapped potential. He’s a boom-or-bust prospect, who will either be a big, dangerous vertical threat or out of the league in a couple years.