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Rookie WR Rankings (Pre-draft III)

Top Receiving Prospects for Fantasy Football

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7) Corey Coleman, Baylor

Numerous draft boards have Corey Coleman listed as this draft’s #1 or 2 wide receiver prospect. The RSJ is not “numerous draft boards”. It is important to view each prospect with a fresh set of eyes and not let groupthink prevail.

I believe Corey Coleman is a good wide receiver prospect that has the deep speed (unofficial 4.37 second 40 yard dash), jumping ability (40.5” vertical leap) and athleticism to be very successful at the NFL level.

However, he does have more to work on than the receivers above him in this list and will not always be able to rely on his superior athleticism in the pros. Coleman needs to work on attacking the ball at its highest point and catching with his hands; he has a tendency to let the ball come to him and trap it in his body. Also, he must improve his blocking and be more aggressive at the point of attack. Corey only had to run three different routes in Baylor’s offensive scheme and was spread out in more open space than he will ever see in the NFL. The Fred Biletnikoff award winner for the top collegiate wide receiver in 2015 must master the full route tree, improve his catching technique, become a more assertive blocker, and adjust his game to the faster NFL.

It was hard to find a comparison for Coleman who is a shorter receiver (5’11” and 194 lbs) with a stockier base and long arms, but he does have pieces of Steve Smith’s game.

Talent: 9

Risk Level: 3

Overall (so far): 12

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8) Will Fuller, Notre Dame

Will Fuller set the Indy track on fire with his blazing 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Everybody knew Fuller was a burner from his time dominating corners on the go route at Notre Dame, but the prospect endeared himself to NFL scouts with the top 40-yard dash time of all the receivers in this year’s draft.

I have Fuller lower on this list than most because he does not display the natural hands that you would like in a receiver. Similar to the above Coleman, the Notre Dame alum allows the ball to come into his body too often and does not attack the ball with his hands, which has resulted in Fuller having a high drop rate. A sticky pair of hands and strong catch technique are among the two most crucial, but often overlooked, factors when evaluating the top receiver prospects. All the speed, route technique, and jump ball skills mean nothing if you can’t hang on to the ball.

Additionally, Fuller has a skinny frame (6’ and 186 lbs), which could make tight press coverage difficult to shake. He’ll need continued improvement on his hand and feet techniques at the line of the scrimmage if he wants to beat presses and reach his highest NFL potential.

However, Fuller’s speed gives him a very real chance to be special. He’ll need to improve with attack the football at his highest point and avoid breaking down with his smaller build.  Both of skinny frame and elite speed, DeSean Jackson comes to mind when watching Will Fuller.

Talent: 8

Risk Level: 3

Overall (so far): 11

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9) Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

If you are not able to stay healthy in the SEC, how are you going to stay on the field in the NFL? This has to be a question on every scouts’ minds as they evaluate Malcolm Mitchell. Unfortunately, Mitchell could be a training room fixture and find himself validating the NFL’s “Not For Long” nickname. He was injured in parts of 2011 and 2012 prior to tearing his ACL in 2013 and missing the entire season and the beginning of 2014. Finally healthy in 2015 Malcolm played the whole year and put up solid numbers in the run-based Georgia Bulldog offense.

The Georgia bred wide receiver was a 4-star recruit heading to college and flashed big play potential on tape when healthy. At 6’ and 198 lbs Malcolm is not a short receiver, but he lacks a thick frame. The scouting community was very impressed with his 4.45-second 40-yard dash time and 36” vertical leap at the combine.

When I heard that the Patriots were bringing Mitchell in for a meeting, I knew this was a player I needed to check out.  In reviewing the limited tape on Mitchell, I see a sound route running, soft hands,  and high pointing abilities. He has dominated both over the middle and down the sidelines.

Malcolm will need to add on weight as a professional to improve his blocking. If he is able to stay healthy at the professional level, he has the measurables to make an immediate impact. Malcolm Mitchell has the skill set to become a receiver similar to Emmanuel Sanders down the line.

Talent: 8

Risk Level: 2

Overall: 10

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Deep Sleeper Special: Michael Thomas, Southern Miss

This man may not get drafted until the third day, but you should be keeping an eye out for Michael Thomas. No, not the Michael Thomas from Ohio State we previously discussed, the one from Southern Mississippi. Whichever team lands him could be getting a steal.

First seen by the Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s Matt Waldman, this college football playmaker has a chance to make a real impact in the NFL yet remains extremely low on most draft boards. Despite only playing  in two full seasons at the FBS level,Thomas broke out for 14 touchdowns his senior year.

With the referral from Waldman I looked deeper into this small school prospect. I saw a playmaker that continued to flash on tape. His Odell Beckham-esque one handed catch against Louisiana Tech for a touchdown should alone get him drafted. Listed at 6’1” and 200 lbs, Thomas showed the soft hands and after-the-catch playmaking ability to develop into a very sound, all-purpose NFL receiver.

I am interested in what type of measurables Michael is able to turn in at his Pro Day. He’ll likely never belong in the same sentence as Antonio Brown, but Thomas parallels the elite Steeler as an overlooked, small school prospect with strong body adjustment abilities.

Talent: 7

Risk Level: 3

Overall: 10

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Final Thoughts on 2016’s Wideouts

Overall, this years draft class is deep at wide receiver. With that being said, it is not the 2014 class (which may have been the best ever) and does not have any top end, elite prospects. Each receiver in this year’s class comes with some baggage, and we’d be surprised to see any go in the top 10 picks. A lot of good, but missing great.

Yet, there’s still plenty of prospects that’ve flashed star NFL receiver potential… with the right team and coaching. While we can only evaluate Talent and Risk at the moment, we’ll have a clearer sense of which players will impact the 2016 fantasy landscape when landing spots are determined.

*Dynasty League Selection: Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State + Canaan Severin, Virginia

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