(A series looking at the top players at various positions leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, set for April 28-30.)
Draft-eligible wide receivers didn't blow away many talent evaluators with their collective speed at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"It's not as explosive a class as we've had in the last couple of years," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock observed.
Catching the ball is a nice way to compensate for a lack of breakaway speed, but the ability of this year's crop to do so remains to be seen. And for a variety of reasons.
"I don't know what a catch is," Mayock admitted. "I give up, and I study the rules hard. I don't know."
Here are some of the top wide receiver prospects in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft according to NFL.com.
Fuller went over 1,000 yards receiving as a sophomore at Notre Dame (76 catches, 1,094 yards, 15 touchdowns), surpassed 1,200 yards as a junior (62-1,258-14) and then decided there would be no need to return to South Bend for his senior season. At 6-foot and 186 pounds Fuller lacks ideal over-the-middle size but his 4.32 40-yard dash and his tape suggest he'll be able to separate as a vertical threat. Fuller tracks the ball well, but he doesn't always catch it (nine drops in each of the past two seasons). Notre Dame's 2015 MVP is a legitimate home run threat.
After suffering a broken fibula in 2014, Treadwell bounced back to the tune of 82 catches, 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns for Ole Miss in 2015. He has size at 6-2, 221, a noticeable competitive edge when the ball is in the air, and an understanding of how to work and position defenders. Treadwell ran a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. Despite his size he's just an adequate blocker, and he needs to get better working against press coverage. A quality stiff arm contributes to plenty of yards after the catch.
The Biletnikoff Award winner in 2015, Coleman caught 74 balls for 1,363 yards and led the nation with 20 touchdown receptions. That followed up a 2014 campaign that included 64 catches, 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns (15 for 224 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma). Coleman, 5-11, 194, can get over the top, he can come back to the football, and he can go up and win a 50/50 ball. He had sports hernia surgery in December, and he also dropped 10 passes, the majority of them while going over the middle. Coleman is a candidate to help an NFL team immediately as a punt returner.
TCU valued Doctson (6-2, 202, 4.50) enough to target him 36.5 percent of the time. He responded with 79 catches for 1,337 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing three games with a broken wrist. Doctson plays with a lead-receiver mentality and uses his strong hands to secure catches through contact. He could use a little more bulk, he needs to become a better blocker, and he needs to become more consistent against press coverage.
Although just 5-10, 194, Shepard is a strong-handed, quick-cutting, middle-of-the-field candidate. He's able to adjust his routes, and he loves to compete, even if blocking is what's required at a given time. Shepard ran a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash. He was just under 1,000 yards in 2014 (51-970-5) and just under 1,300 yards in 2015 (86-1,288-11). Shepard can be pressed and redirected, but he finished his time at Oklahoma with 253 career catches and eight career drops. He projects as a slot receiver who will make plays.
THE 2015 DRAFT, WR STATISTICS
Number drafted: 34
Picks by round: 6 in the first; 3 in the second; 5 in the third; 4 in the fourth; 5 in the fifth; 5 in the sixth; 6 in the seventh
Highest pick: Amari Cooper, Alabama, Round 1, fourth overall by the Oakland Raiders
Biggest impact: Finishing a season tied-for-33rd in the NFL in receptions might not sound impressive, but Cooper's 2015 was the exception. With 72 catches for 1,070 yards (14.9 average) and six touchdowns, he teamed with former Alabama teammate T.J. Yeldon at running back and Derek Carr at quarterback to give Raiders fans real hope for the future of this offense.