Richner: 2016 Top WRs

Last Updated: 5/1/2016 1:00 PM ET
2016 NFL Draft - Top Receivers

Over the last couple of years the risk of taking a wide receiver in the first round has diminished. Historically, this was one of the most volatile position groups. These were players that some NFL franchises realized incorporated too much risk in using a valuable first round selection on. The past three drafts we have seen 13 first round drafts picks used on wide receivers. Some of these selection have flourished for their respected franchise. The likes of Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and Amari Cooper have cemented their spots and look to be legitimate long term answers at the wide receiver position group.

Last year saw a couple of first round selections in Kevin White and Breshad Perriman dealing with injuries which limited their production during their rookie seasons. Teams have still been able to find a few hidden gems in the later rounds of the draft. Last year saw the Minnesota Vikings extract a quality wideout in Stefon Diggs in the fifth round.

This year's draft class is loaded with a group of phenomenal wideouts who show promise of being a top target in the NFL. Five players in our rankings have a first round grade.

With the depth and variety of wide receivers in this class, don't be surprised to see a couple of players who are selected in the later rounds or even go undrafted, end up making a significant mark in the NFL in the next couple of years.

Two recent Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, had a depth chart filled with late round and undrafted free-agent wide receivers. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, for example, played an integral role in their team's success. While the spotlight might be on some of the first-round wide receivers this year, remember there is a lot of value in late-round or undrafted signees that just might be the key to a team's success.

Below are the rankings and reviews for some of the top outside and inside wide receiver prospects. I separate the group into outside wide receivers and inside (slot), based on their possible specific position in the NFL.

Each player is ranked based on a statistical formula that was designed to evaluate and grade each player's production based not only what he has produced but also who he competed against. You will see a wide receiving rating next; this is a formula based on scale (1-20) where the higher the rating the more likely he will become a starter in the NFL.

Additionally, each wide receiver's market share is discussed. This relates to each receivers weighted value to their college teams respective receiving production in 2015. For example, last year Amari Cooper, accounted for 46 percent of Alabama's receiving production in 2014. This is one of the highest recorded market share that has been recorded over the past couple of seasons. To put Amari Cooper's production into context, Pharoh Cooper has the highest market share amongst FBS players in this draft class with a score of 40.2 percent.

One note before we get to the rankings, Braxton Miller and David Cajuste are not included. With Miller, I believe he is a unique talent that can be an option at wide receiver but also as a running back and returner. I will go into Miller's quality and values to NFL teams at a later point. With Cajuste, he will be included in the tight end rankings. I have heard from a few NFL coaches who believe that is where he will end up on an NFL roster.

Outside Wide Receivers

1) Laquon Treadwell (WR, Mississippi):

Despite sustaining a horrific leg injury late last season, Treadwell is back right where he left off, being one of the most dominant wide receivers in college football. During rehab for his injury, the 6'2” 221 pound wide receiver rebuilt his body, shedding 15 pounds and also working on his technique and ball catching skills while he was sidelined.

Treadwell averaged 13.2 YPC in 2014. In 2015, he improved to an average of 15.1 YPC, becoming a complete wide receiver capable of taking the top off a defense. Once he gets the ball in his hands, it will take a couple of defenders to take him down to the ground.

In 35 career games, Treadwell had 202 receptions, 2,393 receiving yards, 11.9 YPC, 21 touchdowns, and 112 first downs. A reliable pass catcher, he has one of the lowest drop rates amongst wide receivers in the draft. He finished with a big play rate of just 10 percent. For comparison's sake, Amari Cooper, last year's first overall wide receiver drafted, had a big play rate of 15 percent throughout his college career.

The Mississippi offense last season was one of the nation's top scoring and dynamic offensive units in the country. They finished the season ranked in the top-10 in overall offenses. Treadwell had an average market share of 27.9 percent of the Mississippi passing offense last season.

Treadwell is a dominate physically imposing wide receiver who is capable of making the tough catches in traffic and showcases reliable hands, which don't come around too often. In all likelihood, Treadwell is going to be a top-10 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.

2) Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor):

Most quarterbacks would be thrilled to have 20 passing touchdowns in a single season. Corey Coleman had that many receiving touchdowns in 2015. In fact, he had more receiving touchdowns than 60 FBS schools had passing touchdowns last season.

A blend of speed with the ability to out-leap defensive backs for the ball made Coleman a deadly weapon for the high-powered Baylor offense. NFL teams should have no issues incorporating Coleman's talent and physical abilities into their offense

Coleman runs a basic route tree, full of go routes, slants, curl, and screens. With the way the Baylor offense is set up, it spreads the defense out and takes advantage of one on one situations. It's Coleman's ability with the football in his hands that puts him into the top five rankings. According to Pro Football Focus, Coleman forced 29 missed tackles over the past two seasons.

Against West Virginia in 2015, Coleman finished the game with a total 96 yards after the catch and his ability to make defenders miss was a highlight. His average distance of intended target was eleven yards past the line of scrimmage.

In 33 career games, Coleman finished with 173 receptions, 3,009 yards, 17.4 YPC average, 33 touchdowns, and 112 first downs. He finished with a big play rate of 25 percent, third highest wide receivers in this draft class.

Being the top target in the high-powered Baylor offense awarded Coleman with getting a lot of targets. In 2015, he averaged 38 percent of the total receiving production of the Baylor offense, the fifth highest average in this year's draft class.

Coleman will most likely be a first round pick; his size at 5'11” and 194 pounds might make some teams slide him inside to play the slot position. He is an exciting playmaker who can play inside or outside. Look for Coleman to have a major contribution as a rookie next season.

3) Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame):

Blessed with the speed to take the top off any defense, Will Fuller has elite top end speed that he showcased at the NFL Combine, running a blazing 4.32 forty-yard dash. As a two year starter for the Fighting Irish, Fuller quickly cemented himself as one of the nation's top wide receivers. He has put up back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

Defenders have to come up and press Fuller at the line of scrimmage, hoping to redirect him and force him to slow down. By doing this, defenses also open themselves up to the risk of Fuller getting past them and making a big play. By giving Fuller a cushion, defenses can protect themselves from the big play, but inversely they all but surrender the short, quick passes to Fuller. It is this type of cat and mouse game that will keep defensive coordinators in the NFL up at night.

In 31 career games, Fuller finished with 144 receptions, 2,512 yards, 17.4 YPC, 30 touchdowns, and 94 first downs. He had a total of 32 receptions of 25 or more yards, giving him a big play rate of 22 percent. For his career, Fuller averaged a touchdown reception once every 4.8 receptions, the fourth highest average in the draft class.

At 6'0” and 186 pounds, Fuller's lack of size and strength worry a few NFL teams. While he is a willing blocker, he won't have much of a chance of eliminating the likes of Richard Sherman or Patrick Peterson in the NFL as he tries to hold the edge.

Another area of emphasis is Fuller's ability to hold onto the football and make the contested catch. According to Pro Football Focus, Fuller dropped 21 of the 159 catchable passes during the past two seasons, a drop rate of 13.2 percent.

Fuller had the third highest wide receiver ranking at 16.9, and a market share of 39.8 percent. With a loaded wide receiver class this season, don't be surprised if Fuller drops into the second round. He is an exciting player who should shine as a team's number two option for the next couple of years.

4) Rashad Higgins (WR, Colorado State):

A breakout star in 2014, Higgins was the FBS leading receiver in receiving yards (1,750) and receiving touchdowns (17). In 2015, Higgins had to go at it alone having lost his trusted quarterback, Garrett Grayson, who was selected in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

Measuring in at the NFL Combine at 6'1” and 196 pounds, Higgins is a lean athlete that can line up either on the outside or slide inside and play the slot position. For the sake of this ranking, I believe he is best suited to play on the outside and is one of the best pure route runners in this draft class.

Higgins excelled in taking advantage of holes in coverage, specifically finding the sweet spot in between zones. He is not afraid to attack the middle of the field; he is a reliable pass catcher and is one of the most sure-handed wide receivers in this draft class.

In 38 career games, Higgins had 239 receptions, 3,649 yards, 15.3 YPC, 31 touchdowns, and 161 first downs. He finished with 41 receptions of 25 or more yards, giving him a big play rate of 17 percent. He excels in the short to intermediate area of the field. He might not be a consistent deep, downfield threat, but could be a weapon for the quick-strike offenses used by the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and others.

With a wide receiver rating of 12.5 and a market share of 33.8 percent, Higgins has a statistical and scouting comparison to Antonio Brown. In Brown's final season at Central Michigan, he had a market share of 33 percent. Just like Brown, Higgins might drop out of the first or second round, but is a quality playmaker who has shown the consistent ability to destroy opposing defenses.

5) Josh Doctson (WR, TCU):

A transfer from Wyoming, Doctson has worked his way up the ladder while at TCU, sitting out a season due to transfer rules. Once he was able to step onto the field, he has been TCU's leading receiver for the past three seasons. He has broken the single-season mark for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns as well as career touchdown receptions in TCU's history.

At 6'2” and 202 pounds, Doctson has the size and athleticism to outjump and outmuscle most defensive backs. Few players possess his rare ability to go up and high point the football and still come away with the tough catches in traffic. Doctson is able to contort his body in mid-air and adjust to come away with some jaw dropping receptions.

As a deep downfield threat, Doctson was able to use his skill set to shine for TCU. Opposing defenses were aware of the dangers Doctson brought on each and every play, yet had little defense in slowing him down. Against Kansas State this past season, Doctson was targeted a total of eleven times; the average distance of intended target was 18 yards past the line of scrimmage. Though TCU runs a high-powered spread offense, they were able to take advantage of Doctson's speed to stretch the field and take the top off of most defenses.

According to Pro Football Focus, Doctson had just six drops on the season, giving him a drop rate of just 7.1 percent. When plays break down, Doctson is good at making himself an available target in scramble situations for his quarterback.

In 45 career games, Doctson amassed 215 receptions, 3,178 yards, 14.8 YPC average, 34 touchdowns, and 140 first downs. He finished with 33 receptions of 25 or more yards and with a big play rate of 15 percent of receptions.

Doctson plays the outside receiver position similar to former Vanderbilt star and current Philadelphia Eagles wideout, Jordan Matthews. Doctson has a wide receiver score of 11.2 and a market share of 29.8 percent.

Best of the Rest Outside Wide Receivers (2015 Market Share)

Ranking Player School Market Share Draftable Round
1 Laquon Treadwell Mississippi 27.9% 1
2 Corey Coleman Baylor 38.0% 1
3 William Fuller Notre Dame 39.8% 1
4 Rashard Higgins Colorado State 33.8% 1
5 Josh Doctson TCU 29.8% 1
6 Leonte Carroo Rutgers 34.8% 2
7 Michael Thomas Ohio State 35.5% 2
8 Keyarris Garrett Tulsa 33.4% 3
9 De'Runnya Wilson Mississippi State 23.6% 3
10 Mike Thomas Southern Miss. 28.7% 3
11 Aaron Burbridge Michigan State 33.4% 3
12 Paul McRoberts Southeast Missouri State 54.4% 3
13 Tajae Sharpe Massachusetts 36.7% 3
14 Chris Moore Cincinnati 18.2% 4
15 Kenny Lawler California 19.3% 4
16 Cayleb Jones Arizona 21.4% 4
17 Nelson Spruce Colorado 31.9% 5
18 Malcolm Mitchell Georgia 33.6% 5
19 Jordan Williams Ball State 36.5% 5
20 Thomas Duarte UCLA 28.1% 6
21 Demarcus Robinson Florida 19.6% 6
22 Quinshad Davis North Carolina 17.1% 6
23 Ricardo Louis Auburn 28.2% 7
24 Johnny Holton Cincinnati 10.7% 7
25 Cody Core Mississippi 12.6% 7
26 D'haquille Williams Auburn 7.4% 7-FA
27 Marquez North Tennessee 1.7% 7-FA
28 Quenton Bundrage Iowa State 19.9% 7-FA
29 Mekale McKay Cincinnati 8.6% 7-FA
30 Charone Peake Clemson 14.9% 7-FA

Top NFL Draft prospects from the slot receiver position:

1) Pharoh Cooper (WR, South Carolina):

As the lone playmaker for the South Carolina Gamecocks, Cooper had few opportunities to showcase his full arsenal of abilities this past season due to a lackluster supporting case.

Pharoh Cooper, at 5'11” and 203 pounds, might not be the biggest, fastest, or strongest wideout in college football, but he was one of the most feared wide receivers in college football. Defenses routinely rolled coverage over to his side and bracketed him with a safety over the top.

South Carolina tried to get Cooper the ball in multiple situations, as a quarterback, returner, running back, and as a wide receiver. Cooper saw his YPC averaged drop from 16.5 in 2014 to 14.7 in 2015. The drop is due in large part to having a true freshman as the team's starting quarterback.

In 25 career games, Cooper amassed 135 receptions, 2,109 yards, 15.6 YPC, 17 touchdowns, and 80 first downs. He finished with 24 receptions of 25 or more yards and a big play rate of 18 percent.

As the focal point of the South Carolina offense, Cooper had the highest market share of any of the wide receivers in this draft class with a market rating of 40.2 percent.

Cooper's speed and initial quickness are immediately evident when he gets the ball in his hands. He has the agility to spin out of a would-be tackler's grasp and dive forward for extra yards. Most NFL teams will be looking to slide Cooper inside and into the slot position in the NFL. He could use his speed and short area quickness to his advantage. Cooper will likely be a second round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft

One area which will draw a few red flags from NFL teams is Cooper's ability to secure the football as he fights for extra yards. He had a total of eight fumbles for his career, mostly because he refuses to go down on initial contact. He will need to learn that fighting for an extra yard or two could cost his team a possession or points.

2) Sterling Shepard (WR, Oklahoma):

Few players in the Big-12 scared defensive coordinators more than Oklahoma's dynamic wideout, Sterling Shepard. Last season he scorched the conference with 86 receptions for 1,288 yards, an average of 15 yards per catch. Defenses were giving him space and room to operate in the middle of the field, wanting to keep Shepard in front of them versus letting him beat them over the top.

At 5'10” and 194 pounds, Shepard isn't the biggest or fastest wide receiver on the field. It's his quickness and sudden changes in direction or coming back to the football that leave defensive backs scratching their heads.

For his career in 44 games, Shepard had a total of 233 receptions, 3,482 yards, 14.9 YPC, 26 touchdowns and 145 first downs. In 2015, 70 percent of Shepard's receptions resulted in a first down. He finished his career with 38 receptions of 25 or more yards, giving him a big play rate of 16 percent.

The double move and his ability to run curl and slant routes in addition to his athleticism and skill set make Shepard an ideal slot wide receiver in the NFL. He has excellent awareness of both the yardage needed for a first down and the sidelines, making sure to stay inbounds and follow through with the catch.

Shepard added the responsibility of being the Sooners' primary punt returner for the past couple of seasons, which will add value in the eyes of NFL scouts. With a market share of 30.2 percent, Shepard is primed to step into a slot position and start from day one.

3) Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh):

The Panthers offense took a hit this season with the loss of their All-American running back, James Connor, to a knee injury. In 2014, Pittsburgh had a balanced offense with Connor pounding away on defenses with the run and wideout, Tyler Boyd, taking advantage of single coverage on the outside. Boyd has been a dynamic playmaker throughout his career; he has the Pitt record for all-time leader in both receptions (254) and receiving yards (3,361).

At 6'1” and 197 pounds, Boyd is a bigger wideout who is capable of jetting past defensive backs and taking the top off a defense. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch (YPC) in 2014. With the loss of Connor, Boyd was the sole playmaker for the Panther's offense. They had to get Boyd the ball using short passes and screens. His average reception dropped to 15.0 YPC this season.

Though he has the size to physically overpower most defensive backs, Boyd has an issue with letting defensive backs into his body when trying to catch a pass. He has the hands to come away with the tough grab, he just needs to work on his technique of using his body to shield a defender away from the ball.

Boyd is one of the better route runners in college football, he shows a superior level of athleticism at getting in and out of his break and keeping his speed as he makes his moves. One area that raised a red flag was his football IQ, knowing down and distance. He will need to understand that he has to run deeper than the first down line and work his way back to the QB. These critical errors can be drive killers to an offense.

Boyd was suspended for the first game of the season due to a DUI arrest this past offseason. Scouts will be looking into his background and off-field behavior leading up to the draft.

Boyd has been a talented kick and punt returner throughout his career. He is fourth amongst all FBS active players with 5,243 all-purpose yards. Some analysts are comparing Boyd to current Seattle Seahawk, Tyler Lockett. Though they have similar height, weight and speed measurements, Lockett was far more dominant in college. Boyd finished the 2015 season with a market share of 36.3 percent, Lockett's final season saw him finish with a 47.4 percent market share.

Boyd is a talented wideout who should be able to contribute as a slot receiver and as a returner in the NFL. Look for him to be considered a possible second or third round prospect.

4) D.J. Foster (WR, Arizona State):

Foster was a versatile playmaker for the Sun Devils, one of just five players in NCAA Division I history to rush and receive for more than 2,000 yards in his career. Foster switched between wide receiver and running back, providing his team with a needed spark wherever he lined up. In 2014, with the team needing a starting running back, they looked to Foster who finished with over 1,000 yards rushing on the season.

The quickness and agility to side step tacklers and quickly get up the field make him a perfect slot wide receiver. Foster switched back to receiver in 2015 and quickly became a key target in critical situations. In looking at his third down stats from 2015, Foster had 17 receptions, 12 of which resulted in a first down.

Having played in all 53 career games during his career, Foster was a mainstay in the Sun Devil's lineup. He amassed 222 receptions, 2,458 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 118 first downs. He had 23 receptions of 25 or more yards, finishing with a big play rate of 10 percent.

Foster performed at an impressive level in some key drills at the NFL Combine, specifically the 20 yard shuttle and the three cone drill. With his initial quickness and short area speed, he checks off the measurables boxes on the performance sheets for most scouts.

NFL teams are consistently looking for players who are willing to put the team first, to make personal sacrifices in order for the team to improve. Foster did that during his college career, he was willing to do whatever it took to make sure his team was successful. As a former standout running back, Foster can provide NFL teams with an emergency tailback and a slot receiver. This type of versatility will make Foster a valuable commodity come draft time.

Foster finished the 2015 season with a market share of 14.5 percent. Several NFL front office personnel believe that Foster is likely an early day three selection.

5) Daniel Braverman (WR, Western Michigan):

The Western Michigan offense has been one of the top rated offensive units in the country for the past couple of years. Head Coach P.J. Fleck is one the top young coaches in the country and has shown a propensity for making his less than heralded wideouts into NFL quality draft prospects.

In some shocking news, Daniel Braverman decided to forego his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft. Braverman is one of the better slot wide receiver prospects in this year's draft class. He wasn't even the best wide receiver prospect on his own team. That distinction goes to Corey Davis. Davis, who unlike Braverman, decided to return to school for his senior season.

In 37 career games, Braverman recorded 212 receptions, 2,503 yards, 11.8 YPC, 19 touchdowns and 111 first downs. He had a total of 25 receptions of 25 or more yards, finishing with a big play rate of 12 percent.

A smaller wideout, Braverman is listed at 5'10” and 177 pounds and uses his short area quickness and elite route running to gain separation from defenders. Braverman's reliability to go across the middle and become an open target helped sustain drives and keep the offense on the field.

Despite having two NFL quality wide receivers, Braverman was able to get an equal share of the production. Last season he had a total of 39.9 percent of the receiving market share, the third highest rate in this year's draft class.

Braverman was an NFL Combine snub; he will need an impressive performance on his Pro Day which is slated for March 15. If he can erase some of the doubts that scouts have in regards to his size and shine in the speed and quickness drills, he could be a late round steal, similar to a Danny Amendola.

Best of the Rest Inside Wide Receivers (Market Share)

Ranking Player School Market Share Draftable Round
1 Pharoh Cooper South Carolina 40.2% 2
2 Sterling Shepard Oklahoma 30.2% 2
3 Tyler Boyd Pittsburgh 36.3% 2
4 D.J. Foster Arizona State 14.5% 3
5 Daniel Braverman Western Michigan 39.9% 4
6 Jalin Marshall Ohio State 21.1% 4
7 Roger Lewis Bowling Green 28.5% 5
8 Jordan Payton UCLA 25.7% 5
9 Hunter Sharp Utah State 35.1% 5
10 Kolby Listenbee TCU 11.7% 6
11 Bralon Addison Oregon 27.0% 6
12 Alex Erickson Wisconsin 28.3% 6
13 Jaydon Mickens Washington 19.2% 7
14 Chris Brown Notre Dame 17.9% 7
15 Alonzo Russell Toledo 18.9% 7
16 Dom Williams Washington State 20.8% 7-FA
17 Jamaal Jones Montana 33.7% 7-FA
18 Demarcus Ayers Houston 32.3% 7-FA
19 Jay Lee Baylor 18.3% 7-FA
20 Byron Marshall Oregon 4.5% FA
21 KJ Maye Minnesota 30.0% FA