Welcome back to part two of my analysis of the 2015 class of wide receivers! If you missed part one of the analysis, you need to go back and look at it before going any further. No, seriously, go back and read part one. I’ll wait. Why you might ask? Because part one explains exactly what I did to come up with my “score” for each of the wide receivers. Without understand the method and the scoring you’re going to be very confused and will probably leave an angry comment talking about how big of a fool I am when it was actually a mistake of not understanding what the score actually means.
Just to make life easier for you, just click here to see part one. In order to check if all of this actually holds any water or is just a bunch of made up numbers, you can see my look back at the 2014 rookie class right here.
Now that I hopefully have your attention and we are all on the same page we can move forward. Quick refresher on the disclaimers first.
No statistical study would be complete without a few disclaimers!
1) This score does not represent a complete picture of a prospect, merely a snap shot. This score merely reflects how well their physical size, runs and jumps compare to the baseline group. There is no attempt to neither quantify nor include extremely important items such as route running, work ethic, mental focus, or anything else of that nature.
2) A high score is not a prediction of success in the NFL. It merely means that player has physical tools that compare favorably to NFL receivers who have been at least fantasy WR2s. Likewise, a negative score does not predict failure in the NFL. It merely means that player’s physical tools are slightly below the average of the baseline group.
3) One of the best indicators of success for a NFL receiver is being selected in the first round of the NFL draft, especially in the first five or six picks. These receivers are successful at a much, much higher rate than those taken anywhere else. Outside of the first round, draft position doesn’t matter much. In fact, the success rate for second round receivers is very near the success rate of seventh round receivers. Give those taken in the first round a little boost in your rankings once the NFL draft has unfolded.
4) Smaller receivers are at a slight disadvantage in this type of study; however, this is also an accurate reflection of the struggles they will face in the NFL. Life is more difficult if you are a receiver under six feet tall than if you are taller. You need to be faster, quicker, and more efficient because you don’t have that added cushion of size. In order to help take size out a little bit, when there is a significant difference between a receiver’s score with their size factored in compared to without it in the equation, I’ll make a point of bringing it up.
5) All data came from the combine and the official measurements. Sometimes players just have a bad day or get injured at the combine and drastically improve at their pro day, but it isn’t fair to just take the best score. In order to have a level playing field for all players only measurements from the combine were used.
All players with a positive score were featured in part one of the write up. If you don’t see a player in this article, it means they either weren’t at the combine or they were in part one. Keep in mind a negative score just means they were below the average of the best receivers in the NFL. It just means if these players are going to be every week fantasy starters (WR2 or better), then they need to excel at something not tested at the combine, like route running. The more negative the score, the more physically deficient they are and the harder it will be to make up the difference.
Note: Players with a * next to their name skipped at least two drills at the combine. Their scores could be fairly inaccurate as a result.
Respectable (Scores between -2 and 0. Steve Smith, Greg Jennings, Reggie Wayne types)
Antwan Goodley* (-0.425, 2.638 without height)
Da’Ron Brown (-0.649, 0.550 without height)
Phillip Dorsett (-0.701, 2.781 without height)
Devante Parker* (-0.771, -1.969 without height)
Breshad Perriman* (-1.275, -0.993 without height)
Justin Hardy (-1.449, 0.462 without height)
Mario Alford (-1.635, 1.876 without height)
Nelson Agholor* (-1.718, -0.779 without height)
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The first item which likely jumps out in this group is the massive differences between their scores when height is and isn’t considered. This is because this group is almost exclusively made up of receivers who are 6’0” or less. The exceptions are Parker and Perriman. Both of these players skipped multiple drills at the combine, so their scores might not be accurate. I’ll talk about these two as well as Agholor in the next part of my write-up, when I address each of the top 10 receivers in this draft class individually.
The leader of this group is the 5’10”, 209 pound Antwan Goodley. No, you didn’t suddenly stumble into the running back analysis article. Goodley actually is 5’10” and 209 pounds – that’s a better build than a lot of running backs in this class. The problem for Goodley is he would actually be much better suited to play the running back position. Along with his very muscular build he has short arms and slightly smaller hands. Toss in 4.44 speed and inconsistent hands for a wide receiver and you get a player much more suited to a position in the backfield. I don’t think Goodley will do much as a receiver at the next level, but I think he has the playmaking ability with the ball in his hands to be a great returner and a very solid third down back. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is drafted as a running back.
Da’Ron Brown checks in at an even six feet tall and 205 pounds to go with massive 10.25 inch hands. His performance in all of the drills ranged from just above average to just below average without any major deficiencies or areas where he excels. This is pretty much what you see on tape as well. Athletically, he doesn’t excel at anything. His route running is pretty poor as well, which means he has limited separation on the field. The major item in his favor is he is a natural when it comes to catching the ball. I think his ceiling is as the third or fourth receiver on an NFL team as a chain mover. Look elsewhere for your third round flier.
It is hard to find a receiver with a wider range of opinions about than Phillip Dorsett. I’ve heard several talk about him as a top ten receiver in this draft while others don’t even have him in their top 25. Personally I’m much closer to the former with him just outside my top ten receivers. Dorsett definitely raises some size concerns at 5’10” and only 185 pounds with small hands and short arms, but it isn’t to the point where we can just write him off. This is especially true when he has 4.33 speed (which was low for him) and with great acceleration and change of direction skills. Like most receivers with great speed, explosiveness and quickness, he needs to refine his route running a bit for the NFL. He was able to get by just on physical ability in college. He’s great with the ball in the air, both at tracking the ball down and positioning his body to make the catch, though at times the actual catching of the ball is an issue for the speedster. I think he has what it takes to be a deep threat on an NFL team with an upside near Mike Wallace type production.
Justin Hardy is a receiver who stood out to me at the combine, not in the measured drills, but rather in the pass catching drills. I was impressed with his body control, hands, effort and routes. You see the same type of thing during his games. Everything you can improve through effort or mental focus he has done. The problem for him comes in his athletic ability. He’s slow for his size and lacks explosiveness. His broad jump was one of the lowest for the entire receiving class and his time in the 40 was one of the slowest for the under six feet tall receivers. His skill set profiles as a possession receiver, but I don’t know if his physical size will allow him to play that role. He gets pushed around at the line and on contested balls. His only hope is gaining enough separation with his route running. I think he’s going to need to bulk up a bit to handle NFL defenders, but if he does he could be a solid possession receiver, but his ceiling is pretty limited.
The 5’8” Mario Alford is going to be a fun player to watch in the NFL. The big question is if it will be as a return specialist or as a receiver. The shortest receiver at the combine was also one of the fastest, both in top end speed, acceleration and change of direction ability. The fact that he played for West Virginia will immediately make people think of Tavon Austin. From what I’ve seen, the comparison is actually pretty fair. Their measurements are pretty close to each other in terms of size and ability. I think he is more of a return specialist, but if he ends up with a creative play caller he could turn into something else.
Slightly Lacking (Scores between -4 and -2. Eric Decker, DeAndre Hopkins types)
Dorial Green-Beckham (-2.295, -3.732 without height)
Devin Smith (-2.448, -0.461 without height)
Rannell Hall (-2.797, -0.391 without height)
Vance Mayle (-3.574, -3.082 without height)
This group is a little bit on the small size and might be the natural break between those with NFL size and athleticism and those without it. I was rather disappointed with DGB’s combine performance given the hype around him as an athletic freak. I’ll address him and Devin Smith on a more detailed level in a later part of this write up since they are a part of what most consider the top ten receivers in this class.
Rannell Hall is a bit of an anomaly in terms of the combine. His height and build were slightly small but not too far away from average. Unfortunately, his hands and arms were some of the smallest in the entire draft class. His time in the 40 yard dash was also one of the slowest. Yet he was one of the best in the jumps and his times in the shuttle and three cone drill were also very nice. On the field he fights with the ball at times and struggles to run his routes. He probably isn’t going to amount to much in the NFL.
Vance Mayle was an early favorite of some as a draft sleeper, largely due to his size and basketball background. I didn’t really see the sleeper appeal then and I really don’t see it now. Looking at the combine, his drills showed a very slow top speed with a 4.67 second time in the 40. He also underperformed in the jumps. He did seem to have decent acceleration and change of direction ability though. On the field, he was very productive. Though I think that might have been due to the level of competition. He struggles with drops, both because of unsound fundamentals when catching the ball and a lack of focus. His routes are poor and he struggles to separate against talented defenders. I don’t see the love, but someone will take a gamble on him.
Deficient (Scores between -6 and -4. Stevie Johnson, TY Hilton, Wes Welker types)
Devante Davis* (-4.242, -4.707 without height)
Keith Mumphery (-4.707, -2.825 without height)
Dres Anderson* (-4.761, -3.731 without height)
Dez Lewis (-4.939, -5.943 without height)
DeAndrew White (-5.127, -2.707 without height)
Tony Lippett (-5.203, -5.550 without height)
Stefon Diggs (-5.213, -3.436 without height)
Rashad Greene (-5.466, -3.567 without height)
Davaris Daniels (-5.970, -4.626 without height)
As the title for this group suggests, at this point in time we are getting into the group I would consider lacking in some way. For a few receivers, such as TY Hilton, the deficiency is limited to just physical size. For others, the issue lies with their natural athletic ability or the lack of it. Being in this group doesn’t mean they won’t be productive. It simply lowers their ceiling a bit (probably to WR2 levels), makes them slightly more dependent on their situation, and means they need to excel at some other area of their game, such as supreme route running or are great at the point of the catch, to make an impact. If a receiver in this group really struggles with the finer points of playing the position, their chances of making an impact at the next level are getting pretty slim.
I’m not going to talk about every one of these players, because most of them won’t make an impact at the next level. Players like Mumphery, Anderson, Lewis, White, and Daniels are all likely to go undrafted in your rookie drafts. Though there are definitely a few names you will hear in the NFL and your rookie draft as well which need to be talked about.
The leader, and I use the term very loosely, of this group is Devante Davis. A big receiver out of UNLV, Davis has the size NFL teams like at the position, but he is lacking when it comes to athletic talent. His 4.57 time in the 40 yard dash is slow even for his size, his vertical was okay but his broad jump was lacking. In games he looks to be rather stiff with his routes and that was backed up by a terrible time in the three cone drill. He has nice hands though, which means he might carve out a role as the third or fourth receiver on an NFL team, filling the role of a chain mover on third downs. I don’t see any fantasy value here though.
Tony Lippett made a bit of a name for himself this last year by playing a starting role in all three phases of the game. He was a starting receiver, starting cornerback, and played special teams for the Spartans. This kind of versatility will likely get him drafted, but I think he is going to be a much better NFL player than a fantasy player. He’s lean, slow for a receiver, and lacks explosiveness. His routes are also subpar. He does have nice hands and good height, but I think you are much better off looking elsewhere for a late round pick. He’s going to be on an NFL team, but his receiving stats won’t be fantasy relevant.
The high point of Stefon Diggs’ football career just might have been when he was a five star recruit out of high school. Unfortunately, Maryland fans are still waiting for that guy to show up! From a physical standpoint, Diggs is a little bit small outside of having large hands. His straight line speed is solid, but everything else is below average for the baseline group. The most concerning part about Diggs for me is the lack of effort we see from him at times during games. There have also been more than a few things from people about his work ethic. There is also a bit of an injury history with him. If he can get motivated once again and put in the effort to improve some of the finer points, he could be a solid receiver. He has great hands and body control as well as being pretty good in the open field. He could be a steal, but there are a lot of red flags here.
One name you’re probably a little surprised to see this low is Rashad Greene. A key cog in the Florida State offense over the last few years, opinions on Greene are a bit all over the board. He is on the small end of the spectrum, both in height and when it comes to his build. He is also a little lacking when it comes to straight line speed. However, Greene is very quick with solid acceleration. He is also very smooth as a route runner and creates nice separation with his routes. I would like to see him add a little weight to help deal with NFL defenders, but Greene has the skill set to shine in the NFL even though he is a little deficient in the size and straight line speed areas. He could very easily be this year’s Jarvis Landry as a very pro ready wide receiver who might not have huge upside, but can contribute to your fantasy roster as a solid WR3.
The Rest (Scores below -6.)
Tyler Lockett (-6.177, -2.486 without height)
Deon Long (-6.440, -4.453 without height)
Kaelin Clay (-7.520, -4.562 without height)
JJ Nelson (-8.570, -5.822 without height)
Jamison Crowder (-9.901, -5.657 without height)
Chris Jones (-10.352, -6.661 without height)
Tello Luckett (-11.468, -9.481 without height)
Titus Davis (-11.835, -9.130 without height)
Ezell Ruffin (-14.713, -12.831 without height)
Josh Harper (-14.891, -13.233 without height)
You might have noticed the lack of current fantasy WR1s/WR2s listed with this group. It wasn’t a mistake. There really aren’t many options. The only players who have been a WR2 or better while scoring at this point on this metric have all been 5’10” or shorter and underperformed at the combine. Who were they? Randall Cobb (-7.468) and Antonio Brown (-7.166). Both lost a lot of points due to their short height, lean frame, small hands and short arms. They also tested poorly in most of the drills. Where they make their living in the NFL is with the finer points of the position. I wouldn’t expect any of this group to be the next Cobb or Brown, but you never know.
If I had to pick one player from this group who might turn into something, it would be the player who is barely in this group. Tyler Lockett is small in just about every way you can measure it. He is 5’10” and only 182 pounds with 8.375” hands and 30 inch arms. Both his hands and arms were the second smallest of any wide receiver at the combine. The good news for Lockett is he has speed to spare. While his 4.4 second speed might not be elite, he has one of the fastest first steps of any of the receivers in this class. He runs nice routes and is a very high motor player. The instincts for the position and his work ethic are also top notch. I think he is most likely to be a return specialist in the NFL, but he could see some time in the slot and maybe even make a name for himself on the right team.
That’s every receiver who participated in the 2015 combine. Next on the list is my more detailed look at the top ten receivers in this draft class. I’ll give the score for each of them as well as my own thoughts about their game and my personal ranking for them in this draft class.
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