Throughout the season, the Rookie Report Card has covered some of the biggest rookies and not only looked at their performance to date – but also their long term upside. Now that the season has wrapped up and fantasy owners are looking towards the future, we have an opportunity to take one last look at the 2016 season and assess the rookies – A final report card if you will.
We covered 33 rookies throughout the season, including 13 receivers. Let’s put a bow on the season by taking one more look at those pass catchers’ first shot at make plays on Sundays, as well as a quick glimpse into their futures.
Yesterday, I covered ten receivers. Let’s finish off the rookie class today.
Ricardo Louis, WR CLE
Season Stats: 18 receptions, 205 yards
Louis looks the part of a playmaking receiver at 6’-2”, 215 pounds but lacks a killer instinct to go get the ball and be a great downfield threat. If he has a future, he’ll have to do it as a short to intermediate pass catcher. He got on the field some as a rookie due to the lack of depth at receiver in Cleveland but failed to make a splash, although that could at least be partially due to dismal quarterback play.
Louis could get another opportunity at playing time in 2017 but I have a hard time seeing him as more than a part time player. I’d rather roster a receiver with more upside and in a better situation.
Jalin Marshall, WR NYJ
Season Stats: 14 receptions, 162 yards, two touchdowns
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Marshall made a couple of nice plays during his rookie year but showed throughout the season that he lacks the polish to make an impact for dynasty owners. His unreliable hands and soft route running kept him from getting on the field much despite injuries and poor play from receivers higher on the depth chart in New York. In my opinion, there are better options for the final spot on a dynasty roster.
Braxton Miller, WR HOU
Season Stats: 15 receptions, 99 yards, one touchdown
I wasn’t sure about Miller’s transition to playing wide receiver in college let alone the NFL. We all knew about his 4.4 speed and enticing measurables (6’-1”, 201 pounds) but it was unclear how those traits would translate to running routes on Sundays.
To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised.
Miller didn’t appear lost at all running routes as a rookie. In fact, he appears to know how to use his quickness and change of direction to get open at the top of routes and looked more than comfortable catching passes when given the opportunity. Although his stats aren’t eye-popping, it looks like he has a future as a slot receiver for the Texans. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a leap forward as a sophomore and continue to develop into a useful flex play for dynasty owners in PPR leagues.
Malcolm Mitchell, WR NEP
Season Stats: 32 receptions, 401 yards, four touchdowns
I got some angry tweets and comments back in late November when I wrote that, “I still have trouble seeing (Mitchell as) a consistent fantasy contributor.”
To be fair, I also noted that I felt he had WR3 upside. But many took that as a slight as well.
Get ready to fire up the hate on Twitter. I’m still not on the Malcolm Mitchell hype train.
A very inconsistent route runner, it wasn’t surprising to see Mitchell shake a defender on one play only to be shut down without much effort for the rest of the drive. He also struggles at the line of scrimmage against physical defensive backs and lacks the foot speed to be a consistent downfield option which severely limits his upside.
While I still don’t doubt that he can be a quality NFL possession receiver if he can be a more consistent route runner, his floor as a fantasy option is extremely low and he’ll likely he very inconsistent. He appears to me to be a better NFL receiver than fantasy receiver.
Charone Peake, WR NYJ
Season Stats: 19 receptions, 186 yards
Peake was one of my favorite late round fliers in rookie drafts last off-season due to an impressive combination of size (6’-2”, 209 pounds) and speed (4.37 40-time.) Although he didn’t put up big numbers at Clemson, he showed good skills off the line of scrimmage and playmaking ability.
Despite the struggles among Jets receivers however, Peake didn’t make an impact as a rookie. Instead he fell behind Robby Anderson on the depth chart and only played a limited role.
While there are no guarantees that Peake will ever be a useful player for dynasty owners, I still feel he has potential and is absolutely worth a roster spot as an upside receiver with youth.
Tajae Sharpe, WR TEN
Season Stats: 41 receptions, 522 yards, two touchdowns
Sharpe had a lot of hype throughout training camp and in the preseason and turned that momentum into a nice start to the season but really tailed off late in the year. The Titans are a prime landing spot for a playmaking wide out in this year’s draft which would likely make Sharpe the third receiver behind the rookie and Rishard Matthews.
With Delanie Walker also in place and Tennessee being committed to a run-first approach on offense, it’s unlikely there will be enough balls to go around to make Sharpe a useful dynasty asset in the short term. Nonetheless, his strong route running and good hands will get him on the field which makes him a good, youthful depth piece with WR3 upside for dynasty owners – which we all know is valuable.
Sterling Shepard, WR NYG
Season Stats: 65 receptions, 683 yards, eight touchdowns
When I wrote about Shepard back in week nine, I wrote that my biggest concern with his performance to date was his struggles off the line of scrimmage when facing press coverage. A problem for him going back to his time at Oklahoma, he gets re-routed easily and has a hard time getting back into his route after contact. Later, I suggested that the Giants’ coaching staff should run him in motion or stack him with another wide out to afford him a free release off the line of scrimmage. Incredibly, that started to happen more and Shepard started getting off the jam a bit better and in turn, started having a little more success down the stretch of his rookie year.
Shepard still has improvement to make but showed late in 2016 that he is starting to adjust to the pro game. He has WR2 upside and a high floor as long as he’s facing number two and number three corners opposite Odell Beckham Jr.
Michael Thomas, WR NO
Season Stats: 92 receptions, 1,137 yards, nine touchdown
I wasn’t a huge fan of Thomas coming out of Ohio State. I called him, “a below average route runner” and criticized him for not being aggressive enough at the point of the catch.
I’m the guy standing over here with egg on my face.
Sure, Thomas ended up in an ideal landing spot catching passes from Drew Brees, but he also improved dramatically as a route runner and played with more fire as a rookie than he ever did for the Buckeyes. Although I feel that his upside it tethered directly to how long he plays with Brees, it’s difficult not to see Thomas as WR2 in the short term as well as a very useful WR 2/3 in the long run after the hall of famer leaves New Orleans.
Laquon Treadwell, WR MIN
Season Stats: one reception, 15 yards
Like many others, I was a big fan of Treadwell coming out of Mississippi. Armed with nice size (6’-2”, 221 pounds) and a killer instinct at the point of the catch, I saw him as a prime candidate to have a nice rookie season even after landing in Minnesota.
Man, was I wrong!
Treadwell struggled to get on the field behind Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson and when he did, appeared to be lost as a route runner at times. There were grumbling that he struggled to grasp the offense and even fell into the coaching staff’s dog house which are both red flags but I believe in the talent.
Treadwell’s ADP (currently 55) will likely hold course through the off-season but is only a shred of good news away from climbing. I still think he has low end WR1 upside so I’m buying.
Check back next week to see my thoughts on the class of rookie tight ends.
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