The 2015 NFL Draft class was considered full of potential WR1 talent. Guys like Amari Cooper, Breshard Perriman, Nelson Agholor, Phillip Dorsett and Devante Parker were all among the top prospects selected in the first round. Aside from Cooper, every receiver on that list was fantasy irrelevant in their respective rookie seasons. Still, there's some reason to believe one of them could emerge as a greatly improved fantasy asset in 2016.
One of the receivers we'll be examining from that list is Indianapolis Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett. Dorsett disappointed from a fantasy standpoint as a rookie and finished with just 18 receptions for 225 yards and one touchdown. Despite his low numbers, it's important to put his performance into context and decide if these are the types of numbers we'll continue to see from Dorsett or if greater things are on the horizon, and there's plenty of reason to believe the latter.
Sidenote: It's always worth noting when a player gets drafted in the first round because it shows the team is invested that players success, at least for a few seasons. Often times, coaching staffs and GMs do everything within their power to help a player succeed, even if it means keeping him on the field when his production doesn't exactly warrant playing time. This certainly helps increase Dorsett's upside in 2016 and makes him a deep sleeper receiver in larger leagues.
Embarrassment of riches
Dorsett's destination in the 2015 NFL Draft didn't exactly lend itself to instant fantasy value. Drafted 29th overall by the Indianapolis Colts, Indy's roster was already loaded with wide receiver talent including T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief slotted as the team's best playmakers and veteran Andre Johnson coming over from free agency, which made the addition of another wide receiver all the more head scratching. While the 'too many mouths to feed' argument isn't always the best defense for a player's poor performance since sometimes a player is just not very good, but Dorsett's poor luck really put him at odds of producing in his first season, at least.
There's reason to believe that will change in 2016. For one, Andre Johnson is no longer in the picture which could lead to more time on the field for Dorsett. Johnson took 711 snaps last season, which ranked third-highest behind Donte Moncrief (837) and T.Y. Hilton (927). With Johnson gone, it leaves the door open for Dorsett to see more time on the field as the team's No. 3 receiver in an offense that could be scoring quite a bit through the air after Luck received a giant contract this past offseason. The Colts also plan to run more three-wide sets under new offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.
Colts will throw — a lot
Nothing is a better indicator of what a franchise plans to do with its talent than the allocation of its money. The Colts went out and locked up Andrew Luck for six years, $140 million in the offseason and expect them to use his arm as much as possible. There's already talks of scaling back veteran running back Frank Gore's carries and the Colts were already an air-oriented team, as they ranked among the Top 10 in passing percentage (62.36) last season. Luck also threw for 40 touchdowns two seasons ago and with a better quality offensive line and clean bill of health, expect the former No. 1 overall pick to find Dorsett on plenty of deep passes down the field.
What Dorsett brings to the table
Much has been made about Dorsett's straight-line speed, which was among the best of his draft class. Per Mockdraftable.com, not only did Dorsett blaze a 4.33 40-yard dash, he also displayed impressive agility with a 6.70 3-cone time. At 5'10, 179 lbs, he drew some comparisons to Desean Jackson (also 5'10, 175 lbs) and was expected to create separation from defenses with his speed.
While not as explosive as his fellow teammate Moncrief (who you can read about more here), Dorsett brings the ability to score from anywhere on the field with his speed and could be used in some creative ways such as reverses and quick screen passes. If used in the slot, he could be a tough matchup for safeties over the middle of the field as well.
Red zone usage
Dorsett was targeted just once inside the 20 during his rookie season. Due to his limited snap count, it's hard to fault Dorsett for not having a ton of red zone targets in 2015. However, he did see 52 snaps in Week 17 which were far and away his most. Johnson saw 11 red zone targets in 2015. While Johnson's targets aren't necessarily an indication of Dorsett's projected usage in 2016, it's worth considering Dorsett will see his red zone targets increase in 2016.
While it's unreasonable to expect a 1,000-yard season from Dorsett given his position on the depth chart behind Hilton and Moncrief, there's plenty of reason to believe his increased role will make him in an interesting boom/bust flex play in quality matchups. It wouldn't surprise me to see him approach 700 receiving yards and anywhere between 5-8 touchdowns in 2016, making him a nice bench player to plug and play if needed.