On Thursday's episode of the Treatment podcast, Reception Perception creator Matt Harmon stops by to talk about rookie wide receivers and which rookie wideouts in particular have the best potential for 2015. He also talks about certain qualities he looks for in good receivers, how mentality plays a role and how he feels about some of the younger wideouts in the league such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Allen Robinson. We wrap things up with Harmon's lukewarm feelings on the mexican food chain known as Chipotle.
It's officially draft day, and the Helpers are all jazzed up and ready to put the cherry on top of the proverbial sundae that is their NFL Draft podcast series. Thursday, they talk about wide receivers including Amari Cooper, Devin Smith, DeVante Parker, Breshad Perriman, Philip Dorsett and Nelson Aglohor. They also talk about where each receiver is projected to go and what teams are picking around that area and assign fantasy value to each of those potential situations. Happy draft day everyone.
Aglohor has really upped his stock on the draft board since the offseason began. A 6'0 speedy guy out of USC who can make guys miss in the open field, Aglohor has the potential to be a fantastic slot addition to teams and may even see some outside work if he proves he can produce inside. Aglohor also has some great poise and all you need to do is watch this interview video of him from his pro day and you can see why people are getting excited about him. Aglohor is expected to go in the late first round and some of the teams that might be interested in him include Baltimore, Oakland and New Orleans. Baltimore and New Orleans provide the most fantasy immediate fantasy upside.
All signs point to the top receiver in the draft going in the top 8 picks. Oakland or the New York Jets make the most sense as of right now. Cooper has the chance to play alongside Derek Carr in his first year in Oakland in fact does select him. Carr flashed some potential as a rookie and could use a big-time receiving threat. Cooper probably won't be anything more than a gamble WR3/Flex in Year 1 since he's likely to go to a bad team though.
One of the more intriguing prospects coming out of the draft, Perriman made scouts drool after he posted a blistering 4.2 40 time and planted even more doubt that his not-so-incredible production in college was likely due to inadequacies at the quarterback position. Perriman suffers from easy drops from time to time, but he's still able to locate the ball down the field and make big plays. Here's a video of the 40-time that blew scouts away.
Josh Mensch's favorite receiver in this draft, Parker possesses an uncanny ability to go up and make plays on the ball with defenders draped all over him. Parker is expected to get taken in the top 15 of this draft and the best possible fantasy scenario for him would likely be the St. Louis Rams at pick No. 10. The Rams can't possibly make another addition to their defense since they already have a slew of younger, talented players on that side of the ball. They also traded for Nick Foles in the offseason, a guy who has a big arm and who Parker would likely benefit from the most. If that does happen, consider Parker the best upside fantasy WR in this draft who isn't getting drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.
On Tuesday's episode of Treatment, the Helpers discuss the NFL Combine from a fantasy perspective and focus on the rookie wide receivers and what with potentially fruitful situations. They also talk about how undersized receivers are starting to become more and more recognized as top options in NFL offenses and what traits to look for if you're thinking about drafting a steal in your dynasty draft this year.
How a smaller receiver like Antonio Brown has been successful
The Helpers mention Phillip Dorsett as a draft prospect that's undersized but has major potential in the NFL due to his speed. The idea that small receivers can't play like their bigger counterparts is becoming more and more of a myth. These two clips illustrate why Antonio Brown (who stands at 5'10) has been so successful at the pro level despite being undersized. In the first segment (and sorry if the audio clogs up the podcast, didn't know how to mute that), he keeps moving around looking for Roethlisberger after the Steelers' quarterback does what he does best — extends the play. He eventually comes back to the ball and makes about a 30-yard catch. On the second one, he attacks the ball with a defender draped all over him. These are the kind of traits to look for in a rookie receiver. Does he go after the ball? Does he constantly outwork defenders to get open even after the play has broken down?
We point out Antonio Brown as an example because as a fantasy football player, it's important to try and look for the qualities Antonio Brown exudes on the field in hopes that you can draft a player with similar skills in either your dynasty or redraft league. We're not comparing Dorsett to Brown at all, we're just showing you how Brown has been successful and are interested to see if Dorsett possesses any of those same qualities. Plus, if Dorsett further develops his game through refined route running and chemistry with his quarterback, he could be in line for fantastic stats and fantasy numbers.
The draft class as a whole/Maxx Williams' stock
If you've been following the NFL even remotely close this offseason, you've already heard all of the major talking points regarding this year's draft. The running backs are very strong while the tight ends are weak and the wide receivers are once again pretty good but probably not as good as last year's class. While the tight end class is indeed weak, Maxx Williams has a chance to get drafted by the Denver Broncos in the late first round, a team that is likely to lose its star tight end in Julius Thomas because of a clogged cap this offseason. If Thomas goes, Williams would immediately have a chance to see first-team reps and could be one of the top red zone threats in the league with quarterback Peyton Manning. Of course, nobody knows if the Broncos are going to take Williams, but Denver is maybe the one place where he would pose immediate fantasy value in redraft leagues.
Though he didn't perform at the combine due to injury, UCF wide receiver Breshad Perriman has some intrigue due to his size at 6'3. He also plays physical and averaged over 20 yards per catch and posted 9 touchdowns during his junior season with the Knights. Perriman has exceptional speed and displayed the ability to get behind defenders consistently in college. He could also make for a great option on inside routes due to his size. He does have a few flaws though and one of the major ones is his inconsistent hands. He dropped several easy passes in college and that can spell doom early on at the NFL level. We've seen very athletic, tall receivers fade quickly if they can't hang on to the football. Darrius Heyward-Bey among the most recent examples.
On Friday's edition of Treatment, Matt Harmon of Footballguys stops by to talk about the development of his new product 'Reception Perception' which will be released sometime during the summer in 2015. 'Reception Perception' will focus on an in depth analysis of every fantasy relevant wide receiver and paint an reflection of exactly what is going on in a player's game film. This product will be free for the first year and Harmon plans to release it annually. You can read more about the project here and also check out examples of Harmon's past wide receiver articles here.
Matt immediately gets into the project in the beginning of the pod. He's been developing the content throughout the 2014 season and already has a bevy of articles under his belt including Jeremy Maclin, Julio Jones, Josh Gordon and Odell Beckham Jr. You can check out his page here. He first started with Jordy Nelson and Cordarrelle Paterson through his process. Paterson and Nelson are two very different receivers, with Nelson being athe more polished receiver and Paterson serving as the more raw, athletic wideout. He usually finds the players that are coming off some interesting games or are about to break out.
On top of the NFL players, Harmon is currently focusing on college players and already has one article on Alabama wideout Amari Cooper. Widely considered the top receiver in this year's 2015 NFL Draft class, Cooper is the main subject of the podcast and serves as the first example of what Harmon's 'Reception Perception' will be about.
When analyzing Cooper's skill set, Harmon focuses on a variety of factors including contested catch rate, drop rate, amount of targets, rout analysis, and tackle breaking measurements. He then translates all this data to give you an idea of what Cooper can be at the NFL level.
For fantasy football purposes, there's plenty of analysis within 'Reception Perception' that can be helpful to those looking to draft certain players to their fantasy teams whether it be in dynasty or redraft leagues. For dynasty purposes, you'll want to pay attention to Harmon's rookie wide receiver articles more for obvious reasons, but you'll also find plenty of information that may make you think twice about drafting a certain player.
One of the bigger factors that can really make or break an NFL receiver (and Harmon goes into this in his articles) is consistency in getting off bump and run coverages. A lot of young receivers lack the upper body strength to shed big, physical cornerbacks which often leads to them getting off track in their route and can really limit their ability to get open consistently. Plenty of wide receivers have struggled with that in the past and often times the ones who don't end up with the most targets and ultimately the most receptions. Harmon's analysis will show you which receiver has the most success getting off the bump and run.
The other big factor is contested catch success rate. Often times, wide receivers don't get wide open on a play and will have to make a catch in traffic. Harmon's analysis takes into account how many successful catches a receiver makes with defenders draped on him, and uses Odell Beckham Jr.'s as a guy who lacks size but consistently possesses the 'my ball' mentality and goes up and catches the ball despite being covered. It's an underrated trait that a lot of successful receivers possess and Harmon makes sure to cover that in his articles.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattHarmonBYB
Player: Amari Cooper
School: University of Alabama
Weight: 202 lbs.
Position Rank: 3
You will be hard pressed to find a more well-rounded receiver in this year's draft than University of Alabama junior Amari Cooper. The Heisman finalist finished his junior season with over 1,700 receiving yards, establishing himself as one of the elite talents at the wide receiver position for the 2015 NFL Draft.
- Physical receiver, ability to make plays after the catch
- Light feet, quick in and out of breaks
- Polished overall game
- Speed to be able to stretch defenses vertically
- Experience in pro-style system
- Attacks the top of his stem with aggression
- Gets great separation
- Able to produce despite double/triple-coverage
- Well built frame
- Body catches
- Awareness of surroundings? Lack confidence in hands?
- Does not play above the ground
- Case of drops
- Struggles with contested catches
Like I said earlier, you will be hard pressed to find a more “pro-ready” receiver than Alabama’s Amari Cooper. Cooper’s combination of size, speed, and quickness terrorized the SEC’s best on a weekly basis.
Although Cooper does not possess the massive frame that some people look for in a number one receiving option, he makes up for his lack of size with great route-running ability, and the speed hurt defenses vertically.
Cooper finished his junior season leading the FBS-division of college football with 124 receptions, and second in receiving yards (1727) only behind Colorado State’s Rashad Higgins. These numbers were good enough to earn cooper an invite to New York for the Heisman trophy ceremony, finishing third behind Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon.
During Cooper's time at Alabama he totaled 228 catches for 3,468 yards, averaging an impressive 15.2 yards-per-catch over the last three seasons.
I will say that with Cooper’s experience in Alabama’s pro-style offensive system, the transition to the professional game should not be as difficult as it would be for players in a spread/air-raid system. Cooper was able to flourish in offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's up-tempo offenses, utilizing Coopers speed efficiently on screen's and crossing routes.
It may be hard to believe this next statement I am about to make but I believe that quarterback Blake Simms held back Cooper in his development this season. Simms was uh, mediocre to put it nicely when trying to drive the ball, struggling with accuracy and ball placement down the field.
If the rumors that I have been hearing are true, it looks like West Virginia's Kevin White could be moving ahead of Parker on some NFL draft boards. If that is the case it could be a blessing in disguise for Cooper's professional and fantasy outlooks.
If Cooper does start to slide there is the possibility that he reunites with his former high school teammate Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota. Bridgewater has established himself as one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL and is in need of some extra firepower at the WR position. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater posted a 77.3 accuracy percentage (takes in account drops, spikes, and throw aways), ranking third in the NFL only behind the Saints Drew Brees (80.2%), and Chiefs Alex Smith (79.8%). If Cooper were to land in Minnesota it could be the makings of one of the top young QB/WR combo in the NFL.
Right now I have DeVante Parker as the no.1 receiver in this year's draft class due to his ability to make an impact as a possession receiver (PPR) and in the red zone (Standard). I believe that Cooper is going to make his greatest impact in PPR leagues this year due to his ability to run precise routes to get free from man-coverage. Cooper should still have some impact in standard leagues, but I would rank him more of a WR3 in standard formats, and more of a low-WR2 in PPR formats.
Going into next year's fantasy drafts there are three receivers that I feel have the ability to make an immediate impact, Louisville's DeVante Parker, Alabama's Amari Cooper and West Virginia's Kevin White. As far as Coopers fantasy projection it is hard to gauge exactly how valuable he will be since he has not been draft yet. Right now I would currently feel comfortable drafting Cooper as a WR3/flex option, with potential to grow if he lands in a positive fantasy situation.
Player Comparison: Reggie Wayne
One of the biggest deficiencies of the NFL draft is that the infatuation with the workout warrior's who may be impressive in non-contact drills, but cannot transfer it to the field on Sunday's. This is not the case for Cooper as he possesses the most pro-ready game in this year's NFL draft class.
Amari Cooper/Reggie Wayne Physical Comparison
|Amari Cooper||Player||Reggie Wayne|
|202 lbs||Weight||200 lbs|
The comparison goes past just a simple height and weight comparison. Both Wayne and Cooper will make their greatest impact between the 20's as a team's possession receiver.
Many college receivers struggle with the transition to the pro game due to the high volume of generated touches they got in college. What I mean by this is that instead of refining a players game to use his physical traits more efficiently, they take the easy way out by throwing a lot of screens, and utilizing jet sweeps to get the player in space. This is concern that Cooper will not have to worry about. During his senior season in Tuscaloosa, Cooper had more than 8 receptions in 12 of 14 games this season, and was able to reach double-digits in five of those games.
I feel like speed is one of the most underrated aspects of Cooper's game. Cooper reportedly ran a sub 4.4-forty last offseason at the Alabama pro day, even reaching times as low as 4.31. When the combine rolls around I would expect Cooper to run in the range of 4.38-45, showing that he has more than enough speed to beat defenses vertically.
There are not many negatives that you find when evaluating Cooper’s game, but there is one that came to my attention. Cooper has a tendency to use his body when catching the ball too often. According to Matt Harmon's Reception Perception he broke down some of the struggles Cooper had as well. One of the most startling stats that Harmon posted was that in the five games that he had charted for Cooper he had a drop rate of 11.4%. For comparison's sake, Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin had the highest drop rate of wide receivers last season.
Like Harmon, I noticed that a lot of Cooper's drop's came on relatively routine plays, i.e. slants, digs, screens, showing that he may have some concentration issues. Cooper also struggled while trying to make contested cathches. In the five games that Harmon charted Cooper only caught 50% of the targets when it was considered "contested".
The final thing that gives me cause for concern about Cooper's transition to the pro game is his lack of playmaking above the ground in college. There were a couple of instances where Cooper as able to show off high-pointing ability, but with the deficiencies Blake Simms had throwing the football, he was unable to show off those skills on a consistent basis.
Above is an example of Cooper doing a great job fighting off a defensive back on a jump ball situation, and going up to get the ball at its highest point. Cooper is never going to make the impact in the red zone like Kelvin Benjamin and Dez Bryant, but does offer some value that area of the field.
Amari Cooper/Reggie Wayne Statistical Comparison
|Amari Cooper||Player||Reggie Wayne|
|15.2||Yards Per Reception||14.5|
As you can see by the table above, the statistical comparison between Wayne and Cooper is very similar. Both players seem to make a living in the intermediate area of the field, evidence by their yards-per-reception number. While Wayne never matched the production that Cooper did in college that could be in large part due to the fact that the game has transitioned to a pass-happy game, where it was more focused around the running game when Wayne was still at Miami.
While I still feel that Wayne is the more complete player at this point in career I feel that Cooper has the potential to be as good, if not better than the Colts receiver. Both players have made their living developing the nuances it takes to be a successful receiver
Going into next season I would bunch Cooper right with Louisville's DeVante Parker and West Virginia's Kevin White together in a category of players that I feel can step in and make an immediate impact. While Cooper does not possess the measurable that White and Parker do, he does come equip with a very refined game, and the ability to hurt you in a variety of ways. Currently I would draft Cooper somewhere in middle-rounds of most fantasy drafts. Obviously his ranking is subject to change if he is able to land in a place with a stable quarterback situation, but it would be hard to depend on any rookie as more than a WR3/flex option at this point in the season.
Cooper is my number three wide receiver prospect, and it seems like NFL teams are already starting to move Cooper down their board. Bleacher Reports Matt Miller recently tweeted:
Looking at the draft board you could make the case for Cooper being the pick as early as the number four overall pick to the Raiders, with his floor being number 11 overall to the Minnesota Vikings.
When the Minnesota Vikings traded up in 2013 to draft Cordarrelle Patterson they hoped their search for a bon-a-fide no. 1 receiver was over. However, Patterson has failed to live up to expectations to this point, failing to pick up the intricacies of what it takes to be an NFL wide receiver.
There is also the possibility that veteran Greg Jennings could be asked to restructure his contract. Jennings signed a 5 year/$47.5 million deal just two years ago and is clearly not worth the cap number he is due next season.
It has been speculated the Vikings will look to improve the wide receiver position this offseason whether it be through free agency or the draft. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looks like a franchise quarterback, but needs more weapons at the wide receiver position.
One more interesting fact for you guys and gals, Cooper and Bridgewater played high school football together in Florida, so who knows maybe they will reunite to give the Vikings the true no. 1 wide receiver they have been looking for.
The Raiders have holes all over their football team and need to add premier talent regardless of the position. Quarterback Derek Carr looks like a nice piece, and if the Raiders organization has any hope of Carr being a franchise quarterback they need to add talented playmakers around him. The addition of Cooper to the Raiders offense could be the playmaker that the Raiders have been looking for since the days of Tim Brown.
Regardless of what team or system Cooper goes to I fully expect him to make a major impact during his rookie season. To maximize success it would be beneficial for Cooper to go to an offense that relies on timing, and the ability to make plays after the catch (West Coast Offense).
Grade: Top 15
Player: Kevin White
School: University of West Virginia
Weight: 210 lbs.
Position Rank: 2
Coming into the season West Virginia’s Kevin White was not seen as anything more than a mid-round draft pick. However, after posting a 109/1,447/10 line this season, White not only propelled himself into the conversation as a top-50 talent, but one of the premier talents out of the wide receiver draft class.
- High points the ball as well as anyone in the class
- Quick feet
- Aggressive in the open field
- Strong hands
- Works back to football well
- Gets to top speed quickly
- Ability to get off press-coverage
- Develop an NFL Route Tree
- Height is exaggerated
- Lacks elite speed
- Gives away when run blocking
- Struggles separating in the intermediate area of the field
- Get out of breaks with more aggression
There is still a lot of time from now until the draft in April, with plenty of time for players to move up and down my rankings. As of now in my first set of rankings West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White is currently my number two rated wide receiver in this year’s draft class.
White is late on to the scene for casual college football fans due to spending the first two years of his college career at Lackawanna College before transferring to West Virginia before his junior season. White flashed at times during his junior season totaling 35 catches for 507 yards and 5 touchdowns in a limited role.
White exploded onto the scene in the Mountaineers week one matchup against the Alabama Crimson Tide in which he picked apart the Tide secondary for 9/145/1. This performance against one of the premier defenses in college football started a string of 7-straght 100-yard games for White.
White finished his senior season with a line of 103/1,447/10. These totals were good enough for White to be named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Trophy, the award given the top wide receiver in college football.
Despite having the size/ability to play vertically, White's shines in the short/YAC game. Because of this I feel that White could have some major value in PPR leagues this season as a low-end WR3 with the potential to improve depending on his weekly workload.
Now I am not saying that he is going to be useless in standard scoring leagues because White definitely has a nose for pay dirt. In his two seasons in Morgantown, White racked up 15 touchdown catches, showing an ability to beat teams over the top as well as an ability to help out in the red-zone.
When you mention the name Justin Blackmon, the first thing that pops into your mind is most likely his array of off-the-field issues that have kept him from being a viable fantasy option aside from a very small stretch of games. Instead of focusing on that side, I want to look at the playing style and physical attributes that I feel make the two a very comparable pair.
Justin Blackmon/Kevin White physical comparison:
|Justin Blackmon||Player||Kevin White|
|210 lbs||Weight||207 lbs|
|4.46||40 yard dash||4.5**|
*Listed height, keep watch for his official height/weight measurement at combine
**High School Measurement
Aside from the physical measurements being similar, White and Blackmon have a very similar playing style. Both White and Blackmon are extremely physical in the open field and excel on short passes dependent on the receivers' ability to get yards after the catch.
While White is listed at 6’3”, I have serious doubts that he is as tall as he says he is. If White measures closer to 6’1” at the combine like I expect him too, I feel it will be a battle between White and Alabama’s Amari Cooper to be the second wide receiver taken.
Despite the lack of the prototypical frame, White makes up for his lack of height with an elite ability to high point the football. White has good, not great speed, but has still shown the ability to beat defenses vertically due to his quick feet and ability to get free of press-coverage.
Like Louisville’s DeVante Parker I have a top-15 grade for White, and second rated receiver for the upcoming draft class.
Like Parker, I feel that White has the talent to make an immediate impact at the NFL level, and there are a couple of teams in particular that I feel he would be a great fit.
The first team is the Cleveland Browns. It's a sad situation that is developing with Josh Gordon, but it is something that they have to deal with. With Gordon likely suspended for the entire 2015 season, I would expect the Browns front office to address the lack of playmakers that they have at the wide receiver position.
If White were selected by the Browns he would step in and immediately become the focal point of their offensive scheme. While it is difficult to predict how new offensive coordinator John DeFillippo will run the Browns offense, it is encouraging that he had a hand in developing Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
The other team that I feel White could help out from day one is the Miami Dolphins. Now the Dolphins currently hold the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, and could be in prime position to land the former-Mountaineer.
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was better this year throwing the ball down the field (Ranked 13th in PFF’s deep accuracy), but still needs a receiver outside of Jarvis Landry that has the ability to be beat defenses vertically. With the uncertainty surrounding receiver Mike Wallace and whether or not he will be a member of the Dolphins next season, I have a feeling the Dolphins will look to address the position earlier rather than later in the draft.
Also, with Michael Crabtree possibly leaving in free agency do not be surprised if the 49ers look too add a receiver, whether it be White or another talented pass catcher in the draft or free agency.
Grade: Top 15