The Footballguys staff was asked to mention their most significant rookie wide receiver for the upcoming season. Most significant can have a lot of meaning, so - in this case - it means we just asked our guys to pick the rookie wide receiver they most wanted to write about. Here are the results.
Player Receiving 6 Votes
Sterling Shepard, NY Giants
Alexander: Corey Coleman has the highest ceiling of any rookie receiver, but Sterling Shephard has the safest floor. Shephard's role in two-receiver sets looks secure regardless of Victor Cruz's health. Rueben Randle leaves behind 90 targets in a Giants passing attack that's finished top-10 in pass attempts and passing touchdowns in both seasons Ben McAdoo has been responsible for calling plays. The book on Shephard is that he's an advanced route runner, tremendous athlete, and has great hands. With Odell Beckham demanding double coverage on the outside, Shephard should see favorable coverage regardless of where the Giants decide to line him up. Look for him to flirt with WR3 numbers as a rookie.
Fahey: The second-round rookie receivers landed in better spots for the purposes of fantasy than the first-round options. Corey Coleman and Laquon Treadwell should still have big years, but both Michael Thomas and Sterling Shepard landed in ideal schemes with proven quarterbacks who should maximize their outputs. Thomas will catch a lot of passes in the Marques Colston role but Shepard's explosiveness and scoring potential makes him the top rookie receiver.
Harmon: What more can be said about Sterling Shepard? The Oklahoma product was bar-none the best route-runner in the 2016 NFL Draft. He posted a 82.8 and 91.1 percent Success Rate Vs. Coverage score in Reception Perception when facing man and press, respectively. Shepard was far and away the leader in both metrics among the receivers drafted in April. Additionally, being selected by the Giants brought him into a euphoric like a perfect storm for fantasy success. Ben McAdoo runs a pass-heavy west coast system littered with the timing routes that Shepard runs so well. All reports out of OTAs already indicate the rookie already locked up the No. 2 wide receiver job. Shepard has a strong chance to be a league winner in redraft this season.
Haseley: There are several reasons for optimism with rookie wide receiver Sterling Shepard. All indications suggest he will beat out Victor Cruz as the team's second wide receiver opposite Odell Beckham. Shepard possesses excellent route running skills, which is a rarity among rookie receivers. His ability to create separation and run precise routes makes him a hot commodity for quarterback Eli Manning. Make no mistake, Beckham is the primary receiving threat, but that only means Shepard will see plenty of single coverage for as long as Beckham is on the field. This bodes well for fantasy production, which could be somewhat significant (WR3) as early as this year.
Magaw: Shepard has some heavy competition in the WR class of 2016 between first rounders Corey Coleman (CLE), Will Fuller (HOU), Josh Doctson (WAS) and Laquon Treadwell (MIN), as well as second rounders Michael Thomas (NO) and Tyler Boyd (CIN). One of the most important factors that bodes well for his projection, is that what is so difficult for virtually all rookie WRs, route running, is a trait for which he is extremely advanced, mature and developed in his skill set and overall game. Playing across from one of the most dynamic WRs in the game in Odell Beckham (along with Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas), Shepard will rarely if ever see double teams. The second round receivers all benefited by ending up being paired with the most established and successful QBs relative to their cohort group, in Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Andy Dalton. While lacking prototypical size, he plays big, with an unusual combine position best combination of a 41" VJ and 20 BP reps. Shepard drew rave reviews in OTAs, and it wouldn't be a massive surprise if he emerges as an instant star (in many ways, more than just about any other current, active WR he might be comped with, his game resembles that of teammate and predecessor Beckham).
Miglio: We have been spoiled by rookie receivers in recent years, so it's easy to expect greatness out of every rookie class in the modern NFL. The reality is, however, that this year's class is relatively weak and tougher to project. In terms of immediate impact, Josh Doctson and Sterling Shepard seem to be best-positioned to make fantasy impacts this season. The latter has gotten high praise from his No. 1, too—Odell Beckham Jr. said Shepard can "shock the world."
Player Receiving 5 Votes
Laquon Treadwell, Minnesota
Hicks: The Minnesota Vikings have been looking for a true WR1 for a few years now and look to have found their man in Laquon Treadwell. The other receivers on the roster project more as complementary types, while Treadwell has all the skills, except elite spend, required to excel at this level. The Vikings will transition away from Adrian Peterson in years to come and as long as Treadwell can work well with Teddy Bridgewater he should produce, especially in PPR leagues.
Pasquino: I narrowed my selections to three – Tyler Boyd (CIN), Corey Coleman (CLE) and Laquon Treadwell of the Vikings. My choice of Treadwell speaks towards challenges for snaps for Boyd (likely the WR3 behind Brandon LaFell, although not guaranteed) and Cleveland probably being a very below average offense with a brand new quarterback in Robert Griffin III. If Treadwell starts opposite of Stefon Diggs, he could see 100+ targets this year and have a decent shot at WR3 numbers in the 60-70 catch, 900-1,000 yard range with half a dozen touchdowns. Note that I also omitted Josh Doctson in Washington with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon (along with TE Jordan Reed) being the top targets for this year, liming Doctson’s upside for 2016. Treadwell has a reasonable likelihood of starting at some point this year and for at least the majority of the games for the Vikings which should provide a good avenue towards WR3-type numbers in the 65-850-5 range.
Simpkins: Many are proclaiming that Treadwell will have marginal numbers from year to year and only help the Vikings with their blocking game. While Treadwell is certainly a great blocker, the Vikings did not draft him to function as a de facto fullback. The offensive line was improved through free agency additions, which should give Bridgewater more time to throw. Treadwell’s receiving game is very complete for a rookie and he has the capacity to make an instant impact as Bridgewater’s go-to guy.
Waldman: Sterling Shepard to the Giants is the safest choice and Michael Thomas to New Orleans may have higher upside but Treadwell's presence will make a greater impact for fantasy owners that own him and his teammates than Shepard and Thomas will for theirs. Treadwell is the best blocking receiver to come into the league in a while and he'll generate a higher yards per carry average and touchdown total for Adrian Peterson. Treadwell isn't a classic vertical threat and that actually makes him a much better fit for Teddy Bridgewater's game than Mike Wallace's 2015 acquisition because he's a big, physical player who wins the ball in the air. He'll also generate a lot of short targets with yards after the catch that will force safeties to cheat and open things for Diggs. This offense should have a lot more continuity in the short and intermediate passing game as long as the offensive line stays healthy. I expect to see improved production from Bridgewater, Peterson, Diggs, and Rudolph and that's added significance to Treadwell's fantasy WR2 potential alone.
Wood: There were a lot of directions I could’ve gone with this question, but ultimately I had to tip the cap to LaQuan Treadwell in Minnesota. Treadwell reminds me of Terrell Owens – one of my favorite receivers in NFL history – and I see him as the receiver with the highest floor in the draft class. The X factor is whether Teddy Bridgewater can morph into a legitimately good high volume passer. If Bridgewater is up to the challenge, Treadwell could push for fantasy WR2 numbers as a rookie. If Bridgewater plays the role of game-manager (as he did for most of last season), Treadwell should still be able to better Stefon Diggs’ 2015 tally.
Player Receiving 3 Votes
Corey Coleman, Cleveland
Howe: Several early-round prospects have warts, but Corey Coleman offers the best blend of athleticism, collegiate resume, and rookie opportunity. He compares favorably to fellow recent Pac-12 dominator Brandin Cooks, boasting slightly better production and combine profiles. With 31 touchdowns from 2014-15 (a truly scintillating 22.5% TD rate), Coleman is a true threat to generate chunk plays and score in a multitude of scenarios. And his landing spot is semi-sexy: he’ll likely be looked to as the Browns’ playmaking savior and immediate 1B target, at worst, right out of the gate. Josh Doctson and Will Fuller certainly can’t claim that.
Parsons: The Browns have largely been a black hole for wide receiver production in recent seasons with only singular years of Braylon Edwards and Josh Gordon eclipsing 1,000 yards in a season. Corey Coleman has a dominant athletic profile and the Browns chose him over more possession-based targets in Josh Doctson and LaQuon Treadwell in Round 1. Coleman will ample opportunity for targets considering a lackluster depth chart of lesser rookies and low-ceiling veterans. The biggest question mark is at quarterback with a reclamation project (Robert Griffin III), limited arm (Cody Kessler), and veteran stopgap (Josh McCown) throwing Coleman passes in 2016.
Feery: The new brain trust behind the Cleveland Browns identified a severe shortfall at the wide receiver position, but the same could not be said once the 2016 NFL Draft came to a close. The club would select five receivers in total, starting with Corey Coleman at No.15. Coleman had better adjust to life in the NFL pretty quickly, as he will be thrust into the WR1 role for the Browns. For sheer volume alone, Coleman appears to be in line to be the highest-impact member of this year’s NFL rookie receiving class. There have been plenty of other changes in Cleveland this offseason, including Hue Jackson being tapped to man the sidelines, and Robert Griffin III finding himself a new home behind center for the Browns. Jackson just may have the offensive chops to get the most out of Griffin, and by extension, the youthful Browns receiving corps.
Player Receiving 1 Vote
Michael Thomas, New Orleans
Holloway: Thomas was drafted in the second round by the Saints, when they needed multiple playmakers to improve their defense. He has received first team reps and multiple positive reports, including from his quarterback Drew Brees. He may not put up fantasy production equal to Coleman or Treadwell in his rookie season, but he appears to be an excellent fit for the Saints offense. He should easily out-produce his draft position, which currently is about four rounds later than Coleman and Treadwell.
Players Receiving Half a Vote
Coleman and Treadwell
Wimer: This is a tough call between Laquon Treadwell and Corey Coleman. They have gone two-three after Ezekiel Elliot in every dynasty draft I have taken part in so far this preseason (three so far) and both have pluses and minuses related to where they landed in the NFL. Minnesota is a run-first team as long as Adrian Peterson is able to take the field, and Teddy Bridgewater is a mediocre NFL quarterback in my opinion. IF Robert Griffin III regains his poise and confidence (or IF Josh McCown has another top-tier season in his throwing arm), I think that Coleman could outproduce Treadwell given that Cleveland's running game is suspect (at best). But I can also see a plausible scenario where Cleveland's entire offense crashes and burns this season, with 32nd-ranked output in both phases of the game a possible worst-case. Basically, I see Treadwell as a safer bet regarding 2016, but Coleman as the higher-upside option in year one of their respective careers. That is essentially a tie for me, and I would draft either one interchangably with no regrets for winding up with either guy on my team at the appropriate draft position.