As I see it today, the Detroit Lions’ needs at the draft this year are defensive tackle, offensive tackle, linebacker, and – depending on the status of Calvin Johnson – wide receiver. They also have a lesser need at center, and I wouldn’t be against drafting a developmental QB prospect in the later rounds. With free agency right upon us, there’s still a lot of dominoes to fall. I hope the Lions can at least secure one of their top needs in free agency, then focus on building their roster in the draft.
In this series, I’m focusing on four positional groups; while in the previous installment we looked at offensive tackle, today we’re going to dive straight into:
After two straight years of stud wide receiver classes, the crop in 2016 is extremely underwhelming and slow. Treadwell and Doctson are the lone first round locks, while other guys like Will Fuller, Michael Thomas, and Corey Coleman have a chance to go late round one but they aren’t set in stone. Since the receiver free agent crop is extremely weak, I expect the Lions to draft a WR in either the second or third round. I’ll preview Treadwell and Doctson because anything can happen in the draft.
Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
By Adam Klepp
The undisputed #1 wide receiver in the draft, Treadwell is a big man at 6’2”, 203 who uses his body well. He goes and gets the ball at its highest point, 50/50 balls are his. The only knock on him is that he doesn’t have the speed that keeps corners on their heels; Treadwell didn’t run at the combine but will run at his pro day, expect him to be in the 4.5-4.6 range. At first, Treadwell was a projected top five pick, but he began to fall as the process started. There is a probable chance that he will be available at 16, but I really don’t see the Lions drafting him. Even if Calvin retires, it isn’t smart to “replace” him with a first round guy, even Treadwell. The holes everywhere else are just too big.
Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Docston had a great showing in the Combine and solidified himself as a sure-fire round one selection. If the draft were tomorrow, he would likely go somewhere from 20 on, but he is someone who could be climbing draft boards over the next two months. At 6’3”,195lbs, and posting a Combine best 41 inch vertical, Doctson can climb the ladder with the best of them. Playing in TCU’s spread attack, people worry that he will have issues transitioning to a NFL style offense.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
A fringe first rounder, Coleman has speed for days and was a major threat in Baylor’s high flying spread offense. At 5’11” 190 he doesn’t physically stand out, but he is an exceptional athlete. He didn’t run at the combine because of a sports hernia surgery, but he was among the Combine’s best in his vertical, bench press, and broad jump. He has a drop issue, but his 11 touchdowns on 65 receptions more than made up for it. I’m a big fan of Coleman, he has a chance to be a great receiver in the league.
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
In a class lacking quickness (a receiver from Mississippi State ran a 4.9) Fuller has elite speed. He ran a combine best 40-yard in 4.33s. Only 6’0” 173, he won’t be a “put the ball near him and let him go get it” type of player, but he is a DeSean Jackson-like deep threat. Due to the lack of speed in the draft, I could see Fuller going higher than he would in a standard class. He may even slip into the last few picks of the first round if a coach falls in love with him.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
Boyd is one of my favorite players in the draft. Pure competitor, he doesn’t have the burner speed, but at 6’2 200 he ran a respectable 4.58s 40 and has excellent body control when going for the ball. As Boyd received a DUI before the season began, and the Lions have been allergic to bringing in questionable character players (which I don’t blame them for) it’s unlikely the Lions draft him.
Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Thomas looks the part. A massive man standing tall at 6’3”, he is also very strong posting a combine best among receivers of 18 reps of 225 on the bench press. He is a go-getter, meaning he doesn’t let the ball hit him in the chest. Being a big guy, he is less than a crisp route runner. Would be a nice compliment to Golden Tate.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Shepard is quick and agile, and has the makings of a top-flight NFL slot receiver for years to come. He has been labelled as this years’ Tyler Lockett. Shepard, at 5’10” 193, ran a blistering 4.48s 40. He would give the Lions an established slot guy that they have failed to have over the years (Titus Young, Corey Fuller, Lance Moore). He isn’t the big bodied guy the Lions are reportedly interested in finding, but I still think he would be worthy of their second round pick. Shepard has a great story also, I encourage you to look it up. Hard not to root for the guy.
Devon Cajuste, WR, Stanford
Cajuste is a big bodied guy at 6’3” 216 who has drawn comparisons to Devin Funchess. He fits the bill of the big guy the Lions are looking for to take the spot of Megatron. He absolutely ripped apart Notre Dame in the biggest game of the season for Stanford, I encourage you to watch his tape from that game. He isn’t that fast, and for a 2nd-3rd round pick he doesn’t offer any special teams value.
Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
Coming in at 5’11” 217, Carroo is built and has desired NFL size. He has solid hands and ran a good 40 time of 4.50. Extremely consistent, he averaged over 20 yards per catch in his past two seasons and found the end zone often. Concerns about his character remain; he was suspended two games in 2014 for what sounds like a minor assault/dispute, and was also suspended for a half of the season opener for missing curfew. Despite this he was a team captain.
Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State
Higgins has the height at 6’2” but is a little light at 190. He is not light on personality however, and has extreme confidence. His personality doesn’t sound like it’s a distraction like a Terrell Owens, but more infectious like a Jameis Winston. Not fast, but still a deep ball threat, Higgins has great hands. Lacks precise route running ability, but would be a fantastic third round guy.
Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
Cooper is a fringe 3rd rounder/early 4th as we stand now, but he has great straight line speed, and was extremely consistent in a lack luster SC offense. Coming from a military family, Cooper fits the mold of a strong character guy that the Lions like to draft. Cooper struggles on more intricate routes and is built to be a straight-line burner. Not a sure thing, but good upside for a fringe third round guy.
So there you have it – your combine review/way too early draft preview for the wide receiver class of 2016. Keep in mind that we are still two months away from the draft, and so much can happen between now and then. Use this as a guide, formulate your own opinions. Chances are these are the same guys the Lions are taking a good look at!