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Pro similarities for some of the draft's top fantasy WR names based on the combine

By Scott Spratt
Mar 14, 2018

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Mar 3, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; SMU Mustangs wide receiver Courtland Sutton runs the 40 yard dash during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

NFL teams play a lot more wide receivers than they do running backs, and that creates more types of roles and more prospects to consider for fantasy players. As I did previously for running backs, I’ve combined wide receivers’ college production and combine results into a similarity scoring model that identifies comparable players and helps categorize prospects into roles that can give a sense of their fantasy potential. I’ll start with the specialized players who may have the hardest time contributing in fantasy and build toward the do-it-all receivers who have the chance to become top-shelf fantasy receivers.

Looks like a specialized player

Player Optimistic Comps
Jake Wieneke, South Dakota State Kelvin Benjamin (0.84), Brandon LaFell (0.91), Laquon Treadwell (0.94)
Simmie Cobbs, Indiana Eric Decker (0.82), Rueben Randle (0.87), Terrance Williams (0.89)
Antonio Callaway, Florida Nelson Agholor (0.62), Golden Tate (0.67), Randall Cobb (0.69)
Cedrick Wilson, Boise State Breshad Perriman (0.61), Marquess Wilson (0.72), Brandon LaFell (0.73)
Cam Phillips, Virginia Tech Jeremy Maclin (0.45), Ryan Grant (0.58), Nelson Agholor (0.58)
Steven Mitchell, USC Jeremy Kerley (0.65), Randall Cobb (0.77), Jamison Crowder (0.87)

On paper, Jake Wieneke looks like he should be a fantasy star. He’s 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds and scored double-digit touchdowns all four years in college, including three years with an even 16 scores. But Wieneke had that success at South Dakota State, and while a lower quality of competition does not always mean a player is incapable of succeeding at the highest level, I am pessimistic in this case. Wieneke performed poorly across the board at the combine with nine bench reps, a 4.67-second 40-time, and a 4.37-second shuttle time.

Simmie Cobbs is a big receiver at 6-3, 220, but that didn’t translate into big touchdown totals at Indiana. He scored on just 8.6 percent of his receptions, near the bottom of the class, perhaps in part because of subpar athleticism. He was worst in the class with a 30-inch vertical jump and bottom-five with a 113-inch broad jump. Combine that with poor strength — he had just 11 bench reps — and poor top-end speed — he ran just a 4.64-second 40-time and had one of only five times at the position over 4.60 seconds — and it’s difficult to come up with a role for him at next level that would have any fantasy relevance.

Antonio Callaway was dismissed from Florida for his involvement in a credit card fraud scandal and did not play in 2017. That makes him a bit of a mystery, which is compounded by his incongruously poor 7.9 percent collegiate touchdown rate and excellent 4.41-second 40-time. With the character questions NFL teams will likely have, I choose to put more stock in the former. Callaway may have used up some of the chances he could need to prove himself capable of making a fantasy impact at the next level.

Cedrick Wilson is top-five in the class with his 19.0 yards per reception at Boise State, but in the combine, he didn’t show the top-end speed you would want from a deep threat with a 4.55-second 40-time. He was also one of just three receivers who failed to reach 10 bench reps. His 4.23-second shuttle time showed decent agility, and as a former quarterback and son of an NFL player, perhaps he can develop an intelligence and sophistication as a route-runner to overachieve his tools at the next level. I’m just not sure that’s worth a pick in most dynasty rookie drafts.

Cam Phillips would likely fit best as a possession receiver at the next level, but I’m not convinced he has the skill set to make it there. It’s difficult to tell because Phillips did not participate in the bench press or any of the speed or agility drills at the combine, likely because of a recent sports hernia surgery — so take those Maclin and Grant comps with a grain of salt. What we do know of Phillips isn’t inspiring. He’s on the small side at 6-0, 201, has really small hands under 9 inches, and has the lowest collegiate touchdown rate (7.2 percent) in the class.

At 5-10 and 189 pounds, Steven Mitchell has the body of a slot receiver and had a correspondingly low 11.8 yards per reception at USC. However, Mitchell didn’t demonstrate the quickness you would want from a slot receiver with his bottom-five 4.40-second shuttle time. Cooper Kupp was a third of a second faster last season, as an example. Mitchell may peak as a special teamer.

Looks like a slot receiver

Player Optimistic Comps
Anthony Miller, Memphis Sterling Shepard (0.72), Markus Wheaton (0.83), Golden Tate (0.89)
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State Ryan Grant (0.51), Jermaine Kearse (0.62), Rishard Matthews (0.66)
Trey Quinn, SMU Corey Brown (0.76), Randall Cobb (0.84), Justin Hardy (0.84)
Braxton Berrios, Miami Ryan Switzer (0.49), Albert Wilson (0.68), Jamison Crowder (0.70)
Deontay Burnett, USC T.J. Jones (0.33), Emmanuel Sanders (0.51), Andre Roberts (0.57)

At 5-11 and 201 pounds, Anthony Miller has the size of a slot receiver, but he also led the class with 22 bench reps and with 10.6-inch hands. Those traits should help him catch balls in traffic in the middle of the field. He might could work there from the outside, too, but I would like him best for fantasy purposes as a power slot guy like Golden Tate.

DaeSean Hamilton is big for a slot receiver at 6-1, 203, but he answered the questions many had about his quickness with a solid 4.15-second shuttle time at the combine. He skipped the bench press and 40-yard dash, but he remains a relatively safe prospect to project thanks to a productive, four-year career at Penn State.

Trey Quinn has a classic slot profile. He’s small at 5-11 and 203 pounds and quicker (4.19-second shuttle time) than he is fast (4.55-second 40-time). And despite his size, he was one of just four receivers in the class with at least 10-inch hands, which will help him secure catches in traffic in the middle of the field. He barely played before he transferred to Southern Methodist for his junior season in 2017, but there he averaged a class-low 10.8 yards per reception, as you’d expect from a slot receiver.

As the shortest receiver in the class at 5-9 and 184 pounds and with by far the shortest arms at 28 inches, Braxton Berrios is either a slot receiver or he isn’t an NFL player. His college production at Miami points to a shot at the former. In particular, his 11.8 yards per reception there are in the bottom-five of this class and in-line with expectations for a player with his role. But Berrios didn’t participate in any of the agility and speed drills that could have helped confirm his potential at the next level.

Deontay Burnett skipped all of the notable drills in his combine and measured pretty small at 6-0 and 186 pounds and with 8.63-inch hands. He was very productive at USC in his junior season in 2017 but had top quarterback prospect Sam Darnold throwing him passes. I’m not confident he will find a fantasy-relevant role with an NFL team.

Looks like a possession receiver

Player Optimistic Comps
Calvin Ridley, Alabama Nelson Agholor (0.64), Randall Cobb (0.75), Justin Blackmon (0.77)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State Marquess Wilson (0.71), Justin Blackmon (0.72), Terrance Williams (0.73)
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M Randall Cobb (0.76), Stefon Diggs (0.79), Sterling Shepard (0.81)
Robert Foster, Alabama Quincy Enunwa (0.63), Nelson Agholor (0.72), Marvin Jones (0.77)
Darren Carrington, Utah Kasen Williams (0.54), Louis Murphy (0.62), Tyrell Williams (0.64)
Dante Pettis, Washington Marqise Lee (0.42), Jeremy Maclin (0.47), Nelson Agholor (0.48)
Korey Robertson, Southern Mississippi Jermaine Kearse (0.63), Justin Blackmon (0.66) Allen Hurns (0.69)

The combine went fairly poorly for top prospect Calvin Ridley. He finished bottom-five at the position with a 4.41-second shuttle time, a 31-inch vertical leap, and a 110-inch broad jump. His 4.43-second 40-time was top-five, but he never showed any downfield tendencies with 12.4 yards per reception in college that is near the bottom of his class. Ridley seems to possess some exceptional traits like route-running that aren’t fully captured by the combine drills, but I question whether those will translate into enough receptions to buoy him in fantasy since his touchdown total could be low.

Michael Gallup was incredibly productive in his two seasons at Colorado State, but while his combine results certainly don’t preclude him from success at the next level, none really stood out. He is a little small at 6-1, 205, with moderate speed (4.51-second 40-time) and quickness (4.37-second shuttle time) and poor strength (10 bench reps). As someone who can do a lot of things well but none great, he may end up as a second outside receiver or versatile backup.

Christian Kirk is built like a slot receiver at 5-10, 201 pounds, but he proved much faster than quick with a strong 4.47-second 40-time and poor 4.45-second shuttle time. But Kirk’s standout combine performance was in the bench press where he put up 20 reps, a feat accomplished by just three other receivers. I wonder then if he might make more sense on the outside where he can bully smaller cornerbacks and surprise others with his speed.

You don’t make it to Alabama without talent, and Robert Foster flashed that at the combine with an excellent 4.41-second 40-time and strong 4.20-second shuttle time. I expect those combine numbers will get Foster a chance with an NFL team, but he could never translate that speed and his good 6-2, 196-pound size into game production. In fact, he barely played, logging just 35 catches in 4 seasons in college. When he did play, he did not take advantage of his speed. His 11.1 yards per reception were second-lowest in the class and hints at a low fantasy ceiling.

It would have helped Darren Carrington to excel in his combine drills to try to counterbalance the concerns teams likely have from a DUI arrest and dismissal from Oregon, but he opted to skip the bench press, 40-yard dash, and short shuttle. But what he did at the combine he did well. His 36-inch vertical leap and 120-inch broad jump were both solid, and at 6-2, 199, and with massive 10.38-inch hands, Carrington certainly looks the part of an outside receiver. I lean toward possession receiver as his fit because he never scored more than 6 touchdowns in a season, including his 70-catch senior season at Utah.

Dante Pettis did even less than Carrington at the combine thanks to an ankle injury but still seems more of a clear fit as a possession receiver. That’s because Pettis is a smaller player across the board at 6-foot-0 and 186 pounds and with 9.5-inch hands and because Pettis built his similar, mid-range 13.8 yards per reception at Washington over a much longer college career. If Pettis can impress with a fast 40-time whenever he is able to run it for teams, then he may end up being an earlier draft pick and contributor for his new team, perhaps even on some deep routes. I’m just skeptical that will lead to any immediate fantasy success.

Korey Robertson was going to be sleeper prospect because he played for Southern Mississippi, and I’m not sure he did quite enough to jump up draft boards at the combine. He measured well at 6-1 and 212 pounds but had just moderate success with a 4.56-second 40-time, 34-inch vertical leap, and 13 bench reps. He scored at a nice 14.2 percent clip in college, but I’m not convinced he has the necessary plus skill to separate in the end zone.

Looks like a red-zone target

Player Optimistic Comps
Auden Tate, Florida State Kelvin Benjamin (0.81), Brandon Coleman (0.95), Rueben Randle (1.01)
Allen Lazard, Iowa State Kenny Golladay (0.67), Allen Robinson (0.80), Eric Decker (0.81)
Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State Mike Williams (0.65), Rueben Randle (0.80), Mike Evans (0.86)

Auden Tate is giving up 12 pounds to his Florida State predecessor Kelvin Benjamin, but I still think Benjamin is his strongest comp. Like Benjamin, Tate has been able to use his big, 6-5 frame to score — his 24.6 percent touchdown rate leads the class. But also like Benjamin, Tate didn’t show much in terms of athleticism with his bottom-five 40-time, vertical jump, and broad jump. He may never really be open on his routes in the NFL, and it would take an unusual landing spot for him to match Benjamin’s early-career fantasy success.

At 6-5 and 227 pounds, Allen Lazard is almost identical in size to Tate. And even though he scored touchdowns at a much more human clip of 10.8 percent of his college receptions, I wonder if he may actually have the better success translating that to the next level thanks to his top-five 38-inch vertical leap. Either way, he shares a similar fantasy proposition to Tate and will likely need a role as a team’s primary red zone target to make it in fantasy.

Marcell Ateman is not quite as big as either Tate or Lazard, but being 216 pounds didn’t help him much with the 40-yard dash. He was one of just five receiver prospects with a time over 4.60 seconds. That will likely make him less of a downfield threat than his 16.9 yards per reception at Oklahoma State would suggest. He also didn’t score a ton in college with a low 8.9 percent touchdown rate, but I think that’s his best potential role fit at the next level. That’s mainly because of his 6-4 height, but Ateman was also decent in a variety of strength and athleticism drills, even if he failed to stand out in any particular one.

Looks like a deep threat

Player Optimistic Comps
James Washington, Oklahoma State Josh Huff (0.69), ArDarius Stewart (0.84), Pharoh Cooper (0.84)
D.J. Chark, LSU Donte Moncrief (0.78), Darrius Heyward-Bey (0.80), Mike Wallace (0.86)
Tre’Quan Smith, Central Florida Alshon Jeffery (0.69), Cordarrelle Patterson (0.77), DeVante Parker (0.85)
Deon Cain, Clemson Laquon Treadwell (0.74), Terrance Williams (0.75), Robert Woods (0.86)
Jordan Lasley, UCLA Breshad Perriman (0.66), T.J. Jones (0.79), Stefon Diggs (0.79)
Jester Weah, Pittsburgh Cordarrelle Patterson (0.69), DeVante Parker (0.78), Michael Floyd (0.85)
Keke Coutee, Texas Tech Tyler Lockett (0.66), T.Y. Hilton (0.74), John Brown (0.82)
Davon Grayson, East Carolina Braxton Miller (0.52), Bennie Fowler (0.61), Sammy Watkins (0.71)

James Washington will likely be the top drafted among the deep threats in this year’s class, but he is small at 5-11 and 213 pounds and relied on big plays for much of his production at Oklahoma State. His 19.8 yards per reception and 17.3 percent touchdown percentage are both top-three in this year’s class. That skill set is extremely helpful for NFL teams but is often less so for fantasy teams in shallower formats where consistency is important. Don’t let Washington’s possible second-round draft selection in the NFL draft bide you into reaching on him in your dynasty rookie drafts.

Compared to Washington, D.J. Chark trades 14 pounds for 4 extra inches, which combined with the elite athleticism he showed in college should close the gap between his 9.1 percent collegiate touchdown percentage and Washington’s 17.3 percent touchdown percentage at the next level. Chark is actually best in the class with his 4.34-second 40-time, 40-inch vertical leap, and 20.5 yards per reception in college. His lesser reputation may simply be a product of his small workload at LSU.

Tre’Quan Smith falls a bit short of Chark in both his combine results and in his college production, but he still has the tools necessary to be a deep threat in the NFL. His 4.49-second 40-time was solid for his 6-2, 203-pound frame, and he was near the top of the class with both his 37.5-inch vertical jump and 130-inch broad jump. Smith’s major short-coming was his class-worst 4.50-second shuttle time, which suggests he may not have the quickness to work the short and intermediate routes necessary to become an impact fantasy receiver.

Deon Cain looked like a deep threat his first two years at Clemson and then again with an excellent 4.43-second 40-time at the combine. He had a chance in 2017 after Mike Williams left to show that he could be more than that, but his productivity declined sharply as the team’s No. 1 (or maybe 1B) target. I think that points to a likely deep role in the NFL.

Jordan Lasley was a little slower than you’d want from a deep threat with a 4.50-second 40 time, but that is where he fits best as a pro, as supported by his strong 16.8 yards per reception and 12.4 percent touchdown rates at UCLA. He’ll likely need to make that work because his eight bench reps were fewest in the class and throw into question his ability to work in traffic, and multiple arrests and suspensions could limit his opportunities.

Jester Weah is one of my favorite sleeper prospects at wide receiver. He has never been considered a top-tier prospect despite his 20.4 yards per reception and 18.2 percent touchdown rate at Pittsburgh, both top-three at the class. But then at the combine, Weah demonstrated all of the athleticism you could want from a deep target with a top-five finishes in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump. His 4.41-second shuttle time was bottom-five in the class, and so he may have trouble getting open on short and intermediate routes, but he is big enough at 6-2 and 211 pounds to catch balls in traffic and could be better in fantasy than reality if he maintains his high touchdown rate.

Keke Coutee was top-five in his class with both his 4.43-second 40-time and his 4.15-second shuttle time. That is a great combination to force separation from NFL cornerbacks for deep gains, but at just 5-10 and 181 pounds and with the smallest hands in the class, Coutee may not be capable of running a diverse enough route tree to make him more than a deep threat. Even the best receivers of Coutee’s type like Hilton and Brown tend to frustrate fantasy owners with high ceilings and low floors.

Davon Grayson had 13.1 yards per reception at East Carolina, which doesn’t scream deep threat the way that the 16-plus yards per reception rates of guys like Lasley and Weah do. But Grayson saw his yards per reception increase every season, culminating at 15.0 yards his senior season, and he ran a 4.51-second 40-time that is on the low end of acceptable for the role. He surprised with 19 bench reps at the combine, but he’s thin at 6-1 and 199 pounds, and he also has a checkered injury history. With more experience, perhaps he can become more versatile, but for now, I think he makes the most sense as a deep threat.

Looks like a does-everything receiver

Player Optimistic Comps
Courtland Sutton, SMU Michael Thomas (0.63), Kenny Golladay (0.64), Alshon Jeffery (0.68)
D.J. Moore, Maryland Nelson Agholor (0.65), Justin Blackmon (0.71), Emmanuel Sanders (0.80)
Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame Kenny Golladay (0.64), Justin Hunter (0.68), A.J. Green (0.69)
Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State Alshon Jeffery (0.85), Mike Williams (0.85), Jordy Nelson (0.88)
J’Mon Moore, Missouri Allen Robinson (0.70), Cody Latimer (0.71), Breshad Perriman (0.76)
Javon Wims, Georgia Eric Decker (0.40), Cody Latimer (0.54), Kenny Golladay (0.71)

Courtland Sutton looks like the favorite to be the first receiver taken in the NFL draft, and he’s the obvious first choice at the position in fantasy formats. Sutton fell just short of standout results in many of his combine drills, from his 18 bench reps to 4.54-second 40-time and 35.5-inch vertical leap. But even those good-but-not-great results look better with his 6-3, 218-pound frame, and at that size, his 4.11-second shuttle time is exceptional. Sutton has the quickness to get open on short and intermediate routes and the size to catch the ball in traffic. He scored on 15.9 percent of his college catches.

At just 6-foot, D.J. Moore is a little bit shorter than you would want from a No. 1 outside receiver, but his speed and athleticism should help him play taller. He was top-five in the class with a 4.42-second 40-time and top-two with a 4.07-second shuttle time, a 39.5-inch vertical leap, and a 132-inch broad jump. If a team prefers to use him in the slot, then Moore would still have WR2 upside.

Owner of the best name in his class, Equanimeous St. Brown also owns some impressive measurables, most notably his 6-5 frame and 20 bench reps, top-four in the class. He skipped the vertical and broad jumps but should be able to translate his size and strength into red-zone prowess, and I think he can be a bit more than just a touchdown scorer. His 4.48-second 40-time is excellent for his size. For me, his high ceiling makes him a more appealing dynasty option — pending his team — than some safer bets like Calvin Ridley.

Jaleel Scott is the last of the 6-5 prospects, and he looks more like St. Brown than he does either Auden Tate or Allen Lazard to me. His 4.40-second shuttle time is poor, although not surprising for his build, but he has big 10.5-inch hands to pair with his size and catch balls without much separation. He has the versatility to do more for fantasy owners than simply catch touchdowns.

J’Mon Moore boasts an impressive set of tools. He has size — he’s 6-3 and 207 pounds. He has strength — he was one of just four receiver prospects who exceeded 20 bench reps. He has agility — he ran the fastest shuttle time in the class of 4.04 seconds. And he has vertical leaping ability — he jumped 38 inches, top five in the class. The only thing Moore doesn’t have is top-end speed — he was bottom-five with a 4.60-second 40-time — but that is hardly a deal-breaker for a No. 1 receiver. I think he has that kind of ceiling, but comps like Cody Latimer and Breshad Perriman exemplify a bust potential.

With a background as a basketball player, Javon Wims is a relative newcomer to football and possesses the excellent athleticism but lack of college production you would expect of someone with that profile. When he did see targets at Georgia, Wims produced solid 14.7 yards per reception and 12.9 percent touchdown rates. He ran a very quick 4.53-second 40-time for his size of 6-3 and 215 pounds. He likely won’t be an immediate impact player in the NFL, but he has better long-term fantasy potential than most of the receivers who are.

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