The 2016 NFL draft is unique in that it is stacked with defensive talent and offensive linemen. While the depth at the offensive skill positions is lacking, respectively, there are some talented prospects at quarterback, running back, and receiver that figure to be early first round picks. Teams will always value the quarterback position above all others and this year offers two blue chip prospects and another likely first round pick. Receiver and running back are thinner but each has a single player with elite ability. Let’s take a look at the offensive skill positions in the 2016 NFL draft.
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State; Wentz has prototype size, a history of winning and a diverse skill set. His work at the Senior Bowl, in which he was praised by the Cowboy’s staff and the scouts in attendance, helped solidify him as a top 5 talent. He has struggled with injuries in the past and will be making the jump from a small school but a year on the bench learning from a veteran on a team with a skilled developer of quarterbacks will fix the latter.
Jared Goff, QB, Cal; Goff is everything that you want in a quarterback. Poised, consistent, confident, and professional. He’s the one quarterback that has the skills to play immediately this year, although Wentz (and Paxton Lynch) both have more upside potential. Goff has excelled at getting the most out of his ability and he has all the tools needed to develop into a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback. He should be off the board in the top 5.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis; Lynch is a big kid with a great arm. He led Memphis to some big wins over major programs and has looked the part throughout his career. Still, Auburn seemed to have a handle on him in their bowl game, and one wonders if Lynch shouldn’t have stuck out another year in college to develop more. Still, his size and athletic ability alone are worthy of him being taken in the top 15 picks, and it isn’t hard to see at least one quarterback needy team falling in love with him.
Honorable Mentions: Connor Cook, Michigan State; Cardale Jones, OSU, Dak Prescott, Mississippi State. Each player has potential but needs to find a home with a team that can develop quarterbacks patiently to fit their system.
Sleeper: Kevin Hogan, Stanford; Hogan is a what you see is what you get player but what I see on film is not bad. He’s limited athletically but he plays an intelligent brand of football and has the arm strength to make all of the necessary throws. Based on my analysis to date I would pass on the middle tier of quarterbacks and take Hogan a round later.
Ezekial Elliott, RB, OSU; Elliott is a versatile athlete that can change the game for an NFL team. He has the talent to merit a top 10 selection. There’s not much he can’t do and he is such a dynamic threat with the ball it’s hard to see him falling much farther.
Derek Henry, RB, Alabama: Henry is a big bodied physical back that is similar to the other recent backs to leave the University of Alabama. I don’t see him as a first round player but he could sneak into the lower third. He should be off the board by the 35th pick.
Honorable Mentions/Sleepers: There’s a glut of talented players after Henry and Elliott. None are perfect and given the difference in NFL systems, predicting the next tier, or a sleeper, is basically just picking which team will take a guy next.
Laquan Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss; Treadwell is a dynamic player that can impact the game early and develop into a Pro-Bowl caliber receiver early. He should have a great career as he has an excellent size/speed ratio and shows the athleticism and consistency needed to excel as a professional. He’s a top 15 selection.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor; Coleman is a big play waiting to happen. His thin frame causes some concern and he might have to adjust against superior talent instead of relying on his athleticism and the Art Briles offensive system but he is the best playmaker in this receiver class. He should be off the board by the 25th pick.
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame; Fuller is a deep threat with blinding speed. He can start from day 1 as a field stretching second receiver. He’ll never likely be a versatile number one receiver but it shouldn’t matter. Fuller gets deep. That’s what he does. Top 30 pick.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Doctson, TCU, Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, Michael Thomas, OSU Doctson shows flashes of being a great receiver but needs more consistency. Thomas is consistent but looks limited to a possession receiver role. Shepard has a rare combination of straight line speed and quickness but he's small and thin and will have to prove that he can get open against the more physical NFL cornerbacks.
Sleeper: Roger Lewis, Bowling Green Lewis has the skill set he needs but he wasn't asked to run many routes in college (mostly screens and go routes) and he'll need to polish up his route running as his second gear is lacking. He also brings major character concerns that will likely cause him to drop to the draft's third day. If he can put his offfield issues behind him, learn, and move forward while focusing on football, he'll be a steal after round 4.