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Talented K.J. Maye faces battle to fantasy relevance

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Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Minnesota wide receiver K.J. Maye.

K.J. Maye certainly didn't let his small stature prevent him from showing up big on the football field in his final season with the Golden Gophers. The 5-foot-8 dynamo led the team with 73 catches, 773 receiving yards and five touchdowns thanks to a combination of polished route-running and deceptive quickness. But will Maye be able to make the big transition to the NFL and still make an impact, particularly in fantasy? Let's dive into the tape and find out.

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Maye's NFL.com draft profile

Strengths

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:


     » Quick getting in and out of his breaks
     » Good after-the-catch awareness and vision
     » Shows good footwork in route-running
     » Owned nearly 30 percent of Minnesota passing offense in 2015

Maye isn't an explosive athlete by any means, but he's able to use the tools he has to get open with regularity. While at Minnesota he showed a nice ability to set up corner backs with subtle fakes in his routes to create separation. Moreover, his footwork was great when working on comebacks or in more complex double moves. Despite his small hands (8-1/2 inches), he seemed to be a sure-handed pass-catcher with surprising ability in contested situations. While Maye's senior statistical line isn't overly impressive (73-773-5), the Minnesota passing attack isn't exactly what one would call prolific. Maye's reception and yardage totals both accounted for just shy of 30 percent of the total Minnesota passing attack in those categories. Finally, Maye showed some wiggle after the catch and on returns, which is where he may have to make an initial impact in the NFL.

Weaknesses


     » Size will undoubtedly be a concern
     » More quick than fast
     » Could be limited to only slot work

Standing just 5-foot-8, Maye will be one of the smallest receivers in the 2016 class, and his 8-1/2 inch hands will be a non-starter for some teams. However, while short, Maye isn't small, as he has a fair amount of muscle compacted onto his frame and can fight through tackles and press coverage. However, his height and athleticism will likely limit him to working almost exclusively out of the slot, which will lower his fantasy ceiling out of the gate. If Maye can learn to use his quickness and already polished route-running to his advantage, he could see the field relatively early with the right team.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Tampa Bay Buccaneers
     » Cincinnati Bengals
     » New York Giants
     » Chicago Beras

The Bucs have a good thing going with their tall wide receivers and tight ends so far, but could use a dynamic player from the slot to give Jameis Winston a security blanket. The Bengals haven't signed a new slot receiver in free agency since Mohamed Sanu headed down to Atlanta, so Maye could be an immediate contributor. I feel like we've pegged almost every wide receiver in this series to the Giants, but they need talent behind Odell Beckham Jr. on both the outside and slot. The Bears have Eddie Royal returning from injury, but could stand to get younger in the slot and build depth in general at wide receiver.

Early fantasy draft projection

Maye will have an uphill battle to true fantasy relevance, but he's a high-character player (according to reports) and has plenty of skills coaches would like to work with. Even in a perfect landing spot, Maye will still probably be best left as a waiver wire option in redraft and dynasty formats, but he is certailny a player worth keeping an eye on.

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-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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