Draft season is a wonderful time of year. Hope springs eternal as most fans believe their team is set to get better thanks to an influx of young talent through the NFL Draft. Last week, I bought into this wishful thinking by dreaming up perfect landing spots for the top running backs in the draft for fantasy purposes. This time around I'll do the same exercise for the top wide receivers. Below are my picks, taking into account each wideout's skillset, the team needs, and overall fit of player-team. This isn't to say these pass-catchers couldn't be successful elsewhere, but I believe the pairings below could make some sweet, sweet fantasy music in 2016 and beyond. Feel free to send me your favorite landing spots for these wide receivers and other prospects on Twitter @AlexGelhar to keep the discussion going as well.
Treadwell entered draft season as the presumptive No. 1 wide receiver, but as the endless nitpicking has gone on, he's now rumored to potentially fall out of the first round. Whether in the first or second round, he'd be a fantastic fit for the New York Giants.
While Odell Beckham Jr. is an all-world talent, he's yet to have an effective running mate in his two years in the NFL. Rueben Randle put up some okay numbers, but he was far too inconsistent on a game-by-game, and even route-by-route basis. Treadwell is an underrated route-runner with the size and length to dominate contested catches. Moreover, he has plenty of ability after the catch to be a real threat opposite OBJ. With Randle now in Philadelphia, his 90 targets from 2015 are open for Treadwell to take, likely more as well with Preston Parker also out of the picture. Treadwell's size would also give the team an added element in the red zone, where Randle saw 11 targets in 2015. Facing single coverage and secondary cornerbacks opposite OBJ would also allow for some of Treadwell's deficiencies (like his speed) to be masked. All told, this would be a perfect landing spot for the Ole Miss product.
Coleman enters the draft as the most enticing pure athlete among the wide receiver class, with broad jump, vertical jump and 40-yard dash scores all in the 90th percentile among prospects since 1999. That's exactly the type of juice the Texans passing attack needs opposite DeAndre Hopkins to help stretch the field and provide dynamic after-the-catch ability.
Nate Washington is now in New England, and Cecil Shorts has struggled to stay healthy for his entire career, including last season in Houston. Coleman could likely slide in as the No. 2 option in a passing attack that should be looking to take flight with Brock Osweiler now under center. Coleman will need to expand his route tree in time, but what he does well (screens, slants, go routes) should gel with Osweiler's current abilities as a passer. He'll be able to hit Coleman on these simple routes and let the talented speedster do the rest. With Lamar Miller also joining Houston this offseason, Coleman could be the home-run threat that the Texans offense is currently missing.
For the first two years of his career, Teddy Bridgewater has been running the Minnesota offense without a true No. 1 wide receiver. The Cordarrelle Patterson hype train derailed as quickly as it left the station, and Mike Wallace was just a poor fit for Bridgewater and the offense in general. If the Vikings are willing to go to the first-round wide receiver well again in 2016, they could find their No. 1 wideout in TCU's Josh Doctson.
Doctson already shows great ability as a route-runner, with excellent short-area quickness and an unmatched ability at the catch point in this class. He is great at tracking the ball in the air and has the size/leaping ability to haul in errant or high throws -- a trait missing from the Vikings pass-catching corps. Now, the Minnesota passing offense isn't exactly prolific, but Bridgewater is a fine young quarterback and there is plenty of room to grow. The Vikings scored a meager 14 touchdowns through the air in 2015, while Doctson scored that many by himself in his senior year. Let's hope Bridgewater gets a talented young pass-catcher like Doctson so we can watch them grow together.
While Shepard is not the biggest or fastest wide receiver in this class, he is the best route-runner, which will allow him to get on the field early as a rookie. Fantasy fans should be hoping that happens with the Buccaneers and their talented young offense. Jameis Winston showed plenty of promise as a rookie, and with Mike Evans owning the outside and Doug Martin dominating the backfield, what the team needs is a dangerous slot/possession receiver to help move the chains and create mismatches over the middle. Enter Sterling Shepard. Shepard could come in as a rotational player to start with Vincent Jackson who is effective enough at age 33, and eventually take over the No. 2 role. Putting Shepard in an offense with a true No. 1 option in Evans and an accurate passer in Winston would be downright dangerous -- and a potential fantasy goldmine.
Carroo has been a name building some buzz as the draft process wears on after a great showing in Senior Bowl practices and a solid NFL combine performance. At 6-foot, 211 pounds, Carroo has the size to be physical with cornerbacks at the line and after the catch, but also has the speed and route-running prowess to be a threat deep as well. He owned a massive percentage of the Rutgers passing attack during his time in college, as analyzed by PFF Fantasy's Kevin Cole, which is another trait in his favor for future NFL success. Adding all of this together, I feel Carroo would be a perfect fit lining up opposite A.J. Green in Cincinnati.
With Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones no longer in town, the team needs a new No. 2 wide receiver. Carroo's size, ability and physicality would be perfectly suited for the Bengals offense. He offers a bit of a combination of what both Sanu and Jones brought to the table, and would be an excellent complement to the 1-2 punch of Green and Tyler Eifert. There are over 150 targets in Cincy up for grabs heading into 2016, and if Carroo was given first crack at them he could turn in a surprisingly great rookie fantasy campaign.
Thomas is a polarizing prospect in the draft community (as Matt Harmon mentions in his profile on the former Buckeye), but regardless of where one falls on that spectrum in their opinion on him as a prospect, it's hard to argue with Thomas being a nice fit for the Atlanta Falcons. Thomas' size, ability in tight coverage and nuance as a route-runner would serve him well filling the No. 2 role opposite Julio Jones and working with Matt Ryan. The Falcons released Roddy White this offseason, and Thomas could fill the role of the sure-handed chain-mover in Kyle Shanahan's offensive attack. The team tried to have Leonard Hankerson fill this role last season, but injuries kept getting in the way. As the second option, Thomas wouldn't be pressed into a role that puts too much pressure on him, while also being able to operate in a more timing-based offense that suits his strengths. Harmon goes into way more detail in his profile, so click the link above if you need to know more. Suffice to say, Thomas could be worth a late-round flier in redrafts as the No. 2 wideout catching passes from Ryan.