In a world filled with chaotic movement, there's nothing wrong with a little simplicity. We could all use something that's easy to understand. In terms of projecting to the NFL level, that player with a breath of simplicity is Leonte Carroo among this year's wide receiver class. Coming in with an impressive college résumé, Carroo carries the profile of a mid-tier prospect who could earn a role with his pro team early, and hold it for seasons to come.
» Extremely impressive college production profile
» Physical player who can bully defenders in-route and after the catch
» Not afraid of tight coverage or traffic in the middle of the field
» Nuance and creativity releasing from press coverage and in certain routes
» Excellent ball skills with the requisite strength for winning contested catches
As the main cog of the Rutgers offense, Leonte Carroo owned a massive portion of the passing production over his career. Per PFF Fantasy's Kevin Cole, Carroo checks in with a .36 career market share, which Cole refers to as "dominant" and "in the top-5 of the 2016 class." While I always caution against using market share as a vehicle to making a clear conclusion about a player's ability, it's an underscore to the list of quality translatable traits Carroo brings to the table.
At 6-feet tall and 211 pounds, with shorter arms, Carroo comes with a unique stout build at the wide receiver position. He knows how to use it, to boot. Carroo easily dispels with physically inferior cornerbacks when he puts the lean on the defender at the break points in routes. He also combines surprising short area burst and his strength to consistently make the first defender miss after the catch. On the comeback routes specifically, Carroo chops back with great footwork.
Carroo was a top-scorer in the Reception Perception evaluation of the 2016 receiver class at contested catch conversion rate and success rate vs. press coverage. He has no issues playing in traffic, and can successfully high-point the ball while jostling with defensive backs at the catch point. There are several mature release moves in Carroo's arsenal, and he often gets free from jams at the line of scrimmage. Again, there's some of his strength and short-area quickness in play there, but Carroo shows flashes of a developing craftsmen in this regard as well.
» 2015 production came in chunks
» Doesn't bring same nuance from the line of scrimmage to the intermediate point in routes
» Can struggle to separate from man coverage when facing lengthy cornerbacks
» Per NFL Media's Lance Zierlein, "Scouts have concerns regarding Carroo's personal character and reliability"
Leonte Carroo's bulk production and market share stats are quite impressive, recording 809 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games. Yet, it's important to note those numbers came in wavering chunks. He accumulated over half of his final season yards and nine of his 10 touchdowns in just three games. While that speaks to a tangible ceiling Carroo carries, it also illuminates concerns about projecting him as a primary option in an NFL passing game.
The nuances and subtle moves that Carroo uses at the line of scrimmage to deflect press coverage don't follow him the further down the route he goes. We know Carroo has good agility and burst, but he doesn't supplement that with head fakes, stutter steps or deception needed to consistently create separation like a top-level prospect. Carroo's frame also limits him against strong man cover corners with more stretched-out frames than his. His squat build helps him in several aspects of the game, but could be an issue exacerbated in the NFL against longer defensive backs with better size.
I don't feel at all informed enough to cast judgement on this part of his evaluation, but we should note that Carroo was charged with assault in a domestic incident. To be fair, the charge was eventually dismissed and the player suspended just two games for the incident. He also missed the first half of another game after a suspension for being late and missing curfew. Whether there are valid character concerns or not, I don't know. Yet, with the current tenor surrounding such incidents in the league, Carroo could take a small tumble down draft boards, which would inevitably affect his fantasy stock and opportunity.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
The Falcons signed Mohamed Sanu, which might take them out of the running for a first-round wide receiver. However, Atlanta cannot stand pat at the position, and could poke around pass catchers on the second day of the draft. Carroo could fill many of the roles Roddy White held for this team in the late portions of his career. Sanu's former team, the Bengals, could be another club that follows that strategy if they pass on a receiver in Round 1.
Dallas needs a more reliable complement to Dez Bryant than Terrance Williams. After nabbing a blue-chip talent at No. 4 overall, the Cowboys could swing back for a player like Carroo at the top of the second or third round. The division rival Giants are in even more dire straights at the position, and could employ the same strategy. Either NFC East team, and particularly New York, present great opportunity for Carroo to seize No. 2 receiver duties right away.
Two dark horses to watch for Carroo's services are the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots. The latter still has nothing in the way of a true X-receiver, and Carroo could at least adequately fill that role. The Saints need another physical wideout with the Marques Colton era over. Neither team is looking for a vertical threat, and Carroo's physical play in traffic and quick release fit perfectly in both offenses.
Early fantasy draft projection
Everything in Leonte Carroo's profile speaks to a player with easy to translate traits for the NFL game. He should go on the second day of the draft, and with refinement, will likely end up as one of his new team's longtime complementary receivers.
However, his frame, lack of elite vertical ability and issues separating on a route-to-route basis make him a tough sell as a team's No. 1 option in a passing game. Perhaps he could fill in at that spot, but his team will likely always seek an upgrade. Much of his game is reminiscent of a more explosive, mid-career Anquan Boldin, which is far from a bad thing. It will just take the perfect mix of offense and passing volume for Carroo to ever approach WR1 status year-in-and-year-out for fantasy.
Leonte Carroo is a safe and steady pick in the mid-to-late first round in dynasty rookie drafts. He projects as a long-time contributor who will produce if given the requisite targets. Should he land with one of those ideal opportunity-filled landing spots married to a strong quarterback, Carroo could even make some noise early in his career.