The Buccaneers have transformed their offense into a towering attack anchored by Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. With the hope of 2015 draft selection Kenny Bell coming on, the receiving core is taking shape as a dynamic red zone attack looking to add speed to the mix. The Buccaneers want shiftiness and speed in the slot with guys that can take the top off as well as catch the quick bubble and go. Outside the team has shown a desire to get tall options that can impose their physical will on defenses. Koetter and co. will possibly look to take the offense to the next step by adding another slot option to the mix.
Who are the prospects and where do they fit?
1. Laquon Treadwell, Wide Receiver, Ole Miss
Weight: 221 lbs
Yards Per Reception: 14.1
Receiving Touchdowns: 11
Length and height are there to be a borderline number 1 receiver down the line. Treadwell extends well and high points the ball while winning a majority of his 50/50 ball chances. Displays awareness and ability to work back to the ball . Treadwell displays the necessary body control and field awareness to be a threat sideline to sideline. Shows the center field skillset, tracking ball and showing the focus to haul in over the shoulder passes. Awareness and understanding of defensive schemes has allowed him to work incredibly well against zone looks. Post catch, Treadwell utilizes a good stiff arm and natural strength to fight for extra yards. Treadwell lacks the second gear many teams look for in a true number threat. He isn’t a threat to break away from the pack and relies entirely on route running which is about average at this point in his game and separating in the air. Bucs fans will appreciate this as Mike Williams made a short career out of just that. Treadwell needs to show more physicality out of his release and must show full concentration when receiving the ball.
Suffered a season ending injury in 2014 (broken fibula, dislocated ankle). Treadwell was the top receiver coming out of high school as a 5-star recruit. Treadwell earned All-American honors and was a Biletnikoff award finalist. Teammates rave about Treadwell as a teammate and leader as do coaches for his work ethic. Following Treadwell’s injury in 2014, teammates had this to say: “Laquon’s such a great guy and great leader on this team,” said Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. “We have a lot of fun with him on the field and we’re really successful with him on the field, so it hurts. It’s really tough and that’s the bitterness in my mouth right now — losing him. I’m not really worried about the loss. It sucks, but losing Laquon is a lot tougher. “He’s definitely the voice. He’s very vocal and doesn’t let anybody drag around.”
The Buccaneers are going to need to replace Vincent Jackson at some point and Treadwell would be the guy to do it with. With natural hands and solid size, Treadwell’s ability to separate in air and at the point of reception mixed with Winston’s ability to place the football would be a dynamite connection alongside Mike Evans, Seferian-Jenkins and potentially Afro-Thunder.
2. Josh Doctson, Wide Receiver, TCU
Weight: 202 lbs
Class: redshirt Senior
Yards Per Reception: 17.0
Receiving Touchdowns: 14
Doctson displays smooth route transitions and the ability to glide up to speed. Displays ability to slip coverage to get separation. Climbs the ladder to make catches, displaying good use of length and high pointing the football. Body control is good and along the sidelines shows the awareness to locate feet inbounds. Uses hands and body well running down field to create initial separation. After the catch he shows the shiftiness and quickness to separate and get YAC. Doctson shows good foundational strength but will need to add some more to fight off number one corners. Lacks a strong base as a run blocker. Doctson can stand to stay lower and keep a lower base when running to help with planting and driving. Must work on overall detail with route tree, tends to round routes and isn’t quite as crisp as you’d like.
Suffered a broken wrist before the season ended. Set school record for touchdowns and finished second in school history in yards and receptions. Biletnikoff award finalist. Received nearly 40% of the teams targets when on the field. 1st Team All American honors. Transferred to TCU after beginning his college career at Wyoming.
Doctson would be a Vincent Jackson replacement down the line in year two, adding another young lengthy receiver with some decent speed and the ability to make contested catches. Doctson showed the ability to be a dynamic threat while being the main focal point of an offensive passing attack at TCU, in Tampa Doctson wouldn’t have to be the focal point and one could argue he’d be the third option in the passing game making him even more effective.
3. Michael Thomas, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Weight: 212 lbs
Class: redshirt Junior
Yards Per Reception: 13.9
Receiving Touchdowns: 9
Thomas is built like a number 1 and has enough speed to justify the thought that he could develop into a number one down the line. Thomas displays the strength to run block but needs to refine the technique. As a route runner, Thomas must work on refining his transitions and selling his fakes. Thomas drives off the line well and shows the ability to come back to the ball. Uses hands and speed well to separate deep. Thomas shows the awareness to reach out and pluck the ball when needed. At times will let ball get into his chest. Displays below average footwork and body control when running route. Thomas looked natural working deep the few opportunities he had to do so. Strength and surprising speed allowed for some broken tackles and YAC. Showed awareness and determination needed to be a good red zone target at the next level. Level of play suffers ups and downs with a seemingly lack of confidence against aggressive corners.
Nephew of former top NFL pick Keyshawn Johnson. Struggled early on at Ohio State to make grades and grasp the offense. 3rd team All Big Ten. Thomas is an admitted work in progress as he still learns the nuances of the position. Thomas decided to enter the draft early following his Junior season. “I’ve had a chance to speak with my Dad and family the people I lean on and have decided to forgo my Senior year and chase a life long dream of playing on Sunday,” Thomas wrote in a message on Twitter.
Michael Thomas has one of the highest ceilings of any receiver in this class when you mix his gifted natural size and abilities with the overall lack of refinement to his game. Thomas had two solid years while working with a disaster of a quarterback competition in 2015 and going through several quarterbacks in 2014. Thomas would be an heir apparent to Vincent Jackson and could form a wonderful 1-2 punch with Mike Evans out wide.
4. Corey Coleman, Wide Receiver, Baylor
Weight: 194 lbs
Class: redshirt Junior
Yards Per Reception: 18.4
Receiving Touchdowns: 20
Coleman displays great get off and foot speed. Deep speed is impressive and displayed shiftiness to beat corners regularly at Baylor causing teams to roll safety help. Displayed the ability and willingness to work back to the ball. Despite lack of height and length, won a majority of 50/50 balls. Body control down the sidelines was impressive. Corners proved to be able to shade him out of the play on deep sideline throws. Doesn’t display crisp breaks on comebacks, often having to dig deeper than you’d like to get his momentum to stop and come back. Doesn’t display hands catching away from the body too often, regularly letting ball into the body. Dropped a high percentage of passes and worked with a limited route tree at Baylor. Has shown a slight tendency to shy from passes over the middle of the field.
Troubling childhood growing up in a dangerous neighborhood. Godson of former Baylor DB Ray Crockett, his God Father and his mom played huge roles in helping Coleman get to where he is today. Biletnikoff Award winner, 1st team All Conference and All American in 2015.
Bucs fans have an obsession with a speedy deep threat and Coleman would be just that. Coleman could come in immediately and work the slot while eventually replacing Vincent Jackson. Coleman doesn’t quite have the ceiling of the top three guys on my rankings list here but his speed and shiftiness make him a candidate to have early success.
5. Sterling Shepard, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
Weight: 194 lbs
Yards Per Reception: 15.0
Receiving Touchdowns: 11
Shepard lacks the play strength and desired height/length of a number one receiver. When pressed, Shepard will struggle to get off cleanly and windows in the NFL are going to be harder to come by as a lot of Shepard’s damage comes off free open releases. While running, Shepard displays very smooth transitions in and out of breaks with little wasted movement. Shows good speed out of his break and accelerates with ease into his final gear. Displayed a full route arsenal out of the slot and showed the versatility to line up outside and run a full array of route depths. Gets on top of the corner with a crisp double move and showed the second gear to take the top off. Shows the ability to adjust to the ball and tracks it well in the air, bringing it in with very sure hands. When on the outside, will get boxed to the sideline and shaded out of the play. Lacks the big catch radius of some other top prospects at the position.
Phenomenal work ethic and high character kid according to coaches. Son of former Sooner receiver Derrick Shepard. Shepard took on a big leadership role during the 2014 season for the Sooners. Quarterback Trevor Knight stated that Shepard had done a terrific job with being the vocal leader of the wide out group. The praise comes from his coaches as well. “He’s really emerged as a strong leader for us on offense,” Stoops said. “He’s consistent. He’s had a great winter in the way he has worked. He’s pushing other guys. He’s going to be a guy that we have to focus on and find different ways to keep getting him the ball more, which is obvious to everyone. He’s been great.” “I’ve told Shep that his world his different now,” Norvell said. “He’s not the young guy. He’s played a lot of football around here and he knows what it takes to win big games. He’s got to make players around him better.”
The Buccaneers have two twin towers outside and Seferian-Jenkins inside at tight end. Despite Kenny Bell being drafted a year ago, a player like Shepard would immediately step in and provide a major boost as a slot receiver should the team not be entirely sold on Bell in the slot. Shepard is a dynamic slot threat that would give Winston a 4th weapon in the passing game without looking at the dynamic duo in the backfield.
6. Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh
Weight: 197 lbs
Yards Per Reception: 10.2
Receiving Touchdowns: 6
Boyd shows the willingness to go over the middle and displays reliable hands to do so. Displays ability to make contested catches and hangs onto the ball, wins a good amount of his 50/50 chances. Boyd shows the body control and sideline awareness to make catches deep while staying in bounds. Boyd displays the ability to turn on a dime and come back to the ball to help out his quarterback. Boyd shows the awareness to beat zone coverage and finds the soft spot well. Boyd isn’t going to win many matchups with blazing speed, instead it’s going to be clean route running and shiftiness to gain separation. In order for Boyd to reach his own potential he’ll need a quarterback willing to pull the trigger as soon as the window begins to open. Boyd doesn’t shield defenders as well as you’d like and tends to a bit care free with ball protection that will need to get cleaned up.
Boyd is and was a leader for the Pitt football team but it didn’t come without a bump in the road. Boyd was pulled over for a DUI back in June of 2015. The DUI happened while he was 20 years old and raised questions about his leadership and role as an influential athlete on the team. Boyd accepted responsibility and among some quarterback turmoil, posted another very respectable season that was capitalized with Boyd leaving as the schools all time leader in receptions and yards. Two-Time first team ALL-ACC as a receiver and third team All American honoree. Boyd was the vocal and on field leader of the receivers and proved his value with three productive seasons at Pitt.
Boyd would be an added safety net for Jameis Winston as a slot receiver that can be moved outside and juggled around. His rounded game and knowledge of the route tree and willingness to block would make for a very formidable number three receiver early on while growing into a number two behind Mike Evans.
7. Rashard Higgins, Wide Receiver, Colorado State
Weight: 196 lbs
Yards Per Reception: 14.3
Receiving Touchdowns: 8
“Hollywood” Higgins is a smooth strider that displays very good footwork and transitions in his routes. Higgins shows good body control and shiftiness, utilizing both to help create separation. Higgins does a very good job adjusting to the ball and has shown the ability to find the soft spots against zone coverage. Higgins displays solid hands, extends out and finishes with the ball against his body tucked safely away. Concentration drops will happen but showed signs of improvement in 2015. Higgins is a willing blocker in the run game, displaying good effort throughout the block. Higgins lacks strength and mass at this point in time but has good length. Will struggle to get off the line cleanly against press coverage and is not a threat to breakaway from the pack post catch.
Higgins enters the draft as his school’s all-time leader in receptions (239), receiving yards (3,649) and receiving touchdowns (31) after a “down” year in 2015. In 2014, Higgins led the nation in touchdown catches and receiving yards. 1st team All-Mountain West selection in ’15. 1st team All Conference and All American honors in 2014 as well as a Biletnikoff award finalist. Nicknamed “Hollywood”, Rashard Higgins boasts great self confidence and work ethic.
With Vincent Jackson aging and Kenny Bell still a relative unknown at the NFL level, Higgins is a guy that could come in and rotate in as the season goes on as a number three receiver. By year two, there’s a real chance that Higgins develops enough physically and mentally to take on a full number three/borderline number two role as a receiver before ultimately rounding out as a solid number two receiver by year three.
8. Will Fuller, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Weight: 186 lbs
Yards: 1,258 yards
Yards Per Reception: 20.3
Receiving Touchdowns: 14
Fuller has dynamic speed and big play ability. Fuller does a good job selling his double moves before launching up field. Displays good footwork and balance. When even with the defensive back, Fuller is a quick and easy burst away from creating big separation. Receives a good amount of space for a free release off the line due to respect for his speed. Displays the ball tracking skills necessary for being a deep threat. For all the down field ability, Fuller does not display the desire and toughness to go over the middle consistently. Fuller is a body catcher and rarely extends out while displaying incredibly poor hands at times. Struggles as a run blocker. One dimensional as a receiver.
Fuller is an emotional leader for the Fighting Irish and was awarded All American honors as well as being named a Biletnikoff award finalist. Fuller had a rough upbringing and eventually landed at Notre Dame where he took off in his second and third seasons.
The Buccaneers lack a true speed threat to go deep and take the top off the defense, Fuller would bring just that. Fuller would force teams to respect the deep ball which opens things up for ASJ and co underneath. Whether the Bucs would be willing to spend an early pic on a one trick pony is the real question, and that answer is probably no.
9. Braxton Miller, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Class: redshirt Senior
Yards Per Reception: 13.6
Receiving Touchdowns: 3
Miller has the size, speed and quickness to excel at receiver in the NFL. Miller has long speed to get on top of the defense and the short area explosion to create separation at the drop of a hat. Showed solid hands in his limited time at the position over the past year and showed that his shiftiness extended to more than just evading the pocket as a QB. Miller has a lot of work to do in the form of refining his route running and becoming more crisp in that aspect. Miller tends to be too upright and appears to need more reps to get comfortable with his intermediate routes. Miller shows some loose habits when it comes to ball security and can stand to use some tips on hand usage when out in his route. Press coverage showed some more small problems with getting off the line cleanly and getting knocked off his route. At this stage, Miller is a high upside player with a clean slate to work with at receiver.
The Ohio State Quarterback turned receiver has been a leader for the team the last three seasons. Miller doesn’t shy away from the role and doesn’t shy away from hard work. Miller under went two surgeries for a shoulder injury and during that time, decided to make the change to receiver. Miller is a two time Big Ten Silver Football Award winner, given to the conferences best player.
Miller would be a dynamic slot and short area receiver with the shiftiness and acceleration to be a YAC machine. The Bucs are hoping Kenny Bell can contribute this season as the number three but the team would be wise to look at all options and Miller should absolutely be one of those options.
10. Kenny Lawler, Wide Receiver, California
Weight: 203 lbs
Class: redshirt Junior
Yards Per Reception: 12.7
Receiving Touchdowns: 13
Lawler was an red zone machine for the Cal offense. Lawler utilizes length well and extends out to the football. Lawler adjusts well to the ball and shows the body control necessary to keep hands under the ball on low throws and to pluck the ball out of the air while keeping feet in bounds on the side lines. Lawler displays good footwork and gets up to his top gear quickly. Shows the ability to sink hips and accelerate out of his breaks. Lawler has struggled with some easy drops and despite good footwork, he is not a crisp route runner. Lawler has a habit of rounding off his routes and doesn’t have a clean release out of his stance. Lawler is a bit lean and will struggle to run block and get off press coverage. Limited post catch and will be forced to a possession role in the NFL. Lawler does a good job finding soft spots in zone but will lack the speed to take the top off and create on his own in the NFL.
First team All-Pac-12 selection in 2015 and finished his career in 2nd on Cal’s all time list for touchdown reception. Lawler is a noted hard worker and was well liked by teammates while being Goff’s main red zone target.
Lawler isn’t necessarily the type of receiver you’d expect the Bucs to target given his lack of speed and ability to create. That said, Lawler would add another tall target for Jameis Winston and understands how to attack zone defenses while being able to line up in the slot or outside. Lawler should develop into a serviceable number two receiver and should be expected to turn into a good number three.
11. Leonte Carroo, Rutgers
12. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
13. Kolby Listenbee, TCU
14. Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa
15. Aaron Burbidge, Michigan State
16. Jordan Payton, UCLA
17. Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts
18. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
19. Jaydon MIckens, Washington
20. Geronimo Allison, Illinois
21. Demarcus Robinson, Florida
22. Demarcus Ayers, Houston
23. Devon Cajuste, Stanford
24. Hunter Sharp, Utah State
25. D’haquille Williams, Auburn
- Laquon Treadwell – 8.0
- Josh Doctson – 7.9
- Michael Thomas – 7.8
- Corey Coleman – 7.7
- Sterling Shepard – 7.6
- Tyler Boyd – 7.5
- Rashard Higgins – 7.5
- Will Fuller – 7.3
- Braxton Miller – 7.3
- Kenny Lawler – 7.2
- Leonte Carroo – 7.2
- Pharoh Cooper – 7.1
- Kolby Listenbee – 7.0
- Keyarris Garrett – 6.9
- Aaron Burbidge – 6.9
- Jordan Payton – 6.9
- Tajae Sharpe -6.8
- Malcolm Mitchell – 6.7
- Jaydon Mickens – 6.5
- Geronimo Allison – 6.5
- Demarcus Robinson – 6.4
- Demarcus Ayers – 6.1
- Devon Cajuste – 6.0
- Hunter Sharp – 5.7
- D’haquille Williams – 5.2
9.0 – 10 (Top 5)
8.4 – 8.9 (Top 10)
8.1 – 8.3 (Top 15)
7.8 – 8.0 (1st Round)
7.5 – 7.7 (2nd Round)
7.2 – 7.4 (3rd Round)
6.8 – 7.1 (4th Round)
6.4 – 6.7 (5th Round)
6.0 – 6.3 (6th Round)
5.7 – 5.9 (7th Round)
0.0 – 5.6 (Undrafted)