MOBILE, Ala. -- Whatever the wide receiver class of 2016 does in the National Football League, it likely will not enter with the same pomp as its two predecessors. A total of nine receivers were selected in the first two rounds in 2014 and 2015, with the first one coming off the board four picks into both drafts. Already, those two groups have yielded one bona fide star (Odell Beckham Jr.) and five other first-rounders with at least one 1,000-yard season in the league.
If there is no thoroughbred on the order of Amari Cooper or Sammy Watkins in this draft, the current group of receivers does figure to offer plenty of options for teams such as the Minnesota Vikings that could find themselves in need of a big target for their young quarterback. Mississippi junior Laquon Treadwell (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) tops most mock drafts right now, while TCU senior Josh Doctson (6-3, 195) comes in behind him. And the group of tall targets could also include several players who have attracted attention at this week's Senior Bowl -- Ohio State's Braxton Miller chief among them.
The converted quarterback has been the talk of Senior Bowl week, thanks to slick footwork and fluid route-running skills that belie his one year of experience at the position. Miller, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighed in at 204 pounds, should see his draft stock rise after the Senior Bowl, and he could push it up further at next month's NFL scouting combine if he does what he talked about on Wednesday. Miller said he plans to run at the combine, and added he's shooting for a 40-yard dash time of 4.28 seconds.
"It's going to be a low 4.3, but I want to run 4.28 seconds," Miller said Wednesday. "I feel like I'm capable because I ran 4.36 when I was 215 pounds and I had bad eating habits, too. Now I'm on a strict diet, working out and training hard."
Matt Bowen took a more detailed look at why Miller has been so impressive in this ESPN Insider piece, and while the receiver was limited on Thursday because of cramps in his right calf, Miller said he'll be ready to go for Saturday's game. He's not the only tall target to stand out this week; Jaguars coach Gus Bradley singled out Baylor receiver Jay Lee (6-foot-3, 215 pounds), who's made a number of impressive catches.
Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard, who met with the Vikings on Tuesday night, has been one of the better receivers in Mobile this week, showcasing an ability to cut near full speed and get away from defenders. He's been primarily a slot receiver, and could be an electrifying one in the NFL, but his challenge will be to convince teams he can do more than that at 5-foot-10.
A Vikings coach recently described the ideal mix of wide receivers like a basketball team: a smaller wideout who can use his agility like a point guard, two players with a mix of speed and strength like a shooting guard or small forward, a bigger target who can use his size on defenders like a power forward, and a tight end who can control the red zone and the middle of the field like a center. The Vikings still need to get their power forward from somewhere; Charles Johnson could be a factor again after a nagging rib injury made him the odd man out in 2015. But if the Vikings decide to add a bigger receiver in this year's draft, they'll have some options to consider.