After already examining 2016 NFL Draft props on quarterbacks and running backs for Round 1 this week, let's stick with the skill-position talent and check out the betting options for receivers in next week's draft.
Teams are passing more in the NFL than they ever have, and the vast majority of teams last season threw more than they ran the ball. Sure, there were a few exceptions to the rule. Carolina had the NFL's best regular-season record at 15-1 and rushed the ball 526 times while throwing it 501 times. But the Panthers also had a very weak group of receivers and a great running quarterback in Cam Newton. They really had no choice but to cut down on the throwing.
But only five teams attempted fewer than 500 passes in 2015: Seattle (relied on a running game and stout defense), Kansas City (same as Seattle), the now-L.A Rams (terrible quarterbacks), Buffalo (Rex Ryan always has been a running coach) and Minnesota (Vikings have Adrian Peterson). Meanwhile, 15 teams threw it at least 600 times, led by Baltimore's 676 attempts.
My point of all this is that having a star receiver is now generally more important in the NFL than a star running back. Last offseason, the Dallas Cowboys essentially had to choose between keeping league rushing champion DeMarco Murray or top receiver Dez Bryant and chose Bryant. Green Bay's offense struggled last year when top receiver Jordy Nelson was lost for the season in the spring. The year before with a healthy Nelson, the Pack were almost unstoppable on offense and nearly reached the Super Bowl.
This brings me to the 2016 NFL Draft. Teams are now favoring taking a receiver over a running back with their first-round pick all other things being equal. In fact, not a single running back went in the first round in 2013 or '14. And GMs all around the NFL are still drooling over that 2014 draft. It might have been the best class of receivers in one class in NFL history:
-Sammy Watkins, chosen No. 4 overall by Buffalo. He cost the Bills their 2015 first-round pick to move up and get him. Watkins is a terrific player but a bit injury-prone.
-Mike Evans, picked No. 7 overall by Tampa Bay. He has 2,257 yards and 15 TDs in his two seasons.
-Odell Beckham Jr., chosen No. 11 overall by the NY Giants. Beckham is now the most exciting player in the NFL and might go No. 1 overall if there was a re-draft.
-Brandin Cooks, No. 20 by New Orleans. Missed time as a rookie but had 84 catches for 1,138 yards and nine TDs last year.
-Kelvin Benjamin, No. 28 by Carolina. Had a great rookie season but missed all of 2015 -- think of how good the Panthers might have been with him.
And that's just the first round. Other guys picked in that draft: Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Jarvis Landry, Jordan Matthews, Davante Adams, John Brown, Martavis Bryant. That's an amazing class.
Last year's was also pretty deep if not quite as good. Amari Cooper (a future superstar), Kevin White (missed entire season), DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman (missed entire season) and Phillip Dorsett all were first-round picks.
I'm here to tell you that the 2016 class doesn't match up to the past two years. Ladbrokes lists a total of 3.5 receivers on NFL odds to go in the first round, with the 'under' at -150 and ' over' at +115.
The top prospect is widely considered to be Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell. You might remember that he suffered a gruesome leg injury to end his 2014 season. But he bounced back last year and had 82 catches for 1,153 yards and 11 scores. He's not a big-play guy like Beckham because Treadwell isn't a burner, but he has good size at 6-foot-2 and should be a good possession guy. He is the -210 favorite on NFL picks to be the first receiver off the board. Treadwell could go as a high as No. 8 to Cleveland after the Browns moved back to that spot on Wednesday in a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia for the No. 2 overall pick.
The second-favorite to go first is Notre Dame's Will Fuller at +350 on NFL picks. Fuller is the fastest guy in the class but has just one problem: actually catching the ball. He had several drops last year with the Irish. Fuller tends to use his body instead of hands to get the ball. But if you want big plays, he's the pick over Treadwell.
The next two guys with NFL odds to be chosen as the first receiver are Baylor's Corey Coleman at +400 and TCU's Josh Doctson at +650. Both put up video game numbers in 2015 but that was also partly due to the up-tempo offenses they played in.
NFL Free Picks: Treadwell goes first, no later than No. 15 to Tennessee (if Titans stay there) or No. 16 to Detroit. All four guys go in the first round so go 'over' that 3.5 total.