• 2016 Colts Training Camp Preview: Wide Receivers
Sammy Watkins. Mike Evans. Odell Beckham Jr. Kelvin Benjamin. Jordan Matthews. Jarvis Landry.
Those are just six of the 13 wide receivers that had been taken off the board by the time the Indianapolis Colts selected Donte Moncrief in the third round in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Don't be mistaken: Moncrief was considered just as talented as virtually all the receivers in his draft class. Evaluators just believed Moncrief was a little raw; in need of just a little fine tuning before he could really take off.
His rookie year, Moncrief played in all 16 games, catching 32 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns. He saw that production basically double in his second season: 64 receptions, 733 yards and six touchdowns.
Many across the league — not to mention on his own team — believe Moncrief is due for a huge third season in the league in 2016 as part of a talented, young and quick crop of wide receivers for the Colts.
Count Chris Wesseling as one of those excited about the prospects of Moncrief's 2016 season.
Wesseling — who writes for Around the NFL on NFL.com — went as far as to say that he thinks Moncrief is "the most obvious breakout candidate at wide receiver in the entire league this year."
"I loved him after watching him," Wesseling said of Moncrief's game film from the 2015 season in a recent appearance on "NFL HQ." "Moncrief is a guy who came into the league and the Combine two years ago, right there with Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, as the most physically impressive wide receiver — 6-2, 220, runs a 4.4, 40-inch leap. He's got all the tools.
Moncrief was able to raise his game at the professional level, Wesseling said, by improving as a route runner.
"He makes as much progress in his first two years as a route runner as anybody you're gonna see," Wesseling said. "He's running a full route tree in his second season."
On that same note, Wesseling believes another young Colts receiver could be in line to make a Moncrief-esque jump in his second year in the league in 2016.
That's Phillip Dorsett, the Colts' speedy first-round pick in last year's NFL Draft, who had a bit of an up-and-down rookie season in Indy, catching 18 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown.
To Wesseling, Dorsett simply "wasn't ready" when he hit the field for the start of his rookie year — one in which he missed five games midseason with a fractured fibula — but that can all change, and quick, this season.
"Dorsett gets the fractured fibula at midseason, and it's not until Week 16, Week 17 you start to see the Colts use him a little bit like Brandin Cooks, where it's the slants, the bubble screens, the end arounds, the jet sweeps," Wesseling said. "And I think that might be his role moving forward."
Highlights from Dorsett's 2015 season!
Cooks had 84 receptions for 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns in a breakout season for the New Orleans Saints last season.
Moncrief, Dorsett and No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton form a talented trio atop the depth chart at wide receiver for the Colts, who are hoping to get back to their 2014 form, when they featured one of the top offensive attacks in the league.
Quarterback Andrew Luck was a Most Valuable Player candidate in 2014, but only played in seven games in an injury-plagued follow-up performance in 2015.
Luck is back this year — and fully healthy — and Wesseling believes the weapons around him could help Indianapolis get back to its fast-striking ways.
If Luck can avoid taking as many hits as he has, Wesseling said, then he "had a hard time finding any reason why he won't make the leap back to the old Andrew Luck."
"This is a guy who led the NFL in touchdown passes two years ago, finished third in yards, and just looked like a totally different guy than he did last season," he said. "We used to call his pocket movement the 'eighth wonder of the world.' Nobody has that innate sense like he does when to step up. He can make all the throws. He just wasn't the same guy, at all, last year."