The NFL combine is about a month away, which means that it’s time for us to start looking at 2016 draft prospects in earnest.
It’s been known for a while that Western Michigan has a stud wide receiver — but true junior Corey Davis, the WMU receiver everyone expected to declare for the draft, has decided to return to school and instead it’s his running mate, redshirt junior wide receiver Daniel Braverman, who has decided to declare early for the NFL draft.
After four years at WMU (Braverman redshirted the 2013 because of a knee injury), the pint-sized slot receiver surprised everybody by deciding to forego his final year of eligibility. Draftniks either have been slow to process the news or think little of Braverman’s odds of making an NFL impact, because right now he is the lowest-ranked of the 34 wide receivers listed in the 2016 RotoViz Scouting Index. And, in a move that should surprise no one — because 1) I am who I am, and 2) I am writing an article about him — I want to argue here that Braverman is (or might be) a very undervalued wide receiver.
Let’s just get this out of the way – Braverman is neither the player nor the prospect that Davis is. But from a production standpoint, Braverman doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of. In the two seasons since returning from his knee injury, Braverman has averaged 101 touches (97 receptions and four carries), 1,218 scrimmage yards, and 10 scrimmage touchdowns. For a guy valued as essentially an undrafted free agent, that’s good.
Here are the numbers for Braverman’s three collegiate seasons:
It’s nice to see that, even though he wasn’t used much as a runner at WMU, Braverman has versatility and did well with his carries. As a receiver, he has solid numbers, especially for 2015. Anytime a receiver can average 100 yards and a touchdown receiving per game in his third college season, you have to take notice.
To get a sense of the college producers to whom Braverman is comparable, let’s look at the Box Score Scout App. When looking only at production and adjusting for strength of schedule, these are the players to whom Braverman is comparable:
In this list are former RotoViz favorites Aldrick Robinson and Marvin McNutt — and also Davis. Even though they are dissimilar as players and prospects, it’s fascinating to see that Braverman and Davis are so similar as producers.
In fact, let’s compare them directly. Here are their numbers for the 2015 season:
While one can see that Davis was the more explosive player — essentially the Randy Moss to Braverman’s Wes Welker — what’s encouraging is that Braverman, despite his size (and we’ll get to that in a little bit) was at least Davis’s equal as a scorer. Additionally, it’s very possible that his reliability as a receiver in the middle of the field outweighs Davis’ ability as a yardage producer on the outside. Yards are nice, but receptions are just as important.
Clearly fantasy points aren’t everything, but that Braverman outscored Davis in 2015 is intriguing and gives hope that maybe he could even replicate that feat in the NFL.
The Physical Profile
Alright, we finally get to the real issue with Braverman. He’s a 22-year-old slot receiver whom Western Michigan lists at 5 feet 10 inches, and 177 pounds. He’s a little bit of an acquired taste, as it were.
But his size doesn’t bother me because, 1) the NFL needs slot receivers — which is the only explanation for Welker’s continued NFL existence — and 2) Braverman might have the athleticism to compensate for his size. On his WMU player bio, Braverman has been credited with running a 40-yard dash in 4.30 seconds — and that’s probably not true, because the odds of anyone being that fast are low — but if it is true then Braverman all of a sudden will look much less like Welker and more like an arbitrage version of some of the other small, fast, and productive receivers to enter the NFL from non-Power Five conferences in recent years, such as T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders, and John Brown.
For Braverman, the pre-draft workouts are everything. If he does well in those, he has a real chance to come out of nowhere as Brown did in 2014 and be drafted in the third round. If, though, he turns out to be just a slow slot man, he’ll likely go undrafted.
The Bottom Line
Because Braverman hasn’t significantly contributed to WMU as a runner and returner, he isn’t quite a full-blown “Arians receiver,” but he is somewhat in the mold of the type of receiver Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians likes to draft.
If he does well in his pre-draft workouts and is drafted no later than the fourth round, he will likely end up on all of my dynasty teams, because he is exactly the type of receiver whom many people overlook and whom I take earlier than I should.
In the old days of this site, we had a particular name for that kind of player: A RotoViz Reach.
Matthew Freedman is a writer for Fantasy Labs and a contributor to RotoViz and Pro Football Focus. He is (not) the inspiration for the character in The League who shares his name. He hosts various RotoViz podcasts and PFF Radio’s College Daily Slant. He is the creator of the Workhorse Metric. You can follow him on Twitter @MattFtheOracle — but you probably shouldn’t.