To avoid making future draft mistakes we must first learn from the past. Although every draft is different, there have been some trends that have played out over the years. Based on draft results from 2000-2010, here are some of the facts we’ve encountered about the wide receiver position.
With the NFL rules strongly promoting the passing game, a successful team can’t make a deep playoff run without an excellent quarterback. As we all know, a quarterback will make receivers better and in certain situations an elite receiver will assist young quarterbacks.
The recent trend is that first round wide receivers have been working out. Seven of the last eight receivers selected in the first round have been solid players and this bodes well for the likes of Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright and possibly Stephen Hill who are all expected to go in Round 1.
After examining all the wide receivers drafted from 2000-2010, our statistics tell us that selecting a wideout is little more than a roll of the dice. Whereas you might strike gold with the Johnsons in the first round (Andre or Calvin), there’s a better chance you’ll get the other Johnson (Bryant) or a shiny new Reggie Williams or Matt Jones. We’ve found that only 40 percent (18 of 45) of wide receivers selected in the first round have worked out.
Do the stats look any better in the second round?
The risk certainly lessens when making a second-round pick as far as money and both fan and media scrutiny. Second round wide receivers still have a less than desirable 22.4 percent hit rate (11 of 49), but taking into account the smaller risk Round 2 seems like a safer spot to take one. Former Pro Bowlers Chad Johnson (Ochocinco) (Johnson), Anquan Boldin, Vincent Jackson, Greg Jennings and Devin Hester were all selected in the second round. The 17.6 percent dropoff in hit rate from the first round to the second round is the lowest of any offensive position.
We know that most receivers are divas and we’ve established that it’s a risk to select one in the first round. The second round has proven to yield diminishing returns with very diminishing risk. What about Round 3? Teams have hit on just under 15 percent of their wide receiver selections in the third round (8 of 55). Where we have found some gems such as the Panthers Steve Smith and the Steelers Mike Wallace, there have been numerous putrid selections such as Eric Crouch, Yamon Figurs, Travis Williams and Devard Darling.
How do the percentages look in the later rounds?
There were 215 receivers selected from Rounds 4-7 throughout our sample and only 14 of those players amounted to solid selections. Those include studs such as Brandon Marshall, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd and Steve Johnson who had a major impact at their positions during the 2010 season. Although there’s no arguing those players were all great picks, only Buffalo’s Steve Johnson and New Orleans’ Marques Colston are still with the original team that selected them.
So are receivers really a dime a dozen? Tom Brady won a trio of Super Bowls with relatively average guys like David Givens, Deion Branch and David Patten so if the quarterback is great enough he can make up for deficiencies elsewhere. A top-flight receiver isn’t nearly as valuable as an elite quarterback, but truly elite passing game’s occur when there are both. When you compare the hit percentages of receivers selected in each round, we find that Round Two is the most advantageous place to select your next number one wideout.
Charlie Bernstein is the NFL Insider for ESPNFlorida.com and ESPN 1080 and 1040 in Orlando/Tampa and Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie covers the Jacksonville Jaguars for FoxSports and has been featured on the NFL Network and Sirius NFL Radio. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Charlie on Twitter @nflcharlie